Authors note: In sanskrit, “Guru” refers to a spiritual teacher who leads a willing student to the realization of their true nature. This article uses the terms “Guru” and “Teacher” interchangeably
There are numerous stories from spiritual lore of the fated encounters between Guru and Disciple — many aspirants on the spiritual path hunger to one day meet their guru. But the journey it takes to prepare us to recognize and follow an authentic Guru cannot be planned. We must walk the journey for it to become our own.
After my initial mini-awakening through love, heartbreak and exposure to Eastern philosophy, the pursuit of the Divine became the primary interest in my life. I was deeply drawn to the biographies of enlightened mystics and sages like Buddha, Jesus, Osho, Amma, Ramakrishna, Yogananda, Rumi, Nanak and others (all who became my heroes and invisible friends). I looked for clues as to how they realized God; practices or a way of life I could imitate, seeking inspiration while making comparisons with my own life to figure out where I was on the path towards enlightenment.
My notebooks were filled with practice schedules and techniques half-lived, some of which never got further than the page. I sought avidly, fasted, meditated, sat in ceremonies, tried different methods, met teachers; all the while flip-flopping between spiritual pursuits and sensual indulgences. Furthermore, I found flaws in every spiritual institution I came across. I didn’t like trying to fit in and I was very sensitive to the discrepancies between the “walk” and the “talk”. The New Age seemed too fluffy and the religions were too stuffy, so I navigated the spiritual marketplace without jumping on anyone’s caravan.
I tried gathering with others of like-mind but most of us had the same problem: we wanted to change the world and become enlightened — calling ourselves spiritual activists — without the discipline or guidance required. Little did we truly appreciate the old adage “if we want the world to change, we have to first change ourselves”.
How deep this saying truly goes.
Praying for a Teacher
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” ~ Matthew 7:7
It was around this time that I started praying for a Guru. Some part of me clearly knew that I would need a Teacher if I was going to really progress spiritually given my habits and the obstacles I continuously faced. Until this point I thought that I could do it own my own - I felt a kind of pride that I would attain enlightenment through my own grit and genius, believing that by doing so I would be able to offer something truly unique to humanity. I struggled between the yearning for a guide and the fear of losing my freedom, yet I sensed that it would be through the spiritual discipline of committed student-teacher relationship that I would attain true freedom.
To my surprise, I was soon guided to my Teacher…in a used book store of all places! The book was called “Secrets of the Golden Spiral: A Handbook to Enlightenment” by Wisdom Master Maticintin, and it completely leaped out at me from the shelf. When I opened the book and began to read I was struck by a voice that was uncannily clear and familiar. I mean, I had read a thousand spiritual books, but something about this book was different. It was mystical yet practical…lucid yet expansive.
I struggled between the yearning for a guide and the fear of losing my freedom, yet I sensed that it would be through the spiritual discipline of committed student-teacher relationship that I would attain true freedom.
The biography of the Teacher said that she had trained as a Buddhist and a Shaman — two paths that had deeply influenced me and I’d wondered how to integrate them. The clarity of the description of the Path (HUMUH: Clear Mind Buddhism / School of Ati-yoga) and the Teachings resonated with what I understood to be essence of many spiritual traditions. There was no fluff (it was clear, direct and accessible) and there was a monastery in my province that I could visit! It was exciting to know that I could meet an enlightened master in my own backyard in Canada.
When I finally met my guru after numerous attempts, it was not how the stories talked about. I was with my brother in Arizona (not my own backyard) and we attended a talk that she coincidentally gave on the subject of “The Golden Spiral”. It was insightful, clear and inspiring, but there were no fireworks in the astral planes, no flashes of past-life prophecies, no outpourings of devotional recognition. What did occur was the meeting of a seeker who sought and a Master who had found, and the seeker was still resistant to an “authority” guiding him to his goal. She answered our many questions graciously - in a no-nonsense kind of way - and it still took me over a year before I was ready to step onto this spiritual path with my Teacher.
There were no fireworks in the astral planes, no flashes of past-life prophecies, no outpourings of devotional recognition.
Seven years later, I write this article having journeyed near and far from my Teacher. I’ve moved through various stages of spiritual attraction and fear, questions of trust and vulnerability, and a range of other personal hang-ups that arise during such an intimate relationship. Due to studying the Teachings on this Path and numerous exchanges and encounters with my Teacher over the years, I’ve gradually grown in my confidence and commitment. My daily practice has become stronger, my mind less habitual, my conscious awareness more intact, my conduct more impeccable, my thoughts have greater integrity and my vision of Reality is clearer.
What does a Teacher do?
A Teacher helps us to see what is hidden from view, creates situations that will aid our transformation, and uses their own spiritual power to help lift our karma so that we can live the life we truly want. They teach through both their words and by personal example, and are always there for us when we need them. They help us evolve past the point our parents and society were able to take us — or in many cases, to first heal the divisions and neuroses that were created by them — raising our consciousness as they guide us to our destiny of spiritual awakening.
This all sounds nice, but in practice it’s not so easy. Most of us are attached to conditioned ways of living and viewing life, and we have to change or let-go of many such conditions if we are really committed to spiritual growth. As my Teacher would say, “you have to bring your life into spirituality, not your spirituality into your life.” We live in a world of add-ons, quick fixes and promises of fast success. This is not the way to a spiritualized consciousness — it requires patience to stay the course and the humility to develop ourselves.
A Teachers medicine
“The Buddha is the doctor, the dharma is the medicine, and the monks are the nurses.”
Just because there’s no magical pill to swallow it doesn’t mean there’s no medicine to be found; I once hosted a group of visiting Tibetan monks, and when they addressed the audience at an event I’d organized they shared the following analogy: “The Buddha is the doctor, the dharma is the medicine, and the monks are the nurses.” When you come onto an authentic spiritual path your mind and heart are healed with the support of a Teacher who, as a Buddha, is the doctor dispensing the medicine of spiritual Wisdom. We humbly recognize that we too will become nurses who soothe the pain of other beings as our commitment to living a spiritual life deepens with practice and understanding.
A great natural peace arises in us when we discover a path to true freedom and are empowered to fulfill our spiritual destiny. The stormy seas of life become smoother as we learn to live with a silent mind. The compass of spiritual knowledge leads us to the endless shore of compassion and wisdom residing in our very own hearts. The farther we go the vaster our journey becomes, and the rewards continue to grow as we are drawn by a Teachers unconditional love into ever-widening spirals of service and expansion.
I met my Guru and I hope that one day you meet yours too. For when you do, even though you may not realize it and have yet to journey a thousand miles, you’ve already come home.
May the blessings be,
I summarized this article into a few guidelines that might be helpful in your journey to meet a Guru. Consider sharing them if you find them helpful!
10 Guidelines For Meeting your Guru :
#1: Learn about the spiritual masters who have come before us. They will give you a sense of the depth and integrity of an enlightened being –just don’t get attached to your journey or your Teacher looking like them
#2: Explore what is out there with discernment. You don’t need to be a spiritual tourist, but make sure you’re not swayed by appearances alone– trust your intuition and if something doesn’t seem like it appears, inquire, and don’t be afraid to walk away if things still don’t feel right after a while
#3: Remember that your karma attracts similar reflections to what you carry within. It is when you stand in a place of real commitment to moving beyond the karma that limits you that the doorway often appears.
#4: There should be a resonance with the Teachers words that extend beyond just intellectual curiosity or agreement with your worldview. The language of the Teacher should speak to your mind and your heart.
#5: If you keep getting the message to meet a teacher, persevere even if there are some difficulties. Pay attention to synchronicities, what you have been asking for, and what is going on in your life at the time.
Tip #6: Don’t go in with fantasy expectations i.e. be willing to meet the Teacher without an idea of how it should go. If you feel some resistance, inquire as to whether it is coming from your intuition or from your ego — the ego is usually a defensive voice in your head, while the intuition communicates through a feeling in the body or the heart center.
#7: Once you feel like you’ve met your Teacher, be patient. They are not here to teach according your expectations and you will often face inner complexes that aren’t comfortable. Stay the course.
# 8: Change isn’t easy. What you gain is in direct proportion to what you give to your spiritual practice, to letting-go of what no longer serves you, and through willingness to follow the wisdom of your Teacher.
#9: There is no magical pill to swallow, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no medicine to be found. You will naturally help others as you receive the medicine of your Teacher and allow yourself to heal and evolve — just trust.
#10: Your Teacher is out there waiting to guide you to the source of your own consciousness and teach you how to live from that place. Be willing to test everything through your own practice as you discover the joys of walking a spiritual path with an authentic Teacher.