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Upa Guru



The word Guru comes from the Buddhist and Hindu traditions denoting a person who is a supreme spiritual guide. A person with wisdom. American spiritual teacher and psychologist, Ram Dass says most of us have an image of a “guru” – a little old Indian man wrapped in a dusty cloth wearing sandals and carrying a walking stick. A man of few words who usually resides a long way from where we are – often in a mountain monastery or in a beautiful forest in Tahiti. Little wonder we never find him/her as most of us don’t have the opportunity to go to India or Tahiti to look. We forget about looking right here, right now – which was Ram Dass’ quintessential advice always! His book “Be Here Now” was the source of the first sermon I ever preached – and the source I still turn to these days as I am forever tempted to look for answers everywhere except where I am!

There is a Hindu belief in finding your “Upa Guru” which translates to something like, the person right next to you. The guru waiting for you to find him/her. The ordinary, the usual, the one disguised as a person you know.

It’s a good practice now and then to think about who or what might be our own guru. The sage Ziyoung as written that there is nowhere that is not a wisdom hall. Where might we look for our own upa guru, our own wisdom hall? Though we’d probably prefer a trip to Tahiti or even a stint in a mountain monastery, likely the opportunities are all around us to find wisdom and to find people who will help us seek our own wisdom. I’ve always liked the saying (probably by Ram Dass) that Nirvana is right here nine times out of ten.

I was talking with a friend recently who said her father-in-law at age ninety and quite infirm had one piece of advice to pass on. The secret to life?? --- “acceptance”. The best thing to do when it rains is to let it rain. Good lessons. Hard to learn!

Questions Before Dark – by Jeanne Lohmann

Day ends, and before sleep

when the sky dies down, consider

your altered state: has this day

changed you? Are the corners

sharper or rounded off? Did you

live with death? Make decisions

that quieted? Find one clear word

that fit? At the sun’s midpoint

did you notice a pitch of absence,

bewilderment that invites

the possible? What did you learn

from things you dropped and picked up

and dropped again? Did you set a straw

parallel to the river, let the flow

carry you downstream?

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