A Thief and the Guru: A 2021 New Year’s Tale

Garry Davis, the founder of the World Citizenship Movement, had two gurus or spiritual guides who helped him understand what it means to be a world citizen, profoundly influencing his thoughts and actions. I was in my mid-20s when I started working with Garry at the World Service Authority. Garry, who was in his 70s, became my guru and shared his lifetime of worldly wisdom.

Garry once said to me, “One guru is worth a hundred thieves.”

I said, “What do you mean? Why would you compare a guru to a thief?”

He repeated, “One guru is worth a hundred thieves.” Garry continued, “One person of heart is worth a hundred people of head. One thief is worth a hundred people of heart. And, one guru is worth a hundred thieves.”

My eyes were wide, and I had a confused look on my face. Garry told the following tale:

One person of heart – that is a person of action, someone who acts from emotion – is worth a hundred people of head because a person of head is stuck in their thoughts. The person of head may have great thoughts, but unless they are willing to act on those thoughts, nothing will change.

Now the problem with the person of heart is that they may not have thought through their actions, so their actions will have little impact. This is what brings us to the thief.

One thief is worth a hundred people of heart because the thief, if they are a successful thief, will have taken painstaking efforts to plan their theft. Because they are a thief, they are willing to go through with it even though they might get caught.  So the thief has put the head and the heart together.

But the thief is in the perceptual world, bound by space and time. The thief is in the here and now – the material, relative world. The thief is selfish.

Now, this brings us to the guru. Why is one guru worth a hundred thieves? Because the guru puts the head and the heart together in an ethical framework for understanding the world around them.

The guru is in the conceptual world, the world of values. The guru is a teacher. The guru gives to others and is for others. The guru is selfless. The guru is free and has no Karma to deal with. The guru has found the truth and is one with truth. The guru sees the world as one and views everything holistically.

One guru is worth a hundred thieves because the guru not only thinks about the morality and helpfulness of their actions before they take them, but they also act selflessly to help those around them.

Why is “The Thief and the Guru” an important New Year’s tale? Given the extraordinarily challenging year that humanity endured in 2020, it is a reminder for us to think and act like a guru as we begin a new year. It is a reminder to let our thoughts and emotions work together to create purposeful action.

Acting like a guru in this way is challenging because of the values that the nation-state system has instilled in us. We have been taught to think exclusively about and encouraged to love our individual nations as if national citizenship is the pinnacle of our identity. The guru teaches us the ethical power of world citizenship, guiding our hearts and minds toward world unity.

Voice, one of humanity’s most powerful tools, literally and metaphorically connects our hearts and heads. Through our voice, we can share our thoughts and feelings about what kind of world we want. Through our voice we can advance world citizenship to help us to achieve world peace. May we each be inspired to think, feel and speak like the guru in 2021.