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Gurus & the Cult of Relativity

By: for on July 12, 2012
Japa malas before imitation ceremony
Guru. It might be the most loaded word in the realm of our contemporary spirituality.

Even more loaded than God.

I’m pretty aware that the concept and reality of the guru-disciple dynamic is something that’s a big non-starter for a lot of seekers today. Still, I was taken aback by the general reaction after I recently posted a piece titled “Guides, Gurus, and Grounding in Our Spiritual Journey” at the religion section of The Huffington Post.

I would say 80-90 percent of the reactions and comments I got were against my reasoning that one needs to settle into a path and find a teacher in order to dive to the deepest realms of spiritual reality. I could see that people are very convinced that there is little to no need for a formal relationship with a guru in their spiritual journey.

There is no dearth of this kind of sentiment and evidence to support it here recently on Elephant. Julian Walker’s very incisive article titled “The Dark Side of Spirituality: The Guru Papers Unmasks Sacred Cows” spares no quarter in showing the horrors of those who have used the title of guru to a means and ends that represent the darkest side of humanity. We have the contemporary examples of what is going on in the camps of John Friend and Michael Roach as further proof that the whole guru business seems to be as bankrupt ethically and morally as the worst of Wall Street.

The recent award-winning documentary “Kumare” also throws a deft and subtle light on profound questions of integrity and honesty behind the guru-disciple dynamic as many people choose to experience it in our contemporary spiritual scenes.

There’s little I can say to convince people otherwise. It is very much like convincing an atheist of God’s reality.

This is more of an experiential debate than intellectual. If your only experience, either personally or through second-hand accounts, is of the evil perpetuated by those masking as the sacred teacher, then of course your conclusion is that the whole thing is a sham.

The evidence is convincing. There is something in our post-modern character which makes the guru-disciple dynamic very, very difficult. We are drawn very deeply to strains within our being which encourage our individuality, but the structure of our society tends to harp upon those strains in ways which cultivate pride, greed, envy, and all the classic elements which are anathema to our spirit. The result of this negative character development is the desire to cheat, and the tendency to be cheated by others.

The natural reaction for so many seekers is to join the “cult of relativity,” in which one’s spirituality remains entirely personal and based solely on one’s intuition, reasoning and imagination.

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