“Maharaji was very frustrating for me,” Ram Dass said. “I was always looking for some ‘secret’ teaching . . . perhaps a ‘magic’ mantra. But he kept frustrating me and giving me all of this very mundane instruction. I’d ask him how to raise my kundalini, and he would say, ‘Feed people.’ I would ask him, ‘How do I get enlightened?’ and he would say, ‘Love everyone.’ I finally said, ‘Maharaji, what is the highest form of yoga?’ and he said, ‘Serve people.’”
JOHN E. WELSHONS (“Ramananda”) is a highly respected contemporary spiritual teacher who lectures and leads meditation courses throughout North America. He has been a practitioner of vipassana(mindfulness) meditation and various forms of yoga for more than forty years. In addition to his latest book, One Soul, One Love, One Heart: The Sacred Path to Healing All Relationships, he is also the author of Awakening from Grief: Finding the Way Back to Joyand When Prayers Aren’t Answered, two books that emerged from nearly forty years of experience helping people deal with dramatic life change and loss. John has studied world religions throughout his life, and holds a B.A. in Comparative Religions from the University of South Florida, and an M.A. in History of Religions from Florida State University. He has also traveled and studied extensively in India. He is a gifted counselor and teacher who has worked closely with Ram Dass and Stephen Levine and trained with Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.
His workshops and lectures are offered in personal growth centers, yoga schools, churches, hospitals, hospices, corporations, colleges, and universities. He is also available for one-on-one consultations. He currently resides in northern New Jersey.
“A True Guru”
October 20, 2012
Dear Friends and Family,
I am writing this on the occasion of my 62nd birthday, and I am enormously happy to be able to share this sacred occasion with you.
Like each birthday for the past forty years, I have set aside time to reflect on the great blessings of this lifetime . . . and to quiet down to hear what the next phase of this life is to be.
One of the most precious blessings I am grateful for is the presence in my life of so many great teachers. I have been graced to know – both internally and externally – some of the most amazing teachers of our time. My friendship with Ram Dass – who I met in 1973 – continues to be a source of such sweet delight. Through him, I have come to know the sweet, infinitely loving playfulness of Neem Karoli Baba (“Maharaji”), and the deliciously loving kindness of Stephen and Ondrea Levine. The short story about Maharaji, quoted at the top of this newsletter, encapsulates what I have come to understand, over the course of forty-four years of study and practice: The essence of the “spiritual path” . . . spiritual “awakening” is not primarily the progressive collection of esoteric, energetic experiences, but a daily surrender into love, service, kindness, and generosity . . . and the constant remembrance of God.
Back in 1969, a dear friend introduced me to Meher Baba, who – in His magnificent works – Discourses and God Speaks – has laid out the spiritual path in such an incredibly comprehensive manner. Meher Baba’s loving guidance has always aimed to steer us around the ominous boulders and dangerous curves that are an inherent part of our journey back home to God.
I have also been richly blessed by the teachings of Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi, Mahatma Gandhi, Pema Chodron, Baba Muktananda, Paramahansa Yogananda, Hazrat Inayat Khan, Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, S.N. Goenka . . . and so many more.
Perhaps the reason these teachers – and their guidance – have come up so vividly for me is that recently I have been asked by a number of people, “How can I recognize a true teacher?” . . . or, “How do I find a guru?”
We human beings have human hearts that constantly yearn for the Light of Love. But we also have confused, often agitated minds. We have a built-in longing to experience loving connection with other human beings, but our minds often get in the way. It is perfectly natural that we long to find an external “teacher” or “guru” to help us on our sacred journey of the Heart . . . back to the Source . . . back to our inherent inner peace . . . back to our home in God. But the intimacy and intensity of the relationship between teacher and student, or between guru and disciple, is in many ways the most profound relationship one can embark on. It is very much akin to a marriage. And it is not something to be taken lightly or to be embraced without some deep reflection, because it may – ultimately – upend many of the previous relationships and connections that formed our earthly identity.
It is quite true that, “You don’t find the Guru. The Guru finds you.” But sometimes impatience gets the better of us, and the intensity of our yearning causes us to settle for someone who isn’t really as wise or evolved as they look . . . and yet presents him or herself to us in a way that may cause us to think, “Aha! Perhaps the Guru HAS finally found me!” Among the many amazingly wise, loving, and insightful teachings Meher Baba offered to us was the admonition that. “To allow yourself to be guided by an impure teacher is like allowing a madman to sit on your chest with a razor blade in his hand.”
Over the past forty-four years, I have known far too many people who have been hurt and abused by teachers who – initially – looked good on the surface. They may have been charming and radiant . . . even exuding a visible aura of light. They may possess siddhis (spiritual powers) previously unimaginable to their students – and those siddhis allow them to be capable of moving and awakening their students’ spiritual energies in a delightfully compelling way. They might also be capable of transmitting amazing and alluring forms of spiritual “experience” like shaktipat or kundalini energy. Unfortunately, those very same teachers may also turn out – in the long run – to be unenlightened, unwise, uncompassionate, and – ultimately – self-serving.
Many of their unsuspecting chelas (students) wind up with their tender human hearts so terribly hurt, and their trust in the Universe so totally violated, that – in many cases – it can take years to shed the toxic effects of aligning oneself with an impure spiritual teacher. Disillusioned students often walk away from the spiritual path entirely – at least for a time – dismayed, depressed, and deeply disappointed that the being in whom they sought to find God . . . or, at least, to come closer to God . . . in whom they placed so much trust . . . has completely undermined their faith.
While, of course, “it is all perfect,” part of the perfection manifesting in this moment motivates me to speak out, in the same way I would speak out when someone I know and love is traveling down a dark road that I know well, but is unfamiliar to them, and I feel compelled to say, “Watch out, there is a very difficult curve at the edge of a very precipitous cliff about three miles down that road, a very damaging pothole a little beyond that, and a very slippery spot just before a steep drop . . . ” I might advise taking a different road, or – if that advice isn’t warmly received – then a suggestion to proceed very cautiously. I can offer a warning. Whether or not one heeds it is all a matter of karma.
I will say this: while we are accustomed to being disappointed by family, friends, celebrities, sports heroes, and politicians . . . the disappointment that comes on the heels of an encounter with an impure spiritual teacher can be quite devastating – and is a life-lesson one might do well to avoid, if one’s karmic predispositions permit . . .
Since so many have asked me recently how to recognize a true teacher, I sat down and reflected on what I have learned over the past forty-four years. The following emerged out of those reflections:
A True Guru:
- Teaches only Love, and asks for nothing in return
- Liberates you from suffering, rather than liberating you from your money
- Touches your Heart rather than touching your body
- Shows you how to find the wisdom in your own Being rather than trying to impress you with how much unique knowledge and power they possess
- Reminds you that happiness comes not from getting what you want, but from getting free of wanting
- Focuses more on compassion than on chakras; more on kindness than on kundalini, more on selflessness than on samadhi, more on Truth, trust, and tenderness than on tantra
- Teaches you – by example – how to love, serve, be kind, and be generous
- Helps you realize the long-term effects of words, deeds, and actions
- Helps you let go of your attachment to separateness – your body, your mind, and your personality – rather than magnifying the importance of these identities.
You will know a true Guru if:
- All they want from you is that you go to God
- They teach you to Love rather than teaching you to fear
- They focus on the Light of the Creator rather than the darkness of the world
- They lead by example and walk their talk
- They inspire a deep love and peace in you rather than a fascination with the energies they can arouse and manipulate
If all – or most – of these qualities are present, then you have probably found a teacher you can trust.
But if they drive up in a brand new Mercedes-Benz or a shiny Rolls-Royce . . . and tell you that your liberation will come through paying them lots of money to have the benefit of their uniquely wonderful teachings . . . my advice would be to put one hand over your wallet, the other hand over your heart . . . and gently back out of the room.
A true teacher teaches only Love . . . and asks for nothing in return.
May you be blessed to find the One True Guru . . . the One who resides eternally in your own Heart . . .
For more information about John Welshons Click Here.