So said the 9th century Buddhist Master Lin Chi. When I first read this, I thought it both unnecessarily violent and absolutely intriguing. But as I came to understand the idea, I liked what was essentially being said- that if there is someone we meet or see as all-knowing in our lives, we should question that and instead ultimately aim to become our own gurus.
Growing up Catholic, which in my family meant attending church and Sunday school weekly, my first guide was the Catholic faith I belonged to. I was quite devout, and even had an altar I created in my room, from the relatively young age of 9. I endeavored to follow the suggested ways of living, most of which I found easy enough, though I wasn’t sure about original sin. It really didn’t make me feel very good about who I was. Still I persevered until the age of about 19 when I began to explore and learn about other religions and spiritual teachings.
Along the way I picked up some gurus.
One that inspired me greatly with his spiritual teachings, I later learned was also a drunk, when I met him in person. But somehow that didn’t discount his teachings. He certainly came down from the pedestal I had put him on, but then I realized that if he could attain the wisdom, depth and charisma he had, while also being so humanly dysfunctional, maybe I could too. And eventually, it was his humanity that inspired me even more.
One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious ~ Carl Jung
And I came to see spirituality as not so much about not having failings so much as being real, and dedicated to keeping on the spiritual path. To being willing to continue to face your personal limitations and dysfunctions, while seeking to eventually transcend them.
All my life I have tried to be accepting and allowing of others, and though this is not a bad quality, I somehow forgot to extend that acceptance and allowing to myself. In wanting to avoid conflict and be the ‘nice girl’ I was brought up to be and that I was given approval for being, I was losing myself.
So I took a stand.
I confronted the people in my life whose behaviour I felt was not respectful or considerate of me. It was very difficult for me and left me feeling very conflicted, but it was too painful not to, so I spoke my truth to them. I spoke to them of how their actions had made me feel. Some responded in ways that I appreciated, others cut off from me.
I have to admit that some of that was because I was trying to get them to see my point, where now I see that when you speak your truth, the other person does not have to accept or even agree with you, that you can both have a different point of view, and then choose to continue on in relationship or not.
But I had to become my own guide, I had to do what felt right for me, even though it went against all I had learnt to become, to survive thus far in life, in my family and cultural environment.
Once I did though, a huge weight lifted off me, even though I had to deal with the fear of rejection I felt when I did speak up for myself and what I felt I deserved. Essentially speaking my truth freed me.
The most common form of despair is not being who you are ~ Kirkegaard
It wasn’t about making someone else feel bad, guilty or wrong for taking the actions they did, but to honour myself and my sense of what was right, so as not to lose my sense of self and sanity. Because insanity is when you try to accept what goes against your innate fundamental sense of truth and what is right.
What I eventually came to see, is that we all have the capacity to be Buddha, to be our own guides and masters, if we can only trust ourselves, and our truth.
As I meander along my chosen path in life, sometimes tripping over my very own very human unresolved dysfunction, each action I take that honours my truth, gives me a greater faith in my own inner sense of what feels right for me at each point in life, or not.
Sometimes my own limitations, limiting beliefs and fears hold me up, so I have to pause and look at what I can do to make the change I wish to see in my life. To take responsibility and ownership over what I see before myself in my life, then take action to move toward the eventual place I wish to be, which is always one of goodness and peace.
And as I continue to have faith, even when I am filled with the darkness of uncertainty, confusion or doubt, I know that I am learning to believe and trust in my own innate sense of knowing and wisdom, my own inner guru. I know that the more choices I make, to follow my own sense of what is right or wrong, even and maybe especially when it is hard, the closer I will be to the places of goodness and peace that I am slowly but surely making my way toward.