Considering that 'Purposely Hoodwinked' is primarily a Masonic oriented blog what follows will probably be very unfamiliar territory for most Masonic brothers, the guru vs. the teacher, a topic I feel that when looked at closely could assist any Lodge that is thinking of implementing a 'mentor' program.
At this present time the Worshipful Master of my Lodge is implementing a 'mentor' program, designed to assist new brothers through the often confusing allegories, rituals, and symbolism found within our tradition, and at the same time hopefully creating a friendship and bond that will last a lifetime.
Riverside Webster’s II New College Dictionary 1995 defines a mentor as “a wise and trusted teacher or counselor”.
Of course we already have brothers that assist the brothers going through the degrees with their cryptic and memory skills, but a mentor program can be so much more. In most Lodges, sadly, newly raised brothers are often left on their own to analyze the allegory, symbols, experiences they just encountered progressing through the three degrees of Freemasonry, something they usually want so deeply to discuss bit are afraid to articulate.
More times than not many of these brothers find themselves alone lost in a world of unanswered questions.
Unfortunately many of these lost brothers will feel let down, after the first couple boring business meetings they find no one spends time discussing the rituals, the allegories, or the symbols of our tradition. Before long many of these seeking brothers disappear from the sidelines, pay their dues out of obligation, and sadly the next time we hear their name is years later when we drape the altar.
I am proud the Master of my Lodge has the foresight to address this situation with the implementation of a mentor program, but we need ask, beyond friendship and simple not so simple answers what can a mentor ascribe too?
Now let's enter the rabbit hole.
Considering that this is primarily a Masonic blog the idea of a guru may not make sense to most Freemasons, and I totally understand, with all the negative news some of these 'New Age' impostors have created its no wonder most in the west have a negative view of gurus. Yet I assure there are many honorable, respectful, and dedicated gurus that work diligently assisting those along their spiritual journey. By understanding the ways of these honorable gurus we might just find ideas that today's mentor may borrow for the task at hand.
WARNING: Before we proceed it should be understood that it's of the utmost importance that the prospective mentor not attempt to 'guide' from an egotistical position.
In this blog I would like to introduce the tradition to a brother that was actually assisted in his spiritual journey by a guru named Ramakrishna, perhaps the best known saint of nineteenth century India, the name of our brother is Swami Vivekananda, raised to the degree of Master Mason 20th of May 1884. The italic print to follow is actually the words of this Spiritual Master from his chapter 'The Need of a Guru' in the book Vedanta Philosophy: Lectures.
"Every soul is destined to be *perfect, and every being, in the end, will attain the state of perfection. Whatever we are now is the result of our acts and thoughts in the past; and whatever we shall be in the future will be the result of what we think and do now. But this, the shaping of our own destinies, does not preclude our receiving help from outside; nay, in the vast majority of cases such help is absolutely necessary. When it comes, the higher powers and possibilities of the soul are quickened, spiritual life is awakened, growth is animated, and man becomes holy and perfect in the end."
*(In the esoteric tradition the soul is symbolized by the stone. In Freemasonry we begin with the rough ashlar (soul) and seek to perfect it. This 'soul' work is symbolized by the rough and perfect ashlar. But you knew that.)
For those unfamiliar with the guru relationship we should ask what is a guru, is a guru compatible with Freemasonry, and how can this supposed individual assist us one on his path to 'light'?
"A 'guru' is a spiritual teacher who helps remove the darkness of ignorance in one's life and leads him towards the the 'light' of wisdom, which frees one from the sufferings of earthly life."
You can't more Masonic than that. When we spend the time to really delve into the rituals and symbolism we find a path from Matter to Spirit, earth to light.
Or how about this definition from Wikipedia; "A traditional etymology of the term "guru" is based on the interplay between darkness and light. The guru is seen as the one who "dispels the darkness of ignorance." In some texts it is described that the syllables gu and ru stand for darkness and light, respectively.
Surely every brother can relate to that definition, all we need to do is look at the floor in a Masonic Lodge Room to see this juxtaposition between dark and light.
Many who may of have heard of gurus have heard the occasionally negative stories of abuse and cultish behavior, by the few. I still remember in from mid 80's the Indian guru named Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who created a commune in Oregon, rode in a Royal Royce, and was eventually deported for immigration violations. Although he died in 1990 much of his writings are now being released under the name Osho, which I find it interesting, even though his behavior seemed erratic his analysis of ancient teachings are truly enlightening and insightful, I highly recommend them for anyone seeking 'light' from an eastern perspective.
It's understandable that many in the western traditions would avoid the use of the word 'guru', preferring the word 'teacher', which I feel may be very different in their approach to mentoring as we will see.
"This quickening impulse cannot be derived from books. The soul can only receive impulses from another soul, and from nothing else. We may study books all our lives, we may become very intellectual, but in the end we find that we have not developed at all spiritually. It is not true that a high order of intellectual development always goes hand in hand with a proportionate development of the spiritual side in Man. In studying books we are sometimes deluded into thinking that thereby we are being spiritually helped; but if we analyse the effect of the study of books on ourselves, we shall find that at the utmost it is only our intellect that derives profit from such studies, and not our inner spirit. This inadequacy of books to quicken spiritual growth is the reason why, although almost every one of us can speak most wonderfully on spiritual matters, when it comes to action and the living of a truly spiritual life, we find ourselves so awfully deficient. To quicken the spirit, the impulse must come from another soul."
As you can see from the paragraph above Swami Vivekananda sees the importance of the one on one relationship the soul requires for advancement, so why do we leave so many brothers alone in their questions?
Look closely at the comparisons and see which one you feel could assist you on your path to 'light', teacher vs. guru, and at the same time look to see what positive qualities a mentor could use in his toolbox of assistance towards his fellow brother. The purpose of writing this is NOT to create gurus, either you got it or you don't, it's to see the best approach a mentor may take to guiding a brother.
The great Chinese poet Confucius once said, "When the student is ready, the teacher appears."
A teacher takes responsibility of your growth.
A guru makes YOU responsible for growth.
A teacher gives you things you do not have and require.
A guru takes away things you have and do not require.
A teacher answers your questions.
A guru questions your answers.
A teacher helps you get out of the maze.
A guru destroys the maze.
A teacher requires obedience and discipline from the pupil.
A guru requires trust and humility.
A teacher clothes you and prepares you for the outer journey.
A guru strips you naked and prepares you for the inner journey.
A teacher is a guide on the path.
A guru is a pointer to the way.
A teacher sends you on the road to success.
A guru sends you on the road to freedom.
Although Freemasonry is NOT a religious endeavor, I do believe it is at its core spiritual, although Swami Vivekananda uses the word religious please do not let this ruin the message if your one of those hung up on anything religious.
"The person from whose soul such impulse comes is called the Guru — the teacher; and the person to whose soul the impulse is conveyed is called the Shishya — the student. To convey such an impulse to any soul, in the first place, the soul from which it proceeds must possess the power of transmitting it, as it were, to another; and in the second place, the soul to which it is transmitted must be fit to receive it. The seed must be a living seed, and the field must be ready ploughed; and when both these conditions are fulfilled, a wonderful growth of genuine religion takes place. "The true preacher of religion has to be of wonderful capabilities, and clever shall his hearer be" — ; and when both of these are really wonderful and extraordinary, then will a splendid spiritual awakening result, and not otherwise. Such alone are the real teachers, and such alone are also the real students, the real aspirants. All others are only playing with spirituality. They have just a little curiosity awakened, just a little intellectual aspiration kindled in them, but are merely standing on the outward fringe of the horizon of religion. There is no doubt some value even in that, as it may in course of time result in the awakening of a real thirst for religion; and it is a mysterious law of nature that as soon as the field is ready, the seed must and does come; as soon as the soul earnestly desires to have religion, the transmitter of the religious force must and does appear to help that soul. When the power that attracts the light of religion in the receiving soul is full and strong, the power which answers to that attraction and sends in light does come as a matter of course."
A teacher explains the world and its nature to you.
A guru explains yourself and you nature to you.
A teacher makes you understand how to move about the world.
A guru shows you where you stand in relation to the work.
A teacher gives you knowledge and boosts your ego.
A guru takes away your knowledge and punctures your ego.
A teacher instructs you.
A guru constructs you.
A teacher will punish you with a stick.
A guru will punish you with compassion.
A teacher is to the pupil what a father is to his son.
A guru is to the pupil what a mother is to her child.
One can always find a teacher.
But a guru has to find and accept you.
A teacher leads you by the hand.
A guru leads you by examples.
When a teacher finishes with you, you graduate.
When a guru finishes with you, you celebrate.
When the course is over you are thankful to the teacher.
When the discourse is over you are grateful to the guru.
As we can plainly see the role of the guru is much more than that of the teacher. Do I believe there could be gurus in Freemasonry, why not. Just the other day I read an obituary of a brother from my own Lodge, I was instantly struck by the amount of service this brother performed, his obit took up nearly half a page. Sadly I never knew him, he stopped attending Lodge years ago. I so wish brothers like this would return to the sidelines and speak up, sharing their insight and aged wisdom.
Nevertheless I do believe the mentor program if done correctly may just save another from the abyss of 'what was that all about?'
A word of warning from Swami Vivekananda to perspective candidates; "There are still greater dangers in regard to the transmitter, the Guru. There are many who, though immersed in ignorance, yet, in the pride of their hearts, fancy they know everything, and not only do not stop there, but offer to take others on their shoulders; and thus the blind leading the blind, both fall into the ditch."
"Fools dwelling in darkness, wise in their own conceit, and puffed up with vain knowledge, go round and round staggering to and fro, like blind men led by the blind." — (Katha Up., I. ii. 5). The world is full of these. Every one wants to be a teacher, every beggar wants to make a gift of a million dollars! Just as these beggars are ridiculous, so are these teachers.