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How to Determine an Authentic Enlightened Teacher

By Dhammaccariya Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)
144th day of summer solo wilderness retreat
Inyo National Forest
September, 21, 2005

(copyright 2005 all rights reserved)

There is a most pleasant juniper and pine scent in the air after yesterday’s rain, so it is a pleasurable work to study the teachings of enlightened ones, and to write. A recent letter inspired this reflection.

Is there a method by which one could ascertain whether a teacher is authentic or not? First we have to begin with accepting that people have such unrealistic expectations of an enlightened one. These unrealistic expectations begin with the myths that are embedded in every religion. Christians are always looking for a guy who was born of a virgin, walks on water and raises the dead. Jews are always looking for someone who can send pestilences and part the seas, and talks to burning bushes, the Moslem don't look for an enlightened teacher (prophet) because they believe the last one came 1,500 years ago and he talked to angels and flew bodily through the air, Buddhists are looking for a guy who turns into a rainbow. And, Hindus have the biggest expectations of all because they are looking for a guy who can keep 10,000 wives satisfied.
What if that enlightened teacher is a woman?

When I was seven I assumed the fantastic stories taught by my religion of origin, Protestant Christianity, were nothing more than myths because no one I had met had done any fantastic tricks, nor had any of them seen anyone do any of them. Even at that early age I understood that the followers of the major religions of the world have been waiting for thousands of years for magic tricks that will never come.

Then we have those who are willing to go for any old crazy guy that claims to be an enlightened master. So, they line up by the 10s of thousands to be fleeced by charlatans like Rajnish, Choigum Trungpa and Free-John. There just should be some way to determine the authenticity of an enlightened teacher.

My method of determining an authentic teacher is very simple. First I throw out the Marvel Comic Book Super Hero myths, because I am not willing to wait another 2 thousand years for a myth that will never come. Next, I use the behavior of the mystics for whom there is a reasonably authentic and realistic record of their personal lives, so I use what I believe is the real Buddha, Jesus, Francis of Assisi, Rumi, Kabir, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and Ramakrishna as my examples. I say, would one of these enlightened masters own 100 expensive cars, be diamond studded, drug his or her followers to insure they have a "religious experience" while visiting and/or poison a whole town of people to manipulate their elections? Would one of these authentic mystics be so drug and sex addicted to die by the time he or she is 35 from a combination of AIDS, alcoholism and drug addiction? Would one of these enlightened ones be engaging in "bazaar and demeaning sexual practices" with his or her disciples? The answer always comes up, "No."

Perhaps this method will work for you.

May you be enlightened in this very lifetime,

Jhanananda (Jeffrey S. Brooks)

the Great Western Vehicle

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