A “Guru” is the last person you need in order to practice meditation.
Meditation is a deeply subjective internal act, with very little reference to the outside world. No one can meditate on our behalf— we have to do it ourselves. We might have to learn different techniques and try on different practices until we find the one that works for us. The techniques are just there to set us on our way, and after that its just us and our practice; a long lonely journey home.
When you’re looking for something, you’ll always find it in the last place you’re looking. Why? Because, of course, you’ll stop looking after you’ve found it!
Similarly, you might learn techniques from different masters, but the actual work of meditation is an act of doing. Meditation is all about doing (or not doing, depending on how much you know what meditation actually is— more on that in a separate post). There are no short cuts, and no one can walk the path for us.
In our own spiritual journey, we found that many of the great yoga masters say that they are self-(Self-Realized). They claim everyone as their master and no one as their Master. As a miracle of grace, the method “came to them”, whether it’s in their twelve years of Himalaya stint or by some mystic river on a full-moon night. As it came to them, so it does to us. The path that takes us there isn’t a road that’s traveled by others.
What I’d emphasize is that meditation is a practice. A personal practice. A deeply personal spiritual practice.
Sure, there are advantages of belonging to a community, and simplicity that comes out of following rules laid down by a spiritual leader. But these have little to do with your meditation practice, and everything to do with the “yama and niyama” part of the eight-step yoga of Patanjali. Just the first two steps, and a long journey ahead after that. Don’t let the charm of belonging hold you back from deepening your practice.
It does help to learn from someone who is teaching from their own deep experience. But, as they say in India, “beware of imitators”— don’t buy mysticism on the cheap. Mysticism can be read in a book, and books on eastern mysticism have been in circulation for thousands of years. Just as you wouldn’t pay someone “expert fees” to read you a WebMD/Wikipedia entry, you shouldn’t think of someone as a Guru if you’re merely getting ancient book-learning and none of the experiential learning. If they’re just passing along something they read in a book, just keep moving along to find another teacher. Look for experience over book learning.
And then, don’t stop at the teacher’s doorstep. Make the technique your own and follow your instinct. Learn the techniques, practice the techniques, and be courageous to enter the mystery on your own. Only then will it be your own experience.
The right teacher would be the last one you need.