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Upa Gurus: Companions on the Path

Who are we for each other? We’re born, we begin growing up. At some point we may wonder what we’re doing here and who all these other people are. And animals, and trees, and clouds and rainbows? What are all these things?

The term upa guru fascinated me when I first heard it. A guru is tasked with leading a seeker from darkness into light. Upa means ‘nearby’. The upa guru is the tour guide nearby, the guide who walks alongside us to share the journey home to the light that has always been within us.

We walk the path together, and we’re all teachers and students of one another. We might take turns being the one holding the lantern—for a moment or a day or a year—pointing the way forward to remind both of us where we’re going. The lantern inevitably changes hands from one to another. We are upa gurus for each other.

Lovely to realize, it isn’t just the humans who are our companions on the journey. The word companion comes from the Latin, com, with; and panis, bread. What nourishes us? And who do we break bread with? The teacher nearby becomes everyone and everything in the Universe. When our attention and appreciation falls on another or on a ripple in a stream or a cardinal in a tree, the light that zings back and forth between the observor and the observed becomes the catalyst for awakening both. With our attention—or we could say our adoration—the rose becomes sweeter and more sublime. We do that for each other, too .

A particular upa guru may walk along the path with us for a little or a long while. We are invited to honor everyone and everything because they each have a gift for us. Just being in their presence is a blessing as being in our presence is a blessing to them. Who is my upa guru now? Whoever is standing next to me. All I have to do is look.

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