Recognize the Halo Effect

In order to take what’s good, we need to recognize a second principle of wise relationship and disentangle ourselves from the halo effect. The halo effect is the unexamined assumption that if a meditation master or spiritual teacher is good in one area, they must be good in all areas, that if they know about inner vision, they will equally know about child-rearing and car mechanics. It is easy to see this fantasy enacted repeatedly in spiritual communities.

One starry-eyed couple asked their teacher, a famous Tibetan lama, about childbirth. This lama was a celibate, raised in a monastery, who really knew nothing about it. But he gave them some advice he had heard from Tibetan mountain folklore. Based on this, they tried a home delivery up in the mountains with disastrous results—both mother and child nearly died.

Another student followed a charismatic Indian guru whose powerful love and teachings brought great joy and peace into his life. The student was a gay man, who had lived in a caring and committed partnership for more than ten years, and when the guru later stated that all homosexuality was a terrible sin that leads to hell, the student’s life was nearly destroyed. His relationship was torn apart, and the secret guilt and selfloathing that had plagued this man throughout his childhood returned. Finally, with outside help, the student came to see that while his guru might bring him visions and wonderful meditation teachings, he was really quite ignorant about homosexuality. Only when he realized this, was he able to hold both the teachings he so valued and his own life with equal loving-kindness.

We can see over and over again how one dimension of life does not automatically bring wisdom in other dimensions. Every teacher and every practice has its strong points and its weaknesses.


This excerpt is taken from the book, “A Path with Heart

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