How to Become a Guru

guru yoga
April 16, 2007

A Jaya Kula reader asked how he could become a Guru. Lots of people these days want to be Gurus. Here’s how.

In order to become a Guru, you must become a great disciple. This is the only way.

Someone said to me that many people could be Gurus if they would just step up and claim their rightful place. Why not?

This person has never been a true disciple.

When Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche left Tibet, he lived in Italy for 19 years before he agreed to assume the role of spiritual guide. Many people asked him, even camping out in front of his house, but he refused. Namkhai Norbu is one of the greatest Gurus alive on the planet today.

Was Rinpoche pathological? Shy? Overly modest? Misanthropic? Dumb?

No. He is a great disciple of his teachers and Reality. Being a great disciple means that you are engaged in a deep process of surrendering the ego’s little, manageable view of the world. You are surrendering your grasping need to whip everything into a shape that ego can recognize. You are ready to explore and be used by the infinite. And you are very, very aware of your own ignorance.

If I see a pool of water, I might have no fears about stepping in it. No big deal. It’s just a little pool. But what if my vision is so narrow, I don’t see that the pool of water is, in Reality, a tiny splash from an enormous ocean? So, I step in, lose my footing, and drown.

This is the situation of people who rush to become Gurus.

True Gurus see the ocean. They see the creatures in the ocean. They see the infinite varieties of expression of the ocean. They know that to teach “ocean” requires something more than a few high-sounding concepts and the desire to look cool dressed in an admiral’s outfit and standing in the prow of a boat.

True Gurus are the ocean’s disciples, the ocean’s most ardent lovers, and they themselves embody the ocean. They want this for everyone. They don’t want to be Gurus; they want everyone to realize themselves as the ocean. They are a spontaneous expression of this compassionate desire.

Guru is the most perfect disciple of Reality and does nothing but express the fullness of Reality in such a way that others can Self-recognize.

Surrender, or relaxation is the key to becoming a great disciple. We relax our small View, our small, grasping self, and allow ourselves to be in a state of wonder at the fullness of Reality manifesting in our teachers, or simply revealing itself for our benefit. Slowly, over time, we learn more about how Reality is, about how we are. But we must be open to learning the extent of our ignorance.

People who want to be Gurus are afraid of life’s groundlessness. They are afraid of honestly learning about their real situation, about their ignorance. We develop this desire to be a Guru in order to feel more secure and powerful. We want to be in the know and in control. We want admiration and approval. This is the opposite of discipleship.

Many true disciples do come to their teachers in states of puffed up pride, ambition, or other forms of defensiveness. The Guru reveals the disciple’s true longing. The disciple is so moved, surrender occurs either right away, or slowly over time. There are many wonderful stories about this process. As Anandamayi MA said, once someone loves this body, they can never forget it. (She called herself “this body.”)

Discipleship begins when you glimpse your true nature in such a way that you can never forget it again. You might try to run back to your old habits. Ego might assert itself again and again. But you have already fallen in love with the world Self. You can no longer really forget.

During an initiation ritual, the Guru prostrates to his or her teachers and often also to the initiate. A true Guru is already in a state of profound surrender. The initiate is moving toward that. At some point, you will both be fully enacting the dance of devotion. The Guru reveals this state of devotion of Self to Self and leads in this way.

In Matriseva,