All You Gurus

by Ivan M. Granger

Original Language English

All you gurus —

Beware the poet.
He sings
your praises,
spreading delightful
and not caring.

All you gurus —

Beware the scholar.
With devotion
he records
your entire history
when you have

All you gurus —

Beware the priest.
He builds
spired temples
on every green hilltop
only to house

All you gurus —

Beware the girl.
She casts her look,
hoping, terrified,
you will take the hook.

All you gurus —

Beware your wife.
She serves all
with eyes of compassion
on the softest seat.

All you gurus —

Beware the diligent disciple.
Ceaselessly meditating,
he has already tried
your back door.

Gurus, beware
these children
in your care.
They teach you
how much of you
is still there.

-- from Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey, by Ivan M. Granger

<<Previous Poem | More Poems by Ivan M. Granger | Next Poem >>

View All Poems by Ivan M. Granger

Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

I composed this poem several years ago as a playful way to tease out the many ways the teacher-student relationship expresses itself, especially in the modern era.

But it's the last verse I'd like to explore with you here--

Gurus, beware
these children
in your care.
They teach you
how much of you
is still there.

There is an unspoken dilemma that occurs when someone experiences profound spiritual opening. The heart opens to immense love and joy, the mind quiets amidst great peace, and the sense of an ego-self vanishes. It's the most amazing thing, the reformulation of self within the great vision of reality.

But what do we do next? The instinct for many is to hang out their guru shingle.

And that's when the problems start.

We are in bliss, we are flooded with love, we are egoless. What remains to be done but gather students, right?

Several dynamics can occur from that point, and I haven't heard enough discussion about it. ...Can we talk?

The first possible scenario is that the pure state won't last. If it flickers out quickly, after a few minutes or a few days, its loss may be devastating, but it is accepted and we then continue our real work (which is not to cling to passing experiences or desperately try to recreate them, and instead recognize the bliss of the present moment eternally renewing itself).

But, that first opening may not fade so quickly. It may last weeks, months. We accept it as our normal state, and perhaps we have already spoken to others. Hungry seekers already look at you with awe and yielding.

Another thing many experience with these energetic openings is an expansion of personal charisma. Something about you now holds people's attention, even when they don't know why.

What do you do then when that all-important bliss becomes staticy, when that ego reflex returns? It may not even be obvious that the ego is functioning again. That ego is a sneaky thing. It can fade in so quietly that it can be in full function before we notice it again.

This is one crucial danger point for new spiritual teachers: The strong temptation is to divide the public teacher persona from the inner struggles of the reformulated ego.

There are reasonable arguments we can use with ourselves at this point. The ego, once gone for a time, is less permanent and rigid when it returns; it can be shaped, and it can fade in and out. The newly anointed spiritual teacher can be privately working on battening down the egoic hatches while offering sincere guidance. But should it be done privately at all?

The greater the gulf between the public teacher identity and the daily interior reality, the greater the problems that occur. If one has already laid claim to spiritual perfection and absolute egolessness, then the widening discrepancy is a serious problem that can only be rectified by humility and honesty with oneself and one's students. That does not need to devalue your legitimate experience or continuing process of awakening. In fact, it allows you to communicate with your spiritual community in new, possibly more profound and direct ways.

But there is another significant problem that can occur when the ego seemingly does not reassert itself. Let me see how best to explain this...

Most spiritual traditions speak of "liberation" and "freedom." This is understood on many levels. One important way freedom is experienced when the ego function fades is that we no longer feel artificial restrictions on either perception or action. We humans are social creatures and so much of our childhood is spent in internalizing social patterns and norms, which solidify in adolescence and guide us, for good and bad, through adulthood. The loss of ego is also the loss, or lessening, of those internalized boundaries of behavior. The intellect may remember where those boundaries were once thought to exist, but they no longer exhibit any psychological reality.

In states of egolessness, one has the giddy freedom to act in any way one chooses. Social propriety, personal neurosis, even "right and wrong," become simply choices.

To the well-balanced individual, with a healthy respect for individuals and society, along with a deep understanding of their legitimate needs and suffering, this freedom becomes a profound tool, allowing surprising fluidity in action and communication. BUT- for the unbalanced individual who has gone through a similar opening, one whose ethics and compassion are not as fully developed, this same freedom can lead to what is, frankly, sociopathic behaviors. Worse, every transgression, whether social, sexual, or psychological, can be justified as a "teaching" that is supposed to undermine the student's ego. For this reason, I am not a big fan of the "crazy wisdom" teachers.

This is such an important dynamic to understand, yet I've heard few spiritual teachers acknowledge the issue. Like an actor who becomes a movie star overnight, the sudden access to immense fame and money -- and the unhindered possibilities of behavior that accompany them -- can either open great artistic and philanthropic opportunities, or enable every self-destructive impulse. Yes, we all want liberation, it is our right and our very nature, but it is so important that we first develop a well-balanced and centered sense of being so we can use that freedom wisely and well for the greatest possibly blessings in the world.

Students, beware. All you gurus, beware. Mostly, be aware. Be in the heart, be respectful and self-respectful, and be willing to question. When you find a guru or spiritual teacher, recognize that the smiling, wise face you see is a reflection of the light inside yourself; the person who is your teacher, at his or her best, is simply helping you to recognize that.

The gurus and spiritual teachers I like are the humble ones, who direct attention away from themselves, who respect each step of their student's journey, who radiate rather than assault. A little less crazy wisdom and a little more playful wisdom for the world, please.

Recommended Books: Ivan M. Granger

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Diamond Cutters: Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania
More Books >>

All You Gurus