mega888 Sal on Gurus and Spiritual Teachers

Sal on Gurus and Spiritual Teachers

July, 2004

It has been said that we are moving out of the age of gurus and teachers and into the age of personal mastery. This may be so, but there will always be a need for enlightened leadership and guidance. So the question is, how do we know whether or not a teacher or guide is genuine and beneficial for our growth?

It is rare for ego to not get in the way when a person declares him/herself a teacher. The best teachers I've had have usually been rather anonymous and downplayed their level of awareness. A teacher may or may not have a label or spiritual name. Oftentimes, those we least expect to give us a boost along the path are the ones that are the most effective. Someone who constantly pushes our buttons may be our greatest teacher.

The purpose of a guru is to teach disciples that they do not need a guru. Or to put it another way, the purpose of a teacher is to make him/herself unnecessary. When determining the validity of a teacher or teaching, the first thing to ask yourself is whether or not you feel empowered. Does the teacher strengthen and enhance your own natural abilities, or do they make you dependent on them in some way? Are they inclusive of other paths, or do they tell you their path is the only way? The definition of a cult involves group dependence on a particular leader and a strict adherence to his/her teachings.

One teacher that immediately comes to mind is Rajneesh (also known as Osho). He taught in India for many years, then came to America for several years, then returned to India where he died in the 1990s. Although I liked the essence of Rajneesh/Osho's teachings, the ashram environment was fraught with problems. Remember Rajneeshpuram in Oregon? The fleet of Rolls Royces? Swami's personal secretary that was blinded by power? The animosity with the local towns? Although Rajneesh once said we use the teachings to go beyond them, it appears swami's biggest message was how NOT to build an ashram. If that was his intention, he certainly succeeded in getting the point across.

I put some of the responsibility for the problems on swami and some of it on his followers. Since what we attract reflects our own consciousness, both the good and bad of the ashrams is a reflection on the teacher and teaching. I only hope that swami's followers learned whatever it was that their souls wanted to learn from their experiences.

The question regarding whether or not Rajneesh misled his followers is this: Did he make conscious decisions that adversely affected other souls? Or was he blissfully unaware of some of the ego-meanderings of his disciples? When I made eye contact with him, I experienced a blissed-out yogi. Unfortunately, blissed-out yogis do not always provide the most effective teachings in the outer world. Many teachers have shared their difficulties in bringing enlightenment into the everyday arena of earthly life.

Some teachers continuously and emphatically deny the need for teachers. J. Krishnamurti denied he was a guru and abhorred the idea of followers. Yet he had many the world over.

Oftentimes different gurus and teachers use opposite or very different approaches to achieve the same result. Take, for example, the two teachers mentioned above, Rajneesh and Krishnamurti. They took paths on opposite sides of the mountain. Rajneesh said “accept everything.” Krishnamurti said “deny everything.” What's interesting is that both paths move you toward enlightenment. When you accept everything, you are completely in the present moment and the moment opens up into eternity. When you deny everything, all illusions fall away and only that which can never be denied remains.

Two of the biggest motivators in earthly life are money and fame. There are many so-called spiritual teachers who can spout great words of wisdom, but are motivated primarily by their desire to make a buck. They can all say the same thing but often the energy and wisdom are not really there. There’s an easy litmus test for discerning the true teacher: Are the disciples’ lives getting better? Are they happier than they were before joining the group? Are they more prosperous? Are their relationships improving? Are they more independent and self-sufficient?

When a teacher shares a high level of awareness, there is a transformation that takes place if the student has a high enough level of awareness to be open and receptive. Unfortunately it is very rare for a teacher to transmit enlightenment to a student. What meets with greater success is the ability of the guru to be a mirror for the student's own inattention. Egos hate to have their errors pointed out, but whittling away at the ego's defenses is likely to greatly accelerate one's spiritual evolution.

J. Krishnamurti said "truth is a pathless land" and I believe I know what he meant by that. The ego constantly strives for enlightenment. The more it strives, the more it drives away truth. The paradox is that while we must remain vigilant, cautious and discerning, we must also surrender our egos and become like little children – empty of preconceived concepts and willing to learn something new.

Some groups definitely behave more like a cult than a genuine spiritual teaching. I am particularly wary of groups that charge exorbitant fees for their workshops and seminars. They may say beautiful things, such as "you create your own reality" and "follow your joy." While this may sometimes be good advice, I for one would not spend hundreds of dollars just to hear this message repeated over and over for several hours. Teachers who do get wealthy from their teachings are hopefully doing something with their wealth that is contributing to the good of the planet. This is not meant to be a judgment of how they spend their money, but their lives should be a reflection of their teachings.

There are very few enlightened teachers that do not have human foibles. Most who think they are above and beyond their humanness are in denial. If the age of the guru is truly over, then what we need now are groups of leaders that are willing to put their egos in their proper place (as humble servants) and come together to create the new world. We are all equal in God's eyes; each of us has a unique set of talents and abilities that contribute to the cosmic symphony.

¶The world will eventually mature to the point where everyone will be a leader. Although we will disagree in various matters, we will do so with respect for the other members of the society – recognizing that the most important thing and the overwhelming reason for being here on Earth is to learn and grow into greater expressions of God’s Love.

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