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Viewing the Teacher-Student Relationship from a Different Perspective

Excerpt from an interview with Igor on Chitheads (Embodied Philosophy) entitled, “Igor Kufayev on Spanda, Quantum Physics, and the Role of the Teacher” (#39) April 7, 2017

Jacob: What you are saying is really interesting! I want to go back to something you had said about transmission, because I really enjoyed reading this — I think it was in a Yoga Aktuell[1] interview that you did, where you were talking about transmission in response to a question about the guru-disciple or teacher-student relationship, because as this other interviewer had pointed out, this has become a very often criticized — I know a number of people who are very much against, or don’t think that it works in the West and all this stuff about it — and I really enjoyed how you talked about the transmission as being more than simply a skill set.


It’s not just that you’re learning these specific practices to do; there is also, you say, an attitude, which is more than simply learning a technique. So, would you talk a little bit about that? Because I think that’s a really beautiful way to think — that there is a transmission of attitude taking place between the teacher and the student that is beyond the discursive goings-on, right? It’s not just a kind of intellectual engagement, right?

Igor: Well, it encompasses in itself absolutely everything and leaves nothing. The term guru-shishya parampara,[2] the teacher-student continuation, this continuity of the teacher-student relationship — if we only view this from the perspective of someone who is in a position to impart certain — even if it is most sacred — knowledge to another party, then we are already missing the whole point. Let us view it from a slightly different perspective.


There are understandings which are becoming more and more prevalent today, where the most advanced — or at least the most avant-garde — quantum science is literally rubbing shoulders or holding hands with the understandings that we can find in many nondual teachings of the past. And that is, that that which essentially instructs us that there is no such thing as the reality of “out there” as opposed to “in here.” In other words, “the world is as you see it” — which was the leitmotif of the Yoga Vasistha,[3] the very central line which runs as a red thread across this whole entire scripture, Vasistha Yoga, that the world is as you see it.


This brings very pertinent points — that reality, or the relationship between subject and object, is not what we think. Of course, it is our experience and this is the model of maya;[4] this is the model of what appears, which is not what it seems; which appears to be in the way it appears to be. So, if we view this perspective of the teacher-student relationship as this ultimate subject-object relationship, then we are in for some revelations. Here, we are possibly in for some very significant revelations, which perhaps could help us to rehabilitate that relationship, because it’s an ongoing dilemma. We are all facing it now in our post-postmodern age, where this relationship has undergone some violation on both parts, and undergone some — perhaps necessary — shake-ups. It is for us to re-evaluate this, because — as I very much like what in one of your interviews you said — “we cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater.”


It’s not about what the teacher can do for the student, but if we understand that, at some point, this subject and object relationship needs to enter a very subtle phase — a very subtle phase where it can be refined further. And we can see this possibility in the guru-shishya or teacher-student relationship — present all throughout. In other words, when the questions were asked of some of the masters of the past, about the possibility of recognizing one’s guru, many responses were quite in agreement — irrespective of where this teacher comes from, or this teacher belongs to this tradition — that it is that it is nearly impossible, because the recognition will only be relevant to one’s level of consciousness. You cannot recognize anything other than your own self in the other. This is the relationship between subject and object.


The value of our experience — someone who is in a balanced state, someone who is in a state of equilibrium, and in a beautiful part of the world, and is not necessarily burdened with tasks, walking somewhere on a beach in Goa at sunset, the whole world is his oyster at this moment. And someone who is going through torment, walking on the same beach, to him maybe this place, at the moment, will feel like hell. And everything in between, of course. There is no such thing as an “objective reality.” There is no objective reality.


Everything that we experience is influenced and colored by the subjectivity of that experience, and it is that subjectivity of our experience that colors that relationship. Therefore, when my own students come to me sincerely — those who really, really go through a difficult time of commitment — the first thing I do is to tell them that, “This is a good process: don’t discard that! What you are going through now is a very healthy process.”  This is because it is through this re-evaluation — there is no such thing — because it is not based on faith. “No one is asking you to give your life just on the account of faith that someone will be able to guide you.” These are very serious matters!


We often expect from spiritual teachers, what we would not ever dream to expect from anyone else — let’s face it! In our community — and we do as much as we can as a community — we even just break it. Two years ago, we began a campaign aimed at the rehabilitation of that teacher-student relationship, in terms of how it is understood now, in this gradually globalized culture, the western culture. I don’t think that it makes any difference now to say “western,” because globalization removes these boundaries now. You can be in Japan or China and have the same dilemma.


So, really, it’s that subject-object subtlety, and the impossibility of knowing… other than through the faculties — essentially, how refined are these faculties? And these faculties are refined by nothing other than our own Awareness, our own Consciousness. So, it is where our Consciousness is. I know it for myself; I did not recognize the value in guru until I experienced a major, major shift in awareness. Before that it was — everything — all the fight went into it.


Jacob: And what was the character — would you want to talk a little bit about that shift in awareness? What was the character of that shift that made you receptive to that?  


Igor: I have to confess here — maybe it will disappoint some listeners — you never know. I cannot speak about it with this laser-sharp or sword-like sharp discrimination, because it happened to me from very molten place of simply being bathed by that love, which was born out of recognition… which I can’t even begin to put into words, in terms of what happened prior to that and what led to that and why — it’s just simply…

Jacob: It’s nonlinear.

Igor: It’s not linear at all! The whole thing is — there is a whole storyline obviously, but the experience itself is — if I were to use the Sanskrit term bhava,[5] that feeling…

Jacob: Mood –

Igor: That mood, exactly! That particular mood was all steeped in a more feeling-oriented — or coming from the feeling rather than from the intellect. The intellect was no longer able to fight; it simply surrendered; it simply laid the armor down. And that was a really disarming moment of surrender, which then unfolded into a profound phase… which turned me into a cooked pie. It was like a mousse — totally. I cannot compare it with anything — it’s just like waves upon waves upon waves of feeling, and I understood what devotion is. I understood that devotion is not something that one can teach; it cannot be taught. It simply arises out of that where Consciousness Itself finds Itself at some point.  

Jacob: I don’t think that is a disappointing answer at all; in fact, I think that’s a really beautiful answer, because you are touching a little bit or expressing something a little differently than what we explored earlier, which is that these experiences don’t necessarily arise in this linear way and I think that’s refreshing for people to hear, because a lot of people — the way that enlightenment or experiences of awakening are often described is in this very punctuated way. You know, “I was sitting at my table, I had this explosive feeling and bla-bla-bla and all this happened.”

And maybe it happens that way for some people, but I think a lot of people get —  there is almost this complex of envy that arises around that. It’s like, “Well, why don’t I have those moments of punctuation?” And so, what I hear you saying is that it doesn’t have to arise that way; you can’t really describe it; it’s not a linear thing, and yet, it is very powerful and illuminating. So, I think it’s a beautiful answer.


Igor: Well, yes and no. What I mean by that “yes and no,” is that, funny enough, in relation to my own process, it was very intense — it was very dramatic — but where I choose to enter our exchanges here, is to bring to our awareness the continuity in that uninterrupted Unity, which is there at all times. And in addition to that, it is only upon this major, major sweep, if you will, when this total incineration — which certain traditions have spoken of as this annihilation, incineration — took place, because the Consciousness remained conscious at all times, illumined by the light of its own luminosity, when all this corporeal reality was simply dissolved in the light of its own awareness. Only when this became a predominant — even though a phase in time — experience, was I able to glance back and recognize all those, which Osho,[6] as some other teachers, used to call “satoris”[7] those mini illuminations. And I was amazed at how many there were prior to that!


In a studio, as an artist, losing myself in that act of painting, where suddenly that subject and object ceased to exist — and it’s just a pure flow. And of course, I’ve heard dancers speaking about that; I’ve heard musicians speaking about that; I’ve heard guys who were at it — at something really intensely — speak about that. One very, very telling experience was simply during one really hot summer in London, when I was going through a very traumatic experience of separation, this really painful transition… I was quite young… I was at someone’s apartment —and I just rose up — I just sat up in bed; there were these French windows, and this warm rain outside, and I sat there and wept at the sheer fact that I found myself alive. It was just this pure — what I would now call — moment of very intimate connection to this moment of being, where that “being-ness” was experienced irrespective — or perhaps because of all these added stresses.


At some point, it snapped. The nervous system could no longer hold this stress, so it gave way — gave in. So, I woke up — my body literally jumped up — I sat up, I looked outside these open windows and this pouring rain, and the sound… and I just felt the happiest man alive! Okay, I will wake up in the morning and I will have to smell the coffee of what I had to go through, but at that moment none of that existed. And then, of course, all this in retrospect, our life is filled with these moments — filled with these moments. This is why certain traditions, which prefer to utilize more elusive dialogs in their exposition — like the Taoist perspective; Zen also has that element; certainly, the Sufi tradition, it is never to speak about it, never to try to articulate it in the way — but rather through something else. Funny enough, Tantra is the opposite of that. Tantra is like, “Stretch your bow and hit the target as close to that heart as you can!” In terms of all; in terms of everything.  It’s very different.


This is perhaps why earlier you asked about this interest in Tantra these days. I think we are coming to a very beautiful time of rehabilitation of Tantra, where these misconceptions, and misperceptions [about Tantra] will hopefully be behind us — and the right kind of people will begin to consider this path as a very exciting path, filled with very rare possibilities, which perhaps are not so present in other methodologies.


[1] Yoga Aktuell is a German-language yoga magazine which published Igor’s article entitled, “Spontaneous Yoga ~ Touched by Grace” in their February-March 2017 edition (102).

[2] Guru-shishya parampara is a tradition or lineage, an uninterrupted succession of teachers and disciples in traditional Indian culture, an uninterrupted chain of succession (preceptorial order) or lineage of spiritual teachers (Gurus).

[3] Yoga Vasistha is an important Indian scripture of the discourse imparted to Lord Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, by his Guru, Sage Vasistha. It consists of the answers given by Sage Vasistha to Lord Rama’s questions, to pave his way to enlightenment; it ultimately explains the creation of the world, and that everything is Consciousness.

[4] Maya is held to be an illusion in Advaita Vedanta philosophy; the source that conceals our divinity, our true, unitary Self known as Brahman.

[5] Bhava is an emotion or a feeling, a spiritual attitude.

[6]Osho or Rajneesh was a modern-day controversial mystic, guru, and spiritual teacher who advocated a more open attitude towards human sexuality, which earned him the name "sex guru" in the international press. In the mid-1980’s after deportation for serious criminal allegations, he returned to his Pune Ashram — known as the Osho International Meditation Resort — until his death in 1990.

[7] Satori in Zen Buddhism depicts spiritual awakening or sudden enlightenment, literally "seeing into one's true nature."

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