The Guru ArchetypeThe guru and disciple relationship is as mysterious as any love affair, and impossible to talk about from the outside. Only lovers know what is going on in their hearts and souls. So here, I am only talking about generics - the archetype. The guru archetype is not native to the Western world, it is part and parcel of Hinduism and Buddhism, and each of those religions have many thousands of variations on the theme.Because the guru archetype is foreign to Westerners, to Western culture, and yet it is somehow associated with meditation, it is necessary to talk about it, if only to make some distinctions. So please do not be offended, do not think I am talking about your guru if you have one. Many people in the modern West who have Asian gurus (or lamas) may be reincarnated Hindus or Buddhists, who are soul-traveling in a different country.Individuality
Check out this conversation between Michael Toms and Joseph Campbell:
TOMS: What about the desire to follow a guru? We see religions
and cults based on the teacher-disciple relationship flourishing
CAMPBELL: I think that is bad news. I really do think you can take
clues from teachers – I know you can. But, you see, the traditional
Oriental idea is that the student should submit absolutely to the
teacher. The guru actually assumes responsibility for the student’s
moral life, and this is total giving. I don’t think that’s quite proper
for a Western person. One of the big spiritual truths for the West is
that each of us is a unique creature, and consequently has a unique
TOMS: Isn’t it important to respect our own uniqueness?
CAMPBELL: I think that’s the most important thing of all. That’s why,
as l said, you really can’t follow a guru. You can’t ask somebody to
give The Reason, but you can find one for yourself; you decide what
the meaning of your life is to be. People talk about the meaning of
life; there is no meaning of life – there are lots of meanings of
different lives, and you must decide what you want your own to be.
link to Derek Parrott's site.
link to Wikipedia on Lancelot.
I Love GurusDon't get me wrong – I love gurus. I was trained intensely by gurus from the time I was a teenager throughout my twenties. I am still in relationship with several gurus from a lineage in India, so that’s 42 years, most of my life. My job is to adapt the teachings and techniques of meditation to fit the needs of modern Americans. I think it is a betrayal of the essence of meditation, to ask Americans to convert to Hinduism or Buddhism in order to meditate. That is not what Buddha would have done.
It is strange that the idea of gurus is associated with meditation because they are usually opposite. The guru is an outer authority to obey. Over time, as you become more and more dependent upon the guru, your basic individuality and ego strength are damaged and weakened, perhaps permanently. Meditation is process of getting in touch with your inner authority and learning to sense the electricity of your own soul. This is the opposite of following a herd.
If you meditate in a way that is unnatural to you, then you may find that your inner and outer life are reshaped to be more distant, disconnected and detached from heart's desire. You may wind up, as the Dalai Lama says, "homeless inside yourself."
At best you could say that the guru is a Santa Claus figure for adults – he knows when you have been naughty, and he knows when you have been nice, and it is sort of comforting to think that there is this person who flies around and bestows spiritual presents on the good children. It seems to work fine from within the culture of India, for many reasons. And it probably works OK for whatever percentage f the American population are freshly reincarnated Hindus (I'm one).
continued . . .