by Krishna Gauci
This was originally a letter written to some folks involved in the Waking Down in Mutuality Process, but could be useful to anyone wondering about the role of techniques and methods in the process of an organic spiritual unfolding:
What exactly is “Skill In Means” or “Skillful Means” about? I think it’s important to know that the ideal of Skill In Means (in the context of how it originally arose in Mahayana Buddhism) is not essentially about learning techniques or methods to help others, but is rather something very different. It is about the innate capacity of someone with an Awakening Consciousness (Bodhichitta) to GENERATE whatever very specific and different ways of expression and teaching are needed for every specific student. That is something very different than learning techniques and methods that can be applied to all students. It is actually the opposite of having methods transform students; it is having students transform methods.
Skill in Means is not any of the techniques themselves, nor is it all of the techniques taken together. It is acting from The Heart Of Compassion where the teaching is a response to a student’s needs, rather than acting from a pre-existing therapeutic, psychological or spiritual structure that is being used to diagnose and treat them.
It is an organic aspect of Bodhichitta (Awakening Consciousness) that is the integrating factor among all the grab bag of techniques and ways of teaching, rather than simply a name for the grab bag itself. Skill in Means is not a product of the thinking, planning, preparing, discursive and constructing mind, rather it is teaching as a response to the other, dependent on the other, not on techniques of a psychological or spiritual school of thought.
I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with learning and including techniques and methods from various sources.
Nor am I advocating that we exile all systems of therapeutic (or spiritual) diagnosis. But I am suggesting that we recognize that while they may be helpful in specific cases, they are not the thing in itself and they come with their own conceptual baggage.
Waking Down in itself is not a therapeutic paradigm even if and when we use techniques from therapeutic sources.
When this is not understood, there can be a danger of “laying the trip” of a therapeutic (or other) paradigm, and subtly pathologizing each other’s human patterns. I feel this is so even with the more humanistic, new age (or channeled) categorizations, thought systems and maps.
Skillful means, and good WDM teaching does not consist in getting training in as many therapeutic modalities and personality maps as possible and then diagnosing and curing students…. That’s therapy.
“The teaching gets pulled out of the teacher by the hunger of the student” is the real essence of WDM teaching (and real skillful means). What this amounts to is an interdependent relationship in non-separateness giving birth to unique teaching in accordance with the unique situation. Another way to say this is that the Divine (The Divine Other that includes self and other) does the teaching, in non-separation through us.
One of the things that struck me with Saniel Bonder’s early teaching work was not that he had a tool kit of techniques, but rather that he was in relationship with everyone. The teaching that happened with people was generated in his experience of self and other realization as the Goddess… and his promise to awaken Her one soul at a time.
There is in this an arduous and deep trust in ourselves (and Life) that is needed to be able to access that kind of connection. And this is the real import, (which is often unrecognized and unseen by students) in the process and training that goes into becoming a WDM teacher. That is the deepest ability that is passed on and taught to teachers. There is a good argument to be made that it takes more to do that than to become skillful at a number of techniques or therapeutic modalities.
Confidence in our connection to the Divine, a deep trust in the transmission, and an ability to hear the other in non-separateness is the essence of this work…and it can’t exactly be taught as techniques or methods can. It’s leaning into the source from which dharma is generated.
It seems to me that learning to lean into this is harder to quantify, more mysterious and not cut and dry. It means establishing, developing and relying on a more intuitive sense of Onlyness, however we personally experience that, and continually deepening it.
Remember how untamed and inconvenient this work is. It is Living Spirit.
While I welcome the desire to include methods and techniques into the work to help others (I have been doing this in my own way), This teaching is not techniques or systems but rather it is Living Being/Spirit/Transmission and (in That) Living Relationships.
My sense is that it is only this connection to the living Transmission that can become the organic (rather than constructed) integration of all these methods, modalities and techniques. This Transmission of the Goddess does not pathologize through diagnosis, and This Transmission has seen fit to awaken very imperfect messy human beings and does so quite perfectly.
As we include methods from outside This Transmission let us remember that the transmission of this Goddess awoke us in our messiness when techniques and respectable psychology (and traditions) did not. She did not turn us away in our imperfections, She awoke us in them and She is wild and messy Herself.
And while we bring the masculine into this work if we saddle her with an overly tame civilized male she will either die of boredom or will eat him for lunch. The only husband who can meet Her is Shiva… a wild, messy and smelly dude himself!