“A master awakens the master in others.” ~ Matt Kahn
I have yet to come across one teacher on the spiritual journey that has not at one time been a student. In fact, it’s the discovery that there is so much that is not known and so much to be learned that inspires most of us to start our spiritual journeys in the first place.
The countless questions and thirst for more understanding is what characterizes a student whereas a master is characterized by the one who has the answers.
Often many spiritual seekers take on the role of the diligent student. They read the material, listen to the teachings, perform the rituals but at some point their own inner wisdom and knowing must trump everything.
And while both archetypes, student and master, are required to be experienced in any journey (meaning one is no ‘better’ than the other, but simply stages what any seeker goes through), we would all be lying to ourselves if we said we wanted to stay a student forever.
So how exactly does this switch take place? At what point does the student turn into the master?
Below are 5 things the Master knows, that the student doesn’t:
“A good teacher is like a candle-it consumes itself to light the way for others.” ~ Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
1) Teachings are taught, but Wisdom can only be known
It is one thing to read the teachings, memorize verses or quotes from our favorite spiritual teachers, but it is an entirely different experience to “know” the wisdom that is being taught. In most cases, life gives us an actual experience where we are able to integrate the teachings that we have read.
At the point of the integration, we can see the difference between wisdom and knowledge. While knowledge requires some “belief” in something or someone outside of ourselves in order to be conceptualized, integrated wisdom is felt on a deeper level.
It is felt so deep that we often “become” the wisdom, and at that point instead of just knowing the teachings, or trying to convince ourselves or others of them, we begin to embody and live out the teachings themselves.
A master knows that until one has integrated the wisdom as a result of direct experience, the teachings can not truly be “known.”
2) The master knows he is the master (but knows the student is as well)
The master trusts himself and his own intuition, while the student is always looking for validation from the master. However, a true master is only trying to awaken the master inside of the student. At each stage of our spiritual journey new “truths” become obvious.
And no matter how many times we tell someone what they “should” believe, there is no greater understanding than the intuition our own hearts will provide.
The student becomes the master when he realizes that everything that he knows, he has already known deep inside of himself. At the point where the student’s faith lies in the hands of himself and the universe, he becomes the master.
The master always trusts his own wisdom above anyone else’s, and the master also knows that everything he needs to know for that exact moment, he already knows.
The minute more wisdom is needed, it will be provided by a higher intelligence, therefore there is no need for a constant wanting of more information.
3) Only love is the ultimate truth
Sometimes when the hunger for more knowledge and understanding takes precedence over tending to our own hearts and embracing our own innocence, a person may find themselves right in the depths of spiritual ego or the “over-thinker.”
And what we get from that is a highly intelligent person that has lots of facts and knowledge, but unfortunately is not a very pleasant to be around. Is it any coincidence that the greatest spiritual teachers have also been the kindest?
Perhaps they knew something that we often forget in our quest for knowledge. In the present moment, all the knowledge in the world is still just a concept in our minds, the truth of any moment is inner stillness, emptiness or also known as love.
Because the master recognizes love as the only truth, the love inside of him draws forth the love inside the other, and at that point spiritual understanding becomes irrelevant. The master knows that only love will awaken and open the student’s heart, and only love will transform the world.
4) There is really nothing to be known, and nothing to be “taught”
“One repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a pupil.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
At a certain point of complete liberation all facts and knowledge become only concepts. Yes, of course, they can be interesting to talk or learn about, but in the present moment does any of it really matter? At the point of this understanding, life becomes joyful.
Everything we do isn’t taken so seriously because we can find as much understanding from watching a sunset as we can from talking to a great spiritual guru. The irony of the universe is that when one is no longer “wanting” more and more understanding, the greatest understanding in the world occurs.
Life no longer becomes a riddle that we are trying to find the answer to, but rather a mystery to only be experienced.
“I have abandoned all particular forms of devotion, all prayer techniques. My only prayer practice is attention. I carry on a habitual, silent and secret conversation with God that fills me with overwhelming joy.”- Brother Lawrence, Zen teacher
When a person climbs a huge mountain and gets to the top, would they look down the entire time looking at the path they took? No, because to do that would waste the view from the top.
Exactly like this is our spiritual journey. It doesn’t matter what path you took to get to the top of the mountain, because at a certain point all paths lead to the same place, and from that place which path one took becomes irrelevant.
The master never clings to any “this way is the right and only way” ideologies because the master knows that every path is right and relevant for any particular person. When everything in the universe is made from the “all that is”, there is no wrong way to find it… you already are it.