The Myth of the Perfect Person | Mark Whitwell

My teacher Desikachar had a curious gift to show actual equality and genuine respect to everyone in all situations. He was able to actively dismantle the inbuilt social assumptions that in life there is always someone above you and others below you.

Why curious? Because the model of the perfect person, the hoax of enlightenment that society is built upon, is so intrinsic to our thought structures. It is a male fantasy which implicitly implies that everyone else is not perfect. It is the invidious medieval chain of being upon which everyone measures themselves as winners or losers in the arbitrary social ordering, and the practices and philosophies by which the gullible public are exploited.

The Pope in his golden outfit is second to God, his archbishops in their glamorous green are second to the Pope, beneath them are all the other layers of degradation right down to the common people in Vatican Square desperately trying to get the approval of their “good luck God.” It’s a hopeless situation.

We’ve got to stop imagining that our gurus are “other” and that we are second to the great saints and prophets of human culture — the Christs and Buddhas, and all the other known and unknown Reality Realizers, alive in bodily form or not. It is relationship only that counts. Our mind is for relationship only. The mind is not for looking, for seeking, for contemplation, or philosophy. It is relationship only that is our religion, that is our Yoga.

And relationship is Prior. It is simply the One Reality in which we all appear. The Reality in which we are already an utterly integrated part of the whole, our body in a seamless continuity with everything. God, guru, deity, spouse, the body and the body’s entire elemental context of seen and unseen conditions…are One. Yoga practice is the practical response to this fact. It has always been so. Krishnamacharya would say, “Yoga is your response to the guru’s Grace”. It is that which you can do once you see the way things are.

When I went down under to Australia an Aboriginal man told me that some of them decide to become Christians. “But for us Jesus is not the boss of us. He’s one of us,” this man said. This beautiful statement affirmed to me that in authentic culture spiritual transmission is not delivered in hierarchy, nor creates hierarchy, nor implies hierarchy. In fact, hierarchy obstructs transmission and indeed creates the opposite intention: the social dynamic of disempowerment.

I think the Dalai Lama is a wonderful modern times example of the true guru function where he is not claiming a personal or social identity around himself. Through his ordinariness, he communicates that you are in the same condition as he is: alive as life, without much more to be said.

My friend U.G. Krishnamurti was similar in that he was widely acknowledged as a jivamukti (a liberated being) by the religious authorities of India, yet he would never take that title nor let any presumption of superiority develop around him. “I truly see no difference between you and me” he would say, and he really meant it.

The guru function was never meant to be there as a power structure. It was there for the very ending of those thought structures of less and more, above and below, enlightened and not enlightened.

“A true guru is one who tells you to throw away all the crutches that we have been made to believe are essential for our survival,” U.G. said. “Such a man is whom we consider or even tradition considers, to be the real guru, and not those who are selling those shoddy pieces of goods in the marketplace today. It is a business; it has become a holy business to people.”

Like, U.G., Desikachar too was very critical of the spiritual business of India, the charming swamis claiming that they have something you need, for a price.

In the culture of Veda the guru was simply there as “no more than a friend and no less.” Not necessarily a personal friend, although maybe, but a friend in life who helps you to relax into the what is already the case. They are people you can trust and who care for you in an ordinary and human way. It is not a hierarchy of someone who “has it” and those who don’t, or of those who are attained and those who are struggling in the arbitrary methods of trying to “get it” and measuring themselves as winners or losers. The guru is not a social identity nor a personal identity. It is the function of Mother Nature’s nurturing in local community. They exist in villages, towns, and cities all over the world.

Modern spirituality is defined now around a whole language of rejecting the idea of guru. People don’t want to face up to having an actual relationship with somebody because it is too demanding and fiery, on either side. And there is valid distaste at the history of abuse in the delusion that the guru is a special social status — a know-it-all who sits on a chair in a special robe. A statement from Krishnamacharya, “The one who says they are a guru is not a guru.” The entire idea of guru, this universal means of all wisdom cultures throughout history, has been thrown out as a result. Yet, make no mistake, the world needs its Yoga teachers. The world needs its gurus.

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Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell has worked as a Yoga teacher around the world for the last 45 years and is the author of 4 books on Yoga. He lives in Fiji with his wife Rosalind.