How Can We Rate Spiritual Teachers?

Dr. Charles T. Tart, Mindfulness, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology,

Lecture 4, Part 13 of 19 parts. To start class from beginning, click here.

[Note my postings may be irregular for the next few weeks as I’m going camping…]

Student: So what is the hallmark of a good spiritual teacher?

CTT: Wow!

Student: Sitting full lotus for three years!

Student: With a bottle of whiskey in one hand, you can do it in two!


Student: “Drink, or you won’t be enlightened.”


CTT: We would agree, I think, that places like Stanford or Harvard or something like that are first class universities. How do we make that judgment? Do we make it by the devotees who hang around the professors?

Student: By how often they are mentioned in U.S. News & World Report.


CTT: Oh. Okay. No.


That’s one way to do it, right? But I think the real criteria is that you judge them by their graduates. A lot of people who’ve accomplished a lot in the world have gone to universities like that, so we think they’re good universities. And yeah, there are things like how fancy the buildings and labs are, and scholarships. And that’s nice, but the ultimate test is the graduates.

I think that’s the ultimate test you need to apply to spiritual teachers. How many graduates do they produce and how much do their graduates give to the world?

Now at one extreme, you might have some spiritual teacher who never have any graduates. Everybody hangs around as a devotee and looks blissed out.


I guess that’s all right, but they’re not going to get my ranking as a top teacher.

And on the other hand, you have some where the only people who ever leave a particular spiritual group are the ones who get thrown out. Does that make you think of a cult or something like that, or maybe because they genuinely weren’t suitable?

And on the third hand, there are teachers who’ve had students who’ve ended up being teachers or otherwise made contributions themselves and we think pretty highly of that. But we don’t do that in any systematic kind of way.

So you know Swami Yogananda gave rise to… I don’t know if I have the succession right. Let’s say, famous Yogi No. 1 had a student, who was famous Yogi No. 2, to be more generic about it. But it’s not like there are clear records kept. Maybe this was 1 in 100,000 students. The only one who was worth anything. Maybe it was 1 out of every 10 who actually became a very effective teacher who helped people, or something like that.

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