Why a Guru is Bad

By Scott Shaw

We all have had teachers in our lives. Some of them in our schooldays have been very influential and have caused us to become the people we hoped we would to be.

Certainly, all the classes we took in school helped us grow as thinking individuals. Though we may not have liked all of our classes, they each caused our levels of understanding and intelligence to increase.

There is another side to education, however. That is the education we seek out and gain once we have entered the spiritual path. Here, however, being taught and learning becomes a very different field of reality.

In religion and spirituality, you are no longer being taught elements that are designed to make your life more functional. You have stepped beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic. At this level you have entered the realm of supposition and dogma. At this level, someone who claims to hold knowledge of the more abstract realms of reality is the one teaching you.

But, do they truly hold this knowledge? Does anyone?

When you are being schooled in generalized scholastics, the answer to two plus two becomes self-evident. But, in the realms of spirituality there is no such thing as fact; there is simply belief. And, many people confuse belief as fact.

When you go to a spiritual teacher you are expecting to be guided down a road that will lead you to self-realization and/or communion with god. This is what you are generally promised by the teacher. Do this, do that, and you will end up here.

But, there is a very big problem with this; people are only people. Though they may truly believe what they are teaching, that does not mean that they truly possess the inner-knowledge of what they propagate. This is where the big problem with spiritual teachers begins.

I cannot tell you how many supposed gurus I have met over the years who have been telling everyone how to live. But, they were a complete mess when no one was looking. Though they may have even believed what they were saying, they never learned how to truly embrace the essence of what they were teaching. Yet, they gathered disciples, in some cases they even took their money. Then, they feed them a batch of pre-packaged nonsense that they read in some book or heard from some other teacher. I call this, “Borrowed knowledge.”

This is particularly the case with what may be termed, “New Age Gurus.” As the majority of them have never spend long years in the monastery or as a sadhu truly mastering the essence of whatever school of thought they would later teach, they do not possess a deeper understanding of Absolute Truth. Though, they will of course deny this fact. Instead, these teachers personally decide that they know enough to teach; decide that they have the gift of teaching. From this, they move forwards telling people how they should live their lives.

The reason this is so wrong is that if, for example, you teach someone how to read, all of his or her life becomes better and more fulfilled. But, if someone is telling another person how to encounter interpersonal relationships, how they should behave in a particular life-circumstance, or even how they should live their life on a day-to-day basis, all they are basing this advice upon in their own personal perspective of this place we call, “Life.” Thus, by its very nature this advice is flawed by the guru's own personality.

This is why so many people have become so upset at their one-time guru. Because, all they were given was advice based upon how a specific individual expected another person to behave. The information that they were provided with was not based on a truly enlightened perspective.

As a young adolescent on the spiritual path I grew up at a time and in a place where there was a lot of opportunity to met and interact with a lot of spiritual teachers. The majority of the teachers I encountered and interacted with were from various realms of Asia. Certainly, most prominently, I was very close with Swami Satchidananda. I can tell you, that not one time did he or any of these other teachers ever tell me how to live my life. They never gave me their opinion about what I should do next. If I asked them a question, they would turn it around on me, and inquiring what I truly desired. From this, as I was never told what to do, I was simply allowed to chart my own personal path. This is true spiritual teaching. These are the true spiritual teachers.

A true guru does not tell you what to do or how to do it, even if you ask. A true guru does not tell you what he or she thinks you should do. A true guru allows you to be you.

Stop wasting your time listening to people who are not themselves complete. All you are doing is feeding their ego and maybe even their wallet. At the end of the day, though they may be momentarily telling you what you want to hear, you will be left misguided because you did not come to true-knowledge on your own.




This is a chapter from the book:
The Zen of Modern Life and the Reality of Reality







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No part of this article may be used without the expressed permission of Scott Shaw or his representatives.