“A human awakening is the disillusionment from the nonsense being sold to us by gurus for centuries and the empowerment of our true selves.” ~Steve Maraboli
Throughout human history the common man has often looked for help to find meaning and purpose in life. In the past this desire was nourished through religion, but nowadays people look for ‘enlightened’ individuals, or gurus, who can guide them on their spiritual path. I’ve witnessed the phenomenon firsthand and have always remained convinced that it’s ultimately unfulfilling.
- Gurus are overrated
Recently I was watching the documentary ‘Kumare’, which is about the journey of Vikram Gandhi, a curious person who wants to know if gurus are for real or if it’s all just fake. So he set out to become a guru himself by growing a beard, adopting an Indian accent and changing his clothes for sheets. His rationale was that if people would believe in his powers, him being just another guy, that it would be the ultimate proof of deception. The result probably astonished him more than anyone else: People did believe him and with great conviction.
The funny thing was that despite his physical appearance there was no sign of pretentiousness. He actually told people in his workshops that he was an illusion and that the true guru was inside each and every person. He explained how his persona was just a mirror for others to reflect on in order to connect to a deeper part of themselves. Meditations and other practices were often made up on the spot. In reality he was just an empty vessel that his disciples could fill with whatever they wanted; like a still lake that reflects the landscape.
What made the experience special and truthful was the openness and sincerity of his participants. Kumare was no more than an instrument for them to have a spiritual experience. No more than a piano being an instrument for someone to make music. However, the piano is not the musician, because without the player it’s just a lifeless box of wood with keys. Similarly when you take drugs it is you who has a mind-altering experience with the drug merely being an instrument. Vikram tried to teach this principle to his followers, but they revered him instead.
- It’s about comfort
At the end of the film Vikram let’s go of his Kumare alter-persona and exposes himself in front of his followers. It must have been quite a shock, but what I found even more shocking was that some people denied what was so obviously evident. They kept believing that Vikram was not just a normal person and that he did have some special powers. Perhaps so, but not any more special than what is inside of them. I started wondering why people would willingly surrender themselves to an illusion and why they were blind to the big elephant in the room.
Then it struck me: This is all about comfort. Very similar to what I had seen myself in the Art of Living cult, surrendering to a guru is denying part of one’s personal responsibility. People trade the discomfort of having to be their own master for the comfort of being a follower. It’s not a coincidence that many of the people I’ve met there were not sure what to do with their lives and looked for guidance. But comfort comes with an expensive price tag. I once heard at a philosophy symposium that when one doesn’t think about life voluntarily, life will eventually force one to do so. I feel that statement is spot-on.
- It’s just business
While I was working for Art of Living I was looking for an experience out of a heartfelt curiosity and it was great. However, I’ve never stopped doing as I please and following my own heart above anything else. The result was a great romance, valuable friendships and the knowledge that gurus and their organizations are not what they’re cracked up to be. At the end of the day it’s about money and in the modern world spirituality is big business. In fact, in the old world spirituality was also big business; the Vatican is still one of the richest and most powerful organizations on earth.
What does that all mean? That the real answers can only be found in oneself. To rely on someone else to connect you to ‘God’ is the sign of a false prophet. It’s fine to join a course and experience something, but see it as a tool and recognize yourself as the true master. Help yourself, make your own life. If you want to support charity, find local projects or start something. Just don’t mindlessly surrender to an organization or guru that drains your resources and power. Gurus are something for the weak and superstitious; they’re illusionists that people buy into because they’re looking for comfort.
Do you have any experiences or thoughts to share about this subject? Please comment below!