1. This piece was submitted as a letter. The
author has not responded to my request to publish it here but i thought
it worthy enough to proceed, with his name removed. His suggested guru
evaluation criteria have been left as is, and i have inserted comment
regarding one of his examples.
I found your site pretty interesting. You generally seem to distinguish between real teachers and charlatans.
I have a few criteria I use to evaluate teachers:
1. Do they provide a skillful means which significantly aid students.
2. Do their teachings avoid inadvertent ego strengthening.
3. Do they avoid serious failings which cause harm to students. I think that this last item is particularly important (first, do no harm).
Using these criteria, and my familiarity with some of the teachers on your list, I would like to suggest a few adjustments:
Osho. There is no doubt that he had a significant enlightenment. There is also no doubt that he essentially threw it away. You know the story. His immediate followers ran a scam and were willing to kill those who got in his way. A few years after he left Oregon, he announced that he was now the reincarnation of Buddha! Go to Osho related web sites today and you find that they are often linked to sex vacations in impoverished countries. In the last ten years of his life and ever since then, this man fails the test of whether or not he brings significant harm into the world. No mater the quality of certain aspects of his teaching, you rate him too highly given the pain he has brought into the world.
[Site owner and Osho disciple Sarlo
replies: The story of Osho's disciples' shenanigans in Oregon is complex. He did put those people in power, and then basically let things take their course. One could view it as an experiment to provoke fascism, an opportunity for his people to explore their unconscious tendencies as sheep or would-be leaders, however that might turn out. And then he called a halt, before anyone got killed but after a lot of "lesser damage" and bad PR. About Buddha, that was a short-term joke. And "often linked to sex vacations" is an exaggeration. Osho certainly took on his share of mediocre disciples and in taking the lid off the seriously repressed area of sex, opened up the possibility for ugly things to happen.]
J Krishnamurti. Clearly enlightened, but he provided no way at all for people to work with their lives. Krishnamurti groups are basically discussion groups. His legacy, in terms of direct work, is clearly ego building. His most important contribution is that he inspired an inner search in many.
Richard Rose. A nice man, but his teaching didn't result in a second generation of teachers of significant merit. By their own admission, they are struggling.
Seung Sahn. A curious choice for your highest rating. He is okay, but not an exceptional Zen teacher. Like many traditional Zen teachers, his work is, to some degree, ego building. He had lots of personal issues with anger and control. He is also said to have slept with some of his students.
Kapleau Roshi. This guy inspired many (including me at one time). His idealistic teachings were, however, quite ego strengthening. He used very dualistic language that talks about battle with ego. To me, that seems very self rejecting. The Rochester Center is loaded with people on their second and third marriages (i.e. many can't integrate practice and life). If someone wants a bit of excitement, his centers are fine. His teachings are, however, pretty limited.
Gurdjieff. This man inspired many, but few know how to do his work. For most, his teaching is exciting, but ineffectual.
Anyway, these are just my observations.
next suggestion comes from a post in GR
Some traits to look (out) for in a Guru...
From the FAITH MIND by Seng-T'san the 3rd Zen Patriarch
The Great Way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences
When love and hate are both absent
everything becomes clear and undisguised
Make the smallest distinction however
and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart
If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinions for or against anything
To set up what you like against what
you dislike is the disease of the mind
in my opinion, one would do well to
see how the behaviour of a potential
Guru matches up against the entirety of
the Faith Mind by Seng-t'san, of which only
a few verses remain above from my post of
the entire work earlier in the day.
[full original at Beshara]
some more specific thoughts follow
on my views on selecting a guru.
"setting up one's likes against
one's dislikes", indeed, using such
as the foundation of one's 'teachings'
would be evidence of a basic misunderstanding
of the principle of unicity, an understanding
of which is used (in some form)
to evaluate the basic spiritual
worthiness of Gurus, Avatars,
and aspirants the world over.
this would seem to be an important
trait to consider when selecting one's Guru.
to imagine that in so doing
(i.e., setting up likes vs. dislikes)
one would not invite criticism
(nor have to accept criticism) from
others who would disagree based
on either the choice of dislike
(and strong statements against such),
the unbiased trumpeting of the
like (and against the dislike),
the lack of understanding that
likes versus dislikes is part
of the (spiritual) problem (as
opposed to the purported solution),
or any of a number of other
legitimate reasons, seems quite
disingenuous to me, at best naive,
and therefore an undesirable trait
in a guru as well.
the ability to anticipate and
accept criticism with some
modicum of decorum would therefore
seem to be an essential quality in
on deflecting criticism...
the attribution of these inevitable
criticisms primarily (or even solely)
to whatever 'reason' best supports
one's own cause or agenda (i.e., the 'like'),
as opposed to the recognition of legitimate reasons,
would seem to be calculating and dishonest,
in my view, and most undesirable in a guru.
manipulation of any type and
amount would seem to be an
abhorrent trait in a guru.
ditto for an 'agenda'.
observable hate, esp. overt
expressions of same, would seem
to be another abhorrent trait
in a guru, in my view.
these traits are
my views only,
your mileage will vary.
My own loose "red-flag" criteria explored in detail at Critexpo,
institutional criteria of various
systems at Critexpo2. See also Stanley Sobottka's Choosing
and Mariana Caplan's Questioning Authority.