On Ambitious Unfinished Gurus

Be A Lamp Unto Yourselves‘ were the famous last words of the dying Buddha. You are on your own on this one.

The central figure of the Rig Veda was the Rishi, the one who ‘Sees’ [hence ‘Seer’] and composes the hymn [sūkta]. But there is little talk of the Guru [related to the Latin Gravitas] an appellation of later consequence, a role meant for different purposes.

Gurus are the bedrock of an Oral/Apprentice tradition. They are indispensable in Classical Music, in Dance, in Natural Medicine and such where the means are transferable, the ends, specific and measurable. The lineages of the finest Gurus in such fields are impeccable. Not so in misty, open-ended claims such as ‘Truth’.

I am not fond of Gurus. The single biggest hurdle I faced was succumbing to and retracing my steps from the unbaked advice and scripts of half-done Gurus. [But then, you might be very fortunate in having found that extremely rare authentic Guru.]

Stay alert for lectures on the virtue of patience from a teacher who isn’t looking for a job to pay the rent, on Infatuation from one who has never been in Love, on the venality of sex from a celibate monk.

Take them out of their protected and privileged seclusion, ask them to find a parking-spot in a crowded city-center, and they quickly reduce to irate mortals.

Prophets, Pundits, Priests, Professors, Professional Philosophers, Masters, Mystics, Mullahs, Speakers-for-a fee, Writers-for-a-royalty. Gurus of every kind. Walk away.

[And in the spirit of the Self-Eating Expression, make sure to include Writers on the Web, such as this one.]

The most reliable way to spot an ambitious Guru on a recruitment drive is to see if he is offering a payoff or threatening a penalty. 

The natural state of the Liberated One as interpreted in popular Hinduism is Anandam, from the root: ‘Nand‘; to Delight’, most-often translated as ‘Bliss’. Your payoff is immediate and in this very life-time [Jivanmukti]. An irresistible pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. 

This is in sharp contrast to teachers in most other religious faiths who wisely defer such payoffs till one gets to Heaven. The Martyr needs to get himself convincingly killed before the Koranic preacher promises him his 72 virgins [‘Houris‘]. No pre-views allowed. And the Christian, resolutely dead before sitting next to God for the rest of eternity.

In many long years, I have yet to see a Guru in any sustained state of this professed bliss of Anandam. It is a clichéd claim, found repeatedly in Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi and Christian Mystic traditions.

The bliss of the blessed. It is simply not true. And the error is not benign. I have known many who have chased this myth over a lifetime waiting for the cloud-burst. It has not come. It will not come.

An accomplished Meditator who has long gone past its Investigate Function can enter and exit states of exceptional Grace, even ‘Bliss’, at will. But it is limited to the Meditation State and ends with it.

I’d read Dr. Evans-Wentz’ translation: ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’ [Oxford, 1927] as a young man. The newest co-authored translation by a Sogyal Rinpoche [1992] became something of a celebrity text. Here’s an update on the great man. I happened to stumble upon it while writing up this page.


The week after, the New York Times did an expose on the Shambala Guru-King. A delayed comeuppance. [At this rate, the Catholic Church and its Gay predatory priests might see some relief from the Media and postpone bankruptcy.] Read it and weep.