The Guru is the Means: Overcoming Cultural Prejudice

The Guru is the Means:  Overcoming Cultural Prejudice

By Swami Shankarananda

The decisive encounter in my life was meeting my Guru, Baba Muktananda, in February 1971. Early in our relationship he gave me an experience of higher Consciousness and over the next 12 years he taught me how to be established in Consciousness and its source deep within me. Through his influence I was completely transformed, and a day doesn’t go by when I don’t give thanks for that happy meeting.

By the way, I take no special credit for this transformation, since Baba’s spiritual power was such that thousands of others must have had similar experiences.

In undergoing my process of transformation, I had to divest myself of many beliefs and attitudes that I had inherited from my culture.

In the nineteenth century the faith of the West moved from religion to science. Nietzsche proclaimed ‘the death of God’ while others banished God from the natural world, which was the domain of science. It’s safe to say that the prestige of science has become so great in our culture that today, a materialistic outlook is the dominant point of view of the West.

Materialism says that there is no God and there is no higher Consciousness. Further, any person who claims to be connected with higher Consciousness or to be a conduit for the divine energy, the Shakti, must be a charlatan.

Okay, you might say, despite all this, hasn’t spirituality made great strides in the West in recent years? No doubt spirituality and yoga and mysticism have become more accepted; but, in general, the type of spirituality that has evolved says that ‘the age of the Guru is over’ and ‘everyone should be his or her own Guru’.  

The Guru implies a hierarchy, someone who knows more than we do. Postmodern culture is allergic to hierarchies. But, just as a doctor naturally has authority in the field of medicine and a lawyer has authority in the area of law, so those who have attained something spiritually have authority in their field. Oddly, it is the one realm in which we resist learning from an expert.

When I went to India years ago I was not encumbered by this point of view. I deeply yearned to meet a person of profound understanding who could teach me. I had known many brilliant and highly educated men and women, but it seemed to me that none of them had a clue about what life was really about. I was also certain that I myself had no answers to life’s biggest questions. I give thanks every day that I was able to meet and study with a person who could answer those questions.

The Shiva Sutras say Gururupaya, the Guru is a means or spiritual method.

The true Guru is a means to living effectively and achieving happiness, insight and knowledge of the true Self.

As Westerners, the first great obstacle that we have to overcome in order to make use of this great resource is the cultural prejudice I have described.

It is bad enough that we encounter it in our culture and even in our family. But much more pernicious is that we encounter it in ourselves, in our thinking and our attitudes. It is here that we really need to free ourselves, and apparently not everyone is strong enough to do this. Fortunately I have met many who were able to drink the nectar of higher Consciousness and bask in the divine grace of the Guru.

I should add here, that I accept the idea that our life extends beyond this life. In the fullness of time and after perhaps many lifetimes each soul will come home.

I’ll stop for now. If you have questions or comments write to and I’ll address them right here on the blog or privately.

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