Esalen and the Guru of No Gurus

We teach best what we most need to learn. ~ Richard Bach

If you meet the Buddha, kill him. ~ Zen Master Linji

There is no spiritual bypass. ~ John Wellwood

In his lyrical masterpiece "Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion," Jeffrey Kripal traces the confluence and intertwining of Western psychology and Eastern spirituality at the Esalen Institute since its founding in 1962 by Michael Murphy and Richard Price.

While driving to Esalen I was listening to Caroline Myss's "Archetypes" lectures and found her exegesis of the World Wars to be extremely provocative: she claims that the subconscious purpose of the wars was to dislodge the monarchies in Europe because the archetype of monarchy was moribund. Currently, although we believe the conflicts in the Middle East to be about religious fundamentalism and/or oil, Caroline says that this is a continuation of removing the archetype of monarchy from the world.

Similarly, giving one's personal power over to a guru is also a waning archetype.

Fifty years ago the guru Krishnamurti specifically told his followers NOT to follow him echoing what Nietzsche wrote eighty years before him: "One repays a teacher badly if one always remains only a pupil.... You had not yet sought yourselves: then you found me. Now I bid you lose me and find yourselves; and only when you have all denied me will I return to you."


In my workshops and on my new DVD "A Beginner's Guide to Happiness" I tell students, "I don't heal anyone; I don't fix anyone; and I don't cure anyone. I SHARE TOOLS."

And the main tool that I am living and sharing is authenticity. Which is why I love what Esalen has created in melding intellectual, physical and spiritual practices (along with surreal healing baths, majestical scenery, and some of the the best food I have ever tasted).


So when people ask me who is the best meditation teacher for them I always respond: "You are."
When people ask me who is the best yoga teacher for them I always respond: "You are."
When people ask me who is the best guru for them I always respond: "You are."

And thus, last weekend at Esalen, I was overjoyed when a student anointed me with the moniker, "The Guru of No Gurus," as I had previously referred to what I do as "Stand-up Buddhism."


In my experience, any spiritual person who tells you that he or she is enlightened or can cure or heal you is a huckster - they are just selling you something rather than empowering you to find it in yourself.

If you meet the Buddha, kill him! Because YOU have the same Buddha nature as anyone else.

And because anyone who was truly "enlightened" would be as humble as Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama, who consistently refers to himself as "A simple Buddhist monk."


Personally I do not believe in enlightenment and have found the few charlatans I have met who have claimed to be enlightened to be - uhhh... I think the official diagnoses would be either Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Sociopath.


"Buddha" means "awakened one." And we can get glimpses of that state of being, we can taste the nectar, but it is not a permanent state, which is why we need daily practices such as meditation and yoga, the same way that our bodies benefit from daily showers.

One thread of Buddhism believes that awakening means finding nirvana in samsara, which is similar to what one might take away from studying Schrödinger's Cat in quantum physics. More colloquially, the glass of water is either half full or half empty; that depends on the viewer, not the glass of water.

So I love teaching at Esalen because it is one of the few place where I can be an authentic student while I teach, where I am not selling or upselling anyone anything. I am simply sharing tools.


And it has been truly amazing to witness how much love and healing one can inspire by merely being strong enough to be vulnerable, to be real, to be authentic. As I've said many times before, I don't believe you can teach anyone past the age of ten years old very much.

But you can inspire them.

You can inspire them to want to learn.

So if you need to know who the best yoga or meditation teacher or guru is for you, please feel free to call me. But don't be disappointed when I reply, "You are!"


And beware of anyone who tells you otherwise. For the archetype of guru is no longer necessary and we are fortunate to have places such as Esalen where like-minded people can go to share tools and explore different healing modalities from around the world.


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