Are Gurus Necessary?
Seeing the exploitation
brought on by some so-called gurus (many of whom have been outside
any real tradition), there has been a tendency to want to reject
gurus altogether. Some people have thought that the New Age they see
dawning today will allow people to teach themselves or follow inner
guides and that gurus are a thing of the past.
However, if we examine the
matter deeply we see that teachers are as important in the spiritual
field as in other domains of life. We have many different teachers
during the education we receive in life and attend many schools. If
teachers are not necessary, why don't we just leave our babes out in
the woods, to teach themselves? Are teachers dispensable in other
walks of life? Can a person learn the piano, or learn modern physics
without a teacher? If teachers can be dispensed with in other fields
of life, then perhaps they are dispensable in the spiritual realm,
but not otherwise.
Inner guides can be
important sources of wisdom and inspiration but they do not
eliminate the necessity for living teachers. The mind can easily
invent an inner guide according to its desire or prejudice. Such an
inner guide cannot question us or challenge our preconceptions the
way a living teacher can.
If we are honest we see that
we all have spiritual teachers, that we all benefit from some sort
of external guidance be it in the form of books, talks or one-to-one
dialogue. Some of us may require prolonged personal contact with a
teacher. For others a short contact may be enough (if it is
accompanied by a long term practice of the teaching). What we don't
need is personality cults of gurus, whereby we turn the teacher not
into a guide of our practice but some external hero figure on whom
we develop an emotional dependency.
The real role of a guru is
to help us understand ourselves. The real teacher is merely an
instrument along the path of Self-knowledge and does not make him or
herself important as a separate entity. To respect and benefit from
spiritual teachers does not mean to become dependent upon them, to
imitate them, but to strive to discover truth for ourselves.