These days the method is changing. The entire
topology of teaching has spread everywhere, much too quickly
for the guru model. That model will never catch up.
Instead of the message proceeding one-to-many (guru to disciples), the topology is now many-to-many, and
it cannot be stopped. It's gaining momentum all the
These days, the message is transmitted via
friendship and the benefits of technology. People are saying
the same things on the telephone and e-mail that
previous generations had to drop everything and journey afar
[Responding to a suggestion
that the guru model (one-to-many) was not dead yet, Greg elaborated:]
This is right – the one-to-many model is not dead, it has its
place. Gurus can be exposed and will fall and lose disciples,
other will rise or appear fresh on the horizon, and the modality
will still be there. Some gurus will even attract followers by
preaching the end of guru-dom, much as Gangaji once gained the
confidence of her followers by recommending the anti-guru book THE
What does seem to be dead (or on its very last legs) is the
exclusivistic notion. That is, the notion that *only* thru
this person or that teaching can progress or achievement be made.
The decline of this notion, along with the explosion of technology,
is what enabled the many-to-many paradigm in the first place.
The old exclusivistic approach has been a hallmark of the
traditional paths. It has been a hallmark of the guru path,
the bhakti path and many others. But with the decline of the
exclusivistic idea comes the attendant decline of old-style orthodoxy
of all kinds. People feel freed by this. You can see it
all around. Like certain ideas that were in subtle force in
the 1950's. They also hold no sway any more. Like,
whatever is on TV is true, that the U.S. President is infallible,
that my parents never go to the bathroom. Like these, "I
can have only one guru - like a spouse" or "Salvation -
this way only" is coming to an end.
With the wane of exclusivity, orthodoxy can still return, but it
will never be the same. It will be the result of a more aware
choice, like what happened in Rodger Kamenetz's Jew in the Lotus.
Investigating Tibetan Buddhism gave Rodger lots of information, and
a bit of healing probably, and motivated him to re-embrace Judaism
in a deeper, less literalistic fashion. I see this dynamic
lots of places. People keeping Kosher because of its
traditional resonances in their lives. On the very academic
BUDDHA-L e-mail list, there was lots of discussion among lifelong
Buddhist scholars about returning to the Christianity of their
childhood. By now they know that no one will perish in Hell
for Buddhism. Rather, they like the Christian stories, the
rituals, the people.
Greg has developed this theme further on his own site at From the Age of the Guru to the Age of the Friend.
[And further to this, a complementary notion
from Andrew Cohen:]
Beyond Personal Enlightenment
Although most people don't know it yet, the age of personal or merely individual enlightenment is over. In the twenty-first century, the context for deep, authentic, serious spirituality--which means transformational spirituality--is evolution, evolution not only of the individual but *beyond* the individual.
For those human beings at the leading edge, the passionate pursuit and defense of individualization has reached a dead end. And because of that, the very movement toward higher development now calls for a leap beyond the personal sphere in a way that has simply never happened before. The pursuit of holiness, the pursuit of enlightened consciousness, has traditionally been the path of the heroic and extraordinary individual--the holy one, the enlightened one. But now the evolutionary imperative of our time seems to be compelling us to develop beyond what we could call personal realization to something else altogether. At the frontiers of human development, consciousness itself seems to be leaping beyond the confines of individuation, dramatically revealing new, thrilling, and unimagined possibilities of higher integration. In spite of the overwhelming dangers that lie ahead, I can't think of a more thrilling time to be alive.