The importance of a teacher, guru or guide
Once many years ago I asked advice of the I Ching, a Chinese book of wisdom, about someone who asked to be a teacher of mine. The advice was, “Do not follow a teacher that asks you to be his student.” I heeded that advice and then several years later, I met my guru, who invited me to enter her teaching. This time I did not consult the I Ching, but relied upon my own intuition and stayed.
What made the difference? I can only say it was a feeling of knowing. I had doubts about the first teacher, but not about my guru. I felt she was the “real thing.” I still feel that way, which has been borne out by the 35 years I have resided at her ashram.
I have also known of situations where people have trusted their intuition and followed a guru and became disillusioned years later because of what they considered some human failing on the part of the guru. Was it a misstep on their part to follow this guru? While I can’t say, I can only attest that some of them had told me that during their time with him or her, they had made a lot of progress and grown spiritually.
Does that mean all the time spent with this teacher was an utter mistake, or does one separate the wheat from the chaff and appreciate the goodness gained?
Sometimes one has very high expectations of a guru, expecting them to be perfect in all realms. That sounds like expecting a guru to be an “ideal mommy and daddy.” A guru is not meant to be some fantastical all- knowing, all-powerful person who can also give us the lottery numbers. They are signposts and sources of divine wisdom that have the ability, by their mere presence, to bring us into a place of wisdom and knowingness of our selves. The eventual gift to us is that we feel confident in ourselves to make wise, dharmic decisions for ourselves.
How do you feel in your teacher’s presence? Do you feel elevated in some way and a sense of unabiding silence and grace? Do you feel as if you can be a better person just by knowing this person? Are they a shining example of those qualities of love and service that you revere? Once you have answered all these questions, then you might feel ready to take the risk of commitment. Know, however, that the decision is not from the mind, but inevitably arises from the heart, which has its own knowing.
I felt that my guru possessed the qualities requisite for a guru. I had never met anyone in my lifetime who had such a great and constant heart when giving comfort and sustenance to thousands of people who were ailing, both physically and spiritually. She counted them all as her beloveds, endeavoring to serve them as best as she can. She was a hands on, 24 hour guru who had devoted her life to the beckoning of her soul. I was privileged to know this great soul in my lifetime.
Not everyone has a physical guru in the flesh. Some receive their insight and knowing from the spirit or other guides. I do know that if you are a true aspirant, the universe will respond with what is your particular destiny.
How do you know when you’re ready? For myself, it was when nothing “out there” seemed to be the answer, when I was finally ready to look inside. What was the knowing that I had met my guru? It was the feeling that I had come home.
“When the student is ready, the teacher, master or guru appears.”
Yesterday a friend of mine called from South America. A fascinating young lady, she is extremely independent and has sculpted a life that works towards furthering her experiences in expanded awareness and consciousness. She was an ardent student of several spiritual masters and has even lived in austere circumstances with shamans and other purported masters who share her desire for that magical state of mystic consciousness. Along the way, Miriam has ingested a number of substances towards that end. She told me how she had formed an affection for a plant that was known to expand one’s awareness.
However, during her last experience with that plant, she was careless as to the amount taken, and somehow invited an experience that seemed to have taken off a piece of the outer ego that helps us navigate through life. Her consequent openness had made her vulnerable to the entry of some ancient, unknown entity.
At the height of her experience, enmeshed in something that terrified her, she had called me asking for advice. Normally very self-sufficient, I was alarmed at the vulnerability she was exhibiting through her voice. She was looking for some reassurance that she would somehow reconstitute back into her former life.
Many months later when I spoke to her, I heard that she had somehow managed to survive this experience through various means and I was relieved to hear the old Miriam. I actually compared her to Carl Jung, who had made a similar trip down into his consciousness and had also been frightened of what he had encountered. In his case he had the luck of having a guide, who also happened to be his mistress, that faithfully watched out for him.
It reminded me of how important it is to have a guru, guide or teacher when one attempts to broaden one’s experience in life whether it be through yoga, meditation or even consciousness expanding drugs.
Many people represent themselves as experienced teachers of yoga, in particular Kundalini Yoga, without telling their students the consequences of unleashing a power or energy within them as a result of performing some of the exercises. The teachers, themselves not knowledgeable of the possible consequences, teach esoteric techniques and breathing exercises designed to awaken Kundalini power. I wonder how many truly are ready to accept the consequences of a student having an untoward experience in their class.
My conversation with this woman has made me want to share this experience with teachers of yoga so that they know that they need to be mindful and solicitous of their students as they assist them in opening their spirit.
Editor: Maja Despot