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Who Is A True Religious Teacher – Hindu Religion Answers

Who Is A True Religious Teacher – Hindu Religion Answers is an article sourced from the August 1903 Issue of the Prabuddha Bharata titled ‘A Religious Teacher’ by Advaitin.

The position of a religious teacher is undoubtedly a great one: great in its responsibilities and great in its possibilities. The number of men fitted for it by character and attainment is comparatively small, for the glowing words of a man convinced of truth, whose heart is aflame with love, can alone penetrate and awaken the souls of others. 

Yet no class of men is more welcome in our midst when coming thoroughly equipped in mind and body, seeing that in no country is the religious spirit stronger than in that which has been nurtured in the tradition of the ancient Rishis. No one can question the value of that weighty influence which an experienced and sagacious teacher knows how to exercise at the right moment; the influence which a teacher can, and should, exercise, especially in our great cities, inasmuch as among the younger men whose ideas are still of recent growth and whose experiences are necessarily circumscribed, there must be greater opportunities for wise counsels and tactful guidance. 

To avail himself of these opportunities, the teacher must possess peculiar qualities of temper and judgment, though these merely form the equipment with which he starts out on his mission. To fulfill it, he must be a candid and unprejudiced observer of the men with whom he comes in contact, feeling the kinship of their spirits with all that is eternal, manifesting to them that purity of heart as a true reconciliation of the wants and powers of man with the life of God. 

Possessing the highest qualities of head and heart, he must have exceptional capacity for bringing into special use the higher faculties of the soul in other men, quickening the inextinguishable fire within. He must unfold to them the truth of their own inner powers, to be developed through a knowledge of truth, and when this conviction comes to them — of Selfhood, that natural inheritance of man which it is impossible to nullify — he must indicate to them how to build and effectively organize their spiritual life, how to evolve and enrich their inborn endowments by transcending their narrow environments. The cause of misery is ignorance; therefore the teacher should point out that ignorance minimizes the God within, knowledge expands it. …

The true interpreter of religion must be eminently self-sacrificing, thinking only of his subject, never of himself. This will give a singular impressiveness to everything that he says, revealing that precious gift of seeing the permanent in the impermanent, of discerning the main current in the perplexing drift and whirl of human concerns as they pass. 

It is furthermore impossible to win the world to truth if he conceives it to be immersed in error, or to persuade people of the wisdom of his philosophy, if he constantly holds them as not in the truth. Rare tact is required to uproot error successfully and establish the truth in its place, and it is the teacher’s privilege to point out that man has been living in constant consciousness of the effect, ignoring the cause, which is the fountain-head of eternal life within him; to show that religion must be woven into every fibre of man’s heart, dealing with and controlling his daily life.

The question now arises: should a teacher follow up the ideals of his predecessors, or take the initiative and show that he is a leader, not a follower? We reply: he should not be satisfied with crystallized beliefs but should show clearly that he intends to be what he means, regardless of whether or not his speech or action may commend itself to others.…

Expanded intellect and purified understanding are such irresistible forces that they compel attention — they are the powers by which we are led to a new insight, to an enlarged self-hood — and the success of a teacher will be in a great measure due to his instinctively true utterances, for he must speak from knowledge, not hearsay. …