The 9th century Buddhist master Lin Chi is supposed to have said, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him." This saying has been interpreted to mean that one shouldn't worship the Buddha, but rather take the essence of what he taught and learn from it.
The teachings of a spiritual master like Buddha can be so powerful and life changing, it's understandable that someone can view Buddha as their guru, which is a Sanskrit term for "teacher" or "master" used mostly in Indian religions. In our Western culture, the word guru has often been used to describe a spiritual person or leader who has followers, and occasionally you'll hear stories of how some people have felt exploited, misled or disappointed by the person they were following, which can happen to anyone, really, who allows someone else to lead the way for them.
Being a follower, student or disciple of anyone who has true wisdom to teach or impart is fine in my opinion, if that's the path you want to take, but I think that by connecting with our own inner wisdom first, which each of us has, can help in determining or deciding what role we want a guru to have or fulfill for us, and also the expectations we have of them.
Starting with what I like to refer to as your "wisdom self" can be instrumental in how you approach a guru-student relationship and can help you decide if you want to be a "follower" or a "learner." The difference is that by following, you're allowing someone else to lead the way, and basically handing the teaching role over to them to guide you. By being a "learner," you are listening to the wisdom or teaching of someone without needing to follow them or become their disciple. However you want to identify yourself with a guru, master or teacher is completely up to you, but I suggest you be your own guru first by connecting to your inner wisdom, and this way, whoever you encounter on your spiritual path, you probably won't allow yourself to be mislead or disappointed if they haven't met your expectations of them.
Here is a meditation to help you connect to you inner wisdom:
1. Sit quietly and close your eyes. Follow your breath in and out for a few minutes.
2. When your mind is calm, tell yourself you are ready to receive your inner wisdom.
3. Ask it to reveal itself to you.
4. Tell yourself you are available to be guided by it.
5. Ask it to be there for you whenever you call upon it or need it.
6. Tell yourself, "I have wisdom within." Repeat this five times.
7. Open your eyes and take a few minutes to absorb your meditation.
I believe we all have a "Satguru" within us, which in Sanskrit means "true teacher," and by sitting quietly in meditation, we can connect to it.
By connecting to your inner teacher, you can be your own guru first and foremost, and even if you choose to follow a guru, teacher or master, you always have yourself to check in with along the way to see if you're in agreement with their teaching or comfortable with the experience.
It will always be your truth, your light -- your compass on your journey.
Here's a quote that says it beautifully:
The greatest guru is your inner self.
Truly he is the supreme teacher.
He alone can take you to your goal and
he alone meets you at the end of the road.
Confide in him and you need no outer guru. -- Nisargadatta Maharaj
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