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Letter To A Former Guru, Circa 1986

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I’ve been reading a lot about depression and buddhism (especially zen) on Psychcentral and other places.

It prompted me to write a letter to my former buddhist meditation teacher (circa 1986).

Dear G,

I remember what you said:

That we must buckle down and accept that life has no intrinsic meaning.

That we should just experience and seek bliss because that’s the only valid experience of enlightenment.

That the body is an illusion.

That the soul is an illusion.

That money and ownership were illusions, too.

You said you were above greed, but you weren’t.

Thank God my time with you was so brief!

People said you were their “guru” and you pretended that you didn’t care, but the corners of your mouth turned up and your eyes sparkled.

When I remember what I was taught so long ago, I think how bitter and angry were the people teaching this, including you. You said you were above such petty human emotions, you said you were enlightened, but I saw that really you were not. Your words were pain-filled barbs which poisoned anyone else’s hope and trust and faith.

Is there anything more frightening than the idea that nothing is real?

Is there anything more depression-inducing than the idea that a pervasive, unity of emptiness forms our world, which is one of illusion?

That nothingness-bliss is more than enough meaning for mature adults and we must accept that ultimately, nothing really matters?

That growing up means you accept that life and death don’t really matter because life and death are illusions?

That the soul merges with a unified, vast energy of nothingness once we die and the illusion is shattered?

That self is empty, there is no self?

Your words were arrows which aimed for the heart, the real heart, the human, loving, caring heart.

If a flea and a dandelion and a human being all have the same intrinsic value, since value itself is an illusion, how could anyone love anyone, even themselves?

If nothing mattered except checking out in blissful enlightenment, then why did you demand such a pristine and pure but ultimately luxurious environment in your home? After all, if nothing is real, and you’re enlightened, why not go live in a studio walk-up or a tract house? It’s all an illusion anyway?

Why be vegetarian? An animal’s life and death are all an illusion, right?

Why be so condemning of people who disagreed with you, calling them unenlightened, calling them fools, if nothing matters anyway? Why do condescending?

Why did you require money? Or food? Or subservient “students”?

Like so many others, you were a fraud, basking in the glory you denied you needed.

You actually had a rotten temper, and were the picture of delight only if everyone did exactly as you wanted. If someone interrupted you, for example, you excoriated them.

I long ago stopped being angry or incredulous or disappointed in you.

But when I see others suffering from the loneliness and pain from the same kind of “enlightenment” you sold, so elegantly packaged, I get angry for them. I feel their pain. I feel their confused bitterness. I want to help them. This letter is my way of doing it.





Letter To A Former Guru, Circa 1986

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2014). Letter To A Former Guru, Circa 1986. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 5, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Aug 2014
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