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" One touch of nature

makes all the world kin "

William Shakespeare

Gurus and the Problem of Absolutism

February 11th, 2016

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.

11 Responses to “Gurus and the Problem of Absolutism”

  1. Yes. the same for me. I agree, absolutely. It has been a life-long challenge NOT to let people project their hopes, and thus ultimately not working towards realizing them THEMSELVES. I understand, absolutely, and am glad that someone talks about this.
    Bright Blessings, Philip. I miss my OBOD days.

  2. Hi Shakti,
    The Bardic course has been translated into Spanish and should be ready to distribute soon. So maybe we will visit Spain and come and see your wonderful project!
    Bright blessings, Philip

  3. a true Guru needs no absolutism, the pupil does..that is what is happening..sometimes you have someone under your wing or in your belly till it s time to flee the nest..so why offend the guru, when really the pupil is in his or her teens and want to rebel?

    • Hi Helena,
      Yes I think a comparison with the parent-child relationship is very fruitful. Many similar dynamics!

  4. I agreee – I don´t want to be put on a piedistal – I am not perfect! I am willing to share what I have experienced and learned and I want to be a co-explorer.
    Love
    Tekla

  5. Please remember that not all your readers are 20-somethings. The triumph of design over utility has resulted in much of the Web — including your Blog — being unreadable to us older folks. I beg you to go back to black text in at least 10 point font size (11 point is better) on a white or light-colored background; this tiny gray-on-gray causes eye-strain, which causes headaches, which causes us to flee in droves.

    • Oh Dana, I’m sorry. Perhaps it is not widely known that you just need to press the command key down and hit the + key until the font size is to your liking!

      • Lol, Hi Phillip, I didn’t know that but it is very useful knowledge. Your my computer guru for today! 😉

        • Ha! Me a computer guru – that’ll be the day! I once drove 10 miles in the snow to have mine fixed and the real guru told me I might like to try turning it on before deciding it was broken!

  6. Crikey…talk about serendipity!
    Deep awake and paralogical thinking aplenty and simply & accessibly written in the book “Planetary Brother” by Bartholomew.
    Non duality means there is only One and there are no separations within the One. We cannot lose anything as we and all of createdness exist in the glorious entirety.
    He also teaches we are each turning to the ‘lights to ourselves’ which have always been within, right here, right now. The core of each being is the peace, the silence that was sought through the outward focused ego for the guru out there to give to us. The bushels have gone/ are going the way of the purple flames of transmutation…..ahhhhhhhh.

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