My philosophy teacher, Carlos Pomeda, has posted The Future of Yoga in the Modern World: Spiritual Authority part one of a three part series on Elephant Journal. Highly recommend! It’s not a casual read – so take your time with it. But gets to the heart of the Western love/hate relationship with the guru and how we navigate through our modern spiritual journeys.
Real progress in the spiritual path, as I point out often, is “vertical.” It is based on insight born out of sincerity and steady practice, on day in and day out inner work, on patience and persistence, etc., etc. Alas, none of these are “sexy;” they are often hard work. This makes it all too easy to take the path of least resistance and expand “horizontally” instead: learning new things, in and of itself, does not constitute progress unless that learning is accompanied by true insight of the vertical kind. What we are left with, instead, is the illusion of progress: we feel that because we can go deeper into a pose, or because we have now memorized the 36 principles of Tantric cosmology, or the Sanskrit names of the poses, we are making progress. Horizontally, we are; vertically, that’s another matter.
The problem with this picture is the human tendency to project our own sense of charisma, of our own greatness, even our deep spiritual experiences, onto someone else outside. Thus, we often treat Hatha Yoga or other teachers as if they were elevated masters, particularly if certain conditions are present, such as celebrity or “looking the part” (what is it about “spiritual garb” that elicits so many unwarranted projections?). The result is, inevitably, a disappointment that leaves us either thoroughly disenchanted with the spiritual journey