We hear a lot about gurus these days. I am convinced that there are very few true gurus living in the west right now, though there seems to be no shortage of charlatans claiming to be gurus, reincarnate Tibetan Lamas )who can’t seem to get themselves recognized as such), and all manner of con artists waiting to empty your wallet. The difference between a teacher and a guru is that a guru is a fully realized being. A teacher is someone who is still on the path, just further along the path than their students. Do we need a guru? I tend to agree with Krishna Das, who said that your life is your guru. We may or may not find a guru in this life, but if we don’t or don’t feel led to find one, our very lives themselves are there to guide us. We don’t need to travel the world seeing a guru. If we are mean to meet one, we will.
Regardless of whether or not we find a guru, we all could use a spiritual teacher to help us on the way. The spiritual life is full of experiences, no matter our particular tradition. Some of those experiences are pretty spectacular, but that doesn’t mean they are helpful. In fact, we can become so attached to particular experiences or feelings that arise in spiritual practice that we get stuck, unable to move forward because or our attachment to passing phenomena. One of the ways that a spiritual teacher can help us is as a sounding board for the questions that arise along the Way. Another was a teacher can help is serving as a mentor, a guide on the path. Ultimately, healthy spiritual teachers offer us opinions, advice, and guidance, but allow us to make our own choices – and our own mistakes, because from those mistakes great growth can occur.
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