A guru is the greatest asset in anyone's life. If one is lucky enough to have a guru as a guide, the path of life is made smooth and easy flowing and the disciple can then traverse the highways and by-ways of life with a map which the guru provides. The satguru (true guru) is a highly developed soul, one who has been born into an enlightened state of evolution full of knowledge and independence He takes on disciples out of compassion, helping them evolve alone their own path in the best way possible for their and mankind's.
To survive and flourish in this world of hard knocks we need first birth into the light of the sun. Later, we learn from many gurus such as teachers at school or in life's university. But to achieve independence of spirit we need a spiritual preceptor, one who can give us our second birth into divine light. These liberated beings, imbued with spiritual truth, are able to act as guiding lights, inspiring others through their spiritual fullness, moral fortitude, mental strength, emotional balance and glowing physical appearance.
All mankind is aiming at independence, it is a part of growth, an inherent urge within the nervous system and the unconscious mind. Because we are not independent we depend either on the external world or, if we are strong enough, on our own internal virtues. Most of us depend on external 'nourishment': food, affection, emotional support, intellectual development, or other external sources. However, the guru only depends on his internal source, the source of all knowledge in books, art and culture, and to this end he guides the disciple.
Dependence, disguised in the form of desire, want and need, is an inherent characteristic of mankind, necessary to his growth. Man is always fighting for independence because of it, striving to break through his limitations. Indeed, man is part of the universe and dependent on it. Only the guru is free from dependence on nature having transcended the blonds of time and space.
Whether he was called Guru, God, Sufi, Buddha, Christ, saint, sages, man of knowledge, initiate, illuminate and so on. He has always existed since: time immemorial and in every corner of the world. Wherever these beings have resided they have always given guidance and knowledge to the worthy; aiming to liberate mankind from suffering, delusion and ignorance.
The guru-disciple tradition: has sprung from the many ancient centres of high culture and learning which can be classified into four main groups:
How far back the guru tradition actually goes, no one can really say. History becomes very vague as we descend in time. For instance, historians assume that Egyptian culture starts at the time of building the pyramids when their known culture and art were at their peak. However, any thinking individual can guess that this was just the beginning of a decline in a culture which must have existed long before and which must have been very great.
In Egypt the Pharaoh was both spiritual guru and political leader, god to his people. Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus was an Egyptian master of all sciences, arts and crafts, ruler of the three worlds, scribe of the gods and keeper of the books of life. Iamblichus stated that he was the author of 20,000 books. He is said to have revealed to mankind medicine, chemistry, law, art, astrology, music, rhetoric, magic, philosophy, geography, mathematics, anatomy and oratory.
Pythagorus, who gave so much to the Greek and later the European culture in mathematics, music and astronomy, had traveled to Egypt, Persia and India seeking the knowledge of the mysteries and initiation into the secret arts before returning to Greece to establish a school for teaching 'philosophy' to his disciples. Appolonius of Tyana was another great Grecian guru.
The Druids of Britain possessed the esoteric mysteries which they passed down through the guru-disciple tradition. They were men of knowledge, gurus and advisers to the Celts. Some say they were the descendents of the Atlantean mystery schools of antiquity. Their power over the people was so great that whole armies about to attack each other would put away their weapons when ordered to do so by a white-robed Druid. They were great patriarchs who mediated between gods and men, and no great undertaking was started without their blessings and assistance. Their role in the ancient and primitive tribes was necessarily shrouded in mystery as few were ready to fully understand their teachings.
Odin the Scandinavian father God, was said to have been originally named Sigge, the chief of the Aser, an Asiatic tribe which emigrated from the Caspian sea and the Caucasus into northern Europe. He assumed the name of Odin and founded a priesthood of twelve main disciples who conducted the secret rites and rituals, administered justice, and revealed the future. Odin was the messenger of the invisible creator and was called the one-eyed god, referring perhaps to the use of ajna chakra in guru-disciple communication. After his death he was elevated to the level of the supreme deity.
Tibetans recognized three types of gurus: gongs gyud who teach by telepathy; da gyud who teach by signs, gestures or silence; nein gyud who teach by words.
Orpheus was the founder of the Grecian mythological system, theology, morals, the sacred rites and mysteries, and thus a guru to his people. He was the inspirer of Plato and Pythagorus. Some believe he obtained his knowledge from India and that he himself was a Hindu, his name perhaps derived from the Greek word for dark. He was initiated into the Egyptian mysteries and learned magic, astrology, medicine and music. He was a divine being who could move the gods with the playing of his lute; birds and beasts gathered about him and it is said that even the trees tried to follow him.
We see the guru tradition spread over the whole world. Many great saints and sages have had great disciples: in Spain, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross; in Tibet, the lineage of Buddhist gurus from Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa to Milarepa down to present head of the order, Gyalwa Karmapa. In Greece, Aristotle was Plato's greatest disciple; in South America and Mexico the brum, or man of knowledge, passes his science on to a group of select pupils; in China Lao Tsu became a guru to the gatekeeper who asked him for his wisdom, an event which led to the writing of the great Tao Te Ching, while Confucius taught his disciples the codes of ethics and right living. So universal is the concept of guru that we find it on every continent in one form or another, from the 'primitive' African witchdoctor and Siberian shaman to the spiritual preceptors of sublime Indian philosophy of whom Patanjali, Sivananda, Swami Satyananda Saraswati are just a few.
Man kinds history and indeed the whole face of the earth has been radically influenced by gurus such as Jesus Christ, Buddha, Krishna, Rama, Mahavir and Mohammed who laid down powerlines of spiritual force all over the world awaiting that moment of evolution when an initiating force will lift mankind to a higher level of development.
Throughout history it was necessary for spiritual luminaries to divide their teachings into two parts. One for their close disciples and one for the populous who adopted it as exoteric religion. The deeper knowledge was esoteric only because most people could not understand it- the rational, scientific laws of nature were a mystery to them. Today the division between these two has disappeared and a union of exoteric and esoteric is emerging.
The guru tradition has become a worldwide affair in recent times with many masters travelling to all corners of the globe to aid us in our time of need. Indeed a vast tradition has grown guiding the course of human affairs and evolution through spiritual counsel and guidance. Perhaps one of the most powerful gurus today is the Pope of the Roman Catholic church whose edicts direct the substance and substratum of the lives of millions of people around the world. At a different level we can see the human desire for a guru, the basic need for support and guidance, transformed into worship of today's film star idols, astronauts, comic book superheroes, rock and roll stars, sports stars and even certain political figures, around whom cults and fan clubs arise.
The guru-disciple tradition is universal not just because it has existed in almost every country but because it is an inner phenomena. It is an affair of the heart and occurs anywhere that someone prays or calls for guidance from a higher source. Though many individual gurus seem to be working independently, they are one, united to uplift mankind and carry him out of darkness.
Of all the countries in the world, India proved the most fertile for the maintenance of the guru-disciple tradition, while in other countries it tended to die out in the course of history. From the guru tradition a sublime, high and fulfilling philosophy developed, matured and was made ready for the time, which has already come, when it would be sent out again to the rest of the world. The guru is the guardian and dispenser of this knowledge.
By serving our guru we gain knowledge, there is no need for long hours of sadhana and austerities. In Kularnava Tantra it says: "Why the pains of long pilgrimage? Why the observances that emaciate the body? All the fruits anticipated from such austerities can be easily obtained by motiveless service to the guru." The guru who has tuned into the cosmos knows intuitively the best course for evolution to take. May his work prosper and make the earth fertile and rich with divine life.