Everybody is a Guru: Cyclic Teaching and Nonlinear Learning

upanishad-master-and-pupilupanishad-master-and-pupil
Master and pupil in the Upanishads

“We are beings whose distinguishing purpose, indeed whose distinguishing delight, is that we understand first what is not ourselves and, by that means, understand ourselves also.” – James Schall

Most of us are aware of the traditional Indian greeting, Namaste, which means: the divine within me recognizes and honors the divine within you. But if we’re truly honoring the divine within others then we must accept that there is something we can learn from the individual divinity of every person that crosses our path. When it comes down to it, this recognition is the ability to listen. And when we know how to listen, everyone becomes a guru.

Think about it: everybody knows something that we don’t. Because of this, we are daily torn between acumen and nescience. We come to realize that we are equal parts puppet and genius. Our inner-genius hears the calling of our unique authenticity; our inner-puppet gives into the culling of an inert culture.

Our inner-genius has the capacity to transform us into polymaths of the highest order. Our inner-puppet, on the other hand, creates spoon-fed monomaths, at best. Monomaths defend linear thinking. Polymaths branch out into nonlinear learning. Monomaths are inflexible and rigid in their ways. Polymaths are flexible and question their ways. Monomaths have a one-track mind. Polymaths are multiscious in nature.

But we are all teachers, just as we are all students. Life is what we teach and life is what we learn. So when we’re open to learning from others, we open ourselves up to a particular flavor of knowledge that only that specific person can give us. If we’re open to this kind of learning then we are polymaths by default. This can be a magical experience.

Plato-Aristotle-by-Raphael
Aristotle was Plato’s best student.

The divine is a frequency that lies within us all. It exists within you; you have only to tap into it. It exists within others as well; you only have to listen to it. It speaks a language older than words; we have only to relearn that language. And when we can tap into these frequencies we begin to see how teaching is cyclical, and learning does not have to be of the traditionally linear variety. It can be nonlinear and prolific in nature.

Here’s the thing: human beings are social creatures. We need each other. We are each walking mirrors for each other. What we reveal to each other in these “mirrors” is very important for both our health as individuals and our health as a species. Scientists have long wondered why it is that people act at such an instinctive, gut-level to the actions of others. Now, with the discovery of mirror neurons (reference), such reactions are becoming clearer.

When we see another person suffering, we can feel their suffering as if it is our own. This constitutes our powerful system of empathy, which leads to our thinking that we should do something to relieve the suffering of others.

It also leads to our thinking more deeply about what others are going through, which can lead to some profound learning. “Mirror neurons,” writes Lea Winerman, “are a type of brain cell that respond equally when we perform an action and when we witness someone else perform the same action.”

How can this type of understanding make us more guru-like? It instills in us a higher sensitivity toward compassion and empathy. The more compassionate and empathic we are, the more likely we are to be polymaths. The more polymathic we are, the more likely we are to recognize the divine within others. And the more we recognize the divine within others, the more likely we are to learn from what only their particular “flavor” of divinity can teach us.

In the video below Indian Spiritual Guru, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, talks about enlightenment ~

Indian Spiritual Guru @ TED India 2009 - Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev

Here’s a brilliant video of a student giving a pep talk to students and teachers, must watch!

Kid President's Pep Talk to Teachers and Students!

In the end, we realize that true mastery is not about mastering others but about mastering our former self. We master our former self by understanding how everything is connected, how we’re all in this together, how we are all gurus. We master our former self by learning from others and then “paying it forward” through a recycling of our mastery.

Image source:

Plato & Aristotle as central figures in Raphael’s The School of Athens (1510)
Master and Pupil
Jai Guru

Please share, it really helps! :) <3

Gary Z McGee
Gary Z McGee
Gary 'Z' McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.

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