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Chapter 23

Do You Need a Guru?

There are people who have never been involved with a guru and who have judgmental feelings towards people who have. These judgmental people have thoughts such as, “People who follow gurus are needy, gullible, and dumb.” They have such thoughts without having experienced-based knowledge of what gurus are actually about.

I have known a number of people who have been involved with gurus, and some of them were quite intelligent. They were seeking a way to grow spiritually. I do not see how a person can fault them for that.

Unfortunately, I have also found that the gurus I knew about were not the transcendent spiritual masters they claimed to be and that their followers were overly trusting and not good at discriminating a guru’s authenticity. I believe there are three main reasons why guru followers can be overly trusting and lack discrimination about their guru.

One, they judge what their guru would do according to what they would do. Because they cannot find it within themselves to mislead others about spiritual subjects, they have a difficult time believing that their guru would do so.

I used to work with a lady who was concerned that her husband would cheat on her. I found this odd because I had met him and he did not seem like a man who would cheat on her. A few years later I found out that she had had affairs with three of the men that worked at the company where we worked. Because she could not find fidelity and faithfulness within herself, she had a hard time imagining that it could exist within her husband. She was aware of married couples who were faithful, but she judged what was possible for her husband according to her own inner universe rather than outward evidence.

I believe that something similar happens with people who follow gurus. Even though they are aware that cults exist, they have a difficult time believing that their own guru is not what he or she claims to be because they evaluate their guru according to their own inner universe rather than by outward evidence.

Another reason people are overly trusting of their guru is because somewhere inside, at a level they are not usually conscious of, they remember what it was like before they incarnated into a body and abided in a spirit realm: a realm where beings lived according to positive qualities such as honesty, integrity, love, humility, and respect for others. In order to locate itself in such a realm and abide there, a being would have to live according to the same positive qualities. Therefore, a being who intends to mislead others about being a spiritual master would not be able to locate itself within such a realm. Only actual qualified masters live in such a realm, and they do not have self-serving motives.

Even if a misleading being could somehow locate itself in a love-based realm and abide there, it would not be able to fool any of the beings who live there because spirit beings communicate telepathically. They also share their energy with each other. Therefore, if a being did not share love-based energy and instead shared negative attributes such as dishonesty, other beings would notice this.

Life here in this world is different. There are all kinds of people, both those who are trusting and those who seek to mislead, and they are able to interact with each other. Because they do not usually communicate with each other telepathically, at least not consciously, they are able to fool each other.

When it comes to the energy a guru shares with the people who visit him, if a person visits a guru and experiences positive energy, this visitor needs to carefully discriminate where the positive energy actually comes from.

If the visitor attends a Satsang (meeting with a guru) with the expectation of having a positive experience, this might cause him to have an openness of mind that plays a role in his having a positive experience.

If the attendees of the Satsang tune in to a positive state-of-being, a visitor might feel the positive energy they radiate.

If the followers of a guru direct devotional energy towards their guru it might accumulate around him and a visitor might be able to sense it.

If the guru is a person who tries to obtain happiness by having others treat him in an adoring and worshipful way and he receives such treatment, this might cause him to feel more happiness than he usually feels, and a visitor might feel this energy coming from him.

Yes indeed, there are definitely reasons for which a person could experience positive energy while visiting a guru other than a guru’s supposed elevated state of being.

A third reason people have a difficult time discriminating what their guru is actually about is because they do not know what it is like to be with him behind the scenes. In the Satsang environment their guru may just be putting on a good floor show. The followers of a guru do not usually get to see what a guru is like behind the scenes until they become a part of his inner circle. By that time they are usually so under his spell that they have a hard time discriminating what he is really about.

Very fortunately, some people, after going through much inner turmoil, find out what their guru is actually about and leave him. Some of them, because they are well meaning and good- hearted people, try to enlighten others about what their former guru is actually about. Perhaps they will do so while meeting current members for lunch or while speaking with them during a telephone conversation. They might make information available on the internet. Perhaps they might even write a book.

Sadly, the people they try to help often throw stones at them and accuse them of being nothing more than egotistical malcontents. It is true that some former guru followers are unhappy with how things were when they were with their former guru (it is very justifiable for them to feel this way); however, egotism has nothing to do with what inspires them to help others.

My feeling is that any person who truly understood what this world and the people in it need in order to grow spiritually would not claim to others, despite his genuine spiritual state, that he is God realized, Self-realized or enlightened. He would not do so because he would understand that when people decide to believe that somebody is the spiritual master he or she claims to be, to some degree they give away their personal power to that supposed spiritual master. Even if a guru says something that contradicts the follower’s own experience, intuition, heart, intelligence, and common sense they will still go with what the guru says because they will figure, “How could my guru be wrong and I right, when he or she is enlightened and I am not?”

I know this trap took place for me when I was involved with guru-based teachings, and I saw it take place for many other people. Eventually, thank goodness, I reached the point where I discovered that the gurus I knew about were not the transcendent spiritual masters they claimed to be. Because I was able to see this I was able to thoroughly question what they taught. I found that some of the things they said were inaccurate. Not only that, I found that there were important spiritual topics they did not speak about that one would expect a spiritual master to speak about. Because they did not speak about such topics I did not take the time to become aware of them. I have found that many other people make the same mistake.

My feeling is that any person who lives according to honesty, integrity, love, humility, and respect for others would never present himself as if he holds the key to the spiritual welfare of others. None of us requires the intermediary of another person in order to make contact with God, the Oneness, divine love, our spirit-self, our inner self, our higher self, however you want to put it. As far as I am concerned only a self-serving person who seeks to control others would make the claim that he holds the key to their spiritual welfare.

My feeling is that anybody who lives according to positive qualities such as love, humility, respect for others, and equality, would never present him or herself in a manner where others end up putting him or her on a pedestal and treating him or her in an adoring and worshipful way. To me the thought of others treating me in such a way is absolutely repugnant, and I believe that anybody who lives according to positive qualities such as love, humility, respect for others, and equality would feel the same.

Some people might say that they do not show devotion towards the person of the guru. Rather, they show it towards the manifestation of that which is divine. My response to this is that each of us, no matter how spiritually developed, is just one small piece of that which is. Therefore, it is not appropriate for us to represent ourselves as if we are the totality.

It is not as if God were an anthropomorphic being who sits on a throne and looks down at people and says, “Worship me, adore me, obey me.” No. Only a person or being who does not understand how love, true fulfillment, and self-acknowledgment can be obtained would seek such an immature, self-centered, and needy approach.

Consider how it is when you share love with somebody who is close to you. If one of you is up here in a supposedly superior role while the other is down there in a supposedly inferior role, you will not be able to share love and Oneness as much as possible. The essential quality of equality will be missing. Also, fear often tends to be involved in such an unequal relationship, and love cannot blossom completely when fear gets in the way.

Some people say they like to feel devotion towards their guru, perhaps while looking at a photo of him, because it helps them experience love. In a way, such an approach is similar to when a person feels adoration for a pop star and stands there saying, “Michael, Michael,” or “Justin, Justin.”

Very fortunately, love is not about such fanatical and unbalanced adoration. It is about understanding the importance, value, and fulfillment of being able to truly care about another. It is about being able to truly appreciate another without developing an obsession. It is about understanding how we are all connected and a part of the same Oneness.

I do not mean that we cannot have feelings of love, gratitude, loyalty, and respect for the divine beings that came before us and in some cases made our existence possible. But having such feelings in a balanced and healthy way is quite different than having a fanatical obsession with the object of one’s infatuation.

It is important to remember that beings of love and light are very wise and abide in a state of being that is absolutely fulfilling. Therefore, they are not interested in being treated in a worshipful way. Perish the thought that beings of love and light desire to be treated in the way that self-serving and self-enamored narcissists desire.

Devotion towards gurus takes place to varying extremes. In India, where the tradition basically started, devotion often happens to an extreme. Some people in India surrender their lives to their gurus. They do devotional worship that is directed towards their guru. They do things such as drink the water that is used to clean their guru’s feet, with the thought that they are not drinking the dirt and germs that come from his feet, rather, they drink his shakti and grace.

Some people claim that disciples are spiritually empowered by their guru and that being in his presence makes his grace available. If this is so, why would there be the extra added need of drinking the water that is used to clean his feet? Gurus have such a practice take place in order to gain more control of their followers.

People who brainwash others understand that the more they can get the people they brainwash to do and believe unreasonable things the more they will gain control of them. This is because the more a person allows himself to do and believe unreasonable things the more he loses contact with that part of himself that is able to think in a clear and rational way.

In the West (countries such as the United States), guru worship does not always take place to such an extreme. Some of the gurus who do not take an extreme approach put on an air as if they are beyond the gurus who do. Yet, at the same time they try to establish their credibility by claiming to be a part of the same lineage as gurus who take an extreme approach.

I find the above contradictory, and I am not willing to sweep it under the carpet simply because it might be inconvenient to acknowledge what takes place. This is what often happens with people who follow gurus. They become so emotionally attached to their guru that they find it inconvenient to see their guru as he actually is.

If you attend a Satsang with a guru, take a moment to see how his followers act. If they look at him with zombie-like adoration, ask yourself if you are in the right place. Some people might say it is not the guru’s fault if his followers treat him in such a way. My response to this is “bullroy!”

Usually such adoration takes place because a guru has deliberately set things up so people put him on a pedestal and treat him in an adoring way. Even if a guru did not, he is always in the position to take notice of what is going on and tell the people who come to see him, “Please, please, I am not worthy of being put on a pedestal and treated in an adoring way, so please stop doing so.” But no, instead they claim to be Mr. or Miss Enlightened and eat up the adoration.

Some gurus treat their followers in an abusive way with the pretense that they do so in order to help them overcome their egos. Consider women who are abused by a violent husband or boyfriend. They do not gain spiritual transcendence through such abuse. Rather, they often become traumatized and develop self-esteem problems. The same is often true of children who are abused. Only a person who gets off by controlling, manipulating and abusing others would claim that he does so for the sake of their spiritual welfare.

The main reason some gurus get away with treating their followers in an abusive way is because they have psychologically conditioned their followers to believe that anytime they have resistance to what the guru says and does, it is only their ego that has such resistance. Therefore, it should be ignored. The fact of the matter is that it is a person’s inner divine spirit-self, the part that really matters, that objects to being treated in an unloving, disrespectful, and abusive manner. It is absolutely wonderful when a person listens to his or her spirit-self. It is not egotistical!

None of us, and I mean none of us, needs to be treated in an unloving, disrespectful, and abusive way in order to grow spiritually. Please do not allow yourself to be hoodwinked by the people who claim that you need to be treated in a negative way in order to overcome your ego.

I do not mean to imply that all people who become gurus do so because they intentionally seek to mislead others. Rather, some people have deluded themselves to believe that it is okay for them to present themselves as gurus do. Perhaps they had one or more experiences where they understood that they are more than their body-based existence and that there is this beingness that pervades everything. It is fine to have such a realization, I first had it back in 1980, but here I am years later and I still have my imperfections. I am not infallible and can get it wrong at times. I do not hold the key to the spiritual welfare of anyone but myself. I am not worthy of being put on a pedestal and being treated in an adoring and worshipful way. Many gurus would realize the same if they allowed themselves to disconnect from their psychological conditioning about the role of a guru and from their attachment to being treated by others as a spiritual superstar. It would help them if they realized that the entire history of guru worship is very questionable.

I do not mean that it is never okay to teach others about spiritual topics. There is nothing wrong with sharing what we know with others. We just need to make certain that we do not do so as gurus do, as described above.

When you try to determine whether or not you need a guru ask yourself, “Do I want to allow another person to determine what I believe? Do I want to hand the key to my spiritual welfare to another person? Do I want to treat a dishonest person with self-serving motives that do not respect the needs of others, in an adoring and worshipful way? Or do I want to find out as many people have found that it is possible to grow spiritually without the assistance of the kind of guru that is described in this chapter? Do I want to find that the parameters for spiritual growth are not defined as gurus define them?”