Medieval vs. Modern View of Guru
Chidambar wrote, "I watched it happen from the early days in Tiruvannamalai. I know an ex-girlfriend of (famous guru) when he was (known by his real name) who, while admitting that he definitely had developed some power to communicate the bliss of here now awareness, he had also always wanted to make it big, be a rock star and be worshipped and loved by many."
Kim: It is quite likely that someone who hasn't really done training, which includes ethics, will screw up like this. Even those who have done the training can screw up!
If he wanted to be a rock star, have fans, make millions and bang chicks, I wonder why he didn't pursue the path of becoming a rock star, instead. I mean he must have heard that there is this thing called karma that is ruthless especially towards those who being more enlightened than others, take advantage of those less evolved.
The feudal view, that the guru who is sitting in the front is perfect and cannot make mistakes, is laughable in its childishness. But even highly educated people, who otherwise exercise their intellect and reason, want to believe that! People want to see miracles and be enchanted by spirituality, by their guru, by the whole "spiritual" scene. They think that spirituality is about being special, about special experiences, about something extraordinary, out of this world, about learning levitation and magic. People want something special. This becomes their main pitfall, when they seek for a teacher because they hope, sometimes desperately, that their guru would be really special. So they go and find someone who seems to offer that. Someone with charisma, an exotic accent and who is comfortable being in front of people can become a famous guru quickly, when rumours spread among such people, and everyone wants to be part of that specialness. But then, after some time the whole thing comes down crumbling when it turns out the guru was after money and ass, like a lot of people. The poor fellow himself was confused whether he should become a rock star or a spiritual teacher, in the first place. I think many "gurus" confuse the two.
With the above, I don't mean to give the impression that it was people's fault that they become abused by charlatans. It's just that teachers need to be measured by their teachings and its effectiveness, rather than by the mundane features of charisma and outer looks. There are a lot of people in the world who have charisma, or in other words, some energy or power to their presence. But this is not an indication of realisation. Also, when we consider satsangs or events joined by many people, we need to remember that they themselves have energy. It is often the case that people confuse their own energy and hysteria to be energy emanating from the guru figure. So they feel the energy, and how special it is, and they become convinced they have found God. People want that specialness...
What is unfortunate is that after people get hurt or hear of people getting hurt by bad teachers, they go from one extreme to the other, from thinking gurus are the best and greatest to thinking gurus are worst scum, completely needless and that the true guru is within us. This is foolishness, throwing baby with the bath water. We cannot learn any art without a teacher. There are some, very few, exceptions to that rule but in general, teachers can be very beneficial, especially those who are clear about what they teach, why and how, and are good in teaching, pedagogy. Think of school teachers you studied with. Beneficial, no? The same needs to happen in dharma. This kind of view about the teacher needs to replace the medieval view.
We should become well educated about spirituality or dharma. We should not make decisions of following this or that teacher overnight, and we should certainly not make decisions about the direction of our life because we had some impressive experience in some group or its teacher. Have common sense. A teacher who is grounded and ethical would never allow his or her students to abandon their friends and family, or even jobs and school suddenly, out of whim. Balance is the key.
We need to become educated, learn what the main point of spirituality is (which is eradication of self-based confusion), and then find out how effectively the teacher in question can help us. It is important to focus on the task, not on externals, and see the positive change in us. We need to demand this change through the practice from the teacher. Dharma and dharma teachers are there to help people to become free and natural. This means lessening of fear, anxiety, limited views, separation among people (also spiritual) and increase of calmness, clarity and kindness towards others.