Recently someone sent me a link to "The Guru Has No Turban" by Greg Leveille.
It's well worth reading if you've ever believed that a guru should be worshipped as a divine being. Or worshipped for any other reason, like their supposed perfection.
The article is centered on the Sant Mat teachings that I followed for thirty-five years.
Leveille appears to believe in a basic truth of those teachings -- that it is possible to know a formless Celestial Awareness -- but rejects the Sant Mat notion that the guru is greater than God, because God isn't available to help us while the guru is.
So he manages to balance some justified skepticism about gurus while embracing a mystical approach to meditation.
I like this part of his article.
If you read about (or follow) five or more spiritual groups during your lifetime, there’s a good chance you will hear a high percentage of these common myths that Kabir and other advanced teachers have complained about.
“Only the guru can take you to Heaven.”
“Only the guru can save you.”
“Everything that the guru says is the absolute truth.”
“A true guru never has to think or use the mind.”
“Once you’re initiated, the true guru will always be inside of you.”
“The true guru is God in a human form.”
“A perfect master will always be there when you die.”
“Guru worship is essential.”
“The guru is greater than God.”
“You can’t see or feel God inside or outside of you”
“But you can always see your guru inside and outside of you.”
“My guru died, but he can still help me while I’m alive.”
“He died, but he can still perform miracles and take me to heaven.”
“The mantra won’t work unless it’s blessed by the guru.”
“Your life is wasted without initiation by a perfect guru.”
“A perfect living master (PLM) will help you clear all your karma.”
“A perfect master will take you to heaven within 1-to-4 lifetimes.”
“A PLM is responsible for all of the miracles that you experience.”
“Gurus never make mistakes.”
“Until you meet your perfect master/guru within you and talk with him, then you cannot go to heaven.”
“You have to serve, honor, love and worship your guru above and beyond everyone and everything else.”
I also enjoyed the short quote Leveille included from David Lane's 2011 book.
This is the description that Amazon used to introduce David’s Book, The Guru Has No Turban.
“One of the more celebrated, if inappropriate, honorifics we have bestowed on our chosen gurus is the term "Perfect Master." It may be one thing to call a teacher a master (he or she may know more than us in a certain subject), but it is quite another to call such mastery "perfect." The first and most troublesome problem is one of definition: what do we actually mean by "perfect"?
My sense is that we fundamentally misunderstand the honorific and we do not fully understand the implications involved when applying such terms to living human beings. My argument is a very simple one: The guru is not perfect, at least not in the ways that we may assume.
But despite the fact that we can easily demonstrate the limitations and fallibilities of our gurus, we somehow hold on to the naive concept that a guru can be an all-knowing and all-powerful being.”
So true. I'm not sure why guru-worship has such a hold on so many people.
In my case, I was attracted to the idea that it was possible to traverse supernatural regions of reality in the company of a Perfect Living Master who had been sent by God to collect certain souls whose destiny was to return to heaven, known as Sach Khand.
I went to high school and college in the 1960s. The Beatles were a big part of my musical life. The teachings of Sant Mat in the guise of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) seemed like the ultimate Magical Mystery Tour.
And you didn't need LSD or any other psychedelic. Just a guru who could take you on that tour and a willingness to accept the vows required to be initiated by the guru, which included several hours of daily meditation.
But that was then, and this is now. I have a very different attitude toward Sant Mat and RSSB after spending most of those thirty-five years deeply devoted to the teachings, yet eventually realizing the truth of what Leveille says in his article about gurus.
He's much more positive about mysticism than I am. However, I resonate with much of what Leveille says at the end of his piece.
Not everyone is ready to tread the inward mystic path of divine awareness. If, as a spiritual seeker, you’re drawn to some other type of yoga, mindful awareness, or guru-bhakti path, then that is perfectly fine.
If you follow your heart, you can’t go wrong.
Divine awareness is a long and winding road that eventually causes everyone to choose and then to grow from different spiritual experiences along the way.
However, those souls who have begun to feel the inner pull of divine awareness are ready to follow this very precious path. It’s the secret path of many of the greatest ancient Taoists as well and most modern Sant Mat, Sufi, Celestial Awareness, and direct consciousness teachers. It’s the path that Lao Tzu, Kabir, Hafiz, Soami Ji, Shiv Brat Lal, Faqir, and Captain Ji followed as well.
These are teachers who don’t want to be worshiped. These are teachers who help you to discover and follow the divine awareness within you.