Why a guru, who initially appears to a student to be sublime, perfect in every way, an incarnation of God, or what have you, goes bad is an interesting consideration. The fact is, it is more than likely that they never “went bad”, nor, in the final analysis, do they even exist when viewed from a more esoteric point of view. However, for the student of a Teacher (or disciple of a Guru), this realization usually comes in a timely manner, and only then because of the necessity that it occur. Not before.
With that said, I pose the title question as a result of personal experience, and not simply from conjecture. I have consciously submitted myself to several Teachers over the years, two directly, and one “on the inner” (but no less intensely or effectively). In other instances, I have surrendered myself, in some cases perhaps unconsciously, to Teachers by immersing myself within their teachings, and then structuring my life to the best of my ability to their requirements, even though some of them were physically dead, and therefore, inaccessible on the earthly plane. In every instance, my relationship with these Teachers was intense, personal, virtually living, whether flesh-to-flesh or within the extremely real and vivid experiences during my sleep, meditation, and contemplation. I talked with these people, touched them, loved them, adored them, fell into ecstatic states with them, and all the rest of the heavenly passion that comes with discovering the realms of consciousness under the protective umbrella of a God and its holiness, which in my mind, these Teachers embodied. I am indebted to their writings, teachings, and lives lived, because they guided me in my life, into areas of expansiveness and awe that I had previously not encountered. In some cases, I threw myself at the feet of these Teachers, literally. In others, I simply read about them, over and over. All of them were important in my own spiritual growth, and none of them more or less important than the other.
Now, however, I discover that some of them were naughty boys (they all happened to be men), exhibiting behaviors that strike me as inconsistent with their teachings, lusting after young women, accumulating riches beyond their needs, threatening perdition to those who disagree with them, manipulating and coercing young minds with stuff and nonsense, some of which is decidedly NOT spiritual, but extremely mundane. The dichotomy perplexed me initially. How could this be? How could these individuals, who generated within me so much ecstasy and light, be as banal and selfish, as “degenerate”, or at least as susceptible to degeneracy, as any other human being? The struggle with reconciling these opposites kept me awake at night. There HAD to be an answer. And, there is!
What happens, I think, is the following. When, in our own sweet time, we reach a point where we have exhausted our own devices, and all our resources fail to provide us the transcendent and illuminating experiences we pine after in discovering their possibilities as we progress through our lives, a point where only a Teacher will do, we begin to look for an outer Teacher, a Guru, or an initiator who will provide for us those experiences. (This is so only because, at that time, we are incapable of realizing that we are ourselves the initiators, the teachers, and all the rest of it. This inability, of course, is due to our previous conditioning and inherited human characteristics that insist that we are less than we Are.)
The moment we begin to look, it begins to emerge. That is the genius of consciousness, the grace of the universe. And the Guru we find is exactly the one that we need at any moment along the continuum of our own personal experience. And he or she will appear either simple, glamorous, mysterious, outrageous, humble, arrogant, sweet, loving, or distant, and so on, depending upon what it is that we consider to be the next step that we will make on our own journey. In other words, the Guru reflects us, literally, and manifests for us, literally, according to our own needs, presumptions, conditionings, and so forth, at that particular moment. Thus, despite the fact that all of us want the best, highest, most enlightened being to be our Guru, because we want it all, naturally, the true Guru, the Guru within which is manifested without, at any point of time, will actually reflect our state of consciousness at that time, which is the holiest and best state of consciousness we can muster AT THAT TIME.
This serves us well, for we would be frightened of anything much holier or enlightened than that. So, if it is a somewhat flawed holiness, it is because of who we are, and the nature of our conditioning, at these moments. Thus, there seems to be a rule that restricts the amount of light shining forth at us to that level which we can tolerate at any given time in our lives. Indeed, were a considerably more advanced Guru to drop in on us prior to the appropriate time, we more than likely would not recognize him or her as such, and might not even see him or her. Or, we might be overwhelmed, and frightened by the presence. (Actually, he or she could not even manifest, because of the limitations of our own consciousness, right?) Now, the foregoing may be too far off the wall for most to accept. However, we can probably all agree that if a Teacher who is too far advanced for us, were to appear physically in our lives, we would almost certainly not understand what he or she was saying, anyway.
So, all of this works just fine for as long a time as we need to learn, to integrate, to become, whatever it is that a Teacher has appeared before us to teach us, or to initiate us into. But once we have fully learned his or her Lesson for us, including the concept that the Guru is truly within, then a reverse process begins to unfold, and the icons that we had placed before us begin to crumble. While that seems sad, and initially is always frightening and even discouraging, it is necessary. If these icons did not disintegrate, we would be cluttered with old concepts, filled with useless images and thoughts, attached to the past and prevented from further growth.
And it is during this process of disintegration that Gurus suddenly seem to “go bad” I think. Whether or not they were engaging in these questionable behaviors throughout our period of submission to them is not important, only that we have discovered that they are doing so now, at this juncture in our own process. The event of discovery, the revulsion, the sense of betrayal of trust, the loss of our comfort and innocence from having leaned on a Guru of clay is the issue, and the purpose, of this development. It wrenches us out of our blissful state of devotion to an external being. It is the experience of “I must leave in order for my disciples to experience the holy spirit”, and the crucifixion that brought that about. In other words, there comes a moment when the external Guru is an impediment to further understanding and communion with God, or the holy spirit, or the Guru within, or spiritual growth, or Realization. He or she MUST be crucified, or the disciple does not move on with his or her own growth. And often, the disciple will not voluntarily move on, and leave his or her image of God on his or her own. So, he or she must be pushed, and pushed irrevocably. By that irrevocability, the disciple will, through necessity and a sense of survival, turn within, because that is the source of the entire dance, and the only recourse left. And we only turn within when we have exhausted the possibilities without. And if those possibilities without turn out to be “merely” human after all, with all the foibles and apparent weaknesses of other humans, then why would we continue to seek without what can only be found within?
Understand here that the Guru doesn’t DO this, nor does the disciple misunderstand or discover something about the Guru to his or her “surprise”. Rather, this eventuality is built into the system, and is part of the Guru/disciple phenomenon. It is not contrived, nor can it be contrived. It is another expression of Grace, and manifests uniquely according to each disciple’s inner “game plan”. But the end result is the same: the Guru betrays, the disciple lets go, the disciple turns within, and discovers who the Guru is and who the disciple is. I think this is why so few genuine disciples speak harshly of their Gurus, no matter what the Guru said to them, did to them, or whatever, and even after they have departed from their Gurus. There is, you see, no blame here, no bad or good, no unacceptable behavior, because it is all done for the disciple, by the disciple, through the disciple, as the disciple. Only when we back off, and come back to the earthly perspective, does the behavior become an issue, the betrayal something to fuss about. This consideration also explains why those who have completed this process are normally silent about it, and often reluctant even to discuss anything of spiritual significance any more, because there is truly nothing to discuss, nothing to say of any significance, because nothing has happened to anyone. But then, that isn’t much fun, is it?!
Recently, I visited an online forum discussing the “fall from grace” of a particular guru or spiritual teacher. One of the posts there is by a seeker who is struggling with the apparent paradox presented by the fact that he witnessed and experienced extraordinary events while in the presence of this guru whom he now discovers to be decidedly human, capable of jealousies, ambition, greed, and all the rest of it.
The fellow’s post includes the observation that “some beings, who yet are not qualified teachers, have a capacity to induce experiences in other people. It doesn’t mean that they are the ‘source’ of these experiences, but maybe they act as a catalyst or a mirror able to display a glimpse of the divine/awakened nature present in every being …What is the meaning of that ? Is it the power of a highly realized person ? I don’t know, and I don’t make that big deal of it. I can only say that ordinary charlatans cannot do the same!”
It seems to me that he has answered the questions within his question. In my own personal experience, it has become apparent that the individuals upon whom we place our highest and most exalted hopes and dreams are a mirror and ONLY that. In other words, if the individual who approaches another person as a “teacher” has enough aspiration, enough faith, enough conviction that “outside” of himself or herself there can be found an “enlightened being”, then that individual will find exactly that, but only so long as it is necessary for that individual to find that being outside of himself or herself. So, all the miracles, and all the extraordinary events, that happen to us with regard to any spiritual “master” are a result of US, and the great US (God being us), generated from within and projected out, for our own special and individual reasons and experience.
In my view, this explains why each individual’s experiences relating to a particular teacher are often different from another’s experiences, and often are at variance, and yet they were quite miraculous and fantastic for each person. If the teacher were “responsible” for these experiences, each person would have had more or less the same experiences as the others, but very often they do not. The reason for that is that one person’s concept of enlightenment and miracles is different from another’s, and therefore such things naturally occur or are “mirrored” for each person according to his or her expectations, consciousness, and so forth. Thus, the difference is not so much in the events or miracles we experience as it is in our expectations of such events. Here’s an example: Over the years, I had extremely real dreams and visions of instruction involving the same teacher this fellow’s post is about. But this fellow does not report ever having had similar experiences. Instead, in his case, the teacher “initiated” him with a blue light which came from the eyes of the teacher into his eyes, literally. My own experience never included this blue light event. But we both considered this teacher to be enlightened and an authentic teacher, only to find later on that this teacher is as human as we are and subject to all sorts of human weaknesses.
If it is true that we actually project outward the teacher we need at any point in time, then the statement “I can only say that ordinary charlatans cannot do the same” is in error, but only because we each, individually, consider some to be charlatans, and some to be genuinely divine. That is, one person’s charlatan, may be another person’s god. In my own personal experience, charlatans of all kinds can “create” similar experiences for people who approach these charlatans with faith and acceptance. Indeed, I have experienced numerous fantastic events throughout the years which I have attributed to various individuals whom I considered to be spiritual guides. Not uncommonly, I have later come to discover that the individual who seemed so “spiritual” was in fact all too human, capable of the more human weaknesses and frailties that I as a human am also liable to. In other words, and again, the external event that a person experiences is not due to someone outside themselves, but is due, literally, to our expectations and faith in the reality of the event. And proof of this position is that the experiences vary, and reflect our own pre-dispositions, individual expectations, and conditionings.
The next step in accepting this argument is more difficult to deal with, because if the above is true, then the opposite is equally true. In other words, if those whom I perceived previously as enlightened beings or gurus were simply a projection from me, then those very ones whom I now perceive as fallen teachers, or “unenlightened, but previously enlightened, beings”, are equally a projection from me. (We cannot have just the good things, without the bad, in this world of dualistic thinking.) Of course, the significance of this discovery is an initiation of great moment in and as itself, because it has returned me to me, and forced me to grapple with the glaring truth of reality. I also have to deal with the apparent paradox of how a being that was previously considered to be incarnate God, but is now recognized as “simply” a human being can be capable of great miracles and supernatural events. This final statement is, I think, extremely significant. (In other words, who is and what are the attributes of God, if this argument is true?)
Thus, the ability for me to integrate and accept these apparent conflicts is a difficulty only if I believe that reality is external and not fluid, that time is static, and nothing is malleable by or because of my states of consciousness. In other words, can I live with the realization that within me are all aspects of human behavior, good AND bad, and all miraculous and holy events, however fantastic they may be, as well as the apparent contradiction that a spiritual master is also human, and liable to human weakness, and yet still consider the possibility that all those aspects are legitimate and okay, are in some way “holy” and God-like, even though they may appear to contradict each other, and some may even be “dark” and “unholy”? Can I even live with the idea that in some way I am the source of these contradictions, and the source of the entire universe within and to which I relate, and that there is no blame or claim to fame because of that? In other words, it just IS, and so am I. And that, because of this, there is nothing truly OUT THERE apart and separate from me? And, of course, if this applies to me, it applies to all human beings as well, from their own introspective perspective. Or, am I so conditioned to delegate good and bad to their appropriate levels, and consequently so afraid of the ramifications of stepping out of that conditioning, that I cannot deal with this realization? In my opinion, both positions are valid ones, and will unwind accordingly, depending upon one’s position at any moment in time. That is what convinces me that God is all there is, and that is that!
There are two teachers, both of whom are now dead, that expound this understanding of the “apparent” human being’s capacity to create reality in a superb fashion. One is Ramana Maharshi, and the other Nisargadatta. I heartily recommend their teachings and writings.
Finally, if I may add one last part of the original commentator’s posting: “To quote Padmasambhava, the supreme master who established Buddhism in Tibet: ‘Even if my view is as high as the sky, my concern for karmic effects is as fine as flour’.”
I believe this point to be vital, and any individual who understands the extent to which he or she is involved within the creation of reality, must also understand this point as well and live by it, or he or she will live a life full of karmic indebtedness and regret.
Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ’Look, the Father’s imperial rule is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the Father’s imperial rule is inside you and outside you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty”.
Love concentrates all the power of the will without effort, as when a man and a woman fall in love. The path of devotion is natural and pleasant. Philosophy is taking the mountain stream back to its source by force. It is a quicker method, but very hard. Philosophy says, “Control everything”. Devotion says, “Float with the stream; have a total self-surrender”. It is a longer way, but easier and happier.