31 Jul Why Gurus Are Rarely Worth Devotion or Worship
To Guru, Or Not To Guru
I’ve guru hopped and shopped. Almost every teacher/guru I’ve read or listened to turned out to have a secretive dark side, and this is why I’ve never jumped into some devotional level commitment to any particular guru. There have been many times along my journey when I’ve greatly admired a teacher and gained insight from them, only to hear of that teacher having questionable (or worse) relations with their students.
Mental or physical abuse and manipulation take many forms and operate on numerous levels. In my yoga teacher training we covered ethical guidelines and created our own personal ethical statement, reflecting on the many yoga teachers who have had relations with their students. We talked about the subtle levels of a teacher-student relationship, and how even a consensual commingling may not be so innocent as it seems. The power in that student-teacher relationship is not equal.
So I find myself again pondering this topic as my current Masters degree studies are taking me into the realm of mindfulness and Buddhism. Seeing more examples of teachers with devoted students who they had sexual relations with, or act like an “awakened” person can imbibe in mind altering chemicals and act on desires without those actions or activities affecting their “awakened” state. Effectively, this belief means a lack of self reflection, the very opposite of what I would consider enlightened behavior.
Skimming an older interview with Pena Chodron, whose work I respect even though I’m only vaguely familiar with, I see delusional thinking and rationalization.
There is a lot to this interview, and while I agree with what I think her main idea is (that labeling right and wrong can be limiting and can create more harm than good), some of her statements regarding ethical rules, or guidelines, lack a level of discernment that, I believe, a teacher of her stature and experience should have. In one part she expressed her opinion that rules would take us toward McCarthyism, and I get the sense she believes we should take things more situationally rather than rigidly, with black and whites rules we apply all around. I agree we need to consider the context in any situation, but this makes it weird when she expresses her absolute (black and white) devotion to her teacher, no matter what.
To me that is not a free mind, it is a trapped mind. A way of thinking ensnared by devotion to a teacher which necessitates delusional thinking and rationalization. A free mind sees cause and effect clearly, and never would rationalize harmful actions simply because the person who carried them out was supposedly enlightened and exceptionally wise.
From my experience, devotion should be applied sparingly. There should always be reflection, and never blind acceptance.