Lapsed Gurus falling off Pedestals

Posted on August 17, 2009. Filed under: Culture, Philosophy, Spirituality |

bgfun03 “I only have so much patience!’ —This was a phrase uttered unto me as a child by a well-meaning (one would hope) parent. Most of us remember a few choice phrases used by parents, teachers, colleagues or friends that planted limiting beliefs in our heads. The first fallacy of these sorts of statements, in my opinion, is the assumed limited nature of them. I, (or in this case, my mother) may believe there is only a certain amount of patience allotted to one in any situation, but, is that true? Wouldn’t it be fun to imagine that, when confronted with whatever I was doing to elicit this response, my mother said, instead: “I have infinite patience.”?

Gosh knows I was not an easy child. I may have been doing something exasperating at the time; very likely I was. But, had I heard the second response, rather than the first, I may have been stopped in my tracks; completely astounded. Even now, when I remind myself to say the phrase to myself, particularly in the midst of a busy day or tense situation, my body immediately starts to relax. I have a moment of utter calm. I remember that, unless a train is coming directly for me, and I’m actually standing on the tracks, it’s probably not vital that I act in this very instant!

I learned this some years ago, from my guru-of-the-week. At that time in my life, I was a seeker. A seeker after knowledge; of rightness, goodness, and enlightenment. Anyone I came across who could point me in the direction of clearer vision was welcome in my world. I was always very independent-minded, so I gravitated towards those (and there were many) who would preach or counsel something or other, capped by the admonition: “Don’t believe anything I say! Test it out for yourself, and if it’s right for you, only then choose it.”

I imagine that (like my aforementioned parent), these people really meant it when they said something like this. I think, philosophically, when asked, they would say that of course everyone must choose her/his own path; that their teachings were only meant to shine a light on a possible path; that one must find and forge new pathways. To the extent that a “teacher” really practices this; I respect it. All too often, however, if one gets to know the teacher, and really observes them, it will be revealed that *gasp* they are only human! They have personalities! Full of distortions and personal beliefs! Some would become disgruntled when a participant would indeed reject part of the teaching, in spite of what they’d disclaimed. It’s as if they said: “Well, I know I said you should find your own way, but I’ve so obviously given you the truth, here!”

In the past, in spite of all the disclaimers uttered by teachers; workshop leaders; spiritual masters; neural technologists—call them what you will, I did tend to *admire*, and, in a sense *worship* some of these folks. This is not an easy admission for me. In consciousness, I don’t believe any human deserves to be worshiped. Easy to say; more difficult to feel. On a feeling level, I wanted to belong to something greater than just little me. I wanted answers to the “big” questions in life, and, in that moment, this person seemed to have them. I prided myself in not falling into the “trap” of “needing” an intermediary between myself and the divine, such as the common practice of “submitting” to a guru’s higher wisdom—yet, what was I really doing but giving my power to a person rather than a principle?

I recently read a book I’d purchased after spending a day at a seminar with the author. The book was in the form of a journal, in which the teacher meant to expose his very human shortcomings, just so he wouldn’t create worshipers, or “pedestal-putter-oners” from his seminar participants. Ironic, eh? I’d successfully avoided reading the book for years after I met this man. I only wanted it, really, as a souvenir of the profound and positive change his seminar facilitated in me. I didn’t want to know any more about him than I experienced that one day, because it would, I thought, invalidate his authority if I saw him as a flawed human. He is dead, now. I decided to read the book.

It was very difficult, emotionally, for me. The technique I learned from the seminar caused a major shift in my outlook; it was, literally, life-changing. As I read the story of his life, though, I found myself disappointed; judgmental—at times, even disgusted. He reached his goal of having at least this “disciple” see him as a mere human, with some good, perhaps inspired, ideas.

For the past couple of days, as I’ve been examining my feelings, I have let go of much of the animosity I’ve felt. I still feel this teacher “walked his talk”. He taught me something precious, and vital, and real. I am allowing myself to keep the teaching without needing to revere the teacher—yet another teaching!

Not belonging, or believing, can be a lonely thing. Sometimes I envy “true believers” the comfort and warmth of the embrace of their tribe. I remain a deeply spiritually involved person, but I find my guidance from within; from consulting my own inner intuition and connection. Scriptures, teachings, and philosophies can be profoundly useful and appropriate, and I do, continually, use them. I just strive not to allow them to use me. Peace; Om; Salaam; Shalom

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16 Responses to “Lapsed Gurus falling off Pedestals”

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[…] Lapsed Gurus falling off Pedestals (museditions.wordpress.com) Share and Enjoy: […]

I love these quotes, “I remain a deeply spiritually involved person, but I find my guidance from within; from consulting my own inner intuition and connection. Scriptures, teachings, and philosophies can be profoundly useful and appropriate, and I do, continually, use them. I just strive not to allow them to use me. Peace; Om; Salaam; Shalom”

It’s a long way down from a pedestal and your post has made me reassess who is bruised more from the hard landing.

I used to work with a woman who was a seeker. At some point she stopped and we weren’t close enough to discuss the whys and whats but she did tell me the most frustrating aspect (in hindsight) was being influenced by whomever she’d spoken to last. I think she knew she could seek and find from within, like you.

A post like this one just shows why you have people who follow your blog! Everything about it is good, the writing, the style, the message, the teaching and the sharing. And though you don’t like ‘the pedestal’ thing, I sadly admit this is the reason I put you on one. (Will try not to)

But you aren’t alone in feeling what you wrote about. I am almost half way through “This Side of Nirvana” right now and am reading about the authors similar feelings. Great book by the way!

Muse! I haven’t seen you around these parts lately. I was wondering where you disappeared to!

Anywho: you said this –

I imagine that (like my aforementioned parent), these people really meant it when they said something like this. I think, philosophically, when asked, they would say that of course everyone must choose her/his own path; that their teachings were only meant to shine a light on a possible path; that one must find and forge new pathways. To the extent that a β€œteacher” really practices this; I respect it.

Exactly: all teachers can do with this sort of stuff is make “signposts” for you to follow and discover what they want you to learn. They can’t make you memorize the knowledge (within philosophy) without understanding it, and these signposts guide you towards true understanding, which I’d hope is the real goal of any philosophical inquiry.

And, of course, you’re absolutely right that spirituality and philosophy are both personal journeys that have to be done from within, not with hand-holding by teachers.

“Not belonging, or believing, can be a lonely thing.” How true, Muse. How true. And yet by not “belonging” you wind up belonging to a very wonderful and elite group of folks – most of us. And, if I may be horribly corny, seems the guru actually wound up teaching you one of the most important lessons any of us can learn – well, you wound up teaching yourself, which I guess is the bulk of the lesson anyway. I believe as you do that the wisdom is within. Fields of it ready for the reaping.

And all this ties in nicely with what my father used to say to me when I was young that so unsettled me: “You’re not normal!” No I wasn’t. And I’m still not. And now I can say “Thank goodness.” And yet I am normal… because this whole normal thing is mostly a myth and so it’s normal not to be normal. The light is within. And please save me from any guru who tells me s/he has the exact map (and flashlight) to find it!

Speaking of gurus…I have this zen-inspired take on “experts” on my blog: http://www.workcoachcafe.com/about-2/

Peace out and in,
Ronnie Ann

Nice

I just strive not to allow them to use me.

Correct, but IMO, they can definitely help you find the way… guide you, if you will.

Great post.

Thank you, Kiran. I like to learn useful things! πŸ™‚

There was a popular saying amongst my “parent-types”, ella: “S/he needs to be taken down a peg or two!” I don’t know about that; but I think it must smart when one reaches ground-level again. Good story about your friend. Many of us think that maybe the next “guy” has the answers! I haven’t met anyone who’s completely satisfied with their spiritual practice. Perhaps I just don’t meet those kinds of people. πŸ˜‰

I’ll have to check out the book, BD, thanks! Oh, well, in my case you may keep me up there on the pedestal as long as you like! I just meant I don’t like to view others that way, but if you want to revere me, well, bring it on! (Haha; so NOT!) πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜€ Honestly, though, I really do appreciate your words. The ability to share my journey makes it meaningful, and it delights and humbles me that you think so, too. πŸ™‚

Big end of summer push with work, leap, although that’s *no excuse* and I have an upcoming post about that. I read part of your epic, and I’m looking forward to completing it! πŸ™‚ Thanks for wondering. You make a really interesting point about memorizing without understanding. Some teachers (school-type, as well as religious-type) seem to indicate that one should memorize first, any which way, and if understanding comes later it’s almost seen as some kind of bonus! Much to consider here, thanks!

That’s for sure, Ronnie Ann, I’d rather belong to that elite group of “not normal” people along with you, than a more conventional gathering. My parents said something similar: “We just don’t know what to make of you!” Well, I just don’t know what to make of that statement, either! πŸ˜‰ And you’re so right, not normal is normal. It’s become vernacular, equivalent to “unpleasant” or “out of my comfort zone”, but really the word just refers to statistical “norms”, which depending on context can mean much…or not much at all! Loved your post; “I don’t believe anyone knows everything…” Indeed. And I can’t believe I’d never read your about page!!! 😯

I respect that, Juan. I think they can certainly help me find “A Way”. Perhaps I quibble over semantics, but I do believe an individual’s path is her/his own. The value of prior writings and teachings cannot be overestimated, and I thank you for that. πŸ™‚

I don’t believe any human deserves to be worshiped.

Neither do I – unless it’s George Best or Eric Cantona!

Only few will get that joke, lol.

Right you are, Cyn, and unfortunately I’m not one of them. 😦 Still, I appreciate the sentiment! πŸ™‚

Nice piece, Muse. I’ve been thinking a lot about the teacher-student relationship recently. It’s a worthy topic.
In Yoga

As a teacher yourself, you must have much to add to the discussion, yogini. I’m glad it engaged you. πŸ™‚

I love this post. It resonates with me but I’m in a cloud and can’t see specifically why.
Good stuff Mused.

Thanks much, Jules. Sometimes a cloud is a nice place to be! I know I don’t always understand the contents of my consciousness. πŸ˜‰

I know exactly what you meant Muse.
I experienced it and I still feel vengeful sometimes.

Thanks, poch. I just hope you are able to let go of the vengeful feelings at some point. We know they don’t help us, and they don’t serve the former “guru” either…


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