“Gu” signifies darkness, and “ru” means light; hence the “Guru” is the individual who assists in our journey from ignorance to illumination.
Anyone and everyone who seeks out an external spiritual leader or guide, a “light-bringer,” does so for selfish reasons. Maharaj-ji Baba Neem Karoli said, “Nobody comes to me for my own sake; everybody comes for their own problems.” That includes yours truly.
My seeking of the Divine has always been egocentric. I’ve done it because I believed gaining spiritual wisdom would improve my incarnation. From my perspective, it’s paid off; therefore, I press forward. However, my search for God certainly didn’t begin as a desire to become an impoverished eternal servant! I realize today that’s where we all end up, yet here I remain, coddling my fears and desires.
Not too long ago, I spoke with a friend about the purpose of Gurus, specifically in the context of those who have fallen from public favor. He follows a Guru with worldwide renown who has been defamed recently by some previous devotees’ “tell-all” books. I read one, and the accusations are damming. I asked how this news had affected his faith. He replied, (paraphrasing) “It hasn’t. All Gurus are still human. I’m not following the humanity – only the Divinity. The Guru shines light on our problems so we can fix them ourselves.”
Although I’ve never experienced a loss of trust in my Guru, I did experience several leadership disasters while being evangelical. Unsurprisingly, Christian pastors typically cave to the same temptations as eastern Gurus – power, money, and most especially, sex.
Each time I’ve witnessed a spiritual leadership failure, my faith has been shaken for a bit but not permanently damaged. Instead, over time, it’s been bolstered. It’s training me to keep my focus on the Divine (Bhagwan) and not the fairweather opinions of human moral conduct.
Maharaj-ji said, “Whatever may be Guru – he may be a lunatic or a common person. Once you have accepted him, he is the lord of lords.” When I met Baba (https://bit.ly/AyaCR), instantly, deep passion and profound adoration blossomed in my heart for Him – like love at first sight. Yet, at that time, I understood hardly anything about Him! I knew Ram Dass thought He was God and that He only owned a blanket – but that’s about it. Logically, very unsure footing.
For the past three years, I’ve studied everything I can get my hands on about Maharaj-ji and have intentionally interviewed and conversed with some of His devotees. One day, I spoke with one of Baba’s and Siddhi Ma’s direct disciples, who told me they believed, “Maharaj-ji never did any real miracles – all of it was some type of sleight of hand.” Although I believe in Baba’s miracles, it makes me consider what parts of my faith could be blind.
Have you ever met someone and become enthralled in their seeming beauty only later to discover they were someone completely different? Haven’t we all? As we progress through life and experience this repeatedly, we often become more cautious in our relationships.
As a bhakti, a devotional worshipper of Maharaj-ji, with giant photos of Him everywhere in my life, I must ask myself, “What if credible information comes out tomorrow and defames Him? How would I feel about my faith in my Guru?”
Every time I’ve journeyed through some evangelical pastor’s disaster, I’ve been reminded my confidence should always be in the Formless God, never in human beings. If Maharaj-ji “fell” in society’s eyes tomorrow, I’ve still never received better spiritual instruction than loving everybody, serving everybody, and remembering God. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of the wisdom He’s imparted to us.
If Baba’s reputation was somehow irreparably damaged, would that mean He’s somehow brought less light to my life or been less of a Guru since I met Him? Not at all! These past three years with Him have provided the most intense spiritual growth in my lifetime!
When we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that our most challenging situations are the ones that have caused us to grow the most. Fallen spiritual leaders don’t bring less light to our lives – they enlighten us more! It’s testing and trial that grow faith. While we strive for circumstances free from stress, it’s the pressure that makes us spiritually strong. The final goal isn’t to serve the Guru. It’s to embody the Guru, our own Divinity, that’s been inside us all from the beginning.
Ram Dass said, “My Guru is like a fly fisherman. The ego twists and pulls and runs out the line trying to escape, but each time the hook of divine love sets more deeply until finally, the little you, the personality and all its habits, the bundle of thoughts and desires, surrenders to the greater Self, that being of pure love and consciousness that keeps pulling you in to merge.”
If a fallen Guru tells me to “love everybody,” does that make it less invalid if they themself can’t do it? If a disgraced spiritual leader extolls me to “serve everyone,” will my ego not squirm the same way as if told by a “stainless” teacher? No matter what mouth is speaking, truth is still truth, and my incarnation is my responsibility.
Are the disciples of a dishonest teacher somehow lesser? The most high-vibrating, love-emanating being I’ve ever met in person remains to this day the devotee of a publically disgraced Guru. I also know a famous spiritual musician with the same story – they produce profoundly beautiful music and follow a teacher fallen from society’s eyes. What have these kind souls instilled in me?
Follow teachings and not teachers.
I can respect a person’s wisdom without having to agree with every action they ever took in their life. If I’ll allow it, everyone is the Guru. All are teachers with something to impart which will enlighten my life. All should be treated as Ram Dass taught – as God in drag.
When I hear someone bashing a spiritual teacher, a fallen brother or sister, I instantly remember, “
except for the grace of God, that would be me.” Condemning a soul is a sure karmic method to end up taking a journey in their shoes.
Love everybody is without exception – it means teachers who miss the mark as well. We all get the forgiveness from God that we extend to others.
We should be picking those up who have stumbled – never kicking or attaching them.
May forgiveness be our hallmark.
In Christ with you,