I’ve spent a good deal of my time in India over the last several decades. There’s a common saying in India that if a teacher charges money for “the dharma” (which loosely translated means “teachings about the truth”) that he or she will go to a special section of hell set aside for spiritual entrepreneurs, an area cornered off and designed to be much nastier than the areas for axe murderers, rapists, and the like.

My primary teacher in India, H.W.L. Poonja, for example, never asked money from anyone for anything. There was no donation basket in the back of the room, even.

At the same time, there is another, equally well-established tradition in India, called “dana.”  You never go to a teacher empty-handed. If you want the blessings of the teacher, you should come equipped with baskets of fruit, cloth, and all other kinds of goodies.

In the last several decades, there have also been some immensely successful teachers making huge contributions to millions of people who have worked from exactly the opposite mentality. A good example is Harry Palmer, the creator of the Avatar training. He is a genuinely deep and awake guy, highly motivated to help people experience freedom.  “People will only actually integrate insights that they have come to regard as valuable”, he stated back in the early ’90’s. “And the way that people create value in Western society is by paying money.”    Consequently, a couple weekends with an Avatar trainer would cost $2,000. The Avatar training was immensely successful for a long time. Other similar examples of huge, culture-charging movements that have charged high fees are EST, Tony Robbins Seminars, The Sedona Method, and many more. (more…)

intimacy2

I’ve been greatly blessed in my life by being with with many great teachers.  I was close for many years to H.W.L. Poonja (people called him Papaji), and it was he who initially asked me to be a teacher of awakening.  I had some fantastic visits with Urgyen Tulku Rimpoche who was at that time the lineage holder for the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.  But my greatest teacher, my greatest guru by far, has been my marriage with my wife Chameli.  It has rooted out habit patterns which no other teacher has managed to do.  This marriage has been a portal to a depth of love and spaciousness that nothing else has come close to.

It has not always been this way.  After Poonja first asked me to teach I returned to the west and conducted “Satsang” for many years.  It’s easy in a context like that, when people gather together to meditate and to receive teaching, to experience a kind of “Big Love”, a love for everyone and everything.  Your heart is open, and you know things to be perfect just as they are.  The challenge I found at that time, which turned out to be true for many other teachers as well, was not at the Satsang meetings, but at home in ordinary human relationships.  The Big Love, the love you feel for everyone, is easy.  It’s the small love, the love you feel for people close to you where we experience our habits of control, closing down, criticism and judgment.  And so it was that I found myself in my early forties traveling the world as a spiritual teacher, but not being able to hold my own marriage together.

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