I’d like to explore the concept of the teacher, guru, swami, master, sage, etc., in matters of spirituality and happiness.
Please bear in mind that I draw a distinct differentiation between spirituality and religion. So, that being said, what exactly is the role of the guru? And how, specifically, do you know, in a world full of charlatans, who is the ‘genuine’ article and who is not? Complex questions to be sure so let’s take them one at a time.
There is a distinct difference in a person who teaches, for instance, your child to speak and read and one who teaches spirituality. There is a very specific set of behaviors that must be instilled for the end result of language to materialize. The child must learn the alphabet and its sequence, how each letter sounds, how those sounds come together to form words, the meaning of those words, how to use words in a sentence and more. These are not skills that a child already possesses. They are imparted by the teacher.
Contrast that to the teaching of spiritual matters and ultimately matters of suffering and happiness. The role of the teacher becomes vastly different. I tend to dislike terms like guru. They imply, to most people, that the teacher is somehow greater than the student, closer to the divine, more enlightened, more whatever. However, in matters such as these, the teacher’s role is to help the student understand that the knowledge they seek already exists within them. The teachers simply helps them to this realization.
The problems that keep us from happiness and fulfillment haven’t changed much since the beginning of time – nor have the solutions. We all struggle with them. Selfishness, abuse in all its forms, poor choices, repeating the same mistakes and not learning from them, lack, illness, grief, loneliness. Yet the answers that can overcome these problems, though addressed in most if not all of the world’s great spiritual and philosophical texts, are within each and every one of us.
We grope in the dark for answers and cling to the words and promises of the latest “guru” when the truth is right there inside us. So the role of the teacher is to help us to realize that and to access those truths by reminding us of what we all already know. For the purposes of this short article, I will share with you what I believe to be the best place to start…
When you are facing a dilemma and seem to come up short when searching for an answer, ask yourself this simple question… “If I were the guru and someone was asking me what to do in this same situation, what would I tell them? This question engages your higher self and grants you access to all the wisdom of the universe. So, in the end, trust in the best guru there is – you.
~Edward G. Dunn