Who is my Heart-Teacher?

written insights Aug 19, 2021

Who is my Heart-Teacher?


One of the most commonly asked questions is “Who is my Heart-Teacher?”.

With so many on-demand choices of paths and teachers available today via the internet, modern students of the Dharma are often at a loss as to how to choose their main teacher.


They’re not sure what the criteria should be for choosing, sometimes they’re not even sure a person needs to choose a Heart-Teacher because there are some new ideas circulating in pop-spiritual culture that say a personal one-one relationship with a teacher is not necessary for full realization and could actually hold you back from realizing your full potential.


All of the traditions of non-dual Dharma are clear on this issue. A Heart-Teacher is essential to introducing you to your True Nature, clarifying incorrect knowledge of your own True Nature, teaching you the Methods, and guiding you along the Path.


We may learn from many teachers along the path to full realization but the Heart-Teacher is the essential element. Namkhai Norbu, a masterful teacher of Vajrayana and Dzogchen, whom I had the opportunity to train with briefly, recounted the story of finding his Heart-Teacher (called “Root Teacher” by Norbu Rinpoche, in TMY we use an older definition of Root-Teacher to be the appointed Lineage originator such as Macchanda Natha and Konkanamba).


He said that he had received numerous teachings, initiations and empowerments from many highly realized masters during his youth in Tibet. This included his uncle who attained the Rainbow Body. But he didn’t find his Heart-Teacher in any of those Lamas or Yogins. It was much later when he went for training with a simple yogin who ran a small rural folk medicine clinic with the aid of a handful of students, that he would discover his Heart-Teacher.


As Norbu Rinpoche tells it, the yogin, though simple and working in the world as a folk medicine doctor, was able to introduce him to his True Nature. In that moment of pointing out his Nature of Mind and explaining it to him Norbu’s mind was clarified. He had both the knowledge of his True Nature and the experience of that knowledge come together. From this he knew that Changchub Dorje was his Heart-Teacher.


Norbu went on to explain that finding one’s Heart-Teacher needn’t be accompanied by angels blowing trumpets or quasi-psychedelic experiences as are often reported. He emphasized that it is NOT a good feeling that you get when you are around that teacher. It is not because you felt some warm sweet loving moment open up for you during a teaching or activity together. He was clear that if you base selecting your Heart-Teacher on emotions and spiritual experiences your picking from delusion.


So then, how to choose? The most essential point that tells you a teacher is your fated Heart-Teacher is that their clear explanation of the Base, the mind and the Nature of the mind sticks inside of you, perfectly awakens your own dormant experience of it, and from then onwards you have this direct knowledge of what was described. It has become a part of you, it re-orients you. This knowledge can never be forgotten or turned off, even if you must be living at a far distance from your Heart-Teacher. This is the classic recognition of your nature spoken about in all the lineages. But it is most definitely not “magic”. There was no “magical injection” of the experience into you as is the popular myth about “transmission of essence nature”. Its far more ordinary than that and therefore much more profound and never fading.


So the key advice is to see/experience which teacher speaks to your Heart. You may have heard the same teachings many times before. You may have heard the explanation of the Base – Path – Fruit a number of times from great teachers, but one time it will be so simple, so clear and there is a type of “feeling” to it, but it is not an emotional high. Rather it is a sober recognition of your own Nature, and the connection to the one who introduced you to it.


Once you are ready to move into stage 4 it is time to open to meeting your Heart-Teacher. And by the time you are ready to enter stage 5 you will need a Heart-Teacher. Traditionally an empowerment ceremony is conducted when a person is entering stage 5. It’s called a “śaktipata abhiśekham” or awakening-power transmission and is meant to give the practitioner a boost of confidence to successfully navigate stage 5’s rigors. Stage 5’s twists and turns can cause a yogin to get seriously waylaid, possibly getting entangled in karmas that my not clear in this lifetime. Therefore, it was considered important to mark the passage into stage 5 and to re-affirm the practitioners connection to the supportive powers of the lineage masters and the tradition.


The general public is confused in thinking that the ceremony is the moment that the practitioner realizes their true Nature and the identity of their Heart-Teacher, usually the one performing or choreographing the ceremony. But actually, the student usually has already recognized their nature and their Heart-Teacher, and the empowerment confirms this again.


In the first prayer of the Trika Mahāsiddha Yoga Foundation Practice, we visualize the Heart-Teacher instantly transformed into Śambhu Nātha, who then travels up our central channel to abide above our crown.


Students who have not yet found their Heart-Teacher often get stuck at this step of the practice. Here’s what to do…


Until you find your Heart-Teacher visualize Macchanda Nātha – the Root of all Mahāsiddha Tradition (as the “space-holder” for your soon to be discovered Heart-Teacher) instantly transforming into Śambhu Nātha in the Space of your Heart and rising through the central channel to abide above your crown showering blessing power into you. 

In this case you will be drawing your Heart-Teacher ever-closer with each repetition of the prayer.


Then when you find your Heart-Teacher, simply replace Macchanda Nātha with the Light Body image of your own Heart-Teacher.

In summation:  Discovering our Heart-Teacher occurs when we realize that the teacher has clarified our understanding of, and tangible connection to our own True Nature from their clear explanation and living presence in our lives.

May All Beings Know the Sweet Blessing Nectar of the Heart-Teacher!

May All Beings Be Free!


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