There exists an interesting misconception, in my opinion, about how things in the spiritual realm operate. The notion of spiritual authority is one of those aberrant ideas that illustrate how far from truth our misconceptions can carry us.
This misconception is neither exclusive to the Abrahamic traditions nor to Eastern Thought, and can be found equally among religious fundamentalists, Buddhist sectarians, and even some whom one would expect to be more intelligent than to play this game.
In a most interesting conversation this afternoon, I was asked by a woman (who is notably affiliated with a powerful religious cult, I mean sect, which is fundamentalist and literalist in nature), “By what spiritual authority do you teach?”
She was, of course, attempting to set me up for a debate on how I could be an apostolic successor and Buddhist abbot, but I was way ahead of her little agenda…
I answered that the sole authority by which I teach is my personal experience.
I neither acknowledge nor answer to any spiritual authority, institution, lineage, person, book or tradition, because nothing outside the fullness of personal spiritual experience is capable of bringing about personal and spiritual transformation or awakening.
That said, I have always gratefully acknowledged the lineages from which my teaching is derived, without whose gracious and very generous teaching, I would not have certainly struggled a great deal more in my own spiritual journey. I view my spiritual lineages, as documented backward to the original disciples of some of the Ascended Masters, as the “family tree” from which the download of wisdom was generously imparted to me.
As such, my lineage becomes akin to DNA, rather than being the source of “authority” or “orthodoxy”. DNA establishes us as legitimate human descendants, but doesn’t give us authority over any other beings. And so it is with our “spiritual DNA”, which lend legitimacy to the spiritual paths we travel, but which grant us neither authority nor supremacy over another sojourner.
I don’t believe the answers anyone seeks can be found anywhere but within themselves, and so I am not a spiritual authority myself, nor do I consider myself as being associated with any institution or religion at all, but rather see my role as that of a spiritual “lamp”, whose sole purpose it to help illuminate the way for the seeker, who chooses and creates the path for themselves.
Not a day passes that I do not offer profound gratitude for the gifts given to me by my Root Guru, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati; from the holders of the spiritual lineages from which I have gained so much, including Robert Danza Sensei, Lama Thubten Yeshe, Swami Dayananda, Swami Abishiktananda, Maharaji Neem Karoli, Albino Luciano (Pope John Paul I), Dr. Louise L. Hay, Dr. Kennedy Shultz, and so many others.
But that gratitude arises from the Ground of Experience, not from honouring some paper or oral lineage, recognition by this Lama or that Swami. And it also takes its foundations from seeing the good that has demonstrated in the lives and hearts of hundreds, possibly thousands of my students, over the past three decades.
Just as the goldsmith refines the metal to separate the gold from other elements, the spiritual path allows us to separate that which is non-essential from our True Nature as Pure Awareness.
You need no authority to enter the path, because you are the creator of the path, and the path itself.
For the seeker of liberation and awakening, there is nothing to do, but to open your heart, serve those who are hungry and in need, and be still.