Saturday, March 26, 2011

Abusive Gurus

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 organization of an abusive guru is called a cult.

"Real Masters never charge for their services, nor do they accept payment in any form or any sort of material benefits for their instructions. This is a universal law among Masters, and yet it is an amazing fact that thousands of eager seekers in America and elsewhere, go on paying large sums of money for "spiritual instruction.". Masters are always self-sustaining. They are never supported by their students or by public charity." --Julian P. Johnson, The Path of the Masters (original url)

The Abusive Guru is an all too common phenomenon in the "spiritual supermarket". Abusive gurus are almost always highly charismatic, emotionally immature and parasitic sociopaths suffering from Narcissistic personality disorder, and having a tendency to sadomasochistic co-dependency with their disciples and devotees. They justify their abusive treatment by in terms of pseudo-spiritual psychobbabble like "crazy wisdom" and "breaking down the ego".

Many abusive gurus with genuine experiences and powers actually derive those experiences and powers from the intermediate zone where they trapped. For the same reason, they genuinely believe their own claims, and may even think they are helping people.

Abusive gurus always behave in a cultic fashion, and their followers (many of which may suffer from excessive naivity or low self-esteem) tend to have an uncritical attitude of rationalisation towards the ill-treatemnet handed out at them.

All abusive gurus are also False Gurus, although the inverse is not necessarily the case (e.g. you can still have a false guru who is not abusive to their devotees). In other words, no True Guru is ever abusive, ever. There is no exception to this rule, because abusiveness is a result of narcissism and ego, nothing else, and the primary definition of a true guru is they no longer possess ego. Thus any (and I mean any!) abusive behavior of the sort described here immediately and absolutely defines that so-called teacher or so-called master as false.

Summing up, it is suggested that abusive gurus can be recognized by at least several of the following characteristics:

Sexually abusive behaviour

Demanding or requesting large "donations" (to fund an unnecessarily opulent or wealthy lifestyle)

Acting or teaching one way in public and another in private (e.g. celibate gurus justifying sex with female disciples as "Tantric Initiation")

Narcissistic behaviour

Using insulting words or other abusive behaviour to "break down your ego".

Physical abuse, usually by telling devotees to assault other devotees

Taking advantage of the disciples trust; controlling or forcing them to do something they don't want to

Emotionally sadistic (and in extreme cases physically sadistic)

Vindictive attitude towards ex-devotees

Responding to critics with anger, bitterness, hatred, or mockery rather than love


  1. I wish there were a way to get this information to everyone, like a required polio or smallpox inoculation.

    So many people, young adults in particular, join spiritual movements in search of the loving, psychologically healthy parent (or entire family) they never knew at home. They are so vulnerable, and narcissistic gurus can spot them from a mile away, and zero in on them. Often, the business of keeping secrets, not allowing a genuine expression of feelings, and not allowing discussion of inappropriate behavior or policies mirrors the warped environment these vulnerable adults experienced in their early family circle. Instead of experiencing the healing they so desperately seek and need, followers of Eastern spiritual traditions tragically end up re-creating for themselves the familial pattern of abuse. Articles like this need to be widely disseminated.

  2. This is very important information that even some well-known Dharma center leaders need to read. Jack Kornfield of Spirit Rock Meditation Center wrote in an essay that many gurus have affairs with their followers because gurus/masters are human. But this is an obvious abuse of power and trust, Kornfield should have known better. The reality is, as the author above makes clear, that an abusive, unethical guru IS A FALSE GURU, and the world is full of false gurus.

    Thank you for posting this piece.

  3. you are welcome. I noticed that about Kornfield too. He was my introduction into Buddhism because I really loved The Path With Heart. I was in one Buddhist group that was not abusive in any way. I cherish that experience and am sad that I had moved far away from it.