No Gurus Allowed

One of many unique aspects of this tradition is that there is no guru to tell you how to live your life. If you’ve never taken a 10 day course it may appear that Goenka is the guru. He might even come across as a controlling guru because he doesn’t even trust his assistant teachers to convey his message. Instead he uses recordings of his chantings and discourses convey his message. Boy is this far from the truth! The centers actually go out of their way to rotate their assistant teachers because they don’t want you to become attached to as specific teacher. The only thing these teachers at these centers are trying to teach is the specific meditation technique that allows dhamma into your life. So what is dhamma? My interpretation is that dhamma is that natural law or truth that you can perceive within yourself. Vipassana is the name of the technique that allows you to sense dhamma. I actually became frustrated at first because every time I asked the teachers a question it seemed like their answer was, “Just continue practicing the technique and with time things will become clear.” They aren’t teaching you to follow a guru. They want you to follow the natural law as you experience it within yourself.

So dhamma is my teacher. How does dhamma teach me? It’s not the same way I’ve been taught everything else in my life where a teacher explains a logical progression of thoughts to help me accept the conclusion. It’s more like the teacher of personal experience that taught me never to put my hand on a hot stove or to walk in front of moving traffic. If you stop and ask me why I don’t do these thing I could rationalize an answer but the truth is my body won’t let me. Vipassana slowly leaks this experiential knowledge into you body and once your body knows it there’s no questioning it. This is weird, I know, but once you do a 10 day course you’ll understand.

The challenge is that this knowledge slowly and spontaneously. I’ve had the repeated experience of these mini epiphanies. First they’re not there, then they are. So what do I do while I’m waiting for this knowledge appear? I don’t have a guru to tell me the answers and I’ve got life coming at me at 90 miles per hour. My old brain tells me I should break down different situations logically until I find the right answer. My new brain tells me that life is more complicated than rational thought. I just need to trust the path and observe the world zooming by me at 90 miles per hour. This is a huge shift in perspective for me. Actually, I’m not even close to fully accepting this perspective. That’s why I’m here pounding away at the keyboard hoping this will all makes more sense once I’ve written it out. I do believe the path is there and that’s a big step forward for me.

I briefly want to mention the benefits of there not being a guru. Since the truth is discovered by ourselves for ourselves there is no reason for conflict. I’ve accepted that I can’t teach someone their own personal truth so I don’t waste time fighting about it. Instead I spend my energy investing in my own growth. Once the need to prove my point of view over your point of view goes away the world can become a much more peaceful place. The hard part is getting myself to sit 2 hours a day so I can learn this personal truth but if I don’t do it I have no one to blame but myself.

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This entry was posted in For Non Meditators, Personal Experiences by Ryan Shelton. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ryan Shelton

While I'm currently married to a beautiful woman while teaching physics at Padua Academy, these descriptors fail to capture the totality of my adventurous life. I have hiked over 1700 miles, traveled to 5 continents, managed a bakery, started a meditation center, counseled troubled teens, attended Duke, UNC, and Harvard, protected forests as a wildland firefighter, volunteered thousands of hours with Americorps, rafted the Grand Canyon, SCUBA dived on the Great Barrier Reef, and continues to find new adventures. I hope my writing encourages you to pursue your dreams and be the best version of yourself while supporting your communities to work together to solve the current challenges in our world.

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