Hokai Sobol provides counsel, guidance, and instruction for individuals interested in a path of practice and a way of life that enable them to be increasingly awake, responsive and resourceful. People come into this mentorship for a variety of reasons, looking for personalized feedback and input. Such individuals have a genuine interest in awareness and awakening, have the abilities to manage their own lives, and have a capacity for independent discipline and practice. The work does not involve psychotherapy, nor does it seek to address personality disorders.
A lot of interaction takes place online. While video calls and emails cannot substitute face time or intense learning through regular in-person interaction, it works out provided both parties are clear as to the ethos and purpose of the work.
Mentorship entails a confidential teacher-student relationship, implying engagement, commitment to practice, and a willingness to explore. Whether involving a one-off consultation, a limited period of recurring interactions, or ongoing guidance, it is important to establish, nurture and protect the mentorship rapport. It has its unique challenges, and thus requires a clear ethical framework.
Ethical behavior is an appropriate response to the trust others have placed in one. The basis for trust is the pursuit in good faith of a path of awakening.
Two fundamental principles are balance and personal responsibility.
Balance is the union of knowing and acting at the point at which experience arises. Because life is dynamic, imbalances inevitably arise and call for a response, even if the response is no action. The essential ethical obligation is to move in the direction of balance, responding to what arises in experience to the best of one’s abilities. Obligation arises out of a personal choice as to where one takes a stand in response to imbalance.
Personal responsibility means that it is the individual who decides what to do and, consequently, is responsible for his or her actions. No way of life nor any path of practice can ensure that everything turns out as one expected or intended. When things turn out differently, the ethical response is to learn from one’s experience, not to hold others accountable for problems stemming from one’s own actions.
The teacher-student relationship is primarily a shared aim relationship in which the teacher and student undertake to define a path of practice for the student in his or her pursuit of awakening. While transaction and emotional connection do take place, neither of them is the actual basis for the relationship.
The teacher trusts that the student is seeking guidance in his or her path of practice. The student trusts that the instruction and guidance provided by the teacher are intended to help the student in his or her path of practice, not to benefit the teacher or some other agenda.
The teacher is responsible for providing the student with methods and perspectives drawn from the teacher’s own experience and training. The student is responsible for bringing to the teacher the questions, challenges and insights that come through his or her efforts. Through repeated interaction, the teacher’s instructions are shaped to the student’s questions and challenges. The student is then responsible for practicing those instructions, developing his or her abilities and meeting with the teacher for further guidance.
Both teacher and student are responsible for building and maintaining a relationship in which the student can grow and develop spiritually. Trust and respect are essential on both sides as effective learning can take place only in a balanced relationship. Both parties must act in good faith, honor the aim of the relationship and protect the relationship from their own emotional reactions. When either party feels these conditions are not present, that party is responsible for communicating his or her concern to the other and taking appropriate action.
Part of the teacher’s responsibility is to awaken the student to new possibilities and introduce a way to become free from problematic patterns and beliefs, whether those patterns and beliefs are personal, social or cultural. Because the student may find that basic beliefs about survival, emotional needs and identity are being called into question, tension and differences may arise. When differences do arise in the relationship, both parties are responsible for addressing them constructively.
If, in the course of working with a teacher, psychological, relationship or personality problems in the student are identified that inhibit the student in his or her path, the student is responsible for addressing them accordingly. The teacher may make such additional work a condition for continued mentorship.
To facilitate a broad understanding, students are welcome to explore programs offered by other teachers and organizations. If the student actively works with other teachers, he or she must so inform the mentoring teacher and, to avoid confusion, specify which teacher the student takes to be the primary teacher. The student is solely responsible for the choice of primary teacher.
The relationship may end by mutual consent of both parties or because the aim of spiritual awakening can no longer be undertaken, i.e. the teacher can no longer provide the student with guidance and training or the student no longer finds the teacher helpful. In either case, the ending of the relationship must be clearly communicated and acknowledged.
Imbalances arise when either teacher or student seeks material, emotional or social benefits from the relationship. Imbalances also arise when teacher and student work on other projects together or either is interested in an emotional connection. The teacher-student relationship takes precedence over these other forms of relationship. If either party wishes to make such benefits, projects or emotional connection the primary basis of the relationship, the teacher-student relationship cannot continue and the other party must be so informed.
June 2019 Updated Version
These Ethical Guidelines are based on and adapted from the Ethical Framework developed by Ken McLeod for Unfettered Mind, used with permission.