Retrospective: Forum on the Role of the Guru

Recently we held a forum on the role of the guru.  Here is a little of how it went.


Well, the forum took place with small numbers in a quite intimate setting. Attendees were varied in their yoga backgrounds and one came who had been sexually abused in the context of a  fundamentalist Christian family . Some had been emotionally abused without sexual abuse.

Stories and experiences were shared, yet the focus kept quite strongly on the point, of what might a guru be. Inevitably, there were many instances of what a guru must not be, or that demonstrate the absence of spiritual understanding in a declared guru.


Possibly the main issue was one of betrayal, and underlying that was was one of truth: where was the guru or the teacher being truthful, and where was an original truth of a teaching being twisted to suit the derangement of a teacher’s greedy ego?

What to do with the experience

Another was, having been abused, emotionally or sexually, what to do with it?  Being a victim is a win for the perpetrator – what to do with one’s experience?


Another: What is trust?  When does it become a form of dependency, and when does trust mature to be trust in oneself?

How a guru might handle dependency

What about dependency? A healthy guru might allow dependency for a while as a way of giving development space to someone looking for direction – but actively help the person to become independent and self-validating.  An unhealthy guru will suck on dependency and cultivate it, for his own ends.

Narcissistic  blame shifting

A big issue for those abused is the narcissist’s characteristic way of saying that it is the person’s own fault. It is an old truism that “a narcissist can’t smell his own sh-t.” One way of beginning work on freeing oneself from being emotionally tied to the damage and the perpetrator is to recognise that the smell of sh-t is coming from him, not from the one who is feeling the misery of being twisted by a narcissistic authority figure.

Profound work

Yet another, a piece of profound work for those who can manage it, is to find where the interior discomfort is coming from. First things first – help the hurt, damaged and injured. Later, though, there may be a recognition that the treachery of the guru is one thing, the interior space of an individual is another. How much angst from not wanting to accept that the reality is what it is? How much of the revulsion one might feel in regard to the person of the guru comes from clinging to preferred ideas? What would it take to open the heart to some sort of compassionate holding “of the whole catastrophe”, to quote Zorba the Greek?

Guru a help when not a hindrance

There seemed to be a general experience of those attending that their lives have been changed by the Yogic guru.  This was quite enmeshed, however, in the betrayals and hurts of those whose recent experience had been anything but helpful.

I think there was a lightened feel in the room as the forum drew toward its close…sharing and considering did no one harm and helped us work out some of the things that were in play through the horrors.

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