This week I met with a number of teachers and administrators at a school in Los Angeles to talk about mindfulness for students. I had reached out to the school after seeing a presentation that said stress was the number one concern of students, parents and teachers. Sadly this didn’t surprise me as I know it to be the case for many students, at many schools, and in fact for many parents (myself included). Continue reading
With the recent controversy surrounding the so-called yoga “guru,” John Friend, and the Anusara movement, it seems important to ask the questions, “What is a guru?” and the arguably more important, “do I really need a one?” Let’s start with the first question and go from there.
A guru, according to Advayataraka Upanishad, is someone who “destroys darkness.” A more common definition of the term, especially within the realm of Hinduism/yoga, is “teacher.” The “teacher” is knowledgeable and self-realized enough to guide initiates down the long, dark and winding path that leads to salvation or heaven or moksha or whatever you hope to find at the end of your particular tunnel. He cares for his disciples, and even when his actions appear cruel or misguided, his disciples believe and trust that what he does, he does for their benefit.
Likely, when I said “guru,” images of bearded men in saffron robes with red dots upon their brows popped into your mind. He was likely a swarthy man who chants and spouts ancient aphorisms with the aplomb of a demi-god. If you’re a bit more modern in your spiritual leanings, you may have pictured a less swarthy, less male individual, but probably equally adept at the spouting of spiritually significant aphorisms while sitting or standing in spiritually significant positions.
While these are certainly images of a guru, they are not the only or even most important ones, and being tied to any one image of what something is suppose to be, is the fastest way to get deceived. Things, in this crazy play we call life, are rarely as they seem.
In an article written by Dr. Shukavak Dasa regarding the guru/disciple relationship, he makes a distinction between three types of Gurus: Diksha, Shiksha and Chaitya.
The first, Diksha Guru, is the “initiating guru.” He (or she) is the one who brings you into the fold, performing all the necessary rites to get you started on the path. This is the person you rely on to gain your sea legs, so to speak.
The second guru, who isn’t necessarily mutually exclusive from the first, is the Shiksha Guru, or “instructing” Guru. This is the guru who, following your initiation, guides you along the new path as you develop spiritually on your way to…wherever it is you wish to go.
The third, and arguably most important, is the Chaitya Guru, or “the guru within.” This is, as Dr. Dasa describes it, “the voice of God.” Dr. Dasa further suggests (and I agree) that this is the original guru of which the others are simply representations. “The Kingdom of heaven is within you,” after all.
So do you need a guru? Yes… no… maybe… let’s get in a bit deeper before we tackle that one.
When you start out on the spiritual path (any path, really) you’ll likely require a teacher. Unless you are one of those blessed individuals who can “figure it out” on your own—and they do exist—a guru can be helpful in avoiding some of the more common pitfalls and dangers along the way.
A word of caution: “not all that glitters is gold.” That is to say studying in India, putting on a saffron robe and the holding of one’s hands at odd “spiritual” angles, does not a guru make. You are as likely to find a “guru” in a supermarket as you are in an ashram.
The gurus “Diksha” and “Shiksha” are important in giving you the initial training (if that is the right word) necessary to face whatever lies within the dark and mysterious forest—metaphorically speaking—through which you must pass on your way to…wherever it is you wish to go. This is where the relationship should end, and you should start to rely more on the guru within.
Like a child come of age, at some point—better sooner than later—the parent must let go or risk arresting the child’s development. The guru/disciple relationship is no different, or at least it shouldn’t be.
So how do you know when it’s time to let go? You don’t. You just let go. Come what may. There isn’t a religion in the world that doesn’t dedicate a significant chunk of its ancient tomes to the concept of faith, (not that faith is a concept.) There comes a time when we all must put away “childish things,” and stand on our own two (maybe more) spiritual feet. We must, as Joseph Campbell put it, “…enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. Where there is a way or a path, it is someone else’s path. You are not on your own path. If you follow someone else’s way, you are not going to realize your potential.”
There was likely a time when you needed a guru, and that is perfectly fine. But there comes a time when you already know what to do and all that’s left to do is to do it. If your guru does not understand this, then he or she is no more a guru than a bear trap is a leg warmer.
Have faith. You know what to do. Now do it. “The kingdom of Heaven is within you.”
Ife, as all including his mother know him, is in the process of figuring things out. He understands that he probably should have figured something out by now given his age, but respectfully argues that he is in no rush and will, still respectfully, figure it out in his own time. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Grambling State University, a Master’s degree in Clinical/Counseling Psychology from Southern Methodist University, and a Doctorate in Experimental Psychology from the University of Texas at Arlington. He is currently using none of these degrees in an officially capacity, as he has decided (one of the few things he has managed to figure out) that all he wants to do—for better or worse, richer or poorer, till death do us part—is write.
photo credit: Ravidassia
Tuesday, August 16th
"You are both a student of life and a teacher. Both roles are in continuous motion – sometimes outside of your awareness. You learn as you experience and respond to life. You teach others through example – sometimes intentionally and other times in more subtle ways. Approach both roles with awareness and love and you become a very bright light for the world." — Selacia, The Council of 12
Humanity’s Team World Wide Coordinating Director
Know how when kids get upset, they kick and scream and cry and bang their heads against the floor? And sometimes they even call you names! But you don’t take it personally. Naw, they’re just little kids, lettin’ off steam.
That’s how God is when you bitch and moan and call Him every name in the book.
Listen to new 10 minute podcast: "Nope, Can’t Happen"
Sometimes the best way to learn something is to teach it to another person. In celebration of posting one learning-related intent every single day for the month of September, Intent.com asked the community:
What skill of yours would you want to teach to another person?
Don’t forget to continue posting every single day on Intent.com what you want to learn this month and tag your intents #30dayslearning.
This post is meant for astute followers of any spiritual discipline or teacher. They can be devotees, volunteers and teachers or all and any combinations of the three. Many things have been said and done before, but this probably is the most important, not for anyone else but for your own. Many times while on spiritual path, we tend to deviate from the ideal, from the real towards ego and illusion. I am sure it happens with all the teachers and even with great saints. I have seen a few examples of this kind where people do not practice what they preach. We feel this separation from the other so much that our definitions on the same topic change while dealing with other people. We do not feel the pain, sadness or happiness of the other in the same way that we feel our own, so there is a discrimination that mind always makes. This leads us to go bizzare from time to time. This post is strictly spiritual in the sense, that for people who feel they are strictly spiritual and great followers of some guru, must always remember that their actions reflect on their Guru’s credibility. If they do not keep themselves in check from time to time, ultimately, for no reason, their revered Guru will lose credibility. While behaving with others: disciples, devotees, volunteers, own family members and neighbours, think before you act and think what your Guru would have done in the present situation and then act. This will save you from mistakes and keep you on path.
My friend’s younger brother was refusing to go school because of strictness in school and he was scared of that. I managed to convince him to go to school by telling secret of strictness and excited to share it with you too.
Our parents, teachers, elders and friends do teach us lessons and some times they give us very HARD TIME by being strict by all means.
When I think about the strictness, disciplines and constraints I found and realize that neither teacher, elders and friends nor the parents are strict & harsh as compared with the life as a TEACHER because life is very strict than teacher, it takes & keeps the EXAMS very first and then teaches us the Lessons and we have to face it and cope with it.
Life acts completely opposite to the teachers in school, parents at home and elders in society. We have enrolled in the fulltime course called LIFE and we must not be afraid of strict teachers, parents and elders when we take the toughest exams DAILY to learn lessons provided by LIFE.
Remember that Strictness means the RULES, our duty is to understand, accept, follow and adopt these rules and when we adopt the Rules then we can actually RULE the mind, Rule the senses and Rule the world.
I believe that life is very strict than the teacher because a teacher teaches lesson & takes the exam but life keeps the exam first and then teaches the lesson.
I’d like to share with you a reprint of Nithya Shanti’s latest Facebook posting.
Nithya Shanti writes:
A teacher takes responsibility of your growth
A Guru makes you responsible for your growth
A teacher gives you things you do not have and require
A Guru takes away things you have and do not require
A teacher answers your questions
A Guru questions your answers
A teacher helps you get out of the maze
A Guru destroys the maze
A teacher requires obedience and discipline from the pupil
A Guru requires trust and humility from the pupil
A teacher clothes you and prepares you for the outer journey
A Guru strips you naked and prepares you for the inner journey
A teacher is a guide on the path
A Guru is a pointer to the way
A teacher sends you on the road to success
A Guru sends you on the road to freedom
A teacher explains the world and its nature to you
A Guru explains yourself and your nature to you
A teacher makes you understand how to move about in the world
A Guru shows you where you stand in relation to the world
A teacher gives you knowledge and boosts your ego
A Guru takes away your knowledge and punctures your ego
A teacher instructs you
A Guru constructs you
A teacher sharpens your mind
A Guru opens your mind
A teacher shows you the way to prosperity
A Guru shows you the way to posterity
A teacher reaches your mind
A Guru touches your spirit
A teacher gives you knowledge
A Guru makes you wise
A teacher gives you maturity
A Guru returns you to innocence
A teacher instructs you on how to solve problems
A Guru shows you how to resolve issues
A teacher is a systematic thinker
A Guru is a lateral thinker
A teacher will punish you with a stick
A Guru will punish you with compassion
A teacher is to pupil what a father is to son
A Guru is to pupil what mother is to her child
One can always find a teacher
But a Guru has to find and accept you
A teacher leads you by the hand
A Guru leads you by example
When a teacher finishes with you, you celebrate
When a Guru finishes with you, life celebrates
When the course is over you are thankful to the teacher
When the discourse is over you are grateful to the Guru
Let us honor both, the teachers and the Guru in our life.
I am drawn to Sri Aurobindo because he was an independent thinker and did most of his spiritual work on his own. On my spiritual journey I have been a bit of a loner, always sidestepping teachers who told me what to do or how to think. It is not that I do not want instruction, but I have never wanted any teacher to try to fit me into a mold. In other words, I do not like a cookie-cutter approach to teaching. I have always sought out teachers who would not try to make me accept their way of thinking, but instead would support me as I struggled to find my own spiritual values. While learning from teachers has been very important to me, it has been my direct experience of the Divine that has been my greatest teacher.
My most important mediumship teacher, Brenda Lawrence, has always told me that she is not really my teacher, but that Spirit is my teacher. She has made it clear that she does not expect me to be like her; I need to be my own medium. I have had other teachers who were too bossy, and I was not able to work with them.
Sri Aurobindo did not receive his deepest spiritual teachings by studying spiritual texts. While the ancient Indian teachings are important to him and part of his spiritual education, from his writings, I perceive that it was his direct relationship with Divine Consciousness that had the greatest influence on his spiritual evolution.
He says that each man has a different spiritual journey, depending on his nature. (I wish he would say "man or woman" or "person," but then he is a product of his generation, like any of the rest of us.) When I read letters to the disciples, I see time and time again that they are not being told what to do, but are encouraged to find out what to do themselves. Sri Aurobindo says in many of his books that to do Integral Yoga, such and such is required, but that a man may follow a variety of spiritual paths and still find God. He is not saying that his yoga is the only path to God; instead, he says IntegralYoga is his path of spiritual development, and if you want to join him, he will lay out quite clearly what is expected.
Sri Aurobindo is like a good parent who teaches a child how to think, not what to think. In this excerpt from On Himself (Sri Aurobindo Ashram 1972), he tells about his spiritual education. It is important to note that Sri Aurobindo fought for the independence of India, and so before he and the Mother founded the Ashram, his life was involved with political struggles, which included some time in jail.
I began my yoga in 1904 without a Guru; in 1908 1 received important help from a Mahratta Yogi and discovered the foundations of my Sadhana; but from that time till the Mother came to India I received no spiritual help from anyone else. My Sadhana before and afterwards was not founded upon books but upon personal experiences that crowded upon me from within. But in the jail I had the Gita and the Upanishads with me, practiced the yoga of the Gita and meditated with the help of the Upanishads; these were the only books from which I found guidance; the Veda which I first began to read long afterwards in Pondicherry rather confirmed what experiences I already had than was any guide to my Sadhana.
I respond so strongly to his statement that when he began to read the Veda, what he read confirmed his experiences. For me, having a particular kind of spiritual experience and then afterwards reading something that confirms my experience is so much more powerful than reading about a particular kind of spiritual experience first and then having an experience.
Copyright © 2009 Carole Lynne, author of Book Cosmic Connection: Messages for a Better World
I’m pretty uncomfortable about it at this point, and I know too that I’m doing the right thing.