Short Story: “The Guru”

After many years searching for a guru, the narrator finally finds one in an unexpected place.

Calm Man Outdoors Relaxing And Breathing In Deeply In Autumn Park © Monkey Business Images /

April 14, 2024 01:38 EDT

Something to consider when reading/listening: What is the understanding that the guru in this story embodies?

For years, I was searching for a guru.

Someone who sees through the illusion of the self, who is uncentered, free from the ego, who experiences the world not as a separate being but as a wave in the ocean of the universe.

I tried yoga teachers, monks, priests… They were nice people, but you could tell they were still shrouded in separateness.

And well, having searched for years, I gave up. I reasoned that the sort of guru I was looking for was too rare, too unlikely and probably too oversubscribed to be able to spend any time with me.

Well there’s a saying in spiritual circles. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. And, six weeks ago now, that’s exactly what happened. 

The moment I saw her, I knew I’d found my guru.

She was— is— completely different from any teacher, any person I’ve ever met.

She looks at the world with curiosity and openness. There’s no judgment. No sense of good or bad. She simply accepts… everything.

She applies this method not only to others but to herself. If she’s tired or upset, she won’t hide it. She’s not hesitant or polite. She will let her emotions rip through her, she’ll feel them with her whole body, she’ll burn up with them. But the moment the emotion has finished, it is finished. She lingers on nothing, worries about nothing. She lives exclusively in the here and the now.

She doesn’t see them as her emotions, that’s the secret. They’re no more hers than the wind or the rain. Everything is transient, everything arises and disperses, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. Her mind doesn’t produce a copy for her to ruminate over; it simply lets it go.

“When hungry, eat; when tired, sleep.” That’s the essence of Zen. And I never understood what this meant until I met my guru. She does what she wants, when she wants to do it, and she doesn’t care who she upsets in the process. There is no process. There is, as far as she’s concerned, no one to upset.

She hasn’t explained any of this to me. She doesn’t need to. Like Ram Dass said about Maharaj-ji, to learn from a true guru, all you need is to be in their presence.

For the first five days, she didn’t once look me in the eye. She’d look past me, through me, she’d close her eyes if I looked at hers. And when she finally did, my eyes were no more or less significant to her than any other form of light and shade.

But although she is wholly, and unashamedly, indifferent to me. I cannot be in her presence without feeling such an intensity of love. 

One of the key aspects of the student–guru relationship is service, and I’ve always found that idea a bit strange. I used to cringe when I heard tales of devotees scrubbing floorboards or giving massages while the guru refuses even to acknowledge them.

But with my guru, it makes perfect sense. I am more than happy to attend to her every need, and so too is my wife. Since she started living with us, she’s not done a single thing for herself. And not once have we felt put out by this situation.

She never says thank you. It doesn’t even occur to her. 

Because she doesn’t see us or herself as people. Everything is just the next sensation, rising and falling. Rising and falling. She sees the world as it really is.

This morning, she’s spat at me, poked me in the eye, screamed in my face. And it didn’t bother her even slightly. It didn’t bother me either.

We’re happy to serve. Night or day, it doesn’t matter. She can wake us up at 2 AM if she so wishes, and she often does. We’ll comfort her, sing to her, bathe her. Whatever she needs, we will do it.

The feeding, of course, is done by my wife. But I change most of the nappies.

And by observing her, how her eyes interact with new snatches of light and shade, how her whole body burns up with every emotion before immediately returning to peace, how she looks at her own fingers with a fascination most of us can’t muster for the world’s greatest artworks…. I’ve learned more from her than I’d learn in the presence of the most revered master.

She’s six weeks old now, and I know she will gradually, and then quickly, lose this understanding. Like her parents before her, she will take on all the trappings of a personality, a costume as impenetrable as skin. But one day, if she’s lucky, she’ll meet a guru of her own, and start her journey back to where she began.

[Doe Wilmann first released this piece on his short story podcast, Meaningless Problems.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


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