Going to see the guru

Posted by on Aug 9, 2013 in Buddhism | 579 Comments
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I just booked to go and see Eckhart Tolle in London later this year. I’m quite looking forward to it.

I’ve seen a bunch of teachers and gurus in my time. The Dalai Lama, the Karmapa, Sai Baba and quite a few others who aren’t so well known.

Take That and taking darshan

The first time I met one of these characters I had high hopes. I’d heard amazing things about ‘taking darshan‘ from the guru. (This is kind of like receiving a blessing, but is literally about ‘seeing’ the guru). I’d heard how people’s lives had been changed merely from a touch from one of these highly realised beings.

I’ve also met a bunch of celebrities in my time. I used to work in the canteens at some big TV channels so I got to serve a variety of foodstuffs to several well-known names in the worlds of TV and music (chicken curry to Take That, fruit salad to James Brown).

And I’ve been on stage many times. Although I’m no James Brown, I know what it’s like to be the object of attention for a room full of people and how that can affect the way some members of the crowd perceive you.

Celebrities and gurus both have something about them. I’m not sure what it is and I’m not sure how much it differs between the two. Maybe it’s all in the beholder’s mind. Maybe having that much emotional energy focused on one person gives them a little something extra on the astral plane. No idea really.

But the bottom line is, for me at least, it’s always been clear that the guru can’t really help. In the end, it’s down to you.

That’s not to say that gurus aren’t amazing characters. Even just standing there they have this weird ability to just be standing there.

This reminds me of a zen story

One monk says to another monk, “My master is amazing – he can walk on water, pass through walls as if they were air, and fly like a bird.”

The other monk replies, “My master is also amazing – when he eats, he eats and when he sleeps, he sleeps.”

I’m not saying strange things don’t happen around gurus. And maybe a realisation you were working up to arrives a little sooner because of meeting such a character. But that doesn’t mean you can relax in the womb of their greatness and let them do the spiritual heavy lifting on your behalf.

We all have to put on our walking boots and be prepared for the long march if we want to make progress down whatever path we’re on.

Eckhart Tolle’s milkman

I don’t anticipate he’s going to say anything I haven’t heard before. The power of now? Cool. The sacredness of presence? Groovy.

And yet, no matter how many times we hear this stuff, it’s always good to hear it again. And to hear it from someone who appears to be living it is the only way to really hear it.

Wisdom isn’t difficult to understand. And it’s very easy to use wise words. But to be wise – now that’s something altogether different.

This, in fact, reminds me of a story Eckhart Tolle once told.

He met a young man at one of his events. They were chatting, and Tolle asked the young man, “Where were you born?”

“I was never born,” replied the young man.

This was of course true, said Tolle. But not when the young man said it!

(The thing about the milkman: my friend’s dad used to be Eckhart Tolle’s milkman. Well, kind of. He’s a Hare Krishna devotee who looks after cows near Glastonbury – they just hang out, the aren’t ‘farmed’. Occasionally they have extra milk.)

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