So many people are on a purported spiritual path of “self-discovery” without ever having spent any face to face time with a teacher in the flesh.
This is almost exactly like having a Facebook romance with someone you never met in the flesh. It is all imagination and concept. You are having a dialogue with your image of the teacher; in other words, a dialogue with yourself.
You cannot “know” a teacher, or a teacher a student, through emails, phone calls, or Skype. You have to spend time together, face to face, otherwise the idealizations that made you want a guru in the first place, will always poison the instructions he or she is giving.
A huge number of “spiritual virgins” form their concept of what a guru is or should be like from reading about Ramana Mahashi. Forty years ago the most common guru models were either Ramakrishna, Yogananda and his Babaji lineage, or a Zen master such as Yashatani.
But all of us have ideal-guru concepts which no teacher ever fits because it is an image personalized by us within our own minds by our felt need for a certain type of mirroring. That is, we project onto the guru the quality in us we most cherish to become and own. Some want a nurturing mother or father, all accepting, all caring, all loving.
Others may want a stern, warrior-like, strong guru who can contain us, protect us, lead us, show us the way to greatness or whatever.
Others want a wise man, like Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan.
You see, we seek the guru that we think will show us that part of ourselves we most desire to become, and if they appear to be failing at that, we have several choices: leave for another guru that will fill that need, or allow the current guru to show us parts of ourselves that may be as valuable or more valuable than that which we seek.
I was fortunate enough to study directly under six Zen Masters, Muktananda, and Robert Adams. However, during the years of study with these eight, I got to meet and know well many, many other teachers, famous and not, such as Ram Dass, the Dalai Lama, Trungpa, Hsun Hua, Ananda, Song Ryong Hearn, Ed Wortz, Krishnamurti, U.G. Krishnamurti, and many others.
What I discovered is that all were first, human. They were ordinary men with some extraordinary qualities, such as love or compassion, intellect, or energy gurus, yet they were all men or woman first, ordinary men and women, with faults, problems, desires, loves, favoritism, and with endless opinions.
U.G. for example, kept talking about how his body purged itself of all thinking, all concepts, and underwent enormous transformations. Yet the U.G. I met, was an extremely garrulous old man who chatted constantly and voiced opinions about every topic under the sun. He had opinions about everything and was as tainted as any man I ever met by concepts and ideas.
Every master I knew had had at least one affair that got them into trouble with their own sangha, and what I learned here is that “Masters,” “teachers,” “gurus,” are among the mostly harshly judged people because they do not live up to the personal and idealized images students have of them.
They are judged on the basis of having favorite students; they should treat everyone the same, he same amount of time with each. They are judged based on what they do with donation money, such as giving some to support their families. They are judged based on who they put in charge of the sangha or satsang. They are judged on the basis of their diets, whether they are vegetarians, vegans or meat eaters. But especially they are judged based on their attitudes towards sex and relationships. It is as if in this area, the teacher has nothing to teach, and has everything to be taught. I.e., anytime a teacher looks at a student of the opposite sex, it is some form of abuse.
You see, teachers are on earth to pull you out of your concepts and comfort zone to show you a whole new reality, while you are judging them based on your concepts of what a teacher should be like or how they should teach.
Unless you directly study with a teacher on a daily basis, you are no more than conducting a dialogue with yourself.