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Ethics and meditation teaching

Spiritual teachers, meditation teachers and meditation masters can teach techniques and methods that support on the personal path. As guides and pathfinders, they can provide assistance on different levels and in many ways and have a necessary and central role in many traditions. They can also impart insights and realisations that they have realised through their own experiences and adventures in their ongoing meditation practice and on their individual path.At the same time, these insights are timeless, imperishable and universally valid and not limited to the person.

In every human being, feelings such as fears, sadness, anger, envy or hatred remain present throughout life, as do destructive tendencies, vulnerability and basic biological needs. These are the need for contact, attunement, trust, autonomy and love/sexuality.

If feelings, inclinations and needs are denied, repressed or suppressed, they can find an overt or subtle and perfidious way to manifest themselves in unconscious and manipulative behaviours. These can harm meditation students as well as the teachers themselves and cause suffering overall. These are, for example, blind self-confidence, arrogance and intolerance as well as abuse of power, abuse of money, sexual abuse or the abuse of alcohol and other drugs.
 

Mistaken paths in the field of meditation and spirituality

Some people who have meditated seriously for several years and have had experiences with different teachers also know disappointments and sorrowful experiences. When teachers or meditation masters abuse their role, it can take years for these experiences to be processed. For many practitioners, this is often psychologically related to an unconscious childlike need for an idealised father or mother figure.

At the same time, various disappointments and negative experiences are part of the way. For teachers as well as for trainees. Because they shake us up and remind us to take mature self-responsibility. They bring us, teachers and students alike, out of hubris, naivety, out of a bubble or a flight of fancy, because they sober or shake our idealisations of ourselves, of others and of worldly perfection. In this way we sharpen our view of reality even more and increase our discernment as well as our self-acceptance. And this in turn promotes our personal clarity, alertness and presence. Ultimately, this is what it is about.
 

The human being remains a human being

Every meditation teacher, every meditation master, every spiritual teacher or coach remains a human being and is therefore also subject to human feelings, inclinations and needs throughout their lives.
„Drink the wine, throw away the bottle“ in this context means that we can embrace the contents and practices of different traditions and teachings to match them with our own experienced truths and use them for our self-knowledge.
It also means not confusing charisma and persuasion with wisdom, and not disenfranchising ourselves by binding or blindly surrendering our salvation and hopes to a teaching, person, community, organisation or method.

What meditation teaches is to trust ourselves distinctivly. To trust our inner guidance, as well as our rationality, our own body and personal feelings. To accept and face life with light and shadow, with ups and downs. Then both may be there: Kindness of heart and the beauty of life, as well as „catastrophic circumstances“ and hurtful and offending behaviour. Contradictions and paradoxes are there without having to fight them or despair of them.
 

What ethical guidelines should be binding in the teaching of meditation?

Human nature cannot be denied. Thus, we, students and teachers alike, are always encouraged to acknowledge and integrate our shadows instead of denying or repressing them. It is about using our innermost potential more and more and bringing it to the outside.

The more flexible and stable a teaching, teacher or meditation master or student is in accepting, meeting and transforming passion, desire, anger and confusion in oneself and others, the more mature the form of spirituality. At the same time, there is no one right way.
 

The following ethical principles appear to be useful in the teaching of meditation and spirituality:

  • No discrimination on the basis of gender, skin colour, culture, religious or spiritual beliefs, sexual orientation or psychological stability
  • No pushing for spiritual excellence or performance orientation
  • no suppression of criticism or questioning of teachers
  • no obedience that creates dependency and need for help
  • No exploitation of idealism, financial means, willingness to donate, time and commitment
  • No isolation of practitioners from fellow practitioners, family, friends or worldly events (media use such as newspapers etc.)
  • No sexual or romantic relationships between practitioners and teachers.
  • No incitement to intolerance or devaluation, prejudice or indiscrimination towards religions, other teachings and approaches, or personal beliefs

 
Instead:

  • A culture of discussion and debate characterised by openness, tolerance and respect
  • Naming and clarifying mistakes and misunderstandings in a friendly, constructive and respectful manner
  • Encouraging self-responsibility and appropriate respect for personal boundaries as well as impartiality towards others
  • Promoting wholesome and beneficial relationships with others
  • Raising awareness about boundary violations and abuse of power in teacher-student relationships, spiritual organisations, communities and associations

 
Further information:

Another very good summary on the subject of crises, dangers and misunderstandings on the personal path is offered by Angelika Doerne in her german article: „Irrtümer, Fallstricke und Gefahren auf dem spirituellen Weg“.

In the article there is a clear orientation to the areas:

  • Spiritual excellence and performance orientation
  • Spiritual dogmas and simplifications
  • Childish emotional fixation on a guru
  • Confusion between experience and realisaton
  • Avoidance of pain, fear and healthy aggression through fixation on transcendent experiences and concepts
  • Confusion of childlike romantic states of merging and spiritual experiences of oneness

In addition, there is the Network for Spiritual Development and Crisis Support.
The network provides support in cases of spiritual crises that „[…] on the one hand arise in the spiritual practice itself (improper guidance or insufficient inner preparation and psychological stability of the person concerned), and on the other hand can also arise through spontaneous spiritual experiences (e.g. paranormal experiences, near-death experiences or sudden awakening of the „kundalini energy“, which the persons concerned cannot classify in their world view).“

Spiritual crises also arise in connection with almost any difficult situation (conflicts with or loss of work, life partner, health, dealing with one’s own mortality, etc.).

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