The importance of self-effort and the importance of having the guidance, blessing and support of a genuine spiritual-master. We must honor, value and support those who have upheld, taught, helped, empowered and sustained us.
[***If you take the time and make the effort to read this message that will take you 5-10 minutes to carefully and slowly consider then you will be greatly benefited and spiritually enriched. If you cannot invest 5-10 minutes of your time to take in good information that will help, encourage and benefit you, then this means that you are not a sincere and determined seeker, student and practitioner. If you cannot invest 5-10 minutes of your time to apply yourself to qualitative effort, study, reflection and practice then how do you expect to acquire, correctly-direct and retain genuine spiritual power? Who will give and entrust spiritual power, influence, responsibility and authority to a person lacking in motivation, determination and commitment? If you cannot muster the determination to read, think, study and internalize a brief 5-10 minute module of instruction then I am afraid that you will not be able to make genuine forward spiritual progress in anything that you set out to do or hope to accomplish. This lesson is for the sincere and determined who want more from their Ifá-Orisa experience and who want spiritual substance for their lives. This lesson is for those who want to rise above the nonsense and are determined to enter into what is real, satisfying and fulfilling. Those who listen to their ori and who enjoy a genuine connection with Ifá and irunmole-orisa will joyfully read, ponder, study and apply this information. Remember that a true-student will one day become a true-master with students of his or her own. If you are not a good student how then will you be able to teach others to be good students. You cannot really encourage others to become what you never were. You can never become a true-master if you were never a true and respectful student. Spiritual rewards, powers, supramundane abilities and intuitive-perceptivity are the products of ones spiritual exertions. Exert yourself spiritually for at least 5-10 minutes and your effort will be amply rewarded.***]
 There are two indispensable needs in the life of a spiritual aspirant-devotee. For us to be able to realize, recognize, actualize and manifest our individual orisa nature, our divine self-nature or iponri [true-self] we need the blessings of (1) consecrated, continual, steady and progressive self-effort [self-renewing initiative] and spiritual study; and (2) we need the àse [grace, power, support and power] of our spiritual-mentor, teacher, initiator and/or guide. The àse, blessing, support and grace of our spiritual mentor will infuse us with inspiration, authority, divine understanding [direct experience], confidence and a powerful self-sustaining motivation of divine origin that will hold us up and see us through our spiritual path and journey until we arrive at fullness of achievement, deep-understanding and well-rounded [fully developed] maturity.
 In my previous writings I have amply highlighted the need for a devotee to be persevering, industrious, self-reliant, practical and studious in regard to Ifá-Orisa spirituality and Ifá-Orisa practice. But while we must be self-reliant we cannot be entirely independent. We need the experience, help, benefit, guidance and training that an expert and mature mentor, teacher and/or empowered [graceful, accessible and àse filled] spiritual preceptor or master can afford us. Please do not let the word spiritual master throw you off. Let me explain and/or define what is meant by a spiritual master and/or preceptor. The word master simply means an experienced, knowledgeable, empowered and graceful teacher. A spiritual master is the one who lives the truth of Ifá-Orisa and is able to communicate the confidential teachings of Ifá-Orisa together with the living presence of Ifá-Orisa to others. By spiritual we mean a person whose wisdom, àse and conduct are one inseparable and indivisible whole. What he teaches he consistently and reliably lives, demonstrates and exhibits. A spiritual master or preceptor is not the owner of your life. A spiritual master is the one who will, with your consent, dedication and commitment, train you up, build you up, encourage you and will open your eyes to the true depth, ways and mysteries of Ifá and the irunmole-orisa. In other words a true master, mentor or preceptor is simply a mature, experienced, reliable, trustworthy and highly developed practitioner and fellow companion who is much further along the path of attainment than you and who has already attained much, and thereby is able and qualified to assist you, and is able to impart his spiritual strength, virtue and power to the sincere, teachable, intelligent and receptive student.
 This teacher, mentor and guide may not be popular or greatly known because true and capable guides [spiritual masters] do not go about announcing themselves or publishing themselves. A genuine preceptor and master cannot be known or identified by his external attire or appearance. One has to draw near to the teacher, spend time with the teacher and serve the teacher so as to receive the grace or àse of this teacher and the blessing of discerning the great mystic virtue and treasure of knowledge and gracefulness that this teacher has. This master will be simple and unpretentious. Many rub shoulders with him or her everyday and they don’t know or see the greatness of the person that they are frequently coming in contact with. A spiritual preceptor will not ‘lord it’ over you. A spiritual preceptor does not want and will not accept your ‘worship’ but will accept your willingness to learn and apply the truth, and will also accept your respectful attitude and your diligence.
 A spiritual preceptor builds up his students upon and around the foundational mysteries of Ifá and not on his person or personality. A SPIRITUAL master will not ask you for money and does not make money [your money] a requisite for acceptance and training. A genuine preceptor will impart to you a living awareness of the character, personality and presence of Ifá, Òrúnmìlà and of the irunmole-orisa. A spiritual master will treat you as a friend and will not make you feel inferior to his or her person, but a spiritual master or preceptor is still a spiritual master or preceptor, and one should recognize this reality, accord him or her due reverence and act respectfully. The spiritual preceptor will reveal and make known his greatness without having and displaying arrogance and conceit to the sincere, persevering and disciplined student. The revelation of the masters greatness is not for the purpose of making himself or herself appear great to the student, to show-off or to impress the student but to establish faith, respect, confidence and trust in the student towards his or her spiritual teacher, guide and mentor, so that this serves as a spiritual bridge or channel through which spiritual energy, divine-vision [experience], knowledge and enlightenment can be successfully imparted and communicated.
 The function and aim of a spiritual master, mentor and teacher is to establish you in a living, indissoluble and unbreakable connection with Ifá, Òrúnmìlà and the irunmole-orisa. The spiritual master, oluwo or ojugbona will reveal to you the path that is best suited to your affinity. He will successfully guide you along the path, and he will spiritually nourish you, bringing healing [correction] to your life. You will experience, discern and see the reality of Ifá in the character, personality and ways of your spiritual master and teacher. The teacher will come alongside you in the spirit of Òrúnmìlà, to forewarn you about the pitfalls and to safeguard you from fruitless and sorrowful paths. He or she will assist you to overcome hindrances and obstacles and will impart spiritual power to you, to enable you to persevere and prevail during trying and difficult times. The grace, àse and power that the spiritual master imparts to you in no way absolves you of the need to put in your effort, your study, your practice and your toil. The grace and blessing of your preceptor will add sweetness and joy to your efforts and labors no matter how arduous or challenging they are or may seem. A genuine spiritual preceptor will continually earn your trust and confidence. Trust and confidence are not on demand and they are not ready made. They must be consistently, perseveringly and continuously earned and merited. A ‘teacher’ who does not and cannot inspire trust, confidence, awe and respect in you should not be accepted as your spiritual preceptor or teacher. A true teacher is never fake or pretend and thereby has nothing to hide. A genuine spiritual master is afraid of nothing and no one and always enjoys the respect of his community and the full support of a pure and clean conscience. A genuine teacher is not hiding or doing things in secret. A genuine teacher and preceptor can stand up to the scrutiny of anyone because he or she is more transparent than glass and lives a clean, respectful and blameless life. A true teacher does not try to hoard his students and does not restrict his students from meeting with and learning from other legitimate spiritual preceptors, mentors and teachers. No single teacher or spiritual preceptor is a one stop center who has it all, and/or who knows it all. A true spiritual master, oluwo or ojugbona does not treat or consider his students as if they were his personal property to do as he pleases with them. A true spiritual master considers his students as the children and personal friends of Òrúnmìlà and thereby accords them the corresponding respect and relates to them with an attitude of non-attachment.
 The àse of your oluwo, ojugbona or spiritual master and teacher, or masters and teachers will ensure that your toil, effort, study and practice will bear abundant and satisfying fruit. There is a great power, virtue and grace that is imparted by the spiritual master to the student as a result of the student frequently associating with the teacher, learning from the teacher and patiently applying the instructions of the mentor. Once the spiritual master enlightens you, leads you to spiritual maturity and empowers you through the face-to-face transmission [by frequent and direct personal contact, and spiritual association] then he will then remove himself and you will now be led by the grace, knowledge and àse that the teacher trained you up in. The master will entrust you to the workings of the àse, grace and power that he or she communicated to you and trained you in. You are not to be a follower and worshipper of the personality of the master, but of the truth, science, àse and power that you were established in by the spiritual preceptor. The master loves and cares for his pupils, and just like a loving father and mother behaves towards their child, a genuine preceptor will apply corrective discipline and stern correction when necessary and if necessary so that immaturity, superficiality, foolishness and ignorance are pruned away from the student. Just like a good father or mother does not let their children do whatever their undeveloped, immature and untrained minds suggest or lead them to do, in like manner will a caring and true spiritual preceptor discipline, correct and train up his or her spiritual children. A spiritual master and preceptor may or may not outwardly be a highly educated person according to mundane standards, but they are masters in matters of the spirit, practical living and true divine gracefulness or àse. They will undoubtedly possess and have an unquestionable spiritual intelligence, truth, presence, self-authenticating authority and power. A legitimate spiritual master, mentor and guide may or may not be an intellectual person according to everyday standards, but they will have and possess divine genius and an uplifting spiritual peculiarity uniquely their own that all can personally experience, perceive and attest to, and that no one can deny.
 When you meet, find or discover such a spiritual teacher or master you will have a feeling or sense like if you were associating with an irunmole-orisa in person. You will feel peace, wonder and contentment simply by being with this person and spending time with him. A spiritual master imparts a special grace that causes many of the problems or doubts that one had had to simply correct themselves and/or disappear. A spiritual master reveals your true dignity, value and purpose. A spiritual master makes you dependent on Ifá and not on his person or personality. When we come in contact with a genuine teacher and mentor a renewed and elevated faith and confidence arises in us towards Ifá and the irunmole-orisa in a natural, unforced, marvelous and spontaneous way. We begin to value and appreciate ourselves in new ways and we begin to understand and appreciate the true depth, beauty, sweetness and power of Ifá. This is the kind of effect that Òrúnmìlà produced in others. Akoda and Aseda were also able to inspire, empower, heal and elevate others simply by the power of their divine presence, personality and character alone, not to mention their teachings and spiritual works. Just to behold Òrúnmìlà, all fear, worry, anxiety and doubts would melt away and disappear. This is why Òrúnmìlà is called the one who miraculously transforms our sorrow into joy. This is said of Òrúnmìlà because the worries, fears, anxiety and doubts of people would literally disappear at the sight of Òrúnmìlà or merely by them hearing about Òrúnmìlà. This grace, virtue and power is also had, enjoyed and shared by Òrúnmìlà’s true followers. This is a special boon granted by Òrúnmìlà to those who tread his path with sincerity, straightforwardness, courage and honesty.
 If you have a good oluwo, a good ojugbona or spiritual guide and instructor that loves you, that rightly instructs and trains you, that cares for you and who discliplines you for your own good, wellbeing and benefit, thank Olódùmarè for such a gift and treasure. If you see or notice that your teacher is in need of some basic necessity or life-essential, then help him or her to the best of your means and ability without causing injury, loss or strain to yourself. A true master will not demand or ask from you this kind of service, but if you have a human heart and your teacher and preceptor has been selflessly caring for you and helping you, then how can you withhold your relief and assistance when you discern a need in his or her life, and it is within your means to confer a good measure of aid and assistance? Do not embarrass your teacher by asking him if he needs something, when you can clearly see a need for something relating to basic necessities in his life. If you teacher is in need of food, clothing, medicine, shelter or some other basic need, and you have the means to help and contribute to his uplift, then do so without making a big deal about it. Just give what help you can in a simple, unpretentious and natural way. It could be that the teacher is just testing you. Do not underestimate the greatness, virtue and power of your spiritual master just because your teacher is humble, unassuming and perhaps because he or she jokes around with you in wholesome humor just like if he or she were just an ordinary everyday person. A true spiritual master, oluwo and ojugbona is far from being an ordinary or common person. Express gratitude, appreciation and love towards your teacher in Ifá, in Orisa and in Isese by your actions, support and reliable heartfelt appreciative words. Do not embarass your teacher. Make others to be proud of Ifá and of your teacher by your conduct, demeanor and wisdom. If you do not have a teacher or guide yet then begin to search for one under the guidance of Òrúnmìlà and the irunmole-orisa. A true teacher and guide is indispensable to a devotee, just like self-reliance, effort, dedication and practicality are indispensable to a devotee. Your ori will guide you but your ori cannot be a substitute for a spiritual teacher, and a spiritual teacher cannot be a substitute for your ori. They will work in union and harmony with each other. Remember: A legitimate teacher or preceptor is not arrogant or conceited. An arrogant and conceited ‘teacher’ has nothing to give you or offer you. A legitimate teacher will not ‘lord it’ over you. A legitimate teacher will not attempt to control your life or manage your life for you. A spiritual master is not a crutch. A spiritual master is not there to pamper you, baby you and flatter you. A spiritual master is not there to extract money or personality worship from you. Divine knowledge, practical understanding, spiritual power and true spiritual satisfaction cannot be had in isolation. It can only be had and enjoyed in the company or constant association of devoted and spiritually mature and knowledgeable persons. Any devoted, spiritually-mature, honorable, consistent, caring, intelligent, sympathetic and knowledgeable person can serve as ones spiritual master, mentor or teacher.
 A qualified and genuine spiritual master or preceptor does not think himself or herself as such, and they will not be posting adds online promoting themselves as such. Qualified students simply gravitate to a natural, unpretentious and sincere teacher, and this is how spiritual mentors becomes mentors and not because they are intentionally promoting themselves as mentors, spiritual preceptors or spiritual masters. One more thing: To be able to find and secure a genuine, dedicated and empowered preceptor one must as an aspirant be genuine, dedicated, wholehearted, teachable, receptive, practical and motivated. A genuine aspirant must be able and willing to call a spade a spade. A genuine seeker must have an attitude that refuses to put up with any nonsense and foolishness in himself/herself and/or others.
 May Ifá bless all who have taken the time and exercised the patience to carefully read, consider and think about the above teaching. May you all be benefitted, encouraged and motivated by what has been shared in sincerity, love and good-will. May these guidelines and considerations serve to adjust and correct misunderstanding and may they serve to establish correct perception and clear-seeing awareness. May these teachings sweep away superficiality, make-believe, fantasy, ignorance, stinginess, insensitivity and deception in all its forms. Àse.
~ Awo Òrúnmìlà Mark Casillas