Having followed a guru for seven years in my twenties, the question of whether gurus are a help or a hindrance has been very interesting to me. Some people say the time of the guru is over, and yet so many of us have a yearning for a spiritual teacher. How do we avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water – honouring our need for wisdom, guidance sometimes, without falling into the trap of guru-worship? I like what the author and teacher Tim Freke has to say about this on his website. I feel the same way. He says: “I certainly have no interest in setting myself up as some sort of ‘guru’, dispensing wisdom from a supposedly exalted state that ordinary folk can’t hope to emulate. This is an out-dated approach to awakening that inhibits rather than helps our spiritual evolution. When a teacher is elevated, given a special name, overly honoured, it is bad for the student and the teacher, as evidenced by the sad history of spiritual cults.
I’ve spent 4 decades exploring the deep awake life, but I still feel like a child taking my first teetering steps. How else could I feel in the face of the infinite mystery? My journey hasn’t led me to some ‘fully realised’ state and I don’t believe it will, because I’ve come to see the very idea of special enlightened people as completely misconceived.
I’m not special in any way. At least no more special than you or anyone else. I’m a family man with all of the pressures and pleasures that come with being a responsible father and husband. I possess many admirable qualities, but I also have my faults … just ask my wife and kids!… I don’t want disciples … I want friends who are co-explorers. I don’t want you to be in awe of me. I want to inspire you to discover the awesome depths of your own being and empower you to authentically share yourself with the world.” You can hear what Tim has to say about gurus in the film clip below. If you want to get to the nub, jump to 17.50 on the clip and listen for a couple of minutes during which he nails the issue: the problem is not so much gurus per se, but absolutism in spirituality: “We don’t want a pope who’s infallible, a guru who’s infallible, a science which is infallible…” Then go back and listen to the whole thing. At the end, Tim and Richard who interviews him, talk about the film Kumare. If you haven’t seen it, I can highly recommend it – it’s funny, and provides a fascinating and unique insight into what is happening when we are looking for a guru.