Many people are looking for answers to some big life questions around who they are, and the meaning of their lives.
If they pursue this, they come across the concept of spiritual awakening, also known as enlightenment, as a way to answer those questions because it speaks of a reality profoundly deeper than the everyday.
If they haven’t already begun seeing a teacher, this then raises the question of whether or not they need a teacher or how to even choose one?
History of Teaching
In the past, spiritual awakening and therefore teachers seem to have been quite rare, although it is hard to be certain of numbers as for much of our history there were no written records.
Also, during such times as the inquisition in medieval Europe, it would have been prudent to kept quiet or face being burned at the stake.
The earliest known teachers described an underlying infinite spirituality that was the source of all life, something that most people at the time were unlikely to have heard about before.
Nevertheless some who heard this message resonated with what was being said, perhaps they intuited the truth within it, or had themselves already had a glimpse of this underlying unity or perhaps were merely curious to find out more.
Over time, and in various parts of the world, schools teaching about this consciousness began forming.
Nowadays there are many of these such schools including Buddhist, Christian, Sikh, Muslim and others, and within these there are many branches, or sects.
The complexity of choices can make it challenging to even begin to decide which one is right for you.
To make choosing easier, there is one important initial distinction that separates the teachings into two different camps. and most fall in to one of these.
Which one you choose to take has a profound impact on the outcome.
One of these formats describes a sacred unity that is already within the listener and invites you to awaken directly into your divine nature.
The other describes this same divinity, but this time places it as external the listener, often focussing on a teacher and elevating them as special and someone who alone has access to this.
Those teachings that point to the individual awakening directly into our unified nature are known as the mystical traditions and include non-dual and advaita teachings.
Those that put awakening outside of a person’s reach and focus on a teacher or awakening in an after life - as in some christian teachings, or else after a number of lives as in some buddhist teachings, are the religious teachings.
These two different types of teaching, mystical and religious, either developed right from the beginning of the schools, or at some later point.
Many religions actually have the mystical teachings buried within them and the word 'mystical' itself comes from the greek word ‘to conceal’, but these have mostly been overshadowed by the more outer focused teachings.
Keeping awakening external keeps it as a theory, hope or belief, which are easier than turning within and diving directly in to a deep mystical union with the infinite source of all life.
The main point here is that one type of teaching points to awakening, here and now, to something that is already within you. The other points to the external and the possibly of awakening at some other time.
How to choose what’s right for you
When you are choosing a teaching, or are already aligned with one, the first question to ask yourself is whether or not you are seeking to open into your sacred nature in your lifetime, or at some other time such as after your death?
The first is the mystical path, the second the religious path.
This then narrows down the choice and you can then focus on exploring teachings that are in alignment with this.
This is the first in a series of articles examining spiritual teaching and awakening in the 21Century