· Is taking the role of a therapist dangerous to my own spiritual growth?
Is it possible to help people and still let my own ego dissolve at the same time? I feel that a subtle fight goes on inside me between one part that is clear and another part that wants nothing to do with clarity.
Under your guidance I have learned not to dominate others when I use my capacity to see, but am I still dominating myself?
The role of a therapist is a very delicate and complex affair.
First, the therapist himself suffers from the same problems that he is trying to help others with. The therapist is only a technician. He can manage to pretend and to deceive himself that he is a master that is the greatest danger in being a therapist. But just a little understanding and things won't be the same.
First, don't think in terms of helping others. That gives you the idea of being a savior, of being a master and from the back door the ego enters again. You become important, you are the center of the group, everybody is looking up to you.
Drop the idea of help. Instead of 'help' use the word 'sharing'. You share your insight, whatsoever you have. The participant is not someone who is inferior to you. The therapist and the therapee are both in the same boat; the therapist is just a little more knowledgeable. Be conscious of the fact that your knowledge is borrowed. Never for a moment forget that whatever you know is still not your experience, and this will help the people who are participating in your group.
Man is a very subtle mechanism. It works on both sides: the therapist starts becoming the master, and rather than helping he is destroying something in the participant, because the participant will also learn only the technique. There will not be a loving, sharing friendliness, an atmosphere of trust, but "You know more, I know less... By participating in a few therapy groups I will also know as much as you know."
The participants slowly, slowly start becoming therapists themselves, because there is no degree required at least in many countries. In a few countries they have started to outlaw all kinds of unaccepted therapies; only a man who has a university qualification in therapeutics, in psychoanalysis, in psychotherapy will be able to help people in therapy groups.
This is going to happen in almost every country of the world, because therapy has become a business, and people who are unqualified are dominating it. They know the technique, because technique they can learn; by participating in a few groups they know all the techniques, then they can make a concoction of their own. But there is no way of controlling....
But remember: the moment you play the role of a helper, the helped is never going to forgive you. You have hurt his pride, you have hurt his ego. That was not your intention... your intention was just to inflate your own ego, but this can happen only if you hurt other people's ego. You cannot inflate your ego without hurting others. Your bigger ego will need more space, and the others have to shrink their space and their personality to exist with you.
From the very beginning an authentic loving person... and I make it an absolutely necessary point that there is nothing more therapeutic than love. Technique can help, but the real miracle happens through love. Love the people who participate in therapy and be one amongst them, with no pretensions of being higher or holier.
Make it clear from the very beginning: "These are the techniques I have learned, and a little bit is my experience. I will give you the techniques, and I will share my experience. But you are not my disciples; you are just friends in need. I have some understanding, not much, but I can share it with you. Perhaps many of you have their own understanding coming from different areas, different directions. They can also share their experience and make the group richer."
In other words, what I am saying is a totally new concept of therapy. The therapist is only a coordinator. He just tries to make the group more silent, serene; he keeps an eye that nothing goes wrong... more of a guardian than a master.
And you have also to make it clear: "I am also learning while I am trying to share my experience. When I am listening to you, it is not only your problems; they are my problems too. And when I am saying something, I am not only saying it, I am listening also."
Emphatically make it clear that you are nobody special. This has to be done in the beginning of the group, and this has to be carried on as the group goes deeper, exploring. You just remain an elder, who has gone a few steps ahead; otherwise you will not be able to help people. They will learn the technique and they will become therapists on their own. And there are enough fools five billion fools on the earth; they will find their own followers.
It is a human weakness that when people start looking up to you, you start thinking, "There must be something great in me if people are looking up to me." They are in trouble; they are suffering from human frailties. But you are also human, and to err is absolutely human. Without any condemnation, with great love, help them to open themselves and this is possible only if you open yourself.
I have come to know a strange fact: strangers tell each other things that they can never say to people they know. In a railway train you meet somebody; you don't know his name, you don't know where he is going, from where he is coming, and people start sharing. I have been traveling for twenty years non-stop in the whole country, watching a strange phenomenon: that people give their secrets to strangers, because the stranger is not going to exploit it. Just the next station comes, and the stranger is gone; perhaps you may never see him again. And he is not concerned to destroy your reputation or anything.
On the contrary, sharing your secrets, your weaknesses, your vulnerabilities makes others more confident and more loving and more trusting in you. Your trust provokes their trust in you, and when they see you are so innocent and so open and available, they start opening up: it is a chain reaction.
But if you become a master... a few idiot therapists from this commune have become masters. They know nothing about their own being, they know nothing about any mystery of existence; all that they know is a certain mind game. That mind game can be of help, if ultimately you are under the guidance of a man who has arrived. A little clarity, a little less confusion a therapy group certainly can create.
But a therapy group is not the end.
It is only the beginning.
It is a preparation for meditation, just as meditation is a preparation for enlightenment.
If you understand things in their simple arithmetic, you will not find it difficult and you will enjoy the group more, because the group will be able to go deeper with you. You will not be only a teacher in the group; you will be also a learner.
Kahlil Gibran's prophet Al-Mustafa has a beautiful statement. When somebody asks, "Tell us something about learning..." he says, "Because you have asked I will speak. But remember I am speaking and I am also listening with you."
I am here on the podium and I am also sitting amongst you. I am not in any way special. That brings people close. Any bragging of specialty creates distance, any ego fulfillment destroys the atmosphere of love. And I repeat again: There is no therapy which is greater than love.
Love the people who have become participants in your group. Love them as they are, not as they should be. They have suffered their whole life from all kinds of religious, political, social, theological, philosophical leaders who would love them if they follow, who would love them if they become just images according to their idea. They will love you only when they have killed you completely, demolished you and put you together according to their idea.
All the religions have done that to humanity.
Nobody is left undamaged.
And these people have been thinking that they are helping, consciously. They were giving you ideals, ideologies, principles, commandments with the certain fixed attitude that they want to help you; otherwise you will go astray. They cannot trust your freedom and they cannot respect your dignity; they have reduced you so badly and nobody even objects.
The therapist is not the person who is going to cure people's psychological troubles. He can only create a loving atmosphere, in which they can open up their repressed, unconscious imaginations, repressions, hallucinations, desires, without any fear that they will be laughed at, with absolute certainty that all will feel compassion and love for them. The whole group should function as a therapeutic situation.
The therapist is only a coordinator. He brings psychologically sick or disturbed people together, and just watches that nothing goes wrong. And if he can support them with some idea, some insight, some observation, he should always make it clear that "This is only my knowledge, not my experience" unless you have the experience.
If you are sincere and truthful and honest and authentic, you will never fall into the trap of becoming a master, a savior which is very simple to fall in. The moment you become a master and a savior... and you are not you are not even helping those people, you are simply exploiting those people, their weaknesses, their troubles.
Bring love, openness, sincerity.... Before they start opening the doors of their heart they are keeping them tightly closed so that nobody knows their problems the first function of the psychotherapist is to open his heart and let them know that he is also as human as they are. He suffers from the same weaknesses, the same lust, the same desire for power, the same desire for money. He suffers from anguish and anxiety, suffers from the fear of death.
Open your heart totally.
That will help others to trust you that you are not a pretender. The days of saviors and prophets and messengers and tirthankaras and avataras are completely gone. None of them will be acceptable today. And this time, if any of them reappears, people are not even going to stone him to death. People are just going to make fun of him. People are simply going to tell him, "You are stupid. The very idea that you can save the whole humanity is mad. First save yourself, and we will see your light and we will see your grandeur and we will see your splendor."
And trust comes on its own accord.
It is not to be asked.
It comes just like a fresh breeze from the mountains, a tidal wave from the oceans. You have to do nothing for it. You have just to be available at the right time, in the right place.
Nobody can save you except yourself.
I say unto you: be a savior unto yourself.
But help is possible, with a condition: that it comes with love, that it comes with the gratitude that "you trusted me and opened your heart."
The function of a therapist is certainly very complex and idiots are doing it! The situation is almost as if butchers are doing surgery; they know how to cut, but that does not mean they can become brain surgeons. They can kill buffaloes and cows and all kinds of animals, but their function is in the service of death. The therapist is in the service of life. He has to create life-affirmative values by living them himself, by going to the silences of his heart.
The deeper you are within yourself, the deeper you can reach into the heart of the other. It is exactly the same... because your heart or the other's heart are not very different things. If you understand your being, you understand everybody's being. And then you understand you have also been foolish, you have also been ignorant, you have also fallen many times, you have also committed crimes against yourself and against others, and if other people are still doing it there is no need of condemnation. They have to be made aware and left to themselves; you are not to mold them in a certain framework.
Then it is a joy to be a therapist, because you come to know the interiority of human beings which is one of the most secret hiding places of life. And by knowing others you know yourself more. It is a vicious circle; there is no other word otherwise I will not use the word 'vicious'.
Allow me to coin a word: it is a virtuous circle. You open to your patients, participants, and they open themselves to you. That helps you to open more, and that helps them to open more. Soon there is no therapist and there is no patient, but simply a loving group helping each other.
Unless the therapist is lost in the group, he is not a successful therapist. That's my criterion.
You are saying, "Under your guidance I have learned not to dominate others when I use my capacity to see, but am I still dominating myself?" They are not two things. Domination is domination, whether you dominate others or you dominate yourself. If you are dominating yourself, then in some subtle way you will dominate others too. How can it be otherwise?
The first domination that you have to drop is not over others... because it is not certain that they will accept your domination. The first domination you have to drop is over yourself. Why become yourself a prisoner, with great effort create a prison around yourself, and then carry it wherever you go?
First learn the utter joy of freedom, of a bird on the wing in the vast sky. Your very freedom will become a transforming force for others.
Domination is so ugly.
Leave it to the politicians, who don't have any sense of shame at all. They live in the gutters and they think they are living in palaces. Their whole life is a life in the gutters they will live there and they will die there. They are prime ministers, they are presidents, they are kings, they are queens....
One of the most significant Egyptian poets was asked once, "How many kings are there in the world?" At that time... he said, "There are only five kings. One is in England, and four are in playing cards." Now it can be changed: there are five queens, one in England and four in playing cards.... But they don't have anything more. They are just trying to achieve more and more power simply to fill their inside which they feel is empty.
Looking from the outside, the inside is empty.
Looking from the inside, the whole world is empty.
Only your inside is overflowing, but the things that are overflowing are invisible: the fragrance of your being, the love, the blissfulness, the ecstasy, the silence, the compassion nothing can be seen with eyes. That's why if you look from the outside it seems everything is empty. And then a great urge arises... how to fill it? with money, with power, with prestige, by becoming a president or prime minister... do something and fill it! One cannot live with an emptiness inside, a hollowness inside.
But these people have not gone inside; they have looked from outside. And this is the problem: from the outside you can only see objects, and love is not an object, bliss is not an object, enlightenment is not an object, understanding is not an object, wisdom is not an object. All that is great in human existence and life is subjective, not objective. But from the outside you can see only objects.
That gives a tremendous urgency to fill your hollow inside with any rubbish. There are people who are filling it with borrowed knowledge; there are people who are filling it with self-imposed torture -- they become saints. There are people who are beggars to become the prime minister, to become the president. Everywhere the hollow people are in tremendous need to dominate others. That gives them the feeling that they are not hollow.
A sannyasin begins by enquiring into his subjectivity, from within, and he becomes aware of tremendous treasures, inexhaustible treasures. Only then do you stop dominating yourself, and you stop dominating others. There is no need at all. From that moment your whole effort is to make everybody aware of his individuality, of his freedom, of his immense, inexhaustible sources of bliss, contentment, peace.
To me, if therapy prepares the ground for meditation, therapy is going right... ground for the patients and ground for the therapist, both. Therapy should turn at a certain point into meditation. Meditation turns at a certain point into enlightenment. And to have such tremendous potential and just remain a beggar...
I feel so sad sometimes when I think of others. They are not beggars, but they are behaving like beggars, and they are not ready to drop their begging because they are afraid that is all they have got. And unless they drop their begging, they will never know that they are emperors and their empire is of the within.
If you have stopped dominating people but you are suspicious that perhaps you have started dominating yourself, then nothing has changed. You misunderstood the whole message.
Try to understand yourself as deeply as possible. Therapy comes second. And unless you have refined your being through meditation and silences... I am not saying, stop the work; I am saying, transform its quality. Make it real work. Open your heart, tell them your weaknesses, tell them your problems, ask their advice can they help you? And once the participants understand that the therapist is not an egoist, they will come with absolute humbleness, opening their hearts. Then you can help them.
But always and always remember: therapy in itself is incomplete. Even the perfect therapy is just the first step. Without the second step it is meaningless.
So leave the patients on the point from where they start moving towards meditation. Your therapy is complete only when your patients start enquiring about meditation. Create a great longing in their hearts for meditation, and tell them that meditation too is only a step the second step. In itself that too is not enough, unless it leads you to enlightenment; that is the culmination of the whole effort. And I trust in you, that you are capable of it.
A Jew from Odessa was sitting in the same compartment as a Czarist Russian officer who had a pig with him. To annoy the Jew, the officer kept calling the pig Moishe. "Moishe! Keep still! Moishe! Come here! Moishe! Go there!"
This went on all the way to Kiev. Eventually the Jew got fed up and said, "You know, Captain, it is a great shame your pig has a Jewish name."
"Now why is that, Jew?" smirked the officer.
"Well, otherwise it could have become an officer in the Czar's army."
There is a limit to everything!
Make it a point that the limit of therapy is where meditation begins, and the limit of meditation is where enlightenment begins. Of course, enlightenment is not a step to anything: You simply disappear into the universal consciousness, you become just a dewdrop slipping from the lotus leaf into the ocean. But it is the greatest experience.... It makes life finally meaningful, significant. It allows you to become part of the universe from which your ego has separated you. And it is so easy, as easy as this silence....
Nobody can think that there are thousands of people sitting here....
You just have to move in the right direction. A sense of right direction, and everything can become a steppingstone towards higher states of consciousness. I have been using everything, but the direction is the same. I have used many kinds of meditations. On the periphery they look different. There are one hundred and twelve methods of meditation. They look very different from each other, and you may think, "How can all these different methods lead to meditation?"
But they lead... Just as a thread running through a garland of flowers is not seen, you see only the flowers, those one hundred and twelve flowers have a running thread: that thread is witnessing, watching, observation, awareness.
So help the patients as much as you can to understand their problems, but make them clear that even if these problems are solved, you are the same person. Tomorrow you will start creating the same problems again perhaps in a different way, with a different color.
So your therapy should become nothing but an opening for meditation. Then your therapy has a tremendous value. Otherwise it is just a mind game.