Gurus Don’t Need to Be Venerated
I recently had a dream that followed me all day. It shook me and had me thinking.
In my dream, my yoga teacher of many years was allowing inexperienced yogis to lead classes. She was also telling others how bad I was as a yoga teacher and bad mouthing me.
I went to a class that she was supposed to teach, but some inexperienced students from her class were teaching. During relaxation, they were playing pop music, which really bothered me. I got up, rolled up my mat, and began yelling: “You’re not supposed to play music during relaxation, especially not THAT! I come to yoga class to relax. How can I do that with that noise?”
I’m not certain what touched me the most about this dream, my teacher’s behavior or my own. But it made me think about venerating our spiritual leaders and teachers.
I’m a yoga teacher. I try to live what I preach. I am not perfect.
I realize that being a teacher (and teaching) puts me in a position of power to some extent. I realize that my words have weight to my students. My hope is that they take love and compassion from my classes, that they learn to give themselves grace, above all.
But I am not perfect. I’m sure I make mistakes.
That dream had some degree of truth to it. I had a falling out with my yoga teacher last year that I thought was amicable. But I recently learned, she didn’t quite see it that way and spent some time bad mouthing me. I don’t know the details, and I don’t care to know.
This was a teacher I greatly respected, that I still respect. I also realized last year that I held her on a pedestal. I think many of her students did/do and that’s a dangerous situation.
For me, holding her up meant that for several years I didn’t question what she was teaching. I took her words as sacred. This means what she said affected me greatly. I began to see things from her point of view.
While there’s nothing wrong about seeing things from someone else’s point of view, I’d recommend putting anything anyone says through your own filters. Do your research. Read trusted sources. Lack of critical thinking can lead to you realizing someone else’s programs.
Fortunately, my blind trust didn’t result in anything catastrophic. My body signaled when my boundaries were being violated. Hence the falling out.
That event made me realize the dangers of spiritual development. It’s good to find a teacher we resonate with. It’s also good to keep your eyes open and to have a healthy sense of detachment.
I wouldn’t want any of my students to follow me blindly. I have my spiritual path, but it definitely isn’t the only one. I’m not perfect, and so my spiritual path isn’t perfect either. It works for me (for now), but it may not work for you (ever).
It’s like going for a walk in the woods without a map. Don’t just follow the person in front of you. They may not be heading where you want to go. They may take you deep in the woods to end up getting lost. Look around once in a while. See if where you’re going makes sense.
This leads me to my point:
Gurus don’t need to be venerated.
If you’re around someone that only accepts praise and your unwavering love, run. A true teacher wants to help. They feel a strong mission and purpose to help others while also keeping their ego in check.
I’m not saying all ego is bad. A healthy sense of self and confidence are necessary. Where we start getting into trouble is when ego starts to wreak havoc. And for teachers that can mean hurt students.
How do you know when an ego is out of control?
- Being judgmental
- Complaining a lot
- Speaking badly of others
- Being defensive and blaming others
- Arguing and fighting with others
- Advocating for one’s own views as the only right ones
- Feeling you have a monopoly on truth
Ego gets in the way of empathy and truly listening. Both are required of good teachers. Both are necessary for social functioning.
We can all work on our humility, open-mindedness, empathy, and critical thinking. They will be helpful on our spiritual journey — no matter the obstacles thrown our way. They may even help reduce the obstacles.
I wish you lots of love and light on the path.