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Dead Gurus, Live Gurus, They all Serve Us

Posted: July 30th, 2007, 2:37 pm
by anna
Having thrown myself at the feet of both living, and dead “Gurus”, from the little known to the accepted religious icons, I have come to the conclusion that their necessity to the spiritual process is more one of stripping away rather than adding to, the aspirant's process.

By Guru, I mean the word for Enlightened or Liberated Being, who is usually a teacher. While the lower case guru is a term used to denote an expert in any discipline, worldly, or otherwise, I use the capital letter to signify a liberated being (whether or not that individual is indeed liberated :wink: ), and it encompasses both living and dead masters, well known, and not so, including, in my mind, Jesus, Buddha and all the great historical beings upon whom a subsequent religious community or corporation, as the case may be, was founded.

Lest those who segregate Jesus and Buddha from the rest, in my mind, they are no different from those legitimate persons who, throughout history, have found their way back to their origins, which was, and is, God. (I don't believe either Jesus nor Buddha ever stated that they were "the only one" who reached this position, although the followers of these gurus no doubt subsequently did so state. Hmmm, I always found that revealing. :roll: ) All liberated beings state, whether well known or obscure, without equivocation, “God and I are One.” It is only we, who in our ridiculous effort to rise above the herd, object to lumping others into the same category as our chosen God representative, and thereby feel better, superior, or more chosen then the rest of humankind. (Of course, there are within these beings, some who claim the same status as the Great Ones, and who, indeed, are not, but that is not the point here.)

I think the necessity for a Guru, whether of the “acceptable” kind such as mainstream religions offer us, or of the more eclectic kind such as small “cults” in abundance offer us, is essential at some point along the way toward God. Indeed, I don’t believe it matters a whole lot who it is that we choose as our Guru, or in some cases, by what name we call God, because the process is more about the seeker than the teacher. That is why you can find in mainstream religions both truly enlightened beings, and on the other end of the spectrum, followers, or “sheep” as one Great God being once stated. These Teachers serve both kinds of devotees or disciples, at both ends of the spiritual process. We are all on the same journey, but each goes her own way.

What is at work here, in devotion from any devotee or disciple, toward any God, whether within body, or without, whether with form or without, whether amorphous or solid, is surrender, and it is that surrender which, to my mind at least, is essential for each of us, somewhere along the path. This is the purpose of a Guru, and I believe, its primary purpose. And all Great Teachers stress the importance of a Guru, and in those organizations which are less devotion oriented, and perhaps more intellectual, there is still the stress upon imbibing and integrating the teaching, and that too requires surrender to either the teacher, or the teaching of that teacher. Without surrender, the spiritual process is simply a distraction or worse, ego-centric ornamentation.

In other words, so long as we are driven by the ego and believe ourselves to be separate, without surrender, to an “other”, be it in form, or amorphous, the ego, that self-centered and separated being, however hard and diligently she may work, is prime and in control. Nothing changes, only the knowledge of the ego grows differently and bigger. And the value to surrendering to a Guru is that the “otherness” is obvious, clear, and “there”, you can’t ignore it. (This may well be the reason that the path of devotion, such as most religions are, is usually easier, and less dangerous, than that of a purely intellectual kind, because there is the visible “other” which you can’t obfuscate.)

However, this is a razor’s edge. When surrender becomes comfortable, and an excuse for remaining in the status quo, the time for leaving the Guru, or for the Guru, in graciousness, to throw the disciple out, has arrived. (If God is everything and everywhere, we all must come to that realization, and that obliterates difference, separateness, and otherness.) We all reach that point, at some time. Most of us resist that moment, understandably so, as we, if we can remember our past, probably resisted the first introduction to the Guru to whom we must surrender. Of course, as a really wise old man once stated “Dead Gurus don’t kick-ass!”, he had a point. If the chosen teacher is dead, then it is all to easy for the wily mind to rationalize reluctance to move on, into increased devotion, fear of defilement, or whatever other reason we manage to conjure up in our heads in order to remain comfortable and secure in our present situation.

And that razor’s edge is sharp on the other side: sometimes we SHOULD remain in the safe harbor, even for a life-time, because of our own individual idiosyncratic style. And sometimes the Guru knows better, but sometimes he or she doesn’t. Nobody every said that the process was simple, and the field is full of mines, particularly when you consider that it is the ego-centric mind which is at stake, and that mind which rules until we grow wiser.

With all of this said, only the disciple knows when it is time to move on, and if the Guru is truly who he or she claims to be, that Guru will know as well, and may push the disciple into making the move. For example, two really great Gurus, Jesus and Ramakrishna, both stated that “God is within”, and there is no getting around this truth, whoever it is that states it. That is the goal, that is the truth, and all liberated beings state it in one way or another. Jesus told his disciples in no uncertain terms that he had to “leave in order for the Holy Spirit to enter his disciples”. I guess he left, in a sacrificial manner, as opposed to kicking the disciple out or seemingly betraying the disciple in order to get him to leave. This sacrifice is not unique, there are many stories of other Gurus who have died in serving their disciples.

But, by whatever method is used, the end result is to either walk willingly toward, or be thrown into, “within”.

Posted: August 1st, 2007, 8:41 pm
by jenjulian
This has been a very interesting experience for me, my involvement lately with this forum. When you write Anna, it is as if you know exactly what I need to hear, and this entry spoke volumes for me.

I was recently booted out of the nest of my Teacher and I have spent way too much time examining whether she was authentic or not, how she was wrong for doing this to me, how bad I must be for coming to this point with her, on and on and on...My ego-Self/intellect has jumped back into the driver seat.

I think what I need to face is that I was sitting in a state of comfort and I needed booted. I have tended to stay in the comfort zone a lot in my life, probably why it takes me so much longer than others to make progress.

Your last words help me immensely. I have been thrown forward and within, not out. This is where I need to stand up and start turning into God that is within, which is the True teacher and maybe it is time to grow up??? :oops:

Can a group of people be a guru to a seeker? I seem to have been using all of the wisdom expressed here lately, and it is keeping me confused and on my toes. :? A good place to be, not in my comfortable spot of having all the answers!!!

Posted: August 3rd, 2007, 3:19 pm
by anna

Most certainly a group of people can be a guru. What is guru anyway? It is "teacher", or "teaching". EVERYTHING in life is a teacher, were we only to approach it so. Some of my best teachers in my life have been simple country folk, who lay no claim to spiritual wisdom, but have a grasp on life which is hard to find in most of civilized society. I learned more from a rough old Maine back-woodsman about life, and reality than I probably learned from all the books put together. (This is not to say that books aren't useful - some really shining books with a living presence of the author can be found in the world of spiritual literature, which is, when reading them, akin to sitting at their physical feet).

So, everything in life is a lesson of sorts, it is up to us to keep our eyes open and hearts attuned and ears listening to find those lessons. It is really only our "fault" (bad word, filled with guilt - perhaps better said, it is our reluctance) if we don't learn anything from life's experiences and encounters, it is seldom the "teacher's" fault. I think it was Nisargadatta (now there's a living book!) who stated "Teachers there are many, students there are few."

The way I see it is that whatever appears in one's life is there for a reason, and each of us put it there for that reason. We are truly not victims of our world, we are creators of it. :wink:

Posted: August 3rd, 2007, 3:51 pm
by anna
However, with that said, let me add this. It seems to me that no group or any teacher or teaching will in and of itself, “save” us from ourselves, by doing it FOR us. That is the work each seeker must do herself, by herself, in her own way and time, albeit with guidance and pointers to the correct direction from those who have previously walked the same path, if she needs it. It also seems to me that there are times in our lives when we need a “saver”, often in the form of a physical being, to get us through the more harrowing times in our lives, and there is a place for this. It is hanging on to that saver that can get us bogged down and close up the opened heart and limitless horizon. Jesus said, didn’t he? that he must leave in order for the Holy Spirit to enter the hearts of his disciples. The highest of teachers can obstruct the ultimate purpose to spiritual work by virtue of their being there – we eventually must look within to feel and know God’s presence, and if we're alwlays focused on the "other", out there, how can we focus within?

However, even when doing the hard inner work alone, we can always, and should always, rely on God – but God as (and is) the great mover and power of the universe, not an isolated, individual being, as I see it. God is always there, always available, and close within. Indeed, God is walking each of our paths, lives, THROUGH each of us. That is why God is so accessible when we turn within. And any good teacher will turn the student back upon herself, and point to within, ultimately………….I’ll admit, sometimes only after a long period of cleaning up the cage that we call “my mind” so that we can begin to look within and ideally, recognize what we find within.
(A)  (A)

So "growing up" is part of this process, it seems to me. It is far more fun and easier to slog along and let the cards fall where they may. And there's a place for that too: God is gracious, and everything is therefore Godly. But, IF, and it is a big if, our aim is to know God, intimately and truly, then it seems to me that courage, maturity, responsibility, and a level head with a disciplined mind that is quiet when it needs to be quiet, is essential, in order to see, hear, and know God. Otherwise, we end up seeing, hearing, and knowing our minds, even if it is full of gorgeous images and heavenly concepts, it is still our minds we are looking at. :wall:

Posted: August 4th, 2007, 4:33 am
by jenjulian
but God as (and is) the great mover and power of the universe, not an isolated, individual being, as I see it. God is always there, always available, and close within.[/i

I like the way you said this. It makes me think of Aristotle and his notion of the unmoved mover. The ultimate mover. I also have read and was in a class on CS Lewis and he made many arguments against this idea of God being more than an isolated being. His argument was that the most evolved being on earth was woman :wink2: (okay, he said man)and if we try to envision God as this great power of the universe, then we are really moving backwards in our conception of him, because we just can't really conceive this. Here is my criticism of CSL---I think for as smart as he was and he did write some great books, he never allowed himself to get past the mind, because he is right, the mind can't envision God in a greater way than through a personality. I believe, in all humility of course, that we have another organ of perception besides the intellect and that is our heart and when we do learn to hear that part of us, we have the ability to know God as this mover of energy...because we can feel him.

I think this ties into what else you wrote Anna:

Otherwise, we end up seeing, hearing, and knowing our minds, even if it is full of gorgeous images and heavenly concepts, it is still our minds we are looking at.

I have had God moments and it was an energy of Great Love that flows through me like a wave and it is not something that is comprehended by the mind and it is not something that can be explained in that way.

well, I don't have anymore to say...

Posted: August 4th, 2007, 12:23 pm
by anna
Ah, well said, jenjulian. Your analysis of Lewis is to my mind, exact and right on. And your leap to the conclusion from that, to knowing God is not an intellectual exercise (although intellectual exercise may bring you to that realization), is again, right on. Looks to me as though you already know God in your heart, and everything is fine. If you take that with you wherever you go, whatever you do, life will be good. (Not always pleasant, not always what you expect or want, but GOOD!) Yes, yes, I agree: the sense of God within the heart is not mental, not intellectual, not mind generated, it is what I call revelation, it comes upon one unexpected, and often, despite our interference.

Incidentally, just to throw some kindling into the fire, re Lewis's concept that the most evolved being on earth is man (woman) - the Sufis believe that woman is the image of God, not man. Chew on that for a while! 8)

Posted: August 4th, 2007, 12:34 pm
by anna
I left out of my original suggestion at the inception of this topic, that, even when surrendering oneself to a teacher, or teacher, it is important to retain one's discrimination. We are indiscriminate in much that we do, we fail to observe and dissect what we observe, but instead fling ourselves into unprotected and uncharted territory. The greatest of teachers have said, approach me with a discriminating mind, investigate all that I say or do, do not accept me on blind faith. There is a difference between surrender and blind faith. Surrender is heart felt submission to something chosen by the mind originally, whereas blind faith is usually based on hope, and often lacks discrimination, I think. This is not clear cut, obviously, but it tends to fall into these two categories.

Posted: August 4th, 2007, 1:00 pm
by W4TVQ
Gotta agree with what you say: "Surrender is heart felt submission to something chosen by the mind originally, whereas blind faith is usually based on hope, and often lacks discrimination, I think."

I think maybe faith is the most mangled word in the spiritual vocabulary, simply because everyone with a particular agenda conforms the word to fit that agenda. It can finally boil down to the classic definition: "faith is believing what you know ain't so." I've been there: "I wish this were true, so I'll believe it is." Problem is, it doesn't work. It is trying to create a truth out of a proposition ... when in the final analysis belief/faith must be the fruit of a body of knowledge which is already there but unrecognized. "Faith is recognizing what I knew all along was so but didn't know I knew until I knew it." I tend to see faith not as the means of "salvation" but as the result of it (defining "salvation" as ACIM defines it).

Now if I can unwind myself from this lovely tangle of verbiage I can go cook breakfast.

Shalom aleichem

Posted: August 5th, 2007, 4:08 pm
by jenjulian
I hate to keep quoting Simone Weil, but I studied her a lot in the last few years, she was my teacher's dead guru. I think she had the same ideas about faith as all of you are expressing. I like the way you said it Anna, that surrrender does not mean blind faith, that we do not become stupid to have faith, and I think you said this too Art.

Simone said something like we must have the right attitude of intellect and position of soul. I understand this to mean that we must use our intellect, but that it should be lead by our soul. The surrender is a heartfelt process that you talked of Anna.

Saying all of this, I haven't a clue if I know how to surrender :unsure:

Posted: August 8th, 2007, 2:09 pm
by anna
You are not the only one to question what is meant by surrender. This seems to be a hard nut to get one’s teeth into.

By surrender, I mean to give into the obvious fact that “I don’t know” -- how to fix this, what I need, what I am, what I believe, what I know. It is, in fact, a recognition that the ego-centric mind is full of nonsense and bluster. It is the actual release of expectation and the giving in to, in some cases, despair at ever being able to control things, in other cases, giving in to a calling from God, it is giving up one’s arrogance and therefore buffer against opening the heart and letting God in.

I don’t believe you can force yourself to surrender. I believe it comes after we have tried just about every imaginable method to get around that surrender. Sometimes that takes lifetimes, sometimes it occurs when there is a huge crisis in one’s life, sometimes it occurs without work, but through Grace. Indeed, even venturing forth on the spiritual path can be an effort to avoid that surrender – we bargain with God, if you will give me this particular power, I will surrender to you. That is not surrender, that is still the arrogance of the separative mind trying to weedle out of the universe its own self-appointed powers. (Of course, God is gracious, and will give us whatever we ask for!)

Acknowledgement to God, that we are unable to resolve the inevitability of suffering and pain that comes with the dual mind, is the safest surrender, because you give your life and soul over to a beneficent infinite force, which resides within you, and will, therefore, look after you and your interests. Even the greatest of gurus still incarnate have egos, or they wouldn’t be alive, and thus, are limited, however slightly. BUT, while the surrender is to God, the teachers can provide us with guidance and encouragement. And if the teacher is truly enlightened, that teacher will insist as well that the greatest guru is within, and will point you in that direction.

Please understand that this is my own personal opinion: there are many who will not agree with this position, and will suggest that surrendering to an unseen God is fraught with danger, because it is too liable to self-delusion and self-indulgence. Some teachers insist, therefore, that you have a living teacher that can bring you up against yourself, and direct you against those impulses. There is validity to that argument. However, personally, I have found that, while I have submitted myself to teachers along the way, I have retained God as the pre-eminent and final authority in my life throughout, and it has served me well to do so. I suppose what I have done is submitted or surrendered my intellect to outer teachers, but my heart and soul to God. And as God is infinite, all loving, all powerful, all compassionate and merciful, when the outer teachers fail, and they usually do in some manner or another, if only because it is time for ME to move on, God is there, walking me through it.

Posted: August 10th, 2007, 4:14 pm
by jenjulian
My first experience with true surrender was when I 'gave up' trying to fight my addiction to alcohol and drugs and that is when I started allowing some light into my life. I think I've always known God is the one I'm giving up to, but even in AA, I had a sponsor, much like a teacher that helped guide my through the forest. Each of theses sponsors have passed on in my life and often it was as you described, they failed me because it was time for ME to move on.

As I've left the fold of AA and ventured out into road of following my heart, I have been much more on my own and I'm not sure what surrender means in the different scenery. I did surrender to my last teacher and I think that was necessary, I let her lead me for almost three years. I think that what I have surrendered to in the process of all this is my own inner heart and that is what I always try to stop and listen to, which I think is God. I have taken some very strange turns doing this, and most of my family and friends think I'm just a little off balance or maybe they think I'm lazy? Often, dropping out of the striving of society looks like lazy. Of course, I never did jump into the achieving that our country so values. I've lived my life on the fringes, and I've stayed single for many years.

I guess I'm sort of writing on the other post now, about what it means to walk the walk. I'll answer that here. It means for me that I don't follow the path that society has laid out for us, but instead follow my inner voice, that inner yearning that has become so strong, it is not really that quiet any more. I'm struggling with a job that has landed in my lap right now. I did not search for it and it feels like something that I must do right now, financially I think I'm at a phase where I need to work more for a while. BUT, sometimes I feel as though I'm literally being destroyed when I have to be out there so much and do not have time to meditate and center and find me again. I'm struggling right now, truly am.

Posted: August 10th, 2007, 6:02 pm
by jenjulian
I just picked up a book and read this and it fit so well today, so I thought I'd post it.

The five colors
blind our eyes.
The five notes
deafen our ears.
The five flavors
dull our taste.

Racing, chasing, hunting,
drives people crazy.
Trying to get rich
ties people in knots.

So the wise soul
watches with the inner
not the outward eye,
letting that go,
keeping this.

Tao Te Ching,(le Guin)

Posted: August 11th, 2007, 9:21 pm
by W4TVQ
I can relate, Jenjulian, being myself a long-term product of the AA program. I have not been to meetings in a long time either, but the principles of the program are always valid.

Thus, I can see in myself the "alcoholic personality" at work all too often, with its drive to be in control, to fix things that aren't broken and to have all the answers in one neatly assembled package with a pretty red bow and a gift card: To Me From God.

I relate very well to Peter, another one like me, always with the agenda, so much so that on the mount of transfiguration The One had to interrupt, rather abruptly, with "This is my beloved Son: hear him" so the Teacher could get a word in edgewise.

For guys like me the idea of "surrender" comes hard. We rather suspect the world would be better if "they" surrendered to us. But I have found by painful experience that the only progress and the only peace available are available through the process of Not Doing Things, of Being Still and Knowing. In the Unity prayer chapel in Unity Village the center of attention is the words, "Peace, Be Still." I do love that place. One of the few times I've ever been at peace and still was during a week retreat at Unity Village. I find (and my experience does not have to be yours or anyone else's -- I'm not saying "imitate me") that I first must surrender to the silence, and then within it find the Light, and the One Who IS. And that surrender is not something I manage to do myelf: while the tempest is blowing in my head and the boat is rocking and I'm calling out "We're all gonna die," it is He who speaks the words, "Peace, Be still." That voice is like the voice of the Mother soothing the panicky child. Once He is in control, the waters are calm.

Ain't it grand when it happens?

Jai Ram

Posted: August 13th, 2007, 1:02 am
by jenjulian
W4---Thank you so much for sharing your own experience on surrender. When I read what you write, it feels it is coming from your heart of truth and it speaks to me. I think your use of the story of Jesus calming the waters, applied to the inner life where the stormy waters of the ego can rage is inspired. It is truly helping me right now. '
I was reading from your pages and I thought you wrote brilliantly on surrender. I have not read past this paragraph, because it described my experience right now so well, I had to stop at this point:

Indeed, frequently the spiritual search is up and down; and only an advanced student makes the true final and complete surrender because, through trial and error, each time she gains a little peace and happiness, she re-enters the world thinking that she can "use" what she has learned to maintain that peace, only to find that the initial surrender is no longer active, and the dance starts all over again; more pain, more disgust, more surrender, more peace, more grasping, more pain, more disgust, more surrender, and so on, by increments, and not realizing that it will never end until such time as there is no longer any "one" to experience that pain. And that ending of the "one" occurs only by means of surrender of that "one". Sometimes a seemingly endless battle, which, according to some traditions, can take many lives even.

Every battle feels as though another piece has fallen away and I feel like I'm a little closer to seeing rightly. I had a huge battle this weekend, and I'm much like you, W4, and so I keep working away, bit by bit.