The Guru is Greater Than God

Worshipping the feet of the Guru is the ultimate of all worships - Sri Guru Pranam

"There is no deity superior to the Guru, no gain better than the Guru's grace ... no state higher than meditation on the Guru." -
Of all the ideas we get from Asia in general and India in particular, one that seems the most bizarre when seen from the vantage point of Western civilization is the archetype of the guru. The word guru has entered English as a term for any expert or mentor. But in the context of Hinduism, the Guru is sometimes defined as greater than God. Also Wikipedia on Guru. I am no expert on Hinduism or on God, but the confusion arises, perhaps, because the word GOD means something totally different in the context of a Hindu devotional tradition, compared to puzzled Americans trying to figure out what bowing down means.
Gurus may seem friendly and harmless, but the power dynamics that grow around a guru – the ecology of power, money, sex, repression, domination, and submission – can be totally confusing to someone who has not grown up in India.

Keep in mind that I am not talking about any guru here, just the concept of the guru as it is misunderstood by us here in the West. India is a profound and ancient culture, which has preserved traditions and superstitions from the Bronze Age. In the West, we are constantly taking ideas related to Yoga out of context, and this is inevitable.

Guru is:
There are various etymologies. Some say gu means darkness and ru means light. Guru as an adjective means “heavy. ” Sanskrit words often have dozens of meanings which seem contradictory, depending on your state of consciousness.

Link to the definition of guru in the Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary:

(H1) gurú [p= 359,2] [L=65987] mf(vī)n. (cf. girí ; comp. gárīyas , once °yas-tara , guru-tara , superl. gariṣṭha , gurutama » ss.vv.) heavy , weighty (opposed to laghú) RV. i , 39 , 3 and iv , 5 , 6 AV. &c (g. śauṇḍā*di Gan2ar. 101)
heavy in the stomach (food) , difficult to digest MBh. i , 3334 Sus3r.
great , large , extended , long Ya1jn5. (» -kratu) Bhartr2. &c
(in prosody) long by nature or position (a vowel) Pra1t. (a vowel long both by nature and by position is called garīyas RPra1t. xviii , 20) Pa1n2. 1-4 , 11 and 12
high in degree , vehement , violent , excessive , difficult , hard RV. MBh. &c
grievous Megh. 80
important , serious , momentous MBh. &c
valuable , highly prized Ya1jn5. ii , 30 (guru = garīyas) &c
haughty , proud (speech) Pan5cat.
venerable , respectable
m. any venerable or respectable person (father , mother , or any relative older than one's self) Gobh. S3a1n3khGr2. Mn. &c
(H1B) gurú [L=65998] m. a spiritual parent or preceptor (from whom a youth receives the initiatory mantra or prayer , who instructs him in the śāstras and conducts the necessary ceremonies up to that of investiture which is performed by the ācārya Ya1jn5. i , 34) RPra1t. A1s3vGr2. Pa1rGr2. Mn. &c
m. the chief of (gen. or in comp.) Ca1n2. Ragh. ii , 68
m. (with śāktas) author of a mantra
m. " preceptor of the gods " , bṛhaspati Mn. xi
(m. (hence) the planet Jupiter Jyot. VarBr2S. Bhartr2. &c
m. " pāṇḍu-teacher " , droṇa L.
m. prabhā-kara (celebrated teacher of the mīmāṃsā , usually mentioned with kumārila) SS3am2kar. vi , 50 ; xv , 157
(m. (= dharma) " venerable " , the 9th astrological mansion VarBr2S. i , 16
m. Mucuna pruritus L.
m. N. of a son of saṃkṛti BhP. ix , 21 , 2 du. parents MBh.
m. pl. parents and other venerable persons Mn. iv Vikr. v , 10 Katha1s.
m. a honorific appellation of a preceptor (whose N. is also put in the pl.) , Jain Hit.
m. " great (with child) " , pregnant , a pregnant woman L.
m. the wife of a teacher W.
m. ([cf. βαρύς ; Lat. gravis ; Goth. kauriths ; Lith. gie4ras.])
guru [p= 1326,2] [L=330450] (in comp.)

- p. 359, Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Guru and God both appear before me. To whom should I prostrate?I bow before Guru who introduced God to me. - Kabir link to Wikipedia

Here we have spent centuries getting rid of slavery, and the oppressive totalitarian nature of the feudal system, and along comes a man (or woman) from a village in India (and a new one arrives every couple of weeks) and he claims that he is the Lord of the Universe or Or the One True Master of the Age. And by the way, since he is the Master, you are his slave. The greatest possible thing you could do with your life is to serve Him. The worst thing you could ever do with your life is to displease Him.

And once you get the idea of a guru in your head, you start to feel that even the Kingdom of Heaven is owned by him, and you have to be aligned with him to travel to visit your soul. He is cop, priest, pope, Jesus, God, The Holy Spirit, all in one. People get the feeling that the guru says, "Oh, by the way, you know that inner life thing? Well, I OWN IT. Also, I OWN YOU. If you want to have one glimmer of inner peace, YOU MUST OBEY ME." Gurus from Asia can believe this utterly, with no ironic distance, in a way that would be impossible for a sane American.

A guru is a Godfather of the inner world. If you want to travel in your own inner space, you have to pay him homage. If you want to think a different thought, you have to ask him for permission. If you want to get married, you have to get his blessing. Whether you are coming or going, you owe them something – money, service, devotion.

Personally, I enjoy gurus. They are the rock stars, the Rap stars, of the meditation world – they drive around in white limos, with adoring followers gushing devotion, covered in bling. They have groupies, and as much groupie sex as they want or can get it up for. They all have millions upon millions stashed away.

I myself have never had a bad experience with a guru. I am in a guru tradition – I feel very connected to several traditions of wisdom teachers that had their home base in India until recently. In fact, I can’t imagine my life without the contact I have had with the yoga lineage I am in. But I do not recommend that anyone violate their religion, or their atheism, or their independence, to accept a guru. When I talk realistically about gurus, I am drawing on the experiences of the meditators who have come to see me and tell me their stories, as part of recovering from the abuse and deception they were around.

Some Americans thrive on gurus – maybe 1% or 5% of the population, no one knows. Most Americans are probably immune to Asian gurus, and some unknown percentage are deeply harmed by internalizing the whole complex of ideas surrounding a guru.

It is necessary to look at the dark side of gurus, because something that casts so much light makes for big shadows. To put things in perspective, considering the absolute power gurus have over their disciples, by and large they don't seem very corrupt.

I started meditating on my own, with no teacher at first. In 1968. I had intense experiences for several months, and then, by chance, I came across a version of the vijnana bhairava tantra, and it spoke in total clarity to what I had been feeling. Awhile later, I went to see a nice little old lady - Beulah Smith, a Navy widow from Coronado Island in San Diego harbor. She was a courageous woman, who years earlier went to India to study with Maharishi in Rishikesh. Beulah was the first American trained by Maharishi to teach meditation, as far as I know. She taught me transcendental meditation, and it was a pure and simple way to access that inner wellspring. I got it. You just BE THERE and witness everything.

As I got to know Beulah a bit, she told me stories about visiting Tat Wala Baba in his cave. Some day I will write about what she told me, perhaps. The feeling I got, talking with Beulah, is that Tat Wala Baba merged his identity with infinity and eternity. Sitting there in his cave, he dissolved into the mountain, the Earth, and the space around us. I had the sense, incomprehensible to me at the time, that he had merged his being with Brahman. The word brahman came to my lips, as if whispered by space. I had the feeling then, and still do, that his laughter and vast good humor stretch from here to the stars.

Even now, 44 years later, this is a very mysterious cognition. Tat Wala Baba’s presence is like looking at the sky on a warm, clear, moonless night – lots of space, infinity, and somehow friendly and adorable.

Tat Wala Baba

I didn't do drugs in the 60's. A few weeks after beginning meditation, my senses opened, and I could SEE what drugs were doing to my friends. I could tell, from 100 feet away, what drug they were on (LSD, mushroorms, marijuana, speed) and whether it was just "coming on" or they were "crashing." To me, they usually looked wasted - weak, strained or horrible. The effect of drugs on their energy fields was shattering and disintegrative. I did not quite believe a word anyone said about the insights they were having on drugs - it just seemed uninteresting, compared to the richness of my daily life. I went surfing at dawn 6 days out of 7, and I was not attracted to anything that weakens a person, I felt that I had already wasted too much of my life. And I worked for a living. And I wanted to get as close to straight A's as I could without studying very much, like more than two hours a day. So I was only interested in things that led to clarity and energy. As far as I could tell, drugs were for people who had money from home and had a couple of years to waste, partying and having a good time.

So I was seeing energies – I could visually see the energy fields around my friends, and also feel the impact of what they were doing, and had no interest in drugs. But I was really alert to gurus, because some of them were quite radiant. Without drugs.

Most the gurus I have been around or seen in action are having fun, just absolute fun like a rock star at the height of his fame, being worshipped as the Next Coming, the Supreme Master of the Age, with all the limos, helicopters, 5-star hotels and restaurants, and slaves they can figure out how to employ. I don't envy them, though.

Most gurus are guys, and whether they are from India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Japan, or Burma, their eyes are glinting with delight: "I grew up in a village where the average income was $30 a year. An American just gave me a check for $30,000! I really must be God Incarnate, or at least, His Special Entitled Son. Who knew!!!!!"" And their second glance is, "OH MY GOD YOUR WOMEN!! THE PUSSY IN YOUR COUNTRY!!!!" What makes a guru is that he is able to accept this as his rightful due. We Americans sometimes mistake entitlement for enlightenment.

Guru Worship

The guru idea is that there's this one guy who is HE WHO MUST BE OBEYED. Actually, worshipped AND obeyed.

The archetype of the guru is from way, way in the past, where an uber-male dominated everyone totally, and everyone had to grovel before him. There was a time in human civilization when the organizing principle was that the King was Divine. The Emperor was the Son of God. Everyone bowed down and groveled at the feet of the Emperor. The very concept of a guru is totally alien to Western culture. Western culture is what ii is because it has evolved away from the guru model. And because of this, we have a kind of a hole in our psyches where we can revert to the past, and fall under the power of a guru, the King of Heaven.

Ask anyone who has had the experience of worshipping a King – there is a peacefulness and a joy to it. Here is one person, here in the flesh, who actually IS God Most High, or the one person I must obey.. It is so simple. And I am right next to Him! Or, I know someone who knows someone who knows Him. You can become blissed-out. "I am directly connected to the Intelligence that rules the Universe!"

Joseph Campbell: I really do think you can take clues from teachers – I know you can. But, you see, the traditional Oriental idea is that the student should submit absolutely to the teacher. The guru actually assumes responsibility for the student’s moral life, and this is total giving. I don’t think that’s quite proper for a Western person. One of the big spiritual truths for the West is that each of us is a unique creature, and consequently has a unique path. link

There is a whole web of ideas that gurus teach which are designed to weaken your sense of self, so that you will want to merge with the guru and become his slave. Detachment, reincarnation, karma, devotion, guru worship, and on an on. These ideas are often presented in an extremely sophisticated way.

Don't think you can be immune to gurus, any more than if someone tied you to a chair and injected you with heroin for a week, that you could not get addicted.

And it is very strange that meditation and gurus are thought of as terms that go together. Meditation is about self-reliance, learning to be attuned to your inner life, learning to trust your instincts. Gurus are the exact opposite – becoming dependent upon an external authority to the greatest extreme possible, surrendering your will to the guru, surrendering your body to the guru.

Gurus tend to give people the wrong kind of meditation to do – perhaps because they don't want people to get too strong and self-sufficient, as they would if they did the right kind of meditation for their type.

I just found this link, Our Favorite Guru Stories, thanks to Jodi at Guruphiliac. Thanks, Jodi.