A common story line among some spiritual teachers who have “attained the Way” goes something like this: I took the long road to come to Self-realization and, along the way, I discovered a shortcut. Now I only teach the shortcut and believe it’s utterly unnecessary for others to do what I did.
I don’t doubt the sincerity or the compassion of such teachers who speak of having found a shortcut, but I do find the story to be pretty dubious. After all, being enlightened takes however long it does: no longer and no shorter. (And, indeed, since enlightenment is a “non-event,” it literally takes no time at all.)
I wonder too about such stories: isn’t it just as plausible that, for instance, repeating a mantra for 20 years made the teacher’s mind more sattvic so that she could receive the ripe, right-to-the-point teaching? Or might doing self-inquiry for 30 dedicated years be just the thing?
A further doubt: a shortcut for someone of spiritual temperament X may be a long cut or no cut at all for someone of spiritual temperament Y. If, for example, someone were to tell me to become a bhakta and to just love God in all things, I’m just not sure that such a teaching would resonate. Yet if someone else urged me to do self-inquiry earnestly and constantly, then I’d take to it like a pig in slop. (Trust me: I have.)
To put a fine point on my doubts: there doesn’t seem to me to be any way of removing the supreme value of upaya. One helping others to see through their ignorance and to know definitively who they are should pull out all the stops and should be willing to throw anything at it that works including the kitchen sink. What one needs may not be what another needs; and what a third needs may be something totally different. Thus, finesse, keenness of judgment, and a certain openness to experiment seem to me to be hallmarks of the finest nondual teaching. And all these I find in spades in Sri Ramana Maharshi, who nimbly met each exactly where he or she was.