In this Advanced Spiritual Teacher Seminar, Tutteji weaves an elegant vision of the emerging new modalities of spiritual teaching that heralds an increase of consciousness and compassion, along with the developmentally-earned capacity to better adress increasingly complex changes on the global, spiritual market.
From Seminar II: Becoming a Spiritual Teacher in Transintegral Times
If you’re in the business of helping people realizing their highest potential, then setting up an online enlightenment service (OES) is a great way to establish credibility, attract students, and build a sangha. But while building a website with a discussion board and setting up Skype- and PayPal accounts is a necessary start, it’s far from enough. In this seminar I will go through some of the things you need to think about before you set up shop:.
- Provide believable credentials.
- Offer some kind of practice that is easy to follow.
- Make some promises of upward spiritual mobility.
It is also extremely important to establish a trusting relationship with your students. Think about it! You’re asking those who’ve shelled out hard-earned cash for your teachings to trust you and your methods to change their lives. That’s big! Most people resist parting with their money, and the days are long gone when people were impressed by Asian robes and a Sanskrit name. Your first task is therefore to help new students overcome this resistance.
In this seminar, I’ll go trough some key forms of upaya-kaushalya that will guarantee you a successful teaching career. The beauty of this time-tested system is that it works on all levels, and for all denominations. Just sit back, relax, and have a nice glass of Kool-Aid.
Know your stuff
To build a sustainable teaching career, you first need to establish yourself as an authority in your field. Then you want to let potential students know how you can meet their wants, needs, and desires in a way the competition can’t. Building this foundation is a two-step process, and I will provide you with the necessary tools.
The importance of being transmitted
In this business of ours, it’s not enough to be inventive and charismatic. Most spiritual seekers are suckers for Tradition and Lineage as well, and you need to establish yourself as a lineage holder.
If you’ve already received a proper transmission in a respectable lineage: Great! This is likely to be your most valuable asset, and you should advertise your lineage affiliation in the most aggressive way possible. A nice, clean Dharma transmission will likely attract a conservative clientele, and that’s where the money is. (I know that some of you young Turks care less about dana than having all these spiritual chicks, but pay attention to what I’m saying here. You will thank my later.)
So, if you haven’t already, I strongly suggest you try and get a teaching certificate, or Dharma transmission or whatever, as soon as possible. Don’t be cheap: Invest in the best lineage you can afford. I guarantee that it will pay off.
Now, I am aware that some of you haven’t spend an awfully long time sucking up to some particular roshi or sensei or rinpoche or whatever … No need to despair, though. I don’t blame you, and there are several time-honored strategies to choose from.
Let’s be frank for a moment: many spiritual teachers are jealous, greedy, cranky types, and you don’t want to spend more time near them than what’s necessary to get that teaching certificate. For obvious reasons, most of them despise ”spiritual shopping”; they want their students to make a life-long commitment, as this means a loyal following and a safe, predicable income. But as a smart, independent player on the spiritual scene, you obviously want to do something better with your life, like getting your own sangha, right?
In fact, I really hope you valued your time too highly to waste years at the feet of some particular Master, and I assume your spiritual cv consists of a few weekend retreats and online courses with a selection of different teachers. But the question remains: What to do when there is no one willing to give you Dharma transmission?
This is really a wonderful opportunity to make a virtue of necessity. In fact, you could build your entire marketing strategy on this state of affairs. Simply pointing out that you’ve studied with ”several cutting edge teachers” will often do the trick as ecclecticism is always attractive and signals both experience and open-mindedness. Just remember to be careful not ro go into details about your “intensive training” as you list the credentials of the teachers you’ve interacted with on Skype or Facebook.
Also, you mustn’t forget to be humble. Make sure to express your deep gratitude to the Masters who’ve shown you the Way. This is absolutely essential, especially if you don’t have a formal Transmission. It’s also customary to invite some of these teachers to whatever conferences you arrange, and you should mention their names in books and interviews. Not only is this a nice way way to build your dharmic network, it also gives an attractive impression of humility.
I am a self-made man. I had this, like, really Great Enlightenment experience on MDMA, but I never studied with a teacher. Still, I really feel I would be a great roshi. What can I do?
This is a common problem, and it can be a bit tricky. Still, there are a couple of things you can do:
- Find an obscure guru that nobody has heard of. Spend some quality time with him (or her). Take him to dinner at a decent restaurant, and don’t be stingy with the dana. Consider going to bed with the teacher. (You have no idea how horny some of these guys are), and there’s a good chance that poor old loser will give you a transmission out of surprise and gratitude.
- A bit more daring is to claim that you’ve spent several years in solitary retreat before self-ordaining. Some hucksters have managed to pull this trick. I admire that, but I don’t recommend this strategy unless you possess industrial-strength charisma.
I studied for years with a well-known Roshi. The old man even ordained me, but I was kicked out from his community before I got transmission. Where do I go from here?
If your teacher is really old, I suggest you simply wait until he gets completely senile or dies. Then you can market yourself as a ”senior student” or whatever. If you have some photos of yourself together with the old Master, be sure to use them in your marketing campaigns.
If the teacher is reasonably young and in good health, I suggest using a different strategy, one which can be really effective. If your old teacher has been involved in a sexual scandal, you can always claim that you were so disgusted by his behavior that you decided to leave him. For some reason, very few people will ask why you stayed with him for years, and there is a good chance you will likely be recognized as a man of integrity and high moral standards. The power of skillful moralizing should never be underestimated.
Branding and Charisma, Tattooed Teachers and Dharma Dorks
Once you’ve secured your teaching credentials and established yourself as a lineage-holder, it’s time to start thinking about what makes you different. I can’t emphasize this enough: The modern spiritual market is extemely competitive, and it’s absolutely essential that you stand out from the crowd. Take a good, hard look at yourself. What are your strengths? What areas do you need to improve? What image will work best for you? How can you market yourself most effectively? What does your target audience want from a teacher?
To show potential students you’re different than other roshis, senseis, rinpoches and cutting-edge spiritual teachers, you need to let them know you’re aware of all the teachings out there, but you also need to back your own. In other words, give your potential students some kind of unique path, with distinct practices. That will make them feel special and cared for, increase your charisma, and build trust. It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, of course. In fact, I strongly recommend you to teach some kind of breath meditation or body scanning technique. As long as it doesn’t involve thinking, and makes them feel reasonably relaxed and “in touch” with bodily sensations, you’ll do just fine.
As for your image, being a geek is fine, as you all know. Be careful, though. I don’t think the market is ready for dorkiness yet. Having a background as an alcoholic often works really well. If you have the right kind of charisma, actually being an addict can work wonders as well. Everyone secretly admires a drunk dude in robes. Having lots of tattoos is a time-tested trick as well. Really, any kind of subcultural credentials, real or imagined, can work wonders.
But if you want to become the next Brad Warner, Chuck Genkaku or whatever, you can’t just do what they did 10 years ago. If you want to be really successful, you need to think outside the box when you’re building your brand and design your persona. For example, there is a wonderful niche opening today for Tea Party-spirituality, but hardly anyone has been developing that.