Books Are The Perfect Guru.
Joseph L Hurtsellers


Hello Joe,

Interesting read and it’s nice to watch your insightful evolution as a teacher. You may or may not remember me, but up to about 10 years ago I was one of your teacher’s senior female student. I traveled from Michigan on a couple of occasions to train with you and Shelley and your students, along with others from the Michigan dojo, particularly as you opened a new location. You and Shelly are an amazing practitioners, and I found your passion for teaching to be inspiring, your technical ability enviable, and your sincere wish for internal practice evolution to be incredibly moving.

You have written about the difficulty in finding a guru. If we look at the Sanskrit, we see that a more or less specific translation of this word being one who is a “dispeller of ignorance; one who lights the way”. This person is considered to be heavy with enlightenment because they push away darkness or ignorance.

In more recent traditions the guru is more than someone who teaches specific type of knowledge. With being referred to by followers as guru, this term includes in its scope someone who is also a counselor, a sort of parent of mind and soul, who helps mold values and experiential knowledge as much as specific knowledge. They are an exemplar in life, an inspirational source and who reveals the meaning of life. But these guru sometimes certainly hold more superficial and implicit “meaning” these days than they would have for those followers had no other source of information, nor any hope of rebirth or reaching enlightenment than through just that one person.

This person does not call himself guru, but comes to be known as one based upon his or her teaching. Dr. Georg Feuerstein, a well-known German-American Indologist, writes in the article Understanding the Guru from his book The Deeper Dimension of Yoga: Theory and practice:

“The traditional role of the guru, or spiritual teacher, is not widely understood in the West, even by those professing to practice Yoga or some other Eastern tradition entailing discipleship. […] Spiritual teachers, by their very nature, swim against the stream of conventional values and pursuits. They are not interested in acquiring and accumulating material wealth or in competing in the marketplace, or in pleasing egos. They are not even about morality. Typically, their message is of a radical nature, asking that we live consciously, inspect our motives, transcend our egoic passions, overcome our intellectual blindness, live peacefully with our fellow humans, and, finally, realize the deepest core of human nature, the Spirit. For those wishing to devote their time and energy to the pursuit of conventional life, this kind of message is revolutionary, subversive, and profoundly disturbing.” That lack of the wish to please the ego extends to their own. This is vital to understand.

There are or have been so few walking the earth at one time. People who have no veil between them and the Divine, those who in some traditions do ahimsa, those who are bodhisattva, Jesus, the Buddha, Tenzin Gyatso (14th Dali Lama), Paramahansa Yoganandaji, possibly Mohandas Ghandi, and I would submit, a couple of others, including Rev. Tom Kelly (whom you have met), and Pope Francis.

Tom has evolved in ways you cannot even imagine in the last 15 years, Joe. He has found complete joy. There is no veil between him and Source. And he surfs. That’s pretty evolved.

If the path in life of a guru is to show you how to reach your own truth, to force you to struggle to break out of preconceived notions and paradigms to see something more clearly, then I would submit you have had at least one that I know of, but have not recognized them because you had others at the time working very hard to eclipse them and what they could teach you. How can your guruji help you get out of the way of yourself if others block you. No guru will fight for your obedience or demand you follow them. Poseurs might. Or perhaps we misconstrue the intent of someone we think is a guru.

Your path is your own. A guru walks beside you but simply a bit ahead. That’s all. They help us cut through the crap storms we throw ourselves into. Then they continue to provide light so you can evolve ahead of them or raise you up on their shoulders to get a better look.

In my close to 40 years of searching, I have found that times of the most heartache and yearning, the times when we are trying so hard to find a guru, (not a teacher, a Sifu or Sensei, nor a Menkyokaiden, or at least not typically), when we are so close to giving up, or we hand this search over to the Source of all is when that teacher appears. That’s pretty cliche, isn’t it?

I have, conversely, met several who have good, no — incredible information to transmit, but that transmission was filtered through a lens of immense ego, pathology even. They’re the ones who tell you that they are the “Source”, that they will always have more knowledge than you. They stake claim to the memories of others. They do not wish to lift you up. They may be a friend and teacher, but not someone who lights the darkness of ignorance through their own epiphanies, but by claiming those of others. They do not have clarity.

We have both known people like that. This I know for certain. In the last 10 years I have seem damage done by at least 2 and my own moral compass would not let me continue to spend any further time in their presence, because they irreparably harmed others who were vulnerable — deliberately, and manipulated others in such a way that they became just as twisted. I left one such “Source” just a year ago. Bet you knew of this guy too, but he moved from your state almost 2 years ago. Fortunately he was not my primary teacher.

So I left the schools or special training of both. Other people continue to follow them because of comradeship or because they present material, ideas, technique or concepts that are posed in a way they might not have considered. Sometimes it is really genius.

No one says a teacher cannot teach great material and not be a spiritual charlatan. You must look at the truth of their actual lives. How do they treat people, subordinates, students, peers, family? Then look at the people they attract to them and why they stay, what they learn and why they leave these “sources of all knowledge”. Some of the loveliest people I have ever known have stayed and continued to learn from such folks because of the fact that they feel a kinship with the searching of others. Those who to the depths of their hearts seek meaning in their lives can be really lovely people. It’s wonderful to seek this together.

But here’s the thing. They stay because of one another, not because of the teacher. Even ones we know.

Joe, you have been searching for a long time. You’ve eloquently said so. I’ve heard you speak passionately about your life, struggles and your successes at a school we bit attended. Keep that book next to your bedside.

But — start it over with a blank one. Evaluate, from the deepest part of your heart, from the most honest part of you from which you can pull truth, ugly or beautiful, who you listen to and follow — and why. What attracts you or repels you. Why? Be honest. Business arrangements don’t count. Journal daily and then after each week or month go back and read your entries and look for a pattern. Look for evolution. Look to see whether the wall between you and your Divine is thicker or thinner. Write this down too.

There are 2 men with whom one of our teachers studied. He loved them both and yet betrayed them both. He learned great lessons from them both and claimed those teachings as his own. Both are incredibly evolved spiritual adepts. Both are still prospering spiritually and are have exchanged their life styles because of his betrayal. The monk left the monastery, and the teacher effectively created his own.

The profound lessons he transmits to others and still teaches, came from them…but…. he used them and broke their hearts. So that one man, and another I know very well who are remarkable repositories of both broad but superficial knowledge as well as incredible depth of knowledge are not the gurus they fancy themselves to be.

You know what? Epiphanies of truth come in layers. They come through sequences of teachers, guru, lama, priests, ministers, rabbi’s, imams, monks, ascetics and renunciants ….whomever… that peel back one more later of that wall between you and that which you identify as Divine. That is…if you are paying attention and truly dedicated — and patient, and you percevere, practice hard and exactly what you wish to perform, and meditate AND pray. After your meditations, when you first come back, ask your questions of the Divine true Source. It is at that time when you might be able to hear or know the answer. That’s prayer.

Here’s a story a teacher we know learned from one of my gurus, who learned it from his:

“Imagine that you and God had an agreement. That agreement was that you and He could get together privately at a specific time every day, you could ask any question and She would give you the true answer. I mean, this is God, right? You would make it a point to be there exactly when you two agreed to meet alone and you would gain so much knowledge that you could skip lifetimes. I know you would! I think most of us would.

Now…imagine if one thing changed. You both agreed to meet at that same time, in the same place, you could ask any question and Divine would give the true answer. The only difference is that God might be speaking a language you don’t understand. Or He might be speaking clearly to you, but the language may change mid sentence. But you could still ask, God would still be there to sit with you alone. It’s just that there was a chance you might not understand what ever She tells you…sometimes you would though. You’d take that chance. You’d be there if God gave you alone that opportunity!

Now, let’s change the parameters in a different way. God has told you He will sit with you and you alone, at that special time. You would make certain to be there. God has chosen you to meet with. You know She loves you and it always there for you, but you called and you both agreed to meet, just like before… just you two. This time you may still ask any question you want, but either God does not speak or you can not hear the answer. Sometimes you just see God’s lips moving but there is just silence. But not always. You may hear Him. You may not. You would still go at the appointed time. You would still honor Divine and Divine would honor you. You would still show up on the chance that you would hear. And you would stay to wait for answers. I know you would.

Ok. So let’s change the parameters just one more time. All of the same conditions apply. You agree to be there to hear answers to your questions because you and God have an agreement to meet personally. He’s always kept his word. He’s always been there no matter what.

But what if you show up and you wait. You have burning questions, a broken heart, loss, depression, emptiness, or you just want to sit in God’s presence. And you wait…but you don’t see God, you don’t hear Him. My goodness, could it be that God didn’t come when he promised?

Would you continue to wait?

Gurus, true lights in the darkness, are like this too. They open us to evolving to know what we know as Divine more deeply. They’re always there. And that part of you that keeps looking and asking and searching is Divine….

That time you agree to meet with God is meditation because you are finally removing the ego in order to listen to the answers.

True Gurus do not give you answers, Joe. They make you search for them. They ask you questions that are often hard to answer. In my experience, the real answers are always so stupid-simple, it’s unbelievable. But they are universal answers, just discovered in your own way. Because God told you the answers and fortunately, sometimes, on occasion you are open so you can hear or feel or know.

When there is nothing in between you and God, there is no need to question. Bliss requires no explanation. We’re all sort of looking for that time.

***The search for God, or a guru/teacher path to God, is like a dog chasing its tail. It circles frantically until it bites itself, and realized God and he were part of the same.***

Keep writing, Joe. You are a spark for others and I promise you that no one is disappointed that you should ask questions.

Always sending love and deepest of respect to you.