Filed in Devotion

Practical Advice Regarding Spiritual Teachers

Alexander Berzin

Wisdom Collection

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When the spiritual seeker and the teacher come from different cultures, accommodations on both sides are required. But can guru devotion—essential to Tibetan Buddhism and one of the most problematic issues for Westerners—find its place in the West? This question becomes particularly thorny in the United States, where mistrust of authority is historically indigenous and confusion about "the guru" runs rampant. In his new book, Relating to a Spiritual Teacher: Building a Healthy Relationship (Snow Lion, 2000), Alexander Berzin, Buddhist scholar, translator, and practitioner, maps out this problematic territory with encyclopedic precision and offers practical advice. This excerpt has been adapted from several different chapters for Tricycle.


The phenomenon of Western Dharma centers—and the arrival of many Tibetan teachers—began in the mid-1970s. The Chinese Cultural Revolution was raging in Tibet, and destruction of the monasteries that had begun in 1959 was nearly complete.

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