At one time, the title, “guru” was specially reserved for people of very high spiritual attainment. Guru is derived directly from the Sanskrit word of the same spelling. In its original sense, a guru is a weighty, venerable, intellectual, instructor who teaches profound, personal, religious practices and wisdom. In our minds, we might envision an elderly person wearing a loincloth or robes sitting in the Lotus Pose on the ground or cushion. Humble, devoted students sit at his feet listening intently to the teacher’s every word.
“The teacher is he who knows the Eternal Wisdom. The syllable ‘gu’ means darkness. The syllable ‘ru’ means dispeller. He is therefore called a ‘guru’ because he dispels darkness.”–The Upanishads (Hindu scriptures)
Now, the term “guru” has come to mean just about anyone who thinks she or he is some sort of leader or pioneer in almost any field of endeavor.
We have so-called Wall Street gurus who promise to bring you great riches, wealth, and prosperity. Frequently, they are the only ones who become enriched.
There are the billionare business gurus who have consolidated and merged corporations on a global scale. They are either self-proclaimed leaders or media hyped gurus.
Lately, a new sort of guru has emerged from the web. Internet Marketing Gurus promise to teach their students everything necessary to increase traffic to ones website, blog, or podcast. They utilize techniques to optimize search engines and e-mail marketing. The gurus preach the promotion gospel to enable you to fully realize Internet marketing schemes.
These gurus promote their own or their mentors’ e-books, software, and other products. They promise enormous viewer traffic and bank balances if you follow their teachings to the letter.
Closely related to and often entwined with the Internet Marketing Guruship are the Multi-Level Marketers (MLM). These are “pyramid-like” business plans similar to those perfected by such companies as Amway. Many of these are legitimate; but several are money traps. The most common form involves a business plan of salespeople who are expected to sell “products” and techniques to customers and prospects by developing personal relationships, referrals, and networking through social media, blogging, and word of mouth.
Criticism of MLM plans is frequent. MLMs are often embroiled in controversy, hard feelings, and sometimes, lawsuits. Many MLMs involve “exclusive products”, entry fees and costs for marketing kits and initial product samples and supplies. There is a very strong emphasis on recruitment of other “entrepreneurs” over actual product sales. The guru’s “business partner disciples”, are encouraged to use the guru’s products, software, e-books, and so forth. Oftentimes, major seminars, “webinars”, and other events, and materials. These sorts of enhancements bring about an almost cult-like devotion to the business guru and business model.
I have been lately bombarded with several business offers from several “entrepreneurs”. They are encouraging me to increase traffic to my blog and make exaggerated amounts of money if I join their “team”. I suspect that many of these bloggers are devoted to the same MLM guru. If you are one of those bloggers, I’m sorry, I won’t bite the bait. I quit MLMs after a stint with Amway back in the 1970s.
There are other kinds of online gurus, but they’re usually quite innocuous, but well-meaning. They’re recognizeable by the feel-good, New Agey content of their websites. Their pithy sayings are often borrowed, well worn homilies that can lift your spirits when you feel a bit down and depressed. They might offer an e-book or similar self-produced item you can buy to help pay for their bandwidth. I have no problem with that sort of “guru”.
There are similar “gurus” who promote some sort of “spiritual therapy”. They might be along the lines of channeling, auto-hypnosis, or some sort of “personal coaching”. A few of these are at least uplifting. Some may provide some actual benefit to the buyer. But do carefully examine and investigate any site or person who offers these sorts of services. There are plenty of mountebanks and charlatans among the few worthy individuals. Such is the nature of the web.
As for myself, I hope the word “guru” leaves the commercial venues so that real gurus, like the founder of Sikhism, can be heard more purely. Guru Nanak said, “Even if a thousand suns and moons rose, they would be unable to remove the darkness of ignorance within the heart. This can only be removed through the grace of the Guru.” Regardless of whether or not you practice Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, or any other spiritual tradition, I hope you find your own true guru. Maybe that guru is yourself.
The Blue Jay of Happiness suggests the old maxim, “Let the buyer beware.”