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Gurus and Masters glossary

Gurus and Spiritual Masters glossary of terms


The following Glossary of terms applies to this section of the Kheper website and my own definition of these things, hence it excludes many otherwise relevant terms, and includes some neologism not found elsewhere.

For a useful generic spiritual glossary see the Wikipedia Wikipedia link Glossary of spirituality-related terms. When Wikipedia is cited as a reference and not linked, it is from that glossary.


still under construction


Abusive Guru - an abusive guru or abusive spiritual master is always (always!) a false guru or master, never a genuinely enlightened teacher. This is because one of the signs of a true guru is that they never justify their abusive behaviour in terms of "breaking down the ego". Abusive gurus are almost always highly charismatic narcissistic, emotionally immature and parasitic sociopaths with a tendency to sadomasochistic co-dependency with their disciples and devotees. Many are inspired by (and stuck in) the intermediate zone, and hence are deluded enough to genuinely believe their own claims. Some may be puppeted by adverse entities. Abusive gurus are highly dangerous individuals who destroy the lives of many of their devotees. However it is also the case that some devotees are not harmed by, and even benefit from, their relation with their abusive guru. This is due to the highly ambiguous nature of the intermediate zone. The organisation of an abusive guru is called a cult. More


Adverse Entity - an adverse entity is a type of occult entity or attractor that is opposed to the Light and to any genuine divine activity or individuals. There are a number of types of such beings, which are traditionally referred to (in theological jargon) as "metaphysical evil" (or satanic, demonic, etc). I prefer to avoid such theologically naunaced language, and simply refer to the phenomenon itself. Adverse entities exist on the "Lower Astral" plane, some types also are able to manifest on the subtle physical. Some adverse entities possess intelligence, whereas others are mindless formations of hatred and rage. All are more powerful than the small human personalities of the abusive guru or cultist, and are able to manipulate them with ease.


ambiguous guru - a guru who has both positive and negative attributes. Often, devotees are helped or uplifted, experience grace, blessings, and so on; but what makes the guru ambiguous is that devotees may also be abused, or maybe the guru him or herself gives in to other human weaknesses that, whilst not specifically abusive, and not informed by Realisation, and show that the guru is not Realised. Differs from false guru in that there is some geuioness there, but it is mixed. Intermediate zone and many Abusive Gurus are examples of ambiguous gurus (although, as mentioned, not all ambiguous gurus are necessarily abusive)


avatar - in Hindu philosophy and religion (and as defined here too), an avatar is the physical incarnation of the Supreme (or an aspect thereof). "It derives from the Sanskrit word daveed which means "descent" and usually implies a deliberate descent into lower realms of existence for special purposes. The term is used primarily in Hinduism, for incarnations of Vishnu whom many Hindus worship as God. The Dasavatara are ten particular "great" incarnations of Vishnu. The word has also been used by extension to refer to the incarnations of God in other religions, especially by adherents to dharmic traditions when explaining figures from other religions such as Jesus." (Wikipedia link wikipedia). More


Avidya - Sanskrit - "non-(spiritual) knowledge", metaphysical ignorance. An important Vedantic (and general Hindu and Buddhist) concept referring to the deluded state of finite, non-enlightened or non-realised consciousness, according to which one mistakes the imperfect or false understanding of ordinary or limited consciousness for reality. Realisation and Liberation mean freedom from avidya, and hence being able to see things as they really are.


Bhakti - "A Tamil or Sanskrit term from Hinduism that means intense devotion expressed by action (service). A person who practices bhakti is called bhakta. The concept of devotion is more or less the same in all religions. But in Hinduism there are certain extra subtleties which make it comparatively more complicated. These are : the One Reality versus many ‘Gods’ of worship; deity worship through ‘ idols’ , ‘icons’ and ‘images’; the freedom to choose one’s own ‘favourite deity’, at the same time not being exclusive; and the interactive ramifications of God’s grace, fate and free will. Although some element of Bhakti was present even in the Vedic times, it is over the last six or seven centuries that Bhakti has taken the modern shape." (Wikipedia). As definied here, Bhakti refers to the spiritual path of devotion to the Supreme. The path of bhakti is generally the opposite to the path of Jnana (knowledge, realisation, or enlightenment), and is considered by many spiritual teachings the swiftest and surest path to liberation


Cult - used in this (limited popular) context only, "cult" refers to the organisation that develops around an abusive guru, and which enforces the abuser's authority, usually by means of an inner circle of lieutenants or close disciples who have taken on the abusive guru's dysfunctional sadomasochistic attitudes, thus keeping the devotees submissive and manipulatable. Every cult (used in thsi context) and cult leader denies that they are really "cults", and instead shadow projects their own dysfunctionalism onto their critics.


devotee - A person who worships the personality of a guru or master, having a fundamentalist attitude to their teachings, using them as an object of bhakti in order to attain Realisation and Liberation. Depending on the discrimination of the person, their guru may be genuine or (if they lack discrimination) fake and abusive. An ordinary devotee is generally not as close to the guru or master as a disciple. More


disciple - A devotee who has a long and/or close association with their guru or master; may be considered to have a higher level of realisation than the other disciples (although not as high as the guru him or herself) and generally works closely with them in the running of their organisation. More.


discrimination - As defined here, the ability to recoignise and distinguish between a true spiritual teacher, guru or master, from a fake one. Such discrimination comes from one's own Inner Divine centre. Spiritual seekers with poor discrimination may end up involved with abusive cults.


Enlightenment - often used to translate the Buddhist term Bodhi (literally "Awakening"), with the Spiritual Supermarket and the abundance of fake, deluded, and ambiguous teachers, the word Enlightenment has been cheapened and is now often totally meaningless when uyssed in a spiritual context. For this reason, Realisation is used here instead. More


Fake Guru - as defined here, an individual who claims to be a spiritual teacher or master or true Guru, but has no geneuine spirituality at all. They are ultimately con artists or at best showmen, but provide nothing real, not even anything of the intermediate zone. Many disillusioned ex-devotees see their former guru as a fake; but more often sucha so-called guru is actually an abusive guru tapping in to the energy of the intermediate zone. More


False Guru - by far the majority of Eastern gurus to the west, as well as home-grown gurus, are false. They either are deluding themselves, deluding others (con artists), or both. While some fake gurus are harmless, many are abusive, even dangerous, and should be steered well clear of. Such is the nature of lack of spiritual discrimination that many seekers believe that fake gurus are genuinely enlightened. This shows how easily people are fooled by superficial appearances.


Guru (Sanskrit - "Heavy One") - "A teacher in Hinduism, Buddhism or Sikhism. Based on a long line of philosophical understanding as to the importance of knowledge, the guru is seen in these religions as a sacred conduit, or a way to self-realization. In India and among people of Hindu, Buddhist, or Sikh belief, the title retains a hallowed meaning. " (Wikipedia). A tiny minority of Gurus may be realised or liberated, or even an avatar, in which case they are a Sadguru or True Guru. However, in the vast majority of cases, most gurus do not have any such attainment, and are probably more equivalent to the clergy or priesthood in Christianity, Rabbi in Judaism, and imam in Islam. While in their own culture these gurus do a geniuuine service. However, many of these so-called gurus have moved to the west, in which case they, and the smaller number of Western home-grown gurus, are not regulated by traditional spiritual cultures and guidelines, and easily become narcissistic and ultimately abusive.


Intermediate Zone - as defined by Sri Aurobindo, this is a highly misleading, transitional region of mixed or imprefect enlightenment and other such experiences, that is encountered when one goes beyond the limits of the surface or outer being. Many sadhaks and gurus become stuck here, believing they have attained the highest enlightenment.. More


Intermediate Zone Guru - a term I coined to refer to those gurus who are not yet full realised, but still pertain to the Intermediate Zone. More


Jnana (Sanskrit - also spelled "Gyana"), in Vedanta, spiritual knowledge, true or transcendent knowledge, such as the knowledge that one's innermost self or Atman is the same as the Absolute Reality or Brahman. In Buddhism the equivalent term is Prajna. In the three yogas of the Bhagavad Gita, Jnana yoga is one of the three paths (marga) towards liberation; others are Bhakti and Karma Yoga.


Master - Spiritual Master is a larger category that includes guru and any other spiritual teacher. It may be used to refer to a western teacher or one who teaches a specifically Western path, whereas a guru tends to be associated with Hinduism and especially with Vedanta. However the title of guru can also be applied in a broader sense as well.


Moksha (liberation) or Mukti (release) "Refers, in general, to liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. In higher Hindu philosophy, it is seen as a transcendence of phenomenal being, of any sense of consciousness of time, space, and causation (karma). It is not seen as a soteriological goal in the same sense as in, say, a Christian context, but signifies dissolution of the sense of self, or ego, and the overall breakdown of nama-roopa (name-form). It is, in Hinduism, viewed as analogous to Nirvana, though Buddhist thought tends to differ with even the Advaita Vedantist reading of liberation. Jainism and Surat Shabda Yoga traditions also believe in Moksha. " (Wikipedia). More


Narcissistic personality disorder - excessive narcissism taking the form of a psychological dysfunction whereby the ego is unhealthily inflated due to identification with an Attractor, resulting in the person having an exagerated view of their own self importance, usually also associated with extreme selfishness, unreasonable expectations, and insensitivity and lack of empathy to others. Narcissistic personality disorder is a characteristic that is very prominant in the great majority of fake and abusive gurus.


Projection of the Shadow - a psychological process, first noted by Jung, by which an individual projects the repressed contents of their psyche onto a convenient other, who is then seen as the enemy. Shadow projection is a characteristic that is very prominant in all (without exception) abusive gurus and negative cults. More


Realisation - here used intsead of Enlightenment, the reason being that many false or fake or narcissitic gurus refer to themselves as "Enlightened". In order to distinguish the real from the charlatins, around 2007 I began using the term Realisation. Realisation refers to the attainment of a permanent state of higher wisdom, understanding, illumination, or self realisation, in which one is totally transparent to the Divine. Realisation automatically confers liberation from lower consciousness (avidya)More


Sadhak - A spiritual aspirant, generally a devotee who student, who is following a spiritual teaching or tradition or guru in order to attain realisation.


Sadguru or Satguru means "true guru", but not just "true" in the sense of the english word, but literally enlightened, in touch with the Eternal or Absolute, Word Teacher, one who has totally gone beyond the bounds of samsaric limitations (hence Sat - Absolute Being). From Wikipedia: "The title means that his students have faith that the guru can be trusted and will lead them to moksha, enlightenment or inner peace. It is based on a long line of Hindu philosophical understandings of the importance of knowledge and that the teacher, guru, is the sacred conduit to self-realization." Many gurus today claim to be sadgurus but are actually fake gurus. For more, see True Guru.



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page uploaded 4 July 2006, last modified 9 January 2010