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San Francisco Chronicle, USA ~Sep 14, 2008

It's time. Time to get a guru.

Why not? They're everywhere these days. And not just the "om"-chanting, bead-wearing kind. Nowadays, anyone or anything that can help you improve any aspect of your life in any way is a guru. There are career gurus, fitness gurus, relationship gurus, home decor gurus, PR gurus, organizational gurus and even guru widgets. Could we be having a guru moment?

High and low. Near and far. For serious and not-so serious. Gurus are popping up everywhere in our lifestyle landscape. And so, dear seeker, we offer this practical guide to help you better navigate the potential pitfalls in your journey to enlightenment.

Mystery guru

In the best-selling, Oprah-blessed "Eat, Pray, Love," author and protagonist Elizabeth Gilbert (who has been on Winfrey's show at least twice), goes to Italy to eat, India to meditate at the ashram of her guru, and Indonesia to fall in love. The off-the-charts popularity of her soul-searching journey has apparently prompted copy-cat trips by women to the same destinations and in pursuit of her guru, whom she wouldn't name in her book. (But it's been sleuthed out: WikiAnswers and Yahoo! Answers will tell you. Or just Google.)

Guru in a can

The Web site for Guru Energy Drinks says "100% Crap-free, Born from Wisdom, Embodiment of a New Generation," proving that the new generation is not afraid to get on the guru train. As the makers say: "We wanted to create the ultimate drink: powerful and healthy; something that could keep us going, and going. Man, it should be the guru of all drinks!"

Two-wheeled guru

Enough with mass production and one size fits all. We are all unique. And we are all one. How does that work? Who knows? But in today's world, when we're super fit and trying to avoid spewing fossil fuel byproducts, we should at least have a bike that fits. Guru custom-made bikes, says manufacturer Younique, are made "one soul at a time."

Guru debunkers

You know something just might be something when it merits enough space in the blogosphere to be debunked. Bad gurus are old news, but keeping up with unseemly behavior by popular gurus and their followers is a spiritual calling for some.

-- The Bored Guru: "Grace, glory, gratitude or simply gurucifixion?"

-- Guruphiliac: "Revealing Self-Aggrandizement and Superstition in Self-Realization since 2005."

YouTube gurus

In today's wired universe, where ideas spread exponentially more quickly than they did in the distant pre-Internet age, YouTube is fast becoming a popular transmission medium for a savvy guru's messages. Want to spread the word? This medium carries the message.

-- Dattatreya Siva Baba, above, the YouTube Guru: Indian mystic, guru to best-selling self-help author Wayne Dyer, is known to many followers as the YouTube Guru because of the popularity of his videos on topics ranging from meditation practices to quantum mechanics.

-- Paramahamsa Nithyananda: founder of the Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam, a worldwide movement for meditation and healing, claims to be the second-most-watched guru on YouTube

Rapping guru

If you're going to be a one-name musician, you gotta pick a good moniker: iconic, simple, exalted. Prince, Madonna, Jewel - or how about Guru?

The rapper Guru says his name is an acronym that stands for gifted unlimited rhymes universal and the less-often-used "God is Universal, he is the Ruler Universal." Check out his song "Life Saver" at

Not a guru-vy movie

Mike Myers hoped his summer comedy "The Love Guru" would ride the prevailing guru winds to box office heights. Instead, it crashed and burned. The New York Times' A.O. Scott wrote, " 'The Love Guru' is downright anti-funny, an experience that makes you wonder if you will ever laugh again." Boo-hoo for the love guru who replaces Deepak Chopra as the No. 1 guru but doesn't mine the guru phenom for its true meaning and humor.

Gurus to the stars

Although gurus have been around since the beginning of religion, their entree into pop culture was gilded with the cool that only rock 'n' roll can bestow. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was the first bearded seer to reach stardom, largely through his association with the Beatles. Nowadays, gurus and celebrities seem to go together like milk and ... anything, right?

Personal chef, plastic surgeon, guru - it's just another part of the fabulous life. But there's a deep side too. Some claim that people who seek fame do so out of insecurity. Once bagged, fame can prove a fickle mistress. Hence, the insecure and famous seek true meaning through spirituality. And who bestows the wisdom and insight? Top gurus, past and present:

-- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: The late godfather of gurus. Celebrity clients: the Beatles (above, with the Maharishi), the Rolling Stones, Marianne Faithfull, Mia Farrow, Doug Henning, David Lynch, Deepak Chopra.

-- Gurumayi Chidvilasananda: Followers reportedly include or have included Diana Ross, Isabella Rossellini, Lisa Kudrow, Laura Dern, James Brolin, Meg Ryan, Dennis Quaid, Don Johnson, Melanie Griffith, John Denver, Peggy Lipton, Rosanna Arquette.

-- J.Z. Knight a.k.a. Ramtha, the Enlightened One: Linda Evans, Shirley MacLaine.

-- Sri Chinmoy: The late Bangladeshi spiritual teacher and physical fitness buff's followers have included Carlos Santana, Sheena Easton and track star Carl Lewis.

-- Swami Muktananda: He claimed to be a siddha, an enlightened yogi of a centuries-old Hindu tradition. The late Muktananda drew such celebrities as Marsha Mason, state Attorney General Jerry Brown, Phylicia Rashad, Denver, James Taylor and Carly Simon.

-- Dalai Lama: Richard Gere.

-- Werner Erhard: creator of EST: Ted Danson, Valerie Harper, Raul Julia and Denver (yet again).

This article appeared on page F - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle