By Suma Varughese
There has been a series of exposes on gurus and godmen in the last few months, leading to confusion and scepticism. life positive offers a perspective corrective
It seems to be an open season on gurus judging by the number who have been facing the music in the public eye. It has also thrown up disturbing questions on the credibility of gurus and badly dented the reputation of the institution.
Life Positive on principle rarely comments on negative news but we have chosen to make an exception in this case, not with the intention of judging or condemning personages but to see if we can gain a perspective on an issue which concerns all followers of spiritual teachers, and the seeker world in general.
Should we believe what we read in the papers? I belong to the media but (or perhaps because of it) I have no illusions about the way and the motivation with which it functions. The media has a vested interest in building up and tearing down because both are dramatic activities that get the eyeballs and therefore the money. It is looking for scandals, therefore it is not always mandatory that what it alleges is the truth.
My own personal preference would be to keep an open mind and refrain from jumping to conclusions until one is reasonably sure of the circumstances, situation and motivation.
Many tell me that their faith in gurus has been shaken and that they now face a spiritual vacuum because they do not know how to go forward.
I think in the first place, we Indians are too prone to deifying our spiritual teachers. Surely a more measured approach is wiser until one is utterly sure of the calibre of the guru? I have mentioned this often enough but it bears repetition that the most important tool on the spiritual path is intuition. We need to cultivate it assiduously because only that will give us access to the quality of a person’s soul. We are so often carried away by externalities like charm, charisma, good looks and magnetism. These are not necessarily the qualities of an enlightened soul. An enlightened soul is devoid of personality and full instead of presence. This is a distinction we need to get.
Secondly, before choosing a guru, exert caution. Take your time about it. Evaluate a guru for his responses and reactions to money, fame, power and sex. If there is an inordinate amount of interest in any of these, keep your distance. The real mark of an enlightened soul is freedom from desire. As the Katha Upanishad says, “When all the desires of the heart are gone, the mortal becomes immortal.”
Also, the role of the guru is to awaken your inner guru – your own powerful inner guide who alone can show you a way that is uniquely yours. Ultimately we need to free ourselves of the external guru. If you are presently floundering for lack of a guru this may be a good opportunity to see if you are ready to wing it alone, as all of us have to, sooner or later.
The other thing to keep in mind is that all too often we have an exaggerated notion of what gurus are. We accord them superhuman status – endowing them with omnipresence and omnipotence. Umpteen miracles are laid at their door, and every word or gesture is scanned for mystical import. We need to remember that these people are human first and foremost.
At the same time, there is no call to write off a guru simply on account of a controversy. Prophets, sages and gurus have always attracted controversies. The mark of the true guru is his capacity to weather these storms and, if he has erred, to use it as an instrument of his growth.
One danger about repudiating the guru is that many tend to reject the teaching as well. Why? The two are totally different. Just because the guru has not been able to live up to the full potential of the teaching, does not mean that the teaching is invalid. If you have got value out of the teaching, then continue to study it. You might want to take a call on whether you wish to continue being in the guru’s physical presence but you can certainly read books and watch videos. Furthermore, it must be said in this age of kali yug, there is altogether too much hurry to become a guru. Seeing the truth is not enough. One must also be the truth. This means that the truth must penetrate every layer of our being and dissolve every particle of conditioning. Only then is a person ready for the onerous task of being responsible for a person’s soul. Too many are eager to win the prize of gurudom – endless adulation, absolute power, access to much fame, fortune and trappings that come with these. The pity is that in their haste to win these material goods they are tempted to compromise on the very thing that gives them the right to their status – their spiritual purity.
Finally, just because there may be a few questionable souls, there is no need to reject the institution of the guru. There are hundreds and thousands of genuine and enlightened gurus who do their work quietly and without fanfare, a source of support and succour to millions.
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