Guru is spelled,
"Gee, You Are You!"
by Suzy Anand
In my considered opinion, traditions that require a guru and a transmission
of information by lineage have done so at the expense of a greater sharing of
knowledge. Patriarchal, hierarchical (classist) societies have flourished on
the notion that information must be transmitted through acknowledged teachers
(male gurus) in an effort to maintain their power over the masses by shaping,
controlling and containing powerful knowledge.
I understand the obsession of some to limit streams of information transmission in order to keep the message and its details from being diluted or misinterpreted. Regardless, it is an unnecessarily limiting practice. Greater populations and both genders need to be entrusted with information in order for societies to progress.
Once upon a time, I wished for a guru, in much the same way that I had dreamed about Prince Charming as a young girl watching Cinderella. Such fantasies are fueled by our culture. I wanted to be taught, to be led, to be caught up in something greater than myself. I thought this required a person to teach, guide, lead and groom me.
At various times, long before my Eastern studies led me to the thought of a guru, I had wished for a mentor. In high school and college, I wished for better teachers in general, or just one who would inspire me so that I would KNOW what I wanted to do with my life. As a young woman, I imagined a charismatic male figure who would become my partner. As I grew older and became a more impassioned feminist, I often wished for a female sage to guide me.
Regardless of what the specific vision was of who I was wishing for, when I meditated deeply on the desire, I always came up with the same response. My inner voice always told me to spend more time being quiet with myself and everything I desired to know could be found within.
Still, I sought knowledge from without.
At times, I accepted that my mentors might always be dead and mostly male authors through their books. When my reading began to include living authors, I realized the opportunity to meet some of those whose printed words were my greatest teachers.
To date, the only one who I felt on meeting (and still feel after numerous meetings) embodies his teachings and deserves guru status is the one to whom I owe gratitude for this title. Dr. Brian Weiss is the most humble and soft-spoken of men and refuses to wear the mantle of guru-dom despite the power of his work and his ever-growing international prominence. He is the greatest of role models and if I had to name one, I would say he has been my ultimate teacher, my guru.
In his book Messages from the Masters, Weiss quotes Jean
Houston, scholar and mystic, at a conference at which they both taught, as
having said, "Remember, that guru is spelled, 'Gee, you
are you.'" My gratitude to both of them for the reminder and the example they both set. It has been uniformly true in my life that the most powerful teachers I have witnessed have been the least impressed with themselves and most eager to give credit to the message and refer to themselves only as the messenger.
On the other hand, I have had numerous less pleasant experiences meeting or participating in workshops with writers whose work I had long admired who were not so humble. I have come to deeply understand that too often the messenger and the message are not one and the same. The knowledge that a teacher has achieved access to and shares does not always help make the bearer an admirable individual.
In one case, I had arrived and settled myself comfortably in a room filled with at least 500 people to spend a full day in an intensive workshop with a teacher whose books I'd found very enlightening and had made her a frequent guest on Oprah. As she began to teach, a cell phone rang. From where I sat, I was clearly able to see the look of horror on the face of the woman whose phone was ringing deep in her very large bag. She murmured an apology and something about having thought it was turned off as she desperately rummaged through her bag. To her great misfortune, the phone continued to ring several times before she located it. Our impressive speaker was merciless and cruel. She made the poor woman cry and continued to berate her even after the contents of her bag had been dumped on the floor, she'd found the phone, turned it off and sheepishly apologized repeatedly.
I packed up my things and walked out of the room, shaken. One of
the conference organizers happened to be nearby and noting, I suppose, the
expression on my face, she asked, "Are you okay, can I help you?" I
said, "I can't spend the day in there, she is a very toxic personality."
To my great surprise and comfort, the woman said, "We hear that a lot,
come with me and I will
arrange for you to join a different workshop."
I have been witness many times to Q & A opportunities with great teachers where it was completely obvious to me that the question that was asked was not at all understood or answered by their response and I have seen the look of confusion and regret on the faces of the disappointed disciples.
Once in a Tantra workshop, an eager young woman asked the world-renowned Tantrika a question about how one can "do these practices with a partner who is not?" The teacher gave a response along the lines of, "some days you do your practice with intention and some days you just make love the way you always have." I felt that it was obvious to everyone in the room that this teacher had become very separate from the reality of a world where most people are clueless about the practices she espouses.
Still another time, I was at a spiritual conference that I had attended annually for years, but with a renewed enthusiasm because I had just read and been deeply moved by a book by a young woman who would be leading several different workshops. I had asked someone at registration a very specific question about the subtle differences in the options among her class offerings. The conference registration person had told me, "She's registered under her own name here in the hotel, why don't you leave a message and see if she can clarify that for you." The response I received was that she was busy with her boyfriend and I had a lot of nerve to bother her with my question. I decided that I'd skip her workshops altogether and just be grateful that I had read the book before being offended by her self absorption.
Now, I well understand the balance we all must create in order to not give away more of our time and energy than we can afford to spare. But, the teachers I prefer are those whose own spirituality has achieved a place where that balance looks effortless and they can maintain their equilibrium without being rude, out-of-touch or selfish.
How do they get there?
And how do any of us get to our own inner guru?
Please stay tuned for my next column
"How to be your own Guru, in life and parenting!"
* * * *With a special focus on how this affects us as parents!
Later articles will include these:
“Free Will vs. Narcissistic Parenting”
“The Reality of Abstinence Based Education”
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