Tradition of Guru

Swami Amritananda Saraswati, Zinal Conference (Switzerland), September 1981

In the tradition of yoga and tantra, Shiva with Parvati is considered to be the first guru. In the tradition of sannyasa, the four sannyasins Sanat, Sanandan, Sanatkumar and Sanatan were regarded as the gurus and founders. So far as the rituals, karmakanda and the traditional systems of initiation, yajnas, sacrifices and vedic rites are concerned, Brahmavadin is supposed to be the guru.

The vedic tradition is not an organised institution or system and it does not depend on any one guru or philosophy. It is a process of discovery of truth behind the apparent perceptions. From time immemorial, the wise men in India have all taken part in this discovery, so each of them had his own way of thinking and contribution to make. From this tradition emerged the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Gita, Bhagavat, Yoga Vashistha, and later the Ramayana, Ramacharit-manas, Mahabharata, etc.

Similarly, there were the philosophical traditions of Charwaka, Jaina, Samkhya, Nyaya, Vedanta, Bauddha and others. So, the tradition of guru has no beginning and no end. During the course of evolution, gurus come and go from time to time as the whole cosmos is evolving. They look to the world, assess the situation, then give a teaching that people can follow. Their names are recorded in history and many of them you will know: Vishwamitra, Vashistha, Jamdagni, Farashara, Vyasa, Atri, Bharadwaja, Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Buddha, Mahavira. They are too numerous to count. So let us say that during the long history of mankind, thousands and thousands of perfectly liberated souls have descended to lead humanity on the path of light.

In India we have many types of gurus. They differ according to their own individual nature as well as the manner in which they give and receive the knowledge. Even a person who teaches us how to cultivate the land is known as a guru. We call him krishi-guru, which means one who knows all about farming. The person who teaches us how to operate weapons is known as astra-guru. The one who teaches us the Vedas and scriptures and any kind of literature, is called shastra-guru. The one who conducts the various ceremonies, such as birth, marriage or death, is known as dharma-guru. The one who helps guide us in our family affairs is called kul-guru. The one who is consulted on matters pertaining to marital life is the tantric-guru or the guru of dampatti. But the person who takes care of our soul, who guides us from the darkness of ignorance into the light of truth, is known as the sat guru. When we come into his contact, we begin to develop our conscious awareness.

Expectations of guru

The sat guru is everything for the disciple. If we are open, the guru can give us not only peace, love and knowledge of the supreme self, but also any other knowledge or experience that he may have. He can even offer guidance in family and business affairs, although it is much better not to ask or expect these things.

For instance, if we expect our guru to cure us of a disease, which can be done through any doctor or by the practice of yoga, then we are caught in that expectation. Unless it is fulfilled, then there is no way for us to proceed or think of anything else. If we expect the guru to bless us in business and financial affairs, when we could easily go to other experts to learn how to run a successful business or how to be more effective in the financial world, then again we are caught. By asking or expecting the guru's help in this way, we are making very limited use of our higher conscious potentials. Similarly, if we expect anything in life, we are always caught up in the mini-world of expectations, which could easily be fulfilled by other worldly means.

Many expectations bring doubt and confusion. Again we are led back into darkness and the vicious cycle continues. Therefore, it is better if we leave our sat guru to guide our soul alone, and not our body, intellect, family and friends. Then we can make better progress. And we don't have to go to the guru as a beggar. We don't have to beg him for anything - not for money, knowledge, blessings or grace. He comes himself and picks us up with his thousands of divine hands. And he looks at us with divine eyes, which we may not be able to feel, but he does.

So, when we approach the guru, instead of having expectations, we should just leave our self open and act spontaneously. If he blesses us, that is our good luck. If he showers grace upon us, then we are sharing in the blessings which continuously fall like rain on all the disciples. But our expectations and our way of recognising the blessings and grace must be different.

Guru's grace

Most disciples think that when the guru speaks with soft, kind words, that is a blessing. And if he behaves in a friendly and pleasant manner, that is grace. And the more pleasant he seems to be, the more grace they receive. But this is not true. Guru's grace is not achieved so easily, it is said that 'in this world, it is easier to see God than to obtain Guru's grace'.

The science of guru is not a simple matter, and unless we have received his grace, which is called kripa kataksha, we have not experienced the guru at all. Kripa means 'grace' and kataksha means 'the penetrating eye'. In the beginning this grace seems to be most terrible, but ultimately, it becomes most sweet and pleasant.

That is the guru's only way of teaching. If he is bent on raising us, then this can be a very unpleasant stage in our life. For he will use his strongest and best methods to prick and hurt us. At such times, we may consider his grace as something very painful and unrewarding, but in the long term, it is really far more beneficial than kind words and soft treatment. Sometimes the guru seems so horrible, so insulting, and so fierce, like a lion. But we must remember that it is only within the boundary of our limited intellect that we understand his actions.

On the other hand, if guru is reluctant or does not care about us, then he can be so charming and sweet. His behaviour is always favourable and pleasant, never insulting. He takes care of our each and every emotional need. Yet, this is not a sign of his acceptance. It actually indicates that he does not feel any real responsibility for such a disciple, When he does not care, why should he bother to prick or insult us? Because the guru's way of awakening is like whipping. But why should he do all this to an ordinary disciple who is still like an animal?

Controller of the animal instincts

Lord Shiva, the original guru, is known as Pashupatinath. Here, pashu means 'animal', pati is 'the protector' and nath means 'savior'. So Lord Shiva is called Pashupatinath because he is the controller of all the animals. In this sense, 'animal' not only means pigs and cows and dogs, it also refers to us, when we are at the instinctive level of development.

Guru is the only one who has perfect mastery over the disciple's animal instincts or lower faculties. To our guru, we are nothing more than animals in the human form. All the time he wants to remind us that we are at one level and he is at another. We still need to be awakened and he is the awakener, the developer. By his contact the two become one. At every opportunity he reminds us that we are really infinite and eternal. We are not just this body, intellect, devotion or faith. We are not only this angry, spiteful, jealous person. We are pure being, and we have to know this. Every time we forget or indulge in the sensual life, guru comes by some means to tell us we are not that. He tells us, 'I have come to raise you up, allow me.' And if we don't allow, he simply leaves us alone and does not care where we have gone.

In the Mahabharata there is a story about Krishna at the enthroning of Yudhisthira, the elder brother of Arjuna. On this occasion Krishna said to Yudhisthira, 'Now you are the emperor. You can rule the whole kingdom. You and your family can all be happy, and I can depart for my place.' But when Krishna said that he was going back to his kingdom, and they could all remain there comfortably with their kith and kin and state, then Kunti, the mother of the five Pandavas, interrupted him, saying, 'Oh Lord, please don't leave us. If this state and comfort come between us, then we will gladly give it all up. We want only you. We beg you for the pain through which we can experience your presence, your grace, all the time. If you would remain with us and we could have your grace, we would prefer pain and sorrow to this pleasure.'

Now, this is the aspiration of every sincere seeker, who is searching for the light and the realisation of truth. Many times I have heard Swamiji tell the story of Milarepa and how his guru was constantly insulting, punishing and pricking him. No matter how virtuous, truthful and sincere he was, the guru always said he was wrong, insincere and unfaithful. But nevertheless, Milarepa was always happy and contented inside because he knew that at least the guru was aware of him. In this hurting, pricking and insulting manner, the guru was paying some attention to him, so there was some way to bring himself out of the darkness.

Light of guru

In the ashram, the guru is like a lighthouse, and ships from far off can see his light and move in his direction. If the disciple has faith in the guru, despite his manner, and feels that the guru is really trying to help, then for him there is no regression. He is bound to realise. Even if he does not wish to, the guru will make him. Seeing such surrender, devotion and sincerity in the disciple, the guru takes on the total responsibility for his realisation Then even if the disciple says to the guru, 'Please, don't show God to me; I really don't want to see him,' the guru will still bring God and show him.

By means of this hot and cold treatment, guru shows that he only wants to awaken us or make us aware all the time. For the disciple who has such devotion and loyalty to the guru, that is kundalini yoga. The guru awakens us in this way. Yoga awakens us in another way, by transforming all the chemical processes in the body and all the thought and emotional processes in the psyche.

So the guru is the most important thing for any person who wants to realise. or to live a more conscious life. Guru gives the real wealth though it may not be in the form of money, house, land or property. This wealth is the richness of internal life. So if you want to become wealthy and wise, make it your business to have a guru.