It seems these days you can’t swing a stinky yoga mat without hitting a “fallen guru.”
I could name them. But I’m guessing a few people already have popped into your head. In some cases, the fallout from the fall is huge; in others, the impact seems to be on a narrower, more intimate group. Then there are those where there doesn’t seem to be any fallout at all.
History is filled with stories of gurus (or teachers, or mentors, etc.) who have failed to live up to the image and model of their students. Yep, it’s not like the phenomena is new.
At our workshop last month at Ashtanga Yoga New York with both Eddie Stern and Robert Moses (reminder: tick tick tick on going to India this summer with Namarupa), Eddie offered a pretty simple formula for not getting caught up in a guru-kerfuffle. (We also had this formula from Sivananda.) It’s this:
The teachings are what’s important. The guru is a vessel for the teachings. And they are, in the end, human. And thus fallible — even inevitably fallible.
But the teachings aren’t. The points being made aren’t. The lessons and the path and the guidance aren’t. (I recognize one could argue this — but that’s a different point; this is meant within the traditions in which we are acting.)
It is, I suppose, the ultimate “do as I say, not as I do.” Only a little better, I think. It’s more: “What I’m saying is the truth, tested and passed down. But I’m not the teachings, and I’m only human.”
Don’t confuse the messenger for the message. And don’t dismiss the message because of the messenger’s faults.
Eddie did point out that one would hope and expect that a person invested in learning and teaching sacred texts would embody those teachings — but one shouldn’t be surprised if those teachers fail to live up to every rule and lesson.
Speaking of the Guru, Tim Miller has a birthday coming up — a movable one, at that — and he admits in his blog post this week that he still enjoys celebrating them:
Some years ago I was talking with an SRF devotee on the subject of birthdays. What he said was, “You know you are making spiritual progress when you stop celebrating your birthday.” I must not be making much spiritual progress because I still enjoy celebrating my birthday. From my deeply spiritual friend’s perspective, celebrating one’s birthday is just some vain flattery for the “Ahamkara” (I am the doer), what we would call the ego. Astrologer Robert Hand has this to say about the solar return, “The energies you feel today may not be very dynamic, but you do feel as though you ought to be the center of attention in some way.” The Sun is the symbol of the Soul, and when it returns to the exact position of our birth, it provides us with a spark at the soul level to initiate the birth of a more soulful way of being that better communicates our essence. I’ve always experienced my birthday as an energizing experience, a kind of slingshot catapulting me out of Winter and into Spring.
Tim also offers the helpful reminder that Maha Shivaratri is just around the astrological corner.
Posted by Steve