JUNE 30, 2005
SHOULD A GURU PROMOTE HERSELF?
I was recently told by a critic, "Gurus do not promote themselves. They do not look for devotees, they just wait for them to come."
The remark opens up a whole vista of questions that deal with many things. Do they, or do they not, really promote themselves in India? Is it righteous for a guru to promote herself? Is there a difference between a Western anointed leader and a guru from the East? Do Western spiritual leaders promote themselves? Does God want spiritual souls who have Gifts to promote themselves?
A big door opens up to the culture of India vs. United States. There are different perceptions of holiness and reaction to it. Let us just start with a typical example of a saintly soul from India.
Most of the gurus that I have studied were noticed by others - in India - because they followed a peculiar but familiar pattern. They became introverted and fell into trances. They no longer cared for the things of the world and the flesh. They seemed to be in another world, which was assumed by those around them to be some sort of state of Samadhi or introversion in God. So simply by being different in a religious/spiritual way, these souls brought attention to themselves. Sometimes only one soul was attracted, and that soul would help the introverted person in their temporal needs. But for the ones who became famous, more souls would come. Not all that gathered were welcome, and sometimes too much attention was discouraged - as it could get overly zealous and disturb the aspirant - but this is a pattern I see over and over in famed gurus:
1. Introversion, sometimes resulting in seemingly eccentric, but to Indians, acceptable spiritual behavior (such as wandering in the jungle, disappearing or being incapable of tending to earthly concerns.)
2. Drawing one or more persons to themselves who believe in the holiness of the introverted soul.
3. Some sort of gathering happens, in time, be it small at first, but over the years, could be quite large.
4. Fame brings traffic, traffic brings fame. People noise these now-gurus throughout the land, and there could be a center, ashram, and charitable work.
5. Disciples or in some rare cases, the gurus themselves, travel the world and bring more attention to their gifts and work. A guru becomes famous.
Did "promotion" enter into this picture? Isn't it obvious? A friend of mine, Haarvi, said to me,
"Challenge them to point out one guru who DID NOT promote themselves."
He found on the internet for me a quote where Ramakrishna longed for his great devotee, Narendra, whom he addressed as "Narayana," a name of God. Why had he tarried so long? I recall Ramakrishna crying to God for years,
"Where are my boys?"
Haarvi pointed out to me how all the gurus he knew, including his own, went on tours throughout the world, preaching and thereby, finding devotees.
Now until recently, there was no internet. But as I checked the groups I belong to, I noticed a zealous soul promoting for Amma, speaking of her greatness and a new group set up for her. I was promoting and so was Amma, through her devotee. We were doing the same thing.
The Western-yoga-beavers I know were all raised on the same stock, receiving from all the gurus "promoting themselves." It starts with Paramahansa Yogananda, and "Biography of a Yogi." Then we hear of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. Then we graduate to the dynamic duo of Muktananda and Nityananda. In between these mountains of glory there are many others interspersed. Hundreds of gurus came west to spread the word, and we all benefited. And what are we supposed to do with these treasures? Bury them under a rock? Or are we to partake of yoga, and become gurus ourselves? Why not? One guru produces another, and all gurus, one way or another, promote themselves.
Rasa Von Werder
June 30, 2005