Signs of Enlightenment: Recognizing a Genuine Spiritual Master
For many folks today it is not easy to recognize a genuine spiritual master. Primarily this is because the real ones are very few indeed, but even if they were many, people would not really know what to look for. In today’s world of commercial spirituality, what sells is charisma, emotion, and nice assuring words. Motivational coaches and spiritual social media influences is what people today associate with genuine spiritual progress, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The reason why this association is made is because those people may exhibit a behaviour that is praised today and looked up to – who wouldn’t want to be self-confident and outgoing in the world of commerce, where such qualities is what sells and brings good life?
But a spiritual master is something more than that. He or she has incarnated their own Being, they have the Spirit within them which fills them up and gives them a type of life and nourishment that is a complete mystery to those without it, and yet it is such an essential part of life that without it we are lacking heavily. We do not know that we are empty, until we are empty no more.
The following is an excerpt from a book The Masters and the Path, by a Theosophist called Charles Leadbeater, whose dharmic circumstances made him to spend time with masters of high degree. The excerpt describes in his words some qualities of the Masters (he uses the term adept and master interchangeably in the book):
“The Adept has eliminated the lower self, and is living not for self but for all, and yet, in a way that only he can really understand, that all is truly himself also. He has reached that stage in which there is no flaw in his character, nothing of a thought or feeling for a personal, separated self, and his only motive is that of helping forward evolution, of working in harmony with the Logos who directs it.
“Perhaps the next most prominent characteristic is his all-round development. We are all of us imperfect; none has attained the highest level in any line, and even the great scientist or the great saint has usually reached high excellence in one thing only, and there remain other sides of his nature not yet unfolded. All of us possess some germ of all the different characteristics, but always they are but partially awakened, and one much more than another. An Adept, however, is an all-round Man, a Man whose devotion and love and sympathy and compassion are perfect, while at the same time his intellect is something far grander than we can as yet realize, and his spirituality is wonderful and divine. He stands out above and beyond all men whom we know, because of the fact that he is fully developed.”
“There is no one physical characteristic by which an Adept can be infallibly distinguished from other men, but he always appears impressive, noble, dignified, holy and serene, and anyone meeting him could hardly fail to recognize that he was in the presence of a remarkable man. He is the strong but silent man, speaking only when he has a definite object in view, to encourage, to help or to warn, yet he is wonderfully benevolent and full of a keen sense of humour—humour always of a kindly order, used never to wound, but always to lighten the troubles of life. The Master Morya once said that it is impossible to make progress on the occult Path without a sense of humour, and certainly all the Adepts whom I have seen have possessed that qualification.”
Leadbeater was in contact with masters Morya and Kuthumi, who, according to descriptions, are masters of a very high degree, possibly of a development beyond the Three Mountains. Such individuals would indeed appear perfect and all-rounded, and having all other qualities mentioned by Leadbeater. However, a spiritual master is also someone who has eliminated half of their egos and has finished the First Mountain. This person would obviously not be as strong spiritually as someone who has completed the Path, though nonetheless they would exhibit much of the qualities described above. The more someone progresses along the initiations, the more the qualities of the Being shine through. This is especially true on the Second Mountain and beyond, where every single initiation completed brings a tremendous inner change.
People tend to think of countries of the East when thinking of spiritual masters, or of some far distant lands and individuals who withdrew from life, but this is not an accurate assumption. We do the inner work in daily life, in whatever circumstances we are in: among family, friends, job etc. It is here that we reach awakening. And thus spiritual masters can and do live in a civilization; they are here regardless if that is their karmic circumstance or a spiritual mission. Having said that, this doesn’t mean that the majority of them live in crowded places; though wherever they are, there is a reason for that.
They are drawn to silence and the beauty of nature. Inwardly, they feel drawn to the people of the spirit, but they decide to be among the fallen humanity out of love.
One knows them not by charisma or emotion, nor by the calm demeanor of a dedicated meditator, but by peace, happiness and strength that is emanated by the Being within them. Most people will never recognize them; they appear strange and out of place for the most. But those yearning for the awakening may recognize them, and may recognize the signs of enlightenment of those who are approaching it and those who have achieved it.
HDP, June 2022.