Regarding the question of whether you need a guru: there are stages in your development where you need a guru. However, you’ve got to understand what a guru is. A guru is not a teacher. The relation between the guru and chela is not interpersonal, it’s intrapersonal. That is, that element of my guru which is a little old man in a blanket over in India is just a little old man in a blanket over in India. He knows everything in my head. He is everything in my head, and he’s as much here as he is there. If he isn’t as much here as he is there, he’s a hype, and I shouldn’t be thinking of him as a guru, anyway. So therefore the whole idea that I would go anywhere to see the guru must obviously be a fallacy, right? That’s the first part of it. So then I realize that each person finds his guru as soon as he’s ready to find his guru. That is, as soon as your head is open enough, he’s available to you, because there’s only one of them, in the purest sense, since it’s not connected with ego in that sense, right? So “I’m looking for a guru” is obviously a trip like any other trip. We’ll call it Looking for the Guru, which is the thing you do before you despair of finding the guru, which is the prerequisite to opening your head to finding the guru. Despair is the necessary prerequisite for the next degree of consciousness. That’s absolutely a prerequisite.
So a lot of what we see in our society as a malaise that we call deep despair and depression is in fact this consciousness transformation that’s occurring, this absolutely necessary prerequisite before we can start to hear the next level, which is a very deep despair and a depression about everything we have going. Rather than teaching each other to adapt to what we have, it would be better to honor the despair and allow a person to be in that despair until he comes through it, hopefully coming through it in a more evolved fashion, if he’s got support for it.
As far as teachers are concerned, a teacher is wherever you are when you’re ready for that teacher. That is, if you hear enough to ask the question, “How am I going to get on with my work?” and you’d say, “Well, how do I calm my mind down?” Now asking that question sensitizes you to see a lot of beings around you who have been busy calming their minds down, or teaching people how to calm their minds down, that until then you’ve passed by and never even noticed existed, because you’ve been so busy thinking of them as kooks, nuts, cranks, or people who do those things; but they’re nice guys, anyway. Suddenly that’s the thing about them that you want to know, you see. And so you begin to find out that your teachers are often people who have been right around you. They’re called Upa Gurus, as opposed to Sat Gurus. The Sat Guru is somebody who beckons from beyond. He’s somebody who’s all finished. The Upa Guru is anybody or anything along the way that points to the path that helps you along a little. So that even your enemies are often your Upa Gurus because they wake you up to a place you’re not, which helps you to get free of that place, which helps you get on with it. So you learn to honor everybody you meet as your teacher when you see that there is nothing else you can do but be conscious, for the good of yourself and all your fellow men, and to bring you closer to the place you’re trying most to get to by all the other means you thought you were working on.
You begin to see that everything in your universe becomes your teacher.
So your teacher is everywhere. Your guru is waiting for you to be ready for him. That’s the model you can work on. So you don’t have to rush to India because it’s always right where you are. There are beings who can get as high as any enlightened being ever got, sitting in the middle of Topeka, Kansas or in the middle of New York, or in the middle of anywhere. It depends on your readiness, and that has to do with your karma or your readiness to get on with it.
– Ram Dass