what is a guru

What Is A Guru?

How can you tell if a person IS a Guru… or is NOT a guru?

How can you tell if someone is Enlightened, Awakened, a fraud, a quack, a charlatan, or a cult leader?

Was Osho a Guru? What about Alan Watts, Ram Dass, Neem Karoli Baba, Sadhguru, Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Amma, or Sri Ramana Maharshi?

What qualifies or disqualifies someone from being a Guru? Who does one need to sleep with to become a Guru around here?

Oh boy. We’re about to open a big ol’ can of worms. Are you ready? Let’s goooo!

There once lived a human named Osho.

Some thought he was a guru, fo’sho.

But he promulgated sex.

And he wore a Rolex.

And the world decided he was a no-no.

Alright so poetry is not my strong suite. Let’s try something more prosaic:

What Qualifies, or Disqualifies, a Guru?

Alan Watts was one of the greatest spiritual communicators of the 20th Century. If you’ve ever heard his words mixed into a YouTube video (especially the clips on the Tragedy & Hope channel), you know what I’m talking about. But he drank a lot of alcohol and had controversial affairs, and ended up dying from alcohol-related problems.

OK so… not a Guru?

Siddhartha Gautama has the epic distinction of being called “The Buddha.” He went out to meditate in the forest and ended up originating one of the largest and most beautiful spiritual traditions on Earth. But, in his quest for personal enlightenment, he abandoned his wife and child, leaving them with sadness, heartache, and the loss of a husband and father.

OK so… not a Guru?

But wait… how can The Buddha Himself not be a Guru? Isn’t he, like… The Guru?

What Does The Word Guru Even Mean?

Let’s take a step back and consider the meaning and etymology of the word “Guru” itself.

The syllable gu means darkness (or ignorance), the syllable ru, he who dispels them. Because of the power to dispel darkness (or ignorance), the guru is thus named.

Advayataraka Upanishad, Verse 16

Well then! I can definitively say, every human mentioned above has played some part in dispelling darkness and ignorance for me, in my own life. So, they are all Gu-rus to me!

Does that mean that these humans are perfect and infallible, loved by all, despised by none, always doing the absolute “right” thing, never falling prey to human emotions or even – gasp – “immoral” vices? Of course not!

Black-And-White Thinking: The Infallible Guru

When I was a wee lad, my parents sent me to Jew school.

There was a lot of talk of “real prophets” vs. “false prophets.” Jesus, of course, got tossed into the “false” category. And that was that. Jesus is bad, m’kay? No need to hear any of his teachings. Let’s move on to Joshua, shall we?

We were taught that the Rabbis knew more than we did, and that if we disagreed with them, it was because they were right and we were wrong.

In history class, we learned about how Catholics used to consider popes to be “infallible” (many still do, actually). I always wrinkled my nose at this idea. Yet, I wouldn’t have questioned the same assertion if it were made about, for example, Abraham or Moses.

Naturally, the same type of idealized black-and-white thinking tends to arise around “Gurus.”

Gurus In The Real World

The story usually goes something like this:

Somehow, somewhere, someone “becomes” a “Guru.” She rises to prominence in one community or another. People start calling her a “Guru.” She is a Guru! It is known. And you’d better not say any different, or you’re an unenlightened simpleton.

After some time, people from surrounding regions hear whispers of this great new Guru. They come to hear her teachings, and spread word of the “Guru” to their friends and family. And so the Guru label radiates outward into the larger culture & civilization.

After rising to prominence, the Guru wields a huge amount of newfound power. What will she do with this power? Well, she’s a Guru… so she will only use it for good, kind, Enlightened, selfless purposes. Right?

The answer is… well, sometimes, apparently.

Amma is a great example of a guru who seems to have truly gone the selfless route for her entire life (so far). When I stayed at Amma’s Ashram in Amritapuri, India, I was struck by her selflessness. I’ve never met, in person, another human being with that much worldly power, connected that deeply to Source, with that much selfless love for all living beings. As far as I can tell, she is truly a paragon of love, empathy, and compassion. Aside from hugging tens of millions of people, she has channeled millions of dollars of cash and massive amounts of volunteer hours into helping the people who need it most – victims of hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and other natural disasters around the world – while living a simple aesthetic life in a small apartment in her Ashram.

On the other hand, if you google the words “controversial guru,” you’ll find dozens (or hundreds) of news articles about “Gurus” who went completely the other way with it. In some cases, the “Guru” uses his newfound power to gain wealth and/or sexual gratification. In darker cases, there is violence, rape, murder… playing out on a various scales.

So… does this mean that Gurus are BAD? Of course not!

Gurus are HUMANS… just like you, and me, and Bill Nye The Science Guy.

Gurus As Humans

Now, I know that this may be a controversial concept. Outlandish. Heretical even. But I would like to propose a novel new theory. Don’t worry, it’s not very long. In fact, it’s just four simple words:

All. Humans. Are. Humans.

Now, I know this sounds totally insane, but hear me out.

What if all those Rabbis, and Priests, and Imams, and Gurus, are actually just humans who have been granted special labels and statuses by the people around them? What if those labels and statuses are not actually an inherent part of the essence of the recipients themselves, but rather, originate in the minds of those who grant them?

In that case, well… for one thing, all the questions from the beginning of this article kinda just answer themselves.

Q: How can you tell if a person is a real Guru?

A: If you consider her a Guru, she’s a Guru to you!

Q: Was Osho a real Guru? What about Alan Watts, Ram Dass… etc?

A: Depends on who you ask!

Q: What qualifies or disqualifies someone from being a Guru?

A: These criteria are up to you!

What About Enlightenment, or Spiritual Awakening? Isn’t that what defines a “Guru?”

There is an idea of “Spiritual Awakening” or “Enlightenment” as some kind of peak state of Existence, that is completely distinct from all other states of human consciousness. The “Awakened One” and the “Enlightened Guru” of the Eastern philosophies may be seen as analogous to the “Chosen One” and the “Anointed Prophet” of the Western religions.

Is there really such a thing as a human who has transcended the state of being a human, and attained some sort of super-human existence? And if not, is that idea at least a worthwhile, comforting & inspiring fiction?

I would argue “no” on both of those questions.

I’m not denying that Enlightenment and Spiritual Awakening are real, beautiful things. In fact, I recently released a book entitled A Step By Step Guide To Spiritual Awakening. I’m only suggesting that maybe, just maybe, Awakening & Enlightenment are not black-and-white in the way that people in our society make them out to be.

Was Osho truly Awakened, or was he a charlatan? Is Eckhart Tolle legit “Enlightened,” or is he just a “Helpful Teacher?”

These questions only make sense if you think that Awakening and Enlightenment are distinct, black-and-white, yes-or-no states of being. Awake vs. Asleep. Enlightened vs. Unenlightened.

What if, instead of looking at Awakening & Enlightenment as black-and-white, peak states of existence that only a few lucky Gurus get to experience in life, we saw them as processes that flow and evolve over time, to all humans — and maybe even to other conscious beings as well?

What if, instead of thinking of Awakening as some kind of “breaking through into another dimension, from which there is no return,” we thought about it in a similar way to how we think about waking up in the morning, or “waking up” a bit more after a strong cup of coffee, or a bit more after splashing cold water on your face? Yes, you may have a moment of startling awake – but that doesn’t mean you’ll never get sleepy again (and subsequently awaken again).

What if, instead of thinking of Enlightenment as some kind of magical attainment in which a Guru instantaneously becomes omniscient & omnibenevolent for the rest of her life (and beyond), we thought of it in a similar way to how we think about lightening our emotional loads, removing emotional weights from our chests and our shoulders, and brightening our inner worlds?

What if Awakening and Enlightenment are actually processes that we all go through in life, that can be facilitated and helped along by things like meditation, psychotherapy, self-awareness, loving-kindness, entheogenic substances, and emotional work? What if Awakening & Enlightenment are not black-and-white states that arise instantaneously to create Eternally Perfect Infallible Gurus, but long-term processes of growth and spiritual evolution, that ebb and flow like everything else in the Universe?

Is this not more in line with your own experience of life in this world?

Is this not a more helpful, comforting, empowering paradigm for you: instead of thinking of Awakening and Enlightenment as unattainable states of superhuman perfection, things that you can only “look up to” in others, realizing that they are things that you can actually enjoy and experience for yourself, to whatever degree you choose?

Blasphemy! Gurus are not like normal humans. They are permanently, completely Enlightened!

I know that many people (including many in our readership, and many of our interviewees) will disagree with the idea that “all humans are humans,” which is why I labeled this an “Opinion” piece at the top. I have a feeling that many of my own respected Gurus may disagree with me on this as well.

I brought this topic up in my conversations with both Deepak Chopra (the famous popularizer of meditative spirituality in the USA) and Raghu Markus (longtime friend of Ram Dass and director of the Love Serve Remember Foundation).

Deepak and Raghu told me similar stories about Enlightened Gurus that they had met or heard about, which, honestly, seem to contradict some aspects of my theory above. Their stories seemed to imply that yes, Enlightenment & Awakening can be gradual processes that happen over time… and to varying degrees… but some people are just instantaneously, permanently, completely “Awake.”

I want to specifically quote Deepak here, because his response was really beautifully worded (45min into the video):

Kevin: “Do you see Awakening & Enlightenment as black and white, like you’re either Awake or you’re not? Or do you see it as kind of a journey where you become more awake over time?”

Deepak: “Well, there were people like Jai Krishnamurti, Ramana Maharshi, Sri Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Yogananda, who were spontaneously awake. They were what we call ‘spiritual geniuses’ or anomalies. For most people, it’s like a fruit that ripens over time, and then one day it falls. And then there’s no going back. They say it’s like a child that’s born – can’t return to the womb. When you’re fully Awake, there’s no way of going back.”

Raghu Markus also told me about specific experiences with Gurus that he saw as permanently and completely Awakened (12:30 into video)

Raghu: “[Ram Dass] never liked to be called a Guru. Neem Karoli Baba is a Guru. He’s a completely finished being. They call them ‘Siddhas.’ He’s not living in any duality. Which is why he blew our minds. Imagine meeting somebody that you can’t have that kind of us-them thing. There’s you, I’m meeting you right now – I don’t know you really, you don’t know me. We’re talking about something that kind of brings us together… but there’s still… it’s duality! If you can imagine somebody who wasn’t in it, it’s pretty extraordinary! Ram Dass was not fully in that, but he was way more in it than most of us, let’s put it that way.”

Kevin: “When you talk about Maharaji being in non-duality all the time, it sort of blows my mind because I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who’s fully like that. Would you say he’s the only person you’ve ever met who was like that?”

Raghu: “The 16th Karmapa [was like that too]. I met him in L.A. not long before he died. When I got 10 feet away from him and I was standing in line, I felt his vibration and I went ‘Oh my god this is Neem Karoli Baba.’ It was the same thing.

“For every thousand saints there’s like five Siddhas. The Siddhas are the beings that are able to stay in the body, yet they are not living in Duality. Apparently that’s not something anybody can do. They’re just here for everyone else. They don’t give talks, they don’t write books, they just hang out.”

Ram Dass himself talked about Neem Karoli Baba in a similar way – with almost a magical kind of reverence. Ram Dass had been a Harvard professor of Psychology, a psychedelic explorer of consciousness, and a scientifically trained skeptic. And yet, in Be Here Now, he writes about Maharaji’s magical powers.

So, yeah… I could be wrong!

I want to be clear: I do not take these wise, experienced, world-renowned teachers’ experiences lightly. Like every human’s experiences, theirs are valid, and I would venture to guess that their experiences go beyond anything that I have personally encountered. If there’s one thing I know in life, it’s that I know nothing.

I acknowledge the fact that my entire theory that “all humans are humans” could be wrong. It is entirely possible that there is some class of super-human being that is beyond anything I have personally seen or experienced in the people around me. It is also possible that I have met beings of this class before, and have just not been “spiritually sensitive” enough to appreciate their super-human splendor.

Maybe I’m just jaded from my own past experiences. The idea that some people are simply “above” normal humans, that they have access to some kind of spiritual understanding and power that the rest of us are not able to access, reminds me of the time I stopped being an Orthodox Jew.

I was 18 years old, and my frontal lobes had finally developed enough to start thinking critically about the assumptions underlying the dogmas of Orthodox Judaism. When I started to question the foundations of the religion, my friends and family became concerned. They sent me to the biggest Rabbis that they knew, saying “HE is a big Rabbi. He will show you the truth.” And then when I met those Rabbis, I was surprised to find out that they were actually just human beings. Maybe wise and learned human beings, with deeply considered ideas and convictions… but human beings nonetheless. And when they failed to convince me of the unquestionable truth of the Judaic dogmas, they would send me to their masters. And then when I met those Masters, they turned out to be humans too… though perhaps humans with more experience, intelligence, wisdom, or renown. And then they would send me to THEIR masters. And on and on it went. It took me a few weeks, but I finally came to the conclusion that Rabbis are actually just studious homo sapiens with religious inclinations and fancy hats.

After losing faith in the Judaic dogmas, I became extremely depressed. The afterlife was a lie. Nothing was real, nobody knew anything, nothing mattered, and we were all gonna die. I started reading Nietzsche and I became a kind of depressed nihilist. It was a dark time in my life. Eventually, a kind soul took pity on me and introduced me to meditation. I found my way into the present moment, and I learned to live a happy, joyful, spiritual life even without the idea of an eternal afterlife to make me feel better about my body’s inevitable demise.

Over the past decade I have traveled the world seeking out Gurus to talk to about meditation, Awakening and Enlightenment, and I have spoken with many amazing humans along the way. And in all my travels, I have never experienced anything that made me think that there is any special class of being that is truly distinct from what we might call “normal humans.”

People who are MORE Enlightened? Sure. People who are MORE Awake? Of course. But people who are black-and-white Awakened or Enlightened in a way that everybody else is not? I have never encountered this, and have a hard time believing that it exists in the real world. Of course, I never met Maharaji, the 16th Karmapa, or any of the Gurus that Deepak mentioned. So I really can’t know for sure.

And even if all those gurus were “never fooled by the illusion of duality, always enveloped in the Oneness of Existence” … does that make them superhuman? Or just a type of human that is at an extreme end of a spectrum of normal human consciousness?

Did The Buddha believe that Gurus are perfect, eternally Enlightened Superhumans?

From what I’ve observed in my 35 years on this planet, it seems to me that all humans flow through various cognitive and emotional states throughout their lives. I have reason to believe that the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, would have agreed with this assessment as well.

At the core of Buddhist teachings are the “Three Marks of Existence” – Dukkha (imperfection or unsatisfactoriness), Anicca (impermanence), and Anatta (no-self). The Buddha taught that these characteristics apply to all of existence, and to all beings. He taught that people are often ignorant or deluded about these three characteristics of existence, and that being deluded about any of these things is literally the root of suffering.

So… if everything in the Universe is imperfect and unsatisfactory, how could there be “perfect” gurus? If everything in the Universe is impermanent, how could there be a “permanent” state of awakening or enlightenment?

I learned Theravada Buddhist meditation from the monks at Wat Suan Mokkh in the jungles of southern Thailand. They taught meditation straight out of the Anapanasati sutta, the Buddha’s original teachings on meditation. A big part of the teaching was: anicca, anicca, anicca. Yes, you may feel anxiety now, but it will pass. Yes, you may have thoughts now, but they will pass. Yes, you may feel Awakened now… but it will pass. If you become attached to anything – including “Awakened” or “Enlightened” states of consciousness – you will fall back into suffering. Because everything in the Universe is impermanent. Even states of consciousness. Even Enlightenment.

If you think that something, or some one, is perfect and completely satisfactory, then you are in for some dukkha-pointment.

If you believe that something (like an Awakened state of consciousness) is permanent and will last forever, then you’re going to have to struggle to continuously reconcile this belief as the world keeps changing, the galaxy keeps spinning, matter and energy keep shifting in their configurations, the Universe continues to evolve, and the winds of time shape and reshape everything in their path.

Gurus as Role Models

Instead of wondering about whether a person is “perfect” or “enlightened” enough to be a “real Guru,” I prefer the paradigm of “Guru as Role Model.”

In my travels in India, I spoke with many people about what the word “Guru” means in their culture. A Guru is more than just a teacher. A teacher is someone who conveys knowledge through words. A Guru, on the other hand, is someone who lights the way with his or her being. Words can be helpful, but actions speak louder.

At Amma’s Ashram, I finally began to understand what this means. She doesn’t speak English, yet thousands of westerners flock to her Ashram. She doesn’t need to say anything; she just gives hugs. She doesn’t need to give any teachings, when all her actions are for the good of humanity. And it is easy to see in her face that she does not feel like she’s carrying a burden, or being a martyr – she seems deeply connected to the Oneness of The Universe, and she is thoroughly enjoying her Existence.

From what I’ve heard, it seems likely that Neem Karoli Baba and many other humans throughout the millennia have existed in a similar fashion.

Does this mean Amma, Neem Karoli Baba, and others like them, are super-human in some way, and that normal humans are incapable of this type of personality, behavior and experience?

If so, what is their Guru-hood even accomplishing? What’s the point of celebrating and spending time with Gurus, if not to absorb some of their presence, love, wisdom, energy… and to evolve over time to become more like them?

Maybe some people WERE just born that way… but that doesn’t mean that “normal people” can’t decide to grow and evolve in that direction, and develop similar personality traits, behaviors and experiences in ourselves.

That’s why I like the paradigm of Gurus as Role Models. Gurus can show us beautiful ways that humans can exist in this world, provide us with a vision for how we want to be, and give us the motivation to make it happen.

Humans Learn From Other Humans

Humans are social animals, like baboons, seagulls, chimpanzees and sheep.

We learn from each other… and not just through words. In fact, it is said that 97% of communication is nonverbal. We learn just as much (if not more) by observing behaviors than we do from hearing words. It’s part of our DNA. It’s how our brains are wired. We even have “mirror neurons” that catch the emotional and cognitive states of the people around us.

Spending time with someone like Amma or Neem Karoli Baba is biologically guaranteed to change the ways in which you think and feel. It will change your mode of consciousness to be more like hers.

Using Your Judgment Instead of Blindly Following

But this energy-sharing phenomenon doesn’t only happen around “perfect” Gurus. Spending time with a psychotic murderer in a prison cell will also change the ways in which you think and feel. We humans are wired to absorb energies, emotions, and cognitive states from of ALL the humans around us… not just from the ones that we admire.

Most sane humans don’t want to absorb energies, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors indiscriminately from everyone, taking on the attributes of the murderer as eagerly as the aspects of the saint. We strive to take “the good” from everyone and everything we encounter. We hold a semi-permeable barrier around our consciousness, like a mosquito net, letting in the things that we want to incorporate into ourselves, and keeping out the mosquitos.

This brings us back to the dueling paradigms of Gurus as Infallible vs Gurus as Humans. If we hold an idea that Gurus are Infallible, we let down our semi-permeable barrier. We don’t see any mosquitos at first glance – the air is clear! So we take down the net. But this is a dangerous position to be in.

Humans are humans. Some may be more awakened, more enlightened in certain ways… but there are always mosquitoes. Many people learned this lesson through Osho, and hundreds of other gurus in the past couple of centuries alone.

The idea that one person is “perfect” and “infallible” encourages you to drop your semi-permeable barrier, to let go of your judgement, and to blindly follow. You start absorbing everything from this person, indiscriminately, without thinking about it, without even keeping track of the things that you’re absorbing.

And then what happens when you inevitably find out that this human is actually, surprise surprise, a human, who is occasionally subject to human emotions, and flaws? Well, we’ve seen what happens. People freak the F out. “OMG, what poison have I been absorbing for all these years?” Cancelled!

The love turns to hatred, the devotion to disgust, the admiration to disdain, and people turn, viciously and mercilessly, against the Guru. Instead of an Enlightened Guru he is now an Evil Charlatan.

Imagine if this was your pattern in romantic relationships. What would your therapist say?

If you go through life with the theory that “all humans are humans,” you don’t end up in this situation (with Gurus or with romantic partners).

The Dangers of Reverence

The impulse to revere or worship one person as perfect or infallible seems to be part of human nature. It’s not just something that happens with Gurus, but politicians, celebrities, and heroes of all kinds.

It is most dangerous when it happens with politicians and government/military leaders, as we have seen over the past few centuries. In the wrong hands, this type of hierarchical idolization leads to authoritarian regimes, that can destroy the lives of millions and drive thriving civilizations into the ground.

Personally, I would argue that revering any human as objectively “better” than any other human (or any other conscious being for that matter), is harmful for everyone involved – for the reverer, the revered, and even for innocent bystanders.

This idea that some people are “better” or “higher” than others is at the root of arrogance, disrespect, racism, sexism, speciesism, and all kinds of interpersonal problems. It even gives rise to civilization-level dysfunctions, like authoritarianism, oppression, and war.

When you remove from your mind the idea that one human (or group of humans) is objectively “superior,” all that is left is “humans.” It makes it easier to relate to people, and be in touch with your own humanity.

Insert Tissaia Devries meme here: “There’s nothing like a higher purpose to permit men to do the unspeakable.”

A Big Picture Perspective

If you realize that we are all just tiny organisms on a speck of dust spinning through space in an infinite multiverse… just like the ants and the monkeys and the bacteria and the chihuahuas… it becomes kind of comical to think of “better” and “worse,” “higher” and “lower” humans.

Imagine being the wisest of the chihuahuas! All the other chihuahuas must respect your wisdom. But sometimes you wonder, frowning and furrowing your furry brows… do you really deserve the admiration of all the other puppies? Or are you actually… an IMPOSTOR?!?

From The Mouth Of The Buddha

“Don’t blindly believe what I say.

“Don’t believe me because others convince you of my words.

“Don’t believe anything you see, read, or hear from others, whether of authority, religious teachers or texts.

“Don’t rely on logic alone, nor speculation.

“Don’t infer or be deceived by appearances.

“Do not give up your authority and follow blindly the will of others.

“This way will lead to only delusion.

“Find out for yourself what is truth, what is real.”

— The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama

When You Know How To Listen, Everyone Is The Guru

Reverence for a Guru can be a beautiful and worthwhile thing… when the Guru is embodying, representing, and pointing the way back to The One from which she arises… rather than aggrandizing her egoic self.

It can be a powerful practice to revere all humans as expressions of The One — as beautiful manifestations of nature. Like the cloud, the oak, and the majestic moose.

Ram Dass famously said, “When you know how to listen, everybody is the guru.” We are all expressions of The One, the Universe, Existence. We are all “God in Drag.”

But when people revere a specific individual in an ego-oriented, hierarchical way — like, “this person will always be higher than me, better than me, wiser than me, more Enlightened than me” — this can become a problem for the worshipper, the worshipped, and the world.

How Guru Worship Hurts The Worshippers…

The whole idea that some people are above others and some are below is a harmful concept.

First of all, it leads to self esteem and insecurity issues in all parties involved.

People who see themselves as “low” on the totem pole feel like they can never live up to their own ideals. After all, who am I, this lowly human, to live up to an ideal? I could never do that. I’m not a Guru!

This type of thinking becomes a habitual excuse to wallow in the muck of unhealthy, unhappy, less-than-ideal patterns of thought, behavior, and consciousness.

…and The Worshipped

Even people who think that they are “high” on the totem pole end up feeling insecure (“What if I’m not really high? What if I’m actually low?”).

You see this insecurity a lot in models, celebrities, and even Gurus who take their status seriously – who believe that there is such a thing as “higher” and “lower” when it comes to human beings. This is the root of Impostor Syndrome. People who are respected, admired, and revered often feel like impostors, running on a hamster wheel, always needing to maintain their perfection, and their idolized, idealized status.

The worshippers place the Guru on a precarious pedestal, constructed from the most ephemeral whisps of thought, ego, and mind-stuff. The Guru who happily climbs onto the pedestal is now doomed to spend his life in a balancing act, projecting perfection all the time in order to remain a “Guru.” For if he should show any human “flaw,” he would fall to his doom.

Alan Watts recognized the Worship Problem, and shunned the term “Guru,” preferring to be known instead as a “spiritual entertainer.”

Idealization & unrealistic expectation does a disservice to Gurus and spiritual leaders. It makes them feel like they can’t be human beings. Imagine how Eckhart Tolle feels, in moments when he’s experiencing anxiety, or moments when he gets lost in, or accidentally identifies with, thought forms? If one of his worshippers were to observe him in that state, what would they think? Would they call him a hypocrite? Would the whole world find out that he was -gasp- a human animal? What would happen to his life’s work?

Imagine being in that position… the hell of having to be Perfect all the time!

Pop culture celebrities experience this as well. Many end up feeling like they need to wear four pounds of makeup to go to the supermarket. They worry about making a wrong move in the spotlight, because the millions of people who hold them to a super-human standard will turn on them, mercilessly and without compassion. After all, why bother to treat them like humans if they’re super-human?

And then people wonder why there’s such a high rate of drug overdoses & suicides among celebrities.

A New Model: Guruhood 2.0

Rachel Brathen does a great job of providing spiritual leadership while remaining real, honest, flawed, vulnerable, and most importantly, human. I consider her to be one of my personal Gu-rus, dispelling the darkness of spiritual perfectionism that had been weighing down my soul.

The same goes for humans like Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell, on the celebrity side. They’re all about being real, being vulnerable, being open and honest and just letting it all hang out. And you know what’s crazy? People seem to respect them, and like them, and love them even more for it. Because they’re relatable, and real, and the good things that they represent are attainable realities, rather than impossible ideals.

This movement is growing now in the celebrity world, to be real and raw and open and honest… to be unapologetically human. I believe we are beginning to see a similar movement among spiritual leaders, and other world leaders as well… and I look forward to the day when people think of Gurus as beautiful, flawed, wonderful humans rather than perfect idealized super-humans.

In Conclusion

Anyway… the point of this whole article is… don’t get stressed out trying to figure out if this person or that person is a “real guru.” Just remember, humans are humans. And if you happen to meet someone who is truly beyond the level of a normal human, who is completely selfless, eternally Enlightened and Awakened, please introduce me! Sincerely: I would love to meet them.

And please, dear reader, remember that this is all just MY OPINION, based on my experiences in life. Please feel free to argue with me, enlighten me… tweet me @kevinellerton

TLDR: All humans are humans.

This is an adjusted version of an in-depth piece that we published in our Guru Issue, which hit shelves at the end of March! The print version has more illustrations, and explores a few other interesting aspects of Guruhood. Make sure to subscribe to our print magazine if you haven’t done so already, or pick up a copy at a grocery/bookstore near you 😃

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Kevin Ellerton
Kevin is an ever-changing flow of matter and energy that is often described as "human." From the perspective of those who perceive him as a discrete entity, Kevin has been traveling the world, teaching & writing about meditation since 2010. Kevin loves you and wants you to be happy. In his words, "we are all one consciousness," or some weird hippie crap like that.

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