Location: Girona - Spain
Dear Francis: Here are Shankara’s four pre-requisites to qualify for the spiritual life: 1. Discrimination; 2. Renunciation; 3. Earnestness (intense desire for liberation, and 4. A group of six attainments (tranquility of mind, control of the senses, cessation of senses, forbearance of the pairs of opposites, concentration, and faith). At the other end of the spectrum (and we are still at the phenomenal or empirical level), if in our midst we find someone exhibiting the following characteristics: pettiness, small-mindedness (the opposite of magnanimity), resentment, vindictivenes, insolence, passion and pride (we could call these the six counter-attainments), 1. Can a person with these character traits be still called a truth-seeker? 2. Can such a “person” be possibly redeemed? 3. Is there a limit to the patience and forbearance of a spiritual teacher? Thank you, Alberto.
One who meets all of Shankara’s prerequisites is either a sage fully established in serenity, or a great yogin who only needs the final glimpse of our true nature that will lead to his immediate establishment. In such a truth seeker most of the samskaras have been dissolved and only a thin layer remains that will be removed by the grace of the Guru. Sri Atmananda reports such a case, the case of a yogin who had visited him during his childhood and had cured him of a severe illness. Much later on, their paths crossed again. This time Atmananda was established in wisdom. In an instant, the residues of ignorance of the yogin evaporated. His mind was already so pure as a result of his yogic sadhana that his final realization was instantaneous. A nice way for Atmananda to repay his debt, if we look at it from the conventional standpoint :)
We have to remember that Shankara lived in a society in which almost everyone was a yogin of some sort, engaged in a sadhana on some progressive path. When the time was right, these yogins would meet a jnanin who would put an end to their seeking. We live nowadays in a very different society, one that seeks instant gratification; most of us don’t even have the patience required to learn a musical instrument, or mathematics, or writing up to a decent level, which is nothing compared to mastering one’s samskaras. That’s where the direct path comes into play. This time the threshold is much lower. The only prerequisite is #3, intense desire for the Truth (not for liberation, which might be construed as a personal achievement at that stage). This desire brings about in due time the encounter with a sage. The wood meets the fire. The disciple becomes a jivan mukta whose establishment in peace is only a question of time, surrender, and cooperation with the self realization process that was initiated through grace. The drawback of this approach is that the seeker may stop at the first glimpse of truth. It will be then up to Life to remind him/her that the job wasn’t finished. Quite often, the seeker will stop even before having a liberating glimpse of truth, simply believing he had one. Even more laughable, this believer may begin teaching that there is nothing to be done because there is no doer, simply repeating like a parrot words he has heard or read somewhere.
I hope this answers questions 1 and 2. Regarding the patience of a spiritual teacher, it comes from the deep experience that there is plenty of time in Eternity.