Many aspire to become a spiritual leader, yet few achieve true success in the field. It is sad to see so much talent going to waste when they have all that it takes to truly lead people on a path of spiritual advancement, but they seem to be lacking the essential tools, to start off their own path of success.
The following advice, organised in 10 easy steps, or points is meant to help these people achieve greater success rates and towards a more fruitful spiritual leader career, with all its profits and benefits.
Spiritual Master vs. Spiritual Leader
There seems to be a general confusion about the above terms. Many who claim to be spiritual masters are in reality (aspiring) spiritual leaders yet they do not seem to recognize the difference, but usually, this would not happen the other way around.
To clear up the confusion, and make sure the below advice finds its intended audience better, it is probably best to define what each of these terms truly means:
A spiritual master is a highly spiritual being, often enlightened, although not necessarily. They are usually simple, humble people, who regard spirituality to be more important than popularity, material riches or fame. They are not easily recognized as true masters, mainly because they do not talk about it and don’t make a great show of being what they are. They lead quiet lives, try to “blend in”, and although they don’t usually agree with the masses and the way the world is headed, all they try to do is change things for the better, rather than draw attention to their person(a)s.
On the other hand, a spiritual leader will be visible. They are on the front, leading groups of different sizes. They make sure they are instantly recognizable so that their followers can find them easily. They are often famous or at least crave fame. Material and financial well-being usually comes with the success of a spiritual leader, while, on almost all occasions, it is success itself that drives them forward. A spiritual leader is a great marketer and a smooth talker. They will seize every opportunity to display their wisdom and spread their own truth.
The following simple tutorial is meant for people becoming part of the latter group, who aspire to be successful spiritual leaders, yet had been wanting of success so far. The 10 steps will highlight the main differences between how spiritual masters and leaders will approach each of these problems, then offer practical advice, for anyone wishing to become the latter. If you follow the instructions closely, you will soon find yourself closer to your desired success.
1. Look like a spiritual master
The best way to recognize a spiritual master is not being able to recognize them. Truly spiritual people will (with a few exceptions) live among us and blend right in they do not want to be seen, known, or even known of. To be a spiritual leader, however, you will need to be known. How would you expect to be a leader, if there is nobody to be led (by the nose, on a leash or any other way you like).
To-do: The very first step on your path to becoming a spiritual leader is looking like one. First, you should wear clothes that will represent spirituality in your local (or tighter virtual) community. For example, if you do martial arts or QiGong, you should wear Chinese silk clothing at all times. If you are into Buddhism, it is time to don those orange garments. For any religions, start with displaying any relevant symbols visibly and loudly, besides any obvious pieces of body wear. Later on, when your perspective broadens (along with your growing follower base), you may change your paradigm or even invent your own style, but it is important to remember, to always show your “spirituality” outwardly, as much as you can manage.
2. Claim to be a spiritual master
You will, of course, never hear a spiritual master talk about themselves as a spiritual master. That is well in line with the above point, that they don’t usually want to be recognized as one and probably also has something to do with the fact that spiritually advanced people are more often than not humble and quiet beings.
A leader, however, must be heard, and spiritual leaders are no exception. Spiritual leaders are easy to recognize by the way they say how spiritual they are. And to be able to teach spirituality, you need to be a master and people need to know about it! Spiritual leaders must be proud of their achievements, wearing it like a badge of honor. (Of course, badges of honor are in themselves very useful tools, but even if something is not a real “badge”, you must treat it like one. More on real badges later.)
To-do: You must be loud and vocal. People must recognize your voice. Never fail to acknowledge your own achievements and remind others of how great you are, how much more advanced you are than they would ever be, and how much they could learn from you! What is even more important, seize every opportunity to talk about mastery, how you’ve achieved it, and how you’ve even changed the course of spirituality itself, since you graciously embraced the idea onto your bosom.
3. Talk about yourself… a lot
This is, of course, a straight continuation of the previous point. Ever notice, how true spiritual masters rarely talk about themselves? Like the word “I” was missing from their vocabulary? This is precisely why they fail to gather a following. (Besides their reluctance to being followed. Call it paranoia, if you like, but here it means a different sort of following.)
A spiritual leader can achieve talking about their merits the best while talking about themselves. Everything must be in their own perspective, everything must be filtered through their experience, everything they teach, every “truth” they speak must come from themselves. The best ones do not simple transmit wisdom but claim to have invented even the idea of having an idea about it.
To-do: Talk about yourself. Everything you say must involve you. If you write, write in the first person. If you make films, never hold the camera, but make sure you are always visible. Be sure it is all about you. It is your wisdom, your beliefs, your truth, your teachings. Make sure you use words like “I made”, “I created”, “I invented”, “I did”. The common theme is, besides being about yourself, is the act of changing the course of reality, all by yourself, of your own accord. This is part of offering an easy way to people, which will be covered later on.
4. Have an easily recognizable name
Spiritual masters either have very common names, which would help them blend in easier or some very elaborate ones, probably coming from the traditions to which they belong. In order to be remembered, however, spiritual leaders will need names that are easy to pronounce and make one happy just by saying it.
To-do: Choose a name, that suits you, preferably short, one or two syllables. Make sure it is easy to pronounce and has some “deeper meaning”, something you can relate to and more importantly makes your followers relate to. It would best come from the tradition within which you teach. Make it similar to a mantra or whisper, make it sound just good, but definitely easy to remember. This is important so that people can follow you easier.
5. Offer to teach, or take people on as an apprentices
Spiritual masters do not always like being spiritual masters. From the shamans of the old times to masters our day, these people often see their roles as a burden. It is definitely not easy seeing things differently, largely disagreeing with how the world works, in its self-absorbed, self-deceptive, materialistic ways. Teaching people, and taking on students usually means having to break through their inherent resistance to anything new. They would not want to accept what a true master has to teach, as it is rarely convenient to even consider, and would require one to rethink everything they ever believed in.
A successful spiritual leader cannot afford to lose any potential followers by denying them the chance to learn. They must transmit their wisdom to others in order to be accepted as spiritual leaders at all, therefore teaching must never be a question.
To-do: Hoard students and apprentices, grab any opportunity to obtain new ones. Teach en-mass. Teach a lot, and without regards to individual needs. It is the one size fits all approach people are after and you should be there to deliver. If you pause to regard what each individual student of yours really wants, you will waste precious time, you could use to teach even more people, spreading your “wisdom” even further and more importantly, make more profit! Use this technique along with offering convenience (see later), and your success is guaranteed.
6. Obtain certifications, and make sure they are visible
True spiritual masters need no proof of being what they are. They just are it. They might obtain certain certificates of something they learn, but this is largely due to just how most systems work. We all obtain proofs of achievement, and often the lack of these will prevent one from further studies. For masters, these certificates are not a necessity, but they are often required by others.
Other people, and especially aspiring spiritual leaders will, of course, need proof, as much for themselves as for others. For themselves, they need such proof to enhance their self-esteem, to a point where they can believe that they truly achieved mastery of a given subject. For the outside, they need to be able to prove this, so that people will believe them. Who would follow a leader, that cannot show them proof? This can take the form of certificates, badges (even those of honor), belts (in all colors of the rainbow, or even black), and any external sign or proof that shows their achievement.
To-do: It is not enough to take your studies seriously on any given subject. In fact, that is secondary and not even always necessary. What you truly need is real, hard evidence, some proof of achievement, in any way you can obtain. If you need to befriend people, cheat, or just be a loyal servant to a teacher to gain an advantage over others, do it! The sooner you get proof, the sooner you can make people follow your lead.
There are two distinct paths you can follow here: you can hoard certificates and badges and belts from different sources, to show (off) how good you are in diverse subjects, or you could just stick to one route and get everything ever invented in that single system. Either way, you choose, you must not forget: It is not only important to achieve and gain proof. Spiritual masters might have those as well! You, as an aspiring spiritual leader, must constantly display all your certificates, badges, belts and whatnot, talk about them and constantly use them to prove your point! Remember, it is all about the show!
7. Have/follow hard-set belief systems
True spiritual masters rarely have set, rigid beliefs or follow traditions to the letter. This does not mean they do not often operate within the boundaries of a tradition, philosophy or even religion. They might be Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Jewish or even atheist. They will likely represent anything they say, wrapped into the symbolism and hierarchy of their chosen path, but they would never claim this to be either superior to others or theirs to be the only path that leads to spiritual advancement. A true spiritual master will acknowledge the superficial differences between different religions and/or philosophies, but they would not question the credibility of any other, than that of their own. In other words, they do not mistake inner spirituality with what is visible from the outside.
The problem with this is, that people do not recognize the differences to be on the surface only. The very existence of different institutions built around beliefs, (think of different Churches of similar traditions, like those of Christianity, or even Buddhism) proves that people need to cling onto the visible, the external because that is easy to understand and follow. It is so much easier to perform a certain ritual than to understand how to bring their mind and spirit to the right level of attention, focus, and awareness in a purely abstract fashion. In fact, some of these rites even work, and although they would usually achieve the same effect, those who observe them as part of their beliefs would swear theirs is the only true way.
The Christian’s prayer, the Dervish’s dance, the Buddhist’s meditation, the Shaman’s chanting all serve the same purpose, to direct your mind inwardly, focus the attention of the conscious and expand the subconscious self. Unfortunately, the human mind is mostly incapable of abstract thinking, and can only work with something tangible, and this is precisely the purpose each ritual and tradition serves, to bring pure abstraction closer than what we can come to grips with.
A spiritual leader must deliver something touchable, something concrete. These may take the form of rituals, prayers, traditions, mantras, anything you like. The farther removed these are from their original meaning the better! Remember, people cannot “digest” abstract thoughts. If the prayers and rituals and holy words still represent something real, this could easily confuse people! A good and successful spiritual leader would not allow this to happen.
To-do: Make sure you have clearly defined, well recognizable belief system, and symbolism, such as an already established church or tradition. If there is nothing suitable, you can start your own, but that will require a lot more work and effort. In either case, you need to give your future followers something to cling to, when they don’t understand the world around them. Do not even try to infuse these instructions with anything real, deep, or otherwise wise. This has been proven to only confuse people. They need empty rituals, they can mindlessly follow, nothing too serious, and definitely nothing that has the faintest connexion with reality, or real spirituality.
If you are purely atheist, fret not. You do not at all have to be truly spiritual to lead the masses willing to follow. An excellent option is to wrap your agenda into the disguise of science! It is so popular to regard science religiously amongst the atheist, that you will surely gain a similar amount of followers while you pursue this path (if not even more) than you would by choosing a traditional belief system. The human psyche seems to have a need for something omnipotent, be it god(s), spirits, or science. Meanwhile, you can easily build on the inherent paradox of religiously following something non-religious. The people capable of that can basically believe anything if presented in a fashion that matches their fancy: Your best bet is teachings claiming to be based on scientific research.
8. Say what people want to hear
Genuine spiritual teachers usually don’t say popular things. They would rather say things that are real. It does not mean that the teachings cannot be acceptable, but if it does not take a mental effort to accept them, there is something amiss. Usually, the truth is painful. True enlightenment means the crumbling down of a wall of illusions, behind which one may get a short glimpse of reality. This process is painful and slow. It requires one to confront their innermost beliefs and desires. In the end, all that is left is the naked truth and the scars one has obtained along the way…
The problem with this is that in order to gain followers, one must be popular. Whoever wants to suffer for the greater good? It is suffering we want to end after all (if only for ourselves). The numbers are also important. The more followers one has, the more credible one looks from the outside. It does of course quickly become a spiral. One who gains credibility, gains more followers, and with more followers comes more credibility and yet more followers, and so on to the infinity (and beyond).
To achieve this, a spiritual leader must say popular things, teach such “wisdom” that is easy to absorb, easy to follow. It must be convenient, it must not require an effort, and, most importantly, it must be instant. Advertisements and marketing have long programmed us to believe we can have everything immediately, without having to work for it. We have a right to have it easy. If anyone wants to be popular as a spiritual leader, they must offer easily and instantly obtainable wisdom to the masses.
To-do: Surely, you can think of a number of people who offer convenient wisdom. Something that “resonates” well with what you already believe in, or how you would like things to be. These “teachers” use your desire for a perfect world and a peaceful life. Their teachings offer happiness and convenience. You need not worry, you need not be sad, you can recognize how pretty the world is and how much love there is, while you only need to listen to what they say. They make you feel warm and fuzzy, especially about yourself.
Study these teachings carefully. Recognize what makes them popular. What are the main points that have resonated with you immediately? What were those that have touched on emotional strings, after which you felt instantly better, happier, more hopeful, or otherwise positive? You need to analyze anything contemporary, as with times the people’s desire and the ways they articulate them will change. To be a successful spiritual leader, you will need to adapt to the new challenges of changing times. What will never change is the simplicity and convenience of what you will tell them. If it’s easy to absorb and effortless to follow, they will more likely join you, making you more successful.
9. Make people feel (very) special
A true spiritual master will never tell you are better than another human being. In fact, genuine teaching would usually be along the lines of being one and not only with those who agree with us. While it is easy to feel the community with those who have similar aspirations, this usually excludes anyone who was not yet lucky enough to discover the more spiritual aspects of life, making them seem somehow less than yourself. True spiritual masters will emphasize that there is no real difference. Regardless of your level of awareness, you will never be either more or less than other people. After all, we are all just humans.
A successful spiritual leader, however, can never allow their followers to not feel special about themselves. Those who are “in the game” for popularity and possibly other, more material reasons, will do everything to make you feel a better person. This is basic human psychology. People are all for gratification. When we are children, we do everything to please our parents and when they tell us we are good or even give us a reward we feel good. As we grow up, we follow a similar pattern in our schools, at work, and even in our relationships. We want to please our teachers, our bosses, and partners all just to gain the reward and gratification, of being told, and made feel that we are good. You, as a spiritual leader, can instantly reward people for following you, by making them feel how much more, better, smarter or more spiritually advanced they are than those who are not with you.
To-do: To become a true spiritual leader, you need to give people instant and cheap gratification. It works rather simply. All you need to do is show them how much more/better/wiser/spiritually advanced they are, than the others. Make them feel smart. Make them feel privileged. The best part is, they would not have to do anything for this, only just follow you.
What you will gain from this is not just a few more people who listen to you, but a loyal following, who will do anything in their power to protect you and your name. Why? Because they will just protect themselves, their higher self-esteem and self-perception, which you provide them with. And for this, they need to keep your image as their impeccable spiritual leader. Play on their ego and their instinctual self-protective behavior and you are all set. It is truly a win-win set-up.
10. Charge money for teaching
This is the essence of your journey. After all, being a spiritual leader is a great business. You can not only make some money, but you can have a more than decent living out of your follower base. Ever dreamed of yachts, and private planes, having a villa or two? Your own bodyguards perhaps? The sad thing about spiritual masters is that being truly spiritual, they don’t care to abut material riches. Honestly, they have no idea what they miss.
You as a spiritual leader, however, are not bound by those silly, outdated ideals of spirituality over materialism (or finances, to be precise). Being spiritual only in title, you can truly enjoy all the fruit and profit, you’ve worked so hard to hoard collect, from your unsuspecting loyal and grateful followers.
To-do: If you’ve implemented all the above steps, you are all set to cheat people out of their pants accept the gratitude of your follower base, robbing them blind charging what is due for your services. You will not only sell overpriced books and DVDs, but you can even charge for public speaking, as much as you can dream of.
Besides, you could organize workshops and even accept people as your private students. The fee for a lesson can be as high as your students can afford. Of course, your marketing game must be up: You need to target the rich, if you want to make a real fortune, although skinning working for the poor masses might also prove to be rather lucrative. But that is a different story and better suited to another article on a different type of blog.
From the above simple steps, you could have learned, how to become a successful (and possibly rich) spiritual leader. If you are not yet offended, (in which case you did not read this through carefully), then it may just be time to look for the above signs in any and every person you’ve ever trusted to be your teacher, superior or leader. Using these simple steps could be the shortest route to spot any con-artist, however popular and famous, who prey on your wallet, beliefs, and desire to a better and happier life. Remember, true masters could be hiding in plain sight. If you are too loud to hear their quietness, it might just be time to change your own ways.
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Want to become a student of Me, the potentially famous spiritual leader? Make sure you start by reading the rest of my posts, containing all the wisdom, that I so generously send out to My followers.
If you were a spiritual master and realized after reading this that you are not really one of those, or at least not anymore, please share your experience in the comments below.
Finally, let Me close with My favorite word (as an aspiring spiritual leader): I.
© Attila Orosz, 2014-2017
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