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.
If you worship a guru, you’re simply creating an idol and a stumbling block for yourself. Yes, you should respect your guru or spiritual teacher but “worship” is a perversion of the teacher-disciple relationship.
RS is a relatively new sect in the spiritual scheme of things, and it has evolved gradually over time as ALL faiths have done and continue to do.
One has to consider the cultural influences surrounding a faith’s inception to understand how easily it is for its followers to misconstrue fundamental truths.
The bottom line is, we humans are always creating idols for ourselves.
Inner peace is all that really matters. With inner peace, the world looks very different.
Posted by: 808 | February 14, 2023 at 12:32 AM
@ Brian Ji / LeVeillle [ 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. ]
I agree totally. IMO mystics do as well. To the extent that we view
the external guru ("stage actor" per Spence Tepper) as a perfect,
all-knowing, spiritual sugar daddy who doles out inner experience
and appears at death to forgive our lapses... it bespeaks not fully
The outer guru is a placeholder for the mindfulness and intense
devotion the disciple must develop within himself to attain "god"
or "totality of awareness". Every advance must be evidenced
within through your own actual repeatable experience. Blind
faith is no substitute, only encouragement in the beginning and
meant to be to outgrown. That's IMO the reason GSD famously
challenged "How do know I'm not a fraud?" and shocked his
disciples with the bombshell "I'm not coming for you at death."
The reason is that you must develop the spiritual awareness to
answer these puzzles yourself. What good is it if it doesn't.
Blind faith won't cut it.
Posted by: Dungeness | February 14, 2023 at 01:06 AM
Just recently I came to read somet Q&A from Ramakant Maharaj and one of the successors of Nisargadatta Maharaj.
To my surprise the questions AND the answers, with regard to how to conduct the practice and how to deal with the teachings and the teacher, could as well have been asked by followers of Sant Mat and answered by this or that sitting guru's of these days.
Before, I did found that all ready with Faqir Chand and Also with regard to the late dzogchen teacher Namkhai Norbu Rimpoche.
It seems that the advice given to the seeker, student etc as to how to deal with the teachings and the teacher is more or less the same for ALL these traditions and an expression of common culture with regard to "Guru-ship". ... Creating an optimal atmospheric for the practice to come to fruition. I makes me think also about the master / apprentice relation in the closed craft guilds of the middle ages ..its secrecy, its devotion etc.
That love and devotion for the teacher and the teaching is needed to conduct the practice. ... it has nothing to do with the teacher., as, if all is correct, he HAS already what the apprentice, student, seeker is after. and doesn't need anything from them.
It is an irony and a misunderstanding and fodder for psychologists why people have come to think that their so called "love for the teacher" "IS" the practice, is the work they have to invest themselves.
AND .... it is also part of an unconscious mental attitude developed in an CHRISTIAN culture where they were devotees are taught that Christ was a SAVIOUR.
AND ... what to think of the outsourcing of personal responsibilities to be found in mundane relationships?!?! Do not many if not all people make others responsible for how the think and feel ...?? "YOU make me happy/ unhappy" ... the endless laments of people blaming others, their past, their parents etc for their misfortune.
Hahaha ... they all try to make these gurus responsible and dance according their tunes and if they are not successful, they start to react as children of four, stamping the floor from anger and frustration. or weeping ... hahaha
As said it is all fodder for psychologists and more of these professionals in the human field.
Posted by: um | February 14, 2023 at 02:01 AM
As for “God”—mystics have said that even the One has no need to be worshipped because the divine doesn’t have an ego with which to appreciate worship. He has no “need” for praise.
Worship is a strange thing. Not sure that worship goes hand in hand with love and devotion.
Posted by: 808 | February 14, 2023 at 04:11 AM
And if the Divine has no need for praise, then a true teacher certainly would have no desire for it either.
That said, praise and appreciation (gratitude) are two different things. The art of gratitude is critical to personal growth.
Posted by: 808 | February 14, 2023 at 04:21 AM
As for all human things it can be done in different ways and for different motives.
So yes, for some people worship is part of their love and devotion ... but ... they might see it all as just different names for the same thing. .... you must have encountered somebody as i did, listening how they speak about something they love and are devoted to .... it is not admiration ... its is joy and tenderness of heart.
Blessed are those that have it.
All have it in their hearts, but few are able to let it out.
Few do understand that it is something that they can give, that it is THEIR treasure ... AND ... that they can give it to all and everything.
... and NOT ONLY ... to those things
"THEY THINK" that have opened their heart.
Whenever I met somebody that had this "tenderness of heart" for something I have no one found that was able to use that same tenderness of heart as light to could shine on everything and anybody .... hahaha ... love your enemies, he said.
Most focus on the enemies and on what they did that turned them into enemies but he was not interested in either of them .. he just put before her the door that opened to the "SMALL PATHWAY" that she could take .. she was neither asked let alone forced to take that path .. she was just informed about the existence of that path .. it was up to her to take it..
Mystisism in the end is an INVITATION to go through that door and walk that path of tenderness of the heart.
Blessed are those that have found at least the door handle ... haahaha .. I know about the door but are as stubborn as the rest. and love the ease and comfort of the highway to "hell" ... hahahaa .. sorry I should not laugh about it.. ..it must be the lack of coffee at this hour of the day.
Posted by: um | February 14, 2023 at 04:35 AM
Whether a teacher stands in eed of anything should not be at the mind of a honest seeker.
He should only focus on whether he is a "perfect" seeker, student, lover or whatever.
Talking about teachers is outsourcing of personal responsibilities.
Well .... mostly ... and.... an [lame] excuse for personal shortcomings.
Even at the feed of an imposer all can be "perfect" students
and THEY ... not I .. consider such an live not as wasted
Posted by: um | February 14, 2023 at 04:47 AM
Or to use the words of those in Green mantles [advaita]...self enquiry is the first step
Students and seekers should FIRST study their own history, their own mind, their own motives to find out whether they have everything that is needed to go a given path.
Why would anybody climb the mount Everest?
Yes ...The mountain is there.
It can be climbed.
And those who did rejoiced in it.
But, that is no reason why others should and could follow in their footsteps.
Humans do climb and conquer the Everest
climbing the mountain does not make them more or less human.
Posted by: um | February 14, 2023 at 04:59 AM
Thanks for your comments. I was really only trying to make the distinction between earnestly following a teacher because of their teachings (the teachings being the most important thing) vs. the egoic version of guru worship.
Posted by: 808 | February 14, 2023 at 06:12 AM
Posted by: 808 | February 14, 2023 at 06:15 AM
Yes, yes ...I used your reaction just as an stepping stone and excuse.
Posted by: um | February 14, 2023 at 06:16 AM
Yes, yes ...I used your reaction just as an stepping stone and excuse.
Posted by: um | February 14, 2023 at 06:16 AM
Posted by: 808 | February 14, 2023 at 06:41 AM
There is the piano.
On the instrument are visible the keys.
Inside visible are the strings
inside mostly hidden is the wooden soundboard.
Pianos are like an echo=pit
One introduces a sound and an echo is created.
Interactions between humans can be alike ... 😂
The echoes can be "weird" ... hahaha when they drink to much coffee.
Posted by: um | February 14, 2023 at 06:53 AM
People like gurinder singh dhillon of RSSB should never be worshipped ever. He is the representative of ego, wealth, fame, power and has an insatiable lust for world wide domination. How can this narsasist donkey stand for truth, love and spirituality. Furthermore he even initiates using 5 satanic names the first of which means light of the devil (jot narunjan). He even says in his satsangs that what you focus on in meditation comes forth, so do the maths, as you are repeating satanic names and focusing on this fake ass baba - representative of kaal. You have been warned, steer clear.
Posted by: Ranvir | February 14, 2023 at 01:15 PM
Do Sikhs use the same 5 names as Rhadasoamis?
Posted by: seeker | February 14, 2023 at 02:22 PM
Cool link, interesting read.
Seems off, though, this unquestioning belief in the mysticism deal, and at the same time insisting that a Guru isn't how you do it. It is unsupported ipse dixitism, at the end of the day, to claim the Guru is necessary; and equally, it is unsupported ipse dixitism, ultimately, to claim Gurus don't work. Seems completely incoherent, this reasoning, this argument.
The only way to bring coherence and consistency here, is by questioning/critiquing the whole deal. This halfway measure is ...simply incoherent.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | February 14, 2023 at 03:19 PM
It seems to me that when man (or woman) left the infant stage and naturally began to absorb and be bombarded with all the information a growing child needs to navigate its particular environment, then in spite of (hopefully) being in a loving situation, it later began to realise it was a rather isolated, separate human being.
From then on, perhaps through acquisitions, relationships, various beliefs, self-promotion and so on, it learned to attempt to insulate itself from its perceived separation. Perhaps at some point, for some people, the search and dependency on a ‘spiritual guide’ became the answer – and the guru business emerged with all its nefarious claims of ‘perfect masters’, mystical teachings etc.
Like the story of ‘The Prodigal’s Return’, it seems that the search back to unity and wholeness may be a needed journey. It’s a pity that so many ‘spiritual guides’ knowingly or unknowingly exploit seekers. It is perhaps just a few teachers, having realised that it was their own minds and self-structure that caused such mental pain and suffering, saw the need to help others see this – with no stories of heavens, Gods, miracles or mystical experiences, just an enlightened re-discovery of who and what you are.
Posted by: Ron E. | February 15, 2023 at 02:47 AM
@ Ron E [ It is perhaps just a few teachers, having realised that it was their own minds and self-structure that caused such mental pain and suffering, saw the need to help others see this – with no stories of heavens, Gods, miracles or mystical experiences, just an enlightened re-discovery of who and what you are. ]
Ahem, the dismissive shoot-down of "mystical experiences" is a bit trigger-happy IMO,
like downing every UFO gliding over your "turf". Who's to say mystic experiences can't
facilitate just such an "enlightened re-discovery of who and what you are". Otherwise
you -not so subtly- consign potentially legitimate research to the rubbish bin under the
guise of protecting innocents from a hostile force. That stance's equivalent to danger-
ous religious jihadism at worse or the ravings of a soapbox orator in the park at best.
Hopefully, I've misunderstood some nuance that'd cast a cheerier outlook. Sorry if I
shot from the hip a bit myself.
Posted by: Dungeness | February 15, 2023 at 01:28 PM
It’s undeniable that the PLM and GIHF philosophy has detracted greatly from the core spiritual teachings of RSSB. They put too much emphasis on PLM/GIHF for followers to be able to focus on what’s important.
Posted by: Joe | February 16, 2023 at 01:51 AM
D’ness, you often refer to ‘the mystic says . . .’ Who are you referring to? Any mystics in particular or just mystics generally? I ask because there is a whole range of descriptions that are applied to being a mystic. It is not my intention to ‘shoot down’ mystical experiences, more to with understanding what is meant by them. Mysticism can be a vague and confusing topic the definition of which can offer a multitude of descriptions. It's the connotation often assigned to mystics, as though they are special in having had certain experiences – and there are many who take advantage of claiming mystical revelations. I prefer to accept that such experiences are unusually common and attainable for many ordinary people – such is my studies and interest.
One description is that mystic people see the world as intricately connected, magical, and almighty. This is similar to enlightenment when the mind/self phenomenon is realised for what it is. Although in Buddhism and Taoism, teachers are referred to as mystics, I understand them as being enlightened. Dogen for example said that the body is already enlightened but unseen due to the activity of the mind – of thinking. Steven Batchelor holds that enlightenment (or nirvana) is there when thoughts, feelings, emotions and beliefs (mind actions) result in conditioned reactivity (suffering) and that nirvana is freedom from such reactivity – again, an area of interest to me.
I'm also interested in how the brain produces such states and under what conditions. To this end I respond favourably to research on brain states. For me, the latest mine of information regarding this is in Kevin Nelson's book 'The God Impulse'. A neurologist with three decades' experience examining the biology behind human spirituality. And: - 'Offers the first, comprehensive, empirically tested, peer-reviewed examination of the reasons we are capable of NDE's, OBE's and other mystical states. By no means does he decry spiritual states, regarding them as a valuable aspect of human life and possibly, for some at certain times, helpful.
Posted by: Ron E. | February 16, 2023 at 03:31 AM
@ Ron E. [ Who are you referring to? Any mystics in particular or just mystics generally? I ask because there is a whole range of descriptions that are applied to being a mystic. It is not my intention to ‘shoot down’ mystical experiences, more to with understanding what is meant by them. ]
Mystics generally although RSSB most closely. I'm more interested now in
having mystical experiences than researching them. Both are important of
Posted by: Dungeness | February 16, 2023 at 09:38 AM
Posted by: 777 | February 17, 2023 at 09:41 AM
Sikhs don't use the same name as RS
RS baba Jaimal Singh was kicked out from main RS and moved to Punjab
To make people fool he started teaching Nanak Bani, people think he is a Sikh from his outlook and provided him land on the name of Guri Granth Sahib( where Bea's is now)
Guri Granth was respected as in Gurdwara (basically it was a Gurdwara) and they celebrated all Sikhs Gurupurab that time
Jaimal Singh didn't use his Gurus words and stole 5 names from Guru Granth Sahib to make people fool(many Babas used to do this that time and still do)
The big difference in RS and Sikhism is that RS(beas)is a big cult while Sikhism is a real Sant Mat as Guru Granth shows us the different saints MAT(teaching)
Sikhism is not a religion..it is a way of living
Posted by: Tell the Truth | February 22, 2023 at 11:01 AM
Why a Guru shouldn't be worshipped
Prime example would be Gurinder Singh Dhilion and the Shamed Radha Soami Cult
Why would anyone in they're right mind go and destroy they're life by following a riddiculed Name and Shamed Baba who has been taking advantage of so many innocent people throughout his life.
At every turn his name is mentioned with a criminal act of some kind.
All he ever tries to do is hide even at his Satsangs he's too busy hiding from his very own sangat, always a hiding.
Question here is why? There has to be a very good reason and here's why...
It's all over the Internet and media of numerous kinds with this reality kicking in as to why he's NEVER to be trusted.
But the oblivious sangat still remain fooled.
In History The Radha Soami Cult foundations are based in Agra where Radha and Krishna were from, this is the truth of Radha Soami.
It is Radha Krishna in reality.
This is what Gurinder is hiding from all of his Sangat. As if they ever found out this most of his sangat would not wish to partake in this in any form or manner, for personal reasons
No thank you
Then we read that the 5 names given at initiation are of Kaal (devil) and all who do this form of meditation in kaalyug are headed to the destination where he resides.
Another definite, no thank you
This is the path of kaal under a wrapped covering of im a Radha Soami
Know the name, know the truth
The beans are spilt its a open can of worms for all to see even if some believe not to.
Never trust a contradicting Baba look at his actions and his millionaire lifestyle to see this reality, is there any Godliness of any kind?
In Gurinder Singh Dhilions case its NONE.
Buddha gave his millions away, Gurinder rakes in the Millions of dollars
How embarrassing is that, to live a lie in front of all and sit on stage knowing that!
Posted by: Trez | February 28, 2023 at 11:16 AM
>> How embarrassing is that, to live a lie in front of all and sit on stage knowing that! <<
It is all in the eye of the beholder Trez to ATTRIBUTE value and meaning.
There are so many lies / illusions ... hahaha ... humans love them ... you too Trez... hahaha.
People are all seeking "happiness" outside themselves.
They tell one another where and how to get THEIR idea of Happiness.
Suggesting that what you write is the exeption is just ... SELECTIVE abomination.
Posted by: um | February 28, 2023 at 12:04 PM
Love this article. Thanks for posting it here, Brian.
Posted by: arun marwah | March 07, 2023 at 09:21 PM
Why Guru worship has such a hold on a large number of people?? Because Each one of us fears death and these Gurus offer them a ray of hope as they are told the Guru will save them from the clutches of Kaal by being present at the time of death of a disciple who has been initiated!!! The Dead do not tell any tales though.
Posted by: arun marwah | March 08, 2023 at 07:12 PM
@ Arun Marwa
The meaning and use of "Guru worship" or Gur Bhakti [ the two maybe not being the same] is expressed differently by both teachers and students.
The guru bhakti / worship has in fact nothing to do with the guru.
It is only speaking of the student.
The teacher stands not in need of being worshiped at all.
But the student, will not be able, in the long run, to focus on his/her practice, without such and all consuming devotion to the teacher..
Not only in the field of spirituality, but in all other fields of human activity,, it has been dedication and love for something that made a person arrive at a desired goal.
The more difficult to arrive at an goal, the more devotion etc is needed.
The life stories of great musicians etc tell the tale
Posted by: um | March 09, 2023 at 12:37 AM
There are many things people would not do and endure for themselves.
If they do often it is to be found, in the love for something /and/or somebody.
In school people will work harder for a teacher they like
Mothers will do whatever they can for their child even at the cost of their own welfare.
These persons who are used as instruments of change can even be "abstract".
Abstract as realities seen in visions etc.
The fear of God etc has "helped"people to live an particular way of life, a style they other wise without that "fear" would never have been able to sustain.
Devotion is all about motivation, motivation related to surviving as an body and as a spirit. A person that is convinced that he or she is well able to fulfill all his or her desires on its own, today and days to come will never develop devbotion and love. Like a mother that is convinced that her child is able to look after itself will not be able in the long run to look after the child.
Posted by: um | March 09, 2023 at 12:54 AM
@um [ Like a mother that is convinced that her child is able to look after itself will not be able in the long run to look after the child. ]
Beautifully put. The "stage actor" disavows being there for the child ultimately. A
child disciple must perfect the script given in order to effect a rescue. The rescuer is
the "inner master" the disciple merges with who will do the heavy lifting and not the
stage mgr. who just initiates, does Q&A, and is the spiritual custodian. He in effect
says "No, kid, I'm not the savior on a white horse. Look inside. That's where you'll
find love, devotion, and a companion to ride into the sunset together with. You can
Anyway, this IMO is why a guru shouldn't be worshipped outside but only within.
Posted by: Dungeness | March 09, 2023 at 08:20 AM
BEFORE a student seeker is able to converse with the inner master, there is a long trajectory to be covered, to be calculated in years and decades, during which there is no progress to be experienced .... digging the figurative tunnel through the mountain.
During that time, the traveler needs to maintain his motivation
How is that to be achieved according you opinion?
Posted by: um | March 09, 2023 at 10:58 AM
@ um [ During that time, the traveler needs to maintain his motivation ]
Seriously, dunno. But, having given up hope, you might as well try to
have fun and start joking. Start with the inner guru. Threaten him: "if I
don't make any progress, I guess I'll have to start worshipping the
stage mgr. That's a slippery slope. Otherwise, you could throw me a
morsel of devotion, O' Bounteous One."
Alright, pretty lame but you get the idea. Disciples need a little bit of
chutzpah as well as a relaxed friendship to make it through the desert.
Posted by: Dungeness | March 09, 2023 at 05:09 PM
I would not use the words "hope and progress" as the word is related to an connection.
The words of the Italian poet Dante come to mind again. The initial strophes of his Inferno:
When half way through the journey of our life
I found that I was in a gloomy wood,
because the path which led aright was lost.
And ah, how hard it is to say just what
this wild and rough and stubborn woodland was,
the very thought of which renews my fear!
So bitter ’t is, that death is little worse;
but of the good to treat which there I found,
I ’ll speak of what I else discovered there.
You see there those animal trails, they look like a path leasing from A to B but they are not as the mostly all of an sudden just disappear in nothingness.
Imagine how a person might feel having the feeling and being convinced that he is walking a path that leads from A to B en all of an sudden wakes up to find himself lost in the forest of life, realizing he came from nowhere and was heading to nowhere.
In the midst of that forest were there was nobody to help as he was all alone.
That indeed is bitter .. and if one gets over the initial feelings of lost, pain, bitterness etc and one doesn't succumb one refinds oneself and adapts to the reality as to be found right there.
Posted by: um | March 10, 2023 at 05:16 AM