Whether on a personal or collective level, we are discovering that the stories of separation are untrue. What we do unto the other, inescapably visits ourselves as well in some form. As that becomes increasingly obvious, a new story of self and story of the people becomes accessible to us.
[...] The new story of self is the connected self, the self of interbeingness. The new story of the people is one of cocreative partnership with Lover Earth. They ring true in our hearts, we see them on the horizon, but we do not yet live yet in these new stories. It is hard to, when the institutions and habits of the old world still surround us.
[...] "It is impossible to abide in Nirvana alone. If any sentient being is left out of it, then part of me is left out of it." Only someone under the delusion that he is a discrete, separate soul would imagine otherwise.
Enlightening as these teachings might be, mere information is not enough. As many spiritual traditions recognize, a living teacher, a guru, is necessary to bring the teachings to life in their unique application to each individual. We need something from beyond our old selves, someone to illuminate our blind spots, to humble our conceit, to show us the love we didn't know we had within us. This presents a problem today, because the age of the guru is manifestly over.
No human being can hold the guru energy in post-modern society. This is old news - the age of the guru has been over for at least thirty years. In the 1960s and 70s, any number of masters came to America from the East and, absent the cultural structures that traditionally kept them in an insulated realm, succumbed one after another to scandals involving money, sex, and power.
Spiritual self-sufficiency ignores the fundamental truth of our interbeingness. Without each other, we cannot make those peak experiences, those glimpses we have all had of a more vivid way of being, into anything more than glimpses. How can we make them into a new baseline for life? How can we enter into the world that they show us, how can we redeem their promise? How can we bring into living reality the knowledge that we have been shown something true and real? Each time, the old world drags us back.
The inertia of our habits and beliefs, the expectations of the people surrounding us, the way we are seen, the media, the pressures of the money system all conspire to hold us where we were. Coming off a peak experience, we may try to insulate ourselves from all these things, to live in a bubble of positivity, but eventually we realize that is impossible. The negative influences find a way to creep back in.
[...] Each one of us is pioneering a different aspect of the connected self in the age of reunion, and each one of us as well carries vestigial habits of the age of separation that are invisible to us or that, if visible, we are helpless to overcome on our own. Quite practically, to inhabit a more enlightened state we must be held there by a community of new habits, new ways of seeing each other, and new beliefs in action that redefine normal.
In other words, in the age of the connected self our guru can be none other than a collective, a community - as Thich Nhat Hanh put it, "The next Buddha will be a sangha." By a community, I don't mean an amorphous "we are all one" mass devoid of structure, but rather a matrix of human beings united in a common story of the people and story of the self. Aligned with these defining stories, this community can hold us in the vision of what we are becoming.
[...] This realization often manifests as a desire to find one's true purpose in life, one's service to the world. Such a purpose is never just about the separate egoic self. It is always about service; it is about one's gifts and how to give them. Purpose is about gift and relationship. The emerging state of vitality, joy, and love that humanity is entering is not a place where we can abide for long on our own. We need each other.
[...] To be dependent is to be alive - it is to be enmeshed in the give and take of the world.
[...] We can do for each other what a guru does for a disciple: hold each other in the knowing of who we really are, and teach each other how to live there. Each of us, as we experience our own piece of the age of reunion, becomes a guide to a small part of that vast new territory.
'Why the Age of the Guru is Over'