Do We Really Need A Guru?

Awake. Be the witness of your thoughts. You are what observes, not what you observe. — The Buddha

We come from opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean and couldn’t be more different if we tried. Ed is from an over-crowded apartment in the Bronx who became a NYC dance champion; Deb was at a boarding school in the English countryside and was then an art student in London. Yet we both began the spiritual journey at the same time in the late 1960s. When Ed was in India being initiated as a Swami – a yogic monk — Deb was becoming a Buddhist. So on our honeymoon it was obvious that we should go to India to meet with our respective gurus.

We have previously written about how we can be addicted to a guru, therapist, healer or movie star and how an ego-driven guru can take advantage of his devotees to boost their power and create a “gurudom” or kingdom. But that was only one side of the story. To put it into perspective we want to share the beauty of what it means to have a guru, someone whose sole purpose in our life is to show us the confusion within ourselves until we wake up and realize our radiant selves.

Who is a guru and what does a guru mean? Simply, it means a teacher, and nowadays is a term used for multiple reasons. According to Wikipedia it is: “one who is regarded as having great knowledge, wisdom, and authority in a certain area, and who uses it to guide others.” This can be a business leader as much as a schoolteacher, as long as each is an expert in their field and able to impart their understanding. The traditional meaning of the word in yoga refers to a Satguru, who is not ego-driven but is one who removes ignorance and darkness and leads the disciple to self-realization.

Due to our chaotic minds it can be difficult to see ourselves clearly — just as it is difficult to see our own face unless we look in a mirror — so a genuine guru is a mirror reflecting our inner self. In particular, such a guru can see through our often subtle, mischievous and trickster egos, how we get stuck wading in mentally murky water, caught up in delusions either of grandeur or of insecurity and self-doubt.

The path of personal development never goes in a straight line, there are many detours and it is easy to go astray or even get lost. The deluded ego leads us into believing we are way special and enlightened. The guru has been down this road before us, they’ve already done the work and got the T-shirt and can, therefore, help us to navigate the path more easily.

Spiritual gurus are not all the same – some are like loving mothers or fathers, others are like military captains (we have experienced both) – but each, in their own way, is there to help us open our minds and hearts as they see in us what we cannot see in ourselves, particularly our potential and true nature. The guru reflects a skillful and awakened mind and reveals the same in us. They show us that if one person can do it so can we. As the Dalai Lama said to us when we met with him at his residence, “We are all equal here.”

One of India’s greatest holy men, Ramana Mahashi, always said that the role of the guru is to push the student from the outside in order to see the guru within – as the true guru is within each and every one of us. However, this does not mean that we must have a guru, particularly as these days they appear to be in relative short supply. The good news is that Ramana was self-realized, without a guru.

Ultimately, as the guru is our true nature and is hidden within each and every one of us, we simply need to deeply trust ourselves. Only from within can we awaken – it is not something someone else can do for us. Through meditation and insight we come to see clearly, beyond a mind that can be as distracted like a monkey bitten by a scorpion, leaping from one thought or drama to the next, to a place of clarity and wisdom. We take responsibility for our actions, recognizing the interdependent and impermanent nature of all things. Life is a precious gift and nothing in this world will make us forever happy, but when we look within we find a radiant reality. The greatest gift is our own wonderful selves.

What does a guru mean to you? Have you ever had a guru? Do comment below.



jennifer curtis
jennifer curtis6 years ago

no we dont need a guru. what the world needs to to get on thier kness and ask for forgiveness from our Lord and Savior. because without him we are going to go to hell in a hand basket. I love God and read the Bible daily and he is all we need.

Naga Choegyal
Naga Choegyal6 years ago

Toward the end of his life, the Buddha took his disciples to a quiet pond for instruction. As they had done so many times before, the Buddha’s followers sat in a small circle around him, and waited for the teaching.

But this time the Buddha had no words. He reached into the muck and pulled up a lotus flower. And he held it silently before them, its roots dripping mud and water.

The disciples were greatly confused. Buddha quietly displayed the lotus to each of them. In turn, the disciples did their best to expound upon the meaning of the flower: what it symbollized, and how it fit into the body of Buddha’s teaching.

When at last the Buddha came to his follower Mahakasyapa, the disciple suddenly understood. He smiled and began to laugh. Buddha handed the lotus to Mahakasyapa and began to speak.

“What can be said I have said to you,” smiled the Buddha, “and what cannot be said, I have given to Mahakashyapa.”

Mahakashyapa became Buddha’s successor from that day forward.

Naga Choegyal
Naga Choegyal6 years ago


That must be why the Gautama Siddartha the Sakyamuni Buddha answered many questions with silence; his last sermon when he transmitted his enlightment was also silent.

Mangala H.
Past Member 6 years ago


Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

ALEXANDER POPE, An Essay on Criticism

Silence is the virtue of fools.

FRANCIS BACON, De Augmentis Scientiarum

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.


Naga Choegyal
Naga Choegyal6 years ago

Who wants to bother you? Plainly it is useless to speak to closed minds.

Is that the same majority Buddhists who opressed and persecuted, raped and massacred the Tamil minorities in Sri Lanka for many years?

I repeat: Lord Buddha the Sakyamuni was also a Hindu; a Kshatriya prince who became "sanyass".

After following the many gurus for many years and trying out the various methods, he became desperate for enlightment and sat down until he discovered his own personal method and truth.

In the end each and every one of us must do the same.

Murdering cows, or people, is completely irrelevant to the article "Do we really need a Guru?"

We need a guru to teach us that we do not need a guru.

Hence the famous saying attributed to Zen Master Linji, (the founder of the Rinzai sect):

"If you meet the Buddha (on the road), kill him!"

Mangala H.
Past Member 6 years ago

Useless comments do not bother me. What bothered me was the Buddha quotation mixed with a picture of a person of a different religion. Buddhists are asked not to harm or kill any living being. For some, the cow is a sacred animal but for some hindu cults, this same animal is good for a grand feast and they are killed in large numbers on a certain 'holy' day. We, the majority Buddhists have protested about this. This is only for the information of those who might like to learn something about Buddhism. All others please ignore it.

Naga Choegyal
Naga Choegyal6 years ago

For the information of anybody who is interested and following this thread here is the message I sent to a certain personal mailbox ( Introduce yourself to-) and which has apparently caused offense:

"Since you just recently joined, you may not be familiar with the posts of Ed & Deb Shapiro- eclectic, to say the least
Don't worry ....its precisely why the vast majority need a guru, to lead them out of confusion. (Lord Buddha was a Hindu) ;-) "

Naga Choegyal
Naga Choegyal6 years ago

@Mangala H. -

"One thing is true and the rest is lies:
Life is hard and then we dies"

With acknowledgements to Omar Khayyam who actually wrote:

Oh threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!
One thing is certain—This Life flies;
One thing is certain and the rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.
-The Rubáiyát of Omar
Khayyam of Naishapur

By the Way, I am also a Buddhist, and actually a robed sadhu priest.

Who is arguing with whom?

A public comments postboard is not the place to send private messages, that is why there is a facilty to initiate private exchange of views by mutal consent.

Nobody has to reply to introductions or invitations to be friends and I find your paranoid response to my well meant message quite offensive.

Your profile states you were a member since July 16th only.

Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu !

Elaine H.
Past Member 6 years ago

I re-read my comment and the article and realized that I'm basing my thought on the environment around me, which is mostly people who are not at peace with who they are and that's why the negative reactions to the mirror reflecting the inner self. I've decided to change that. Thanks again for the article. It's opened my eyes more than I can thank you for :)

Mangala H.
Past Member 6 years ago

I am a Buddhist. All my life, from about the age of 3 or 4, I have learnt how Siddhartha, a Prince from a very high caste noble family left all his wordly goods and family to find out the truth since he realized that evereything has to end someday. When he finally did find the TRUTH, it was called The Enlightenment. No, I am not familiar with these articles. Nor do I want to advertise Buddhism. Just wanted to clear up any confusion, since a Hindu cult here in Sri Lanka are slaughtering bulls by severing their heads from the body on a so called 'religious day'. I have been creating petitions on this site from around 2008. So I am not exactly 'new.' I would appreciate it very much if personal messages are not sent to my inbox to start personal arguments. It is such a waste of time don't you think?. Thank you.