The purpose of a guru, spiritual teacher, minister, priest, rinpoche or rabbi is to inspire and teach us to see and trust our inner guru which is, has been and will always be with us. Once we have recognized, accepted and have complete faith in our guru within the job of the external guru, spiritual teacher, minister, priest, rinpoche or rabbi is done. Then, we trust ourselves enough to do what is the kindest, most compassionate and loving thing in each moment. We are still welcome to seek their counsel or guidance but we need to weigh it against our inner wisdom.
Spiritual teachers (of various belief systems, faith traditions or religions) of the past were charged with imparting ancient, esoteric and often secret wisdom. Now, Google offers this service to humanity free of charge and without discrimination. This may be useful and/or harmful depending on the intention of the seeker. If we come from a selfless place, the information we obtain will benefit humanity. If we approach our new found knowledge with a selfish motivation we may contribute to the already rampant experience of suffering in the world.
Luckily, we are each guided by an internal compass regardless of our class, culture, race, religion or belief system. At any given moment we know when the choice we are making will result in more kindness and love in the world and when it will not. If we wish, we can exemplify basic human values such as: kindness, generosity, compassion, honesty, humility, love, caring, co-operation, moderation, faith, integrity and respect.
However, following behavioral guidelines can be tricky, because our ego, thoughts, emotions, energy levels and physical bodies are constantly changing and distracting us. With this in mind, it can be useful to have someone whom we trust to keep us on-track. However, when we apply anyone else’s advice or feedback to our lives we must weigh it against our inner wisdom. We should only apply to our lives that which resonates with our own belief system. We need to learn to trust our intuition.
One of the many benefits of someone walking the spiritual path with us, is their ability to keep us real and down to earth while we are uncovering and rediscovering our permeant peace and bliss (which is our natural state of being). This important role may be played by a close friend, relative or trusted confidant who will give us regular, honest and loving feedback. Otherwise, there may arise a subtle tendency to believe that we are somehow better or more important than other human beings because of our newfound experience of reality.
Be very careful when choosing your feedback person. Select someone who is not jealous of you or covertly hostile towards you. Choose someone who does not have a tendency to gossip. Pick someone who is not afraid to tell you the truth and who knows how to do so in a kind way. These people are like mirrors because they help us see our blind spots or areas that still need cleanup. This person needs to be someone other than yourself and needs to be currently alive. For me, this was my guru Sri Swami Satchidananda, until his Mahasamadhi in 2002. Since then, it has been my husband (of 24 years), my three children and several close friends and family members. They let me know when I am behaving in a way that is loving and kind and when I am not.
Another helpful tool is a spiritual diary. This is a great aid to behavior modification. My diary included: non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-greed, moderation, purity, contentment, accepting suffering, scriptural study, surrender, yoga postures, breathing practices, control of my five senses, concentration, meditation, superconscious experiences, selfless service and devotion to GOD and humanity. A spiritual diary is a useful tool, because you can refer to it from time to time to see how far you have progressed. This visual aid can offer great encouragement in cultivating and becoming firmly established in your spiritual practices. It cuts down on the chances of fooling ourselves and it holds us accountable!
Whether we rely on an external or our internal Guru the goal is the same, to permanently transcend our limiting beliefs that we are our physical body, our thoughts and emotional states (with all of their identifying labels). When we really know this, we permanently realize that we are the pure light of conscious awareness and the embodiment of unconditional love. This experiential knowledge allows us to effortlessly rest in never-ending peace, bliss, love and light.