Beware Gurus

I asked a little while back if a guru is necessary. Many people (with good reason) say yes. How can one navigate the complex path of human spirituality with no guide? For me personally, I put a lot of faith in my inner Self to guide me. But I am jaded from the experience of coming from an organization that some would call a cult.

Most people will want or need a guru to guide their progress. What I ask is that you select such a teacher with extreme care.

I definitely believe that there are enlightened gurus out there. But there are many, many more who are either very wise but still subject to mistakes OR actually con artists who prey on people’s insecurity to get money or power.

It would be extremely rare to find a guru who is fully realized to the extent that he would no longer have human failings.

I know what it’s like to idealize a person who is further along than you are spiritually. I’ve worshiped and adored my masters. And then in the end found them to be very human. They fell victim to, most often, an over inflated ego. I regret the hero-worship, knowing that I always had the Truth already within me.

When you are involved with a teacher, guru, or school, I urge you to keep your eyes open and your mind sharp. If something doesn’t sit right with you, don’t ignore that instinct. They may tell you that your uncomfortablness is simply your selfish ego standing in the way of your spiritual development. Think long and hard before you accept that answer.

It is an enormous temptation for human beings to give ourselves over to someone else’s care. We seem to want to let someone else take care of our spiritual growth and tell us what to do. But in the end, it is you who is responsible for your spirituality. No one else is going to do it for you.

Being devoted to a guru can be a wonderful thing, but it can also leave you feeling bitter and used when you come out of the trance twenty years later. Always be very careful what guru you are attaching yourself to.

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There is a strange feeling that someone who has been in a cult-like group experiences. It’s a contradiction of feeling. Because the same place that can give you great spiritual insights and moments of total bliss can also be hiding abuse, power plays, and inappropriate control. You can experience both things from the same organization. And so it is difficult to renounce the cult or to tell anyone that it was bad. Because it did wonderful things for you. Parts of your experience you wouldn’t trade back. Yet a place that does wonderful things for you can also have damaged you at the same time. It is okay to feel both anger and love at the same time.

I wrote this short story that is closely based on my own experience. I tried to get across that feeling of being torn about how you feel about your past, but I don’t know if I succeeded.

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 It is extremely difficult to define what a cult is. Too often the word is used for any group or organization that the person using it does not understand or know much about. There may be a guru or a group that you are involved with that some people call a cult and you do not think it is.

What I’m talking about here is any guru or organization that practices deceit and abuse of any kind: whether emotional, physical, sexual, or spiritual. 

Here is a definition:

 A cult, by modern standards, is any group that incorporates mind control to deceive, influence and govern its followers. Although most people think of cults as being religious, they can also be found in political, athletic, philosophical, racial or psychotherapeutic arenas.

(The rest of this article is definitely worth reading)

If they or it are making you feel unworthy, lowly, unimportant, stupid, or dirty in some way, you are most likely dealing with a cult.

Even if you start out with a guru you trust and love, if anything changes please do not be afraid to question and to take a step back to examine what is really going on.

Resources:

Memoirs of people who have left cults:

Shame On You by Clara Salaman <—-This one is about my organization

Advice on Dealing with Cults:

Articles:

A truly enlightened guru is not going to be perturbed by your questioning and keeping your mind sharp. A guru worth following will never coerce you to do anything. A guru worth following practices what he teaches (if he claims to be celibate, he is not meeting alone with young girls; if he claims to live in poverty, he doesn’t have Swiss bank accounts). The guru worthy of your respect will not make you feel worried or uncomfortable.

Finally, a reminder of how easy it is for someone to claim spiritual knowledge for ulterior purposes:

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About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.


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