I recently saw an interesting documentary called “Kumare” and it got me thinking about spirituality and human nature. There’s a guy, Vikram Gandhi, and he becomes a guru. He dresses in robes, grows out his hair, and speaks with an Indian accent. However, his teachings are really all about personal empowerment and how you don’t really need a guru- which is odd since they still needed a guru to learn that lesson. He eventually reveals himself to be a regular guy born in the US. It get’s repetitive toward the end, but overall twas informative and enjoyable.
Gandhi expressed criticisms of spiritual leaders and with his film illuminates the emptiness behind religious titles of authority. Overall I must agree. Even as an atheist I believe it’s important for a persons psychological health to be spiritual and this (as any other subject or discipline) may not require gurus, but certainly requires teachers to guide those willing to learn.
Spirituality is a feeling that justifies your existence and it doesn’t come in a pill yet. Part of that for me that’s knowing where I come from: supernovas and star dust; a chemical chain reaction that began billions of years ago and never once ceased to continue onward and adapt. It’s realizing that we are all connected by a common lineage and thus by blood. We are intimately linked with the planet and all its life. We depend on fellow lifeforms for sustenance and the very air we breath. What is the Earth but a giant fishbowl filled with a gaseous fluids rather than liquid (for the most part).
I take issue with the notions of many New Age spiritualists (in so far as I’ve experienced) that everything should be peace and love when even in nature conflict is the basis for the circle of life. Nature, ours and in the broadest sense, is not like Disney movies where predators and prey get along just fine. I, and many others, have a terrifying relationship with bees and wasps. It takes fewer stings for us to die. They penetrate us and pump a poison which usually results only in pain, but for some of us our throats close up. Anaphylaxis is natural. Bug bites and stings are natural too. The ingenuity with which organic systems adapted are beautiful, but often dangerous.
Guru’s and religious leaders often preach peace, love and turning the other cheek. That’s nice, but unrealistic. Peace is boring- which is why we have football and violent TV shows, movies, and video games. Peace is wonderful, but when there’s a giant wasp hive in your backyard you get the Raid and a flamethrower. Sometimes people, groups, and nations are the proverbial wasp nest. Turning the other cheek and coexisting is great until somebody stops breathing. The real trick is to know the difference between an aggressive wasp and the more docile honey bee.
There’s also a necessity for spiritual teachers. Children need teachers because we stand on the shoulders of giants. Newborns are not expected to unlock all the previous intellectual achievements of mankind on their own: reinventing writing, mathematics, the wheel, etc. It seems to follow that people would need spiritual leaders and teachers if only to empower them further. I would consider Carl Sagan, Bill Nye, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, to be spiritual teachers in the sense that they all reflect a deep appreciation for the universe in which we live.
~David T. Kukulkan~