Q&A: Do Real Gurus Teach for Free?
Hi Ashwita. There is this huge notion that spirituality should be free of cost. Gurus should not charge money. If they charge any money they are not authentic because they would have transcended everything materialistic. When we go to learn music or some other art from a great guru , how much they charge is equal to their knowledge and what they can offer to their students. Why do people put everything in a box of their choice? Even spirituality ? Would love to know what you would like to say about this.
Our great gurus in the past reached such levels of detachment and/ or self-control that many could live without food and water if they needed to. Now such a person not only has no desires, but also has barely any needs. They helped people out and sometimes took nothing in return. People have come to believe that this is ‘true’ spirituality because all of us choose only that information which is convenient.
We forget that we actually come from a culture where a teacher can demand absolutely anything, even a part of one’s body, from one’s student – let alone a small amount of money. The only reason deep spiritual teachings were often free were often because those seeking would have left everything and have no source of income themselves. Tradition has it that whenever an earning person visits an enlightened master, they never go empty-handed, they always always come bearing gifts. Now whether that person chooses to take it or not is his/ her choice, and people have even found that when they visit a guru after a year, the things they brought last year are still sitting in the same place in the same way.
Apart from that now a days there are some traditions where the teacher has learned for free and insists that the student teaches/ serves for free and this is a part of the student-teacher deal. This means however, that this person can never take this up as a profession, because he or she would need to spend at least 8 hours a day earning money for his or her family. I think this greatly restricts the spreading of sacred knowledge/ service, but there must be some reason they do this, who knows.
As a teacher who is completely dedicated to the teachings – like a karate teacher to karate, or a music teacher to music, then the ultimate goal becomes to facilitate the spread of those teachings. And when such a teacher comes across a truly receptive student, actually fee becomes immaterial, and I’m sure that a genuine teacher wouldn’t care if such a student is for a real reason incapable of paying. It could be for this reason that some teachers insist that it be taught for free, but like I said I think it defeats the original purpose, because this person will be flooded with people by virtue of being free, and at the same time be short on time due to having to maintain a job and family responsibilities. How much such a person can serve is questionable. It was different in a time when every person used to give a fraction of their savings by default, to the Brahmins. Quite a different story now, but some traditions don’t change, much to their own detriment.
There are many of you in this group whose lives have changed quite drastically, and there is a very powerful sense of gratitude. Now imagine if you had received whatever you received for free. This would have had two possibilities. Either you would feel totally indebted, in which case you would end up with heavy karmic baggage, or you would take it for granted, in which case you would generate even more baggage. This is why (genuine) teachers who teach for free instruct their students that they have to serve for free, because it works as a pay-it-forward system, but that is not fool-proof either. If a person does not end up getting too many clients, or for some reason the clients don’t get better, then it’s still going leave a pretty messy karmic situation.
But… people think what they think. When a person is not ready for real teachings, they will find some stupid belief system like this to avoid them. I even know of a teacher who (was married but) would often be found with a woman or two sitting on his lap when you met him, because he only wanted disciples who could see beyond petty illusions. Contrary to popular belief that ‘genuine’ people would roam around with a trumpet, genuine people are far more likely to hide in plain sight because they really don’t want to waste time fulfilling petty desires of people who have no genuine interest in moving past the illusion.