When the Quest for Guru Begins

Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati

There comes a time in everyone's life when one is compelled by the inner, deeper forces of the mind to stop and reassess the purpose of one's existence. You begin to wonder why you were born? What happens when you die? What should be your aim in life? Is it merely to eat, sleep and procreate? This awakening is a very significant stepping stone in one's life - and leads to a whole new unending process of discovery. It is a journey which, once begun, pushes you onwards, enticing you to unmask the deeper mysteries of creation, because with each new discovery there is fulfilment.

This awakening should not be confused with a religious awakening or awareness. A religious awareness is dependent on the circumstances and situations you are in. For instance, if you are born in a Hindu household, you will have an awareness of the Hindu gods and goddesses and so on. This awareness, although beneficial, has its limitations. As such it should be considered a means and not an end. I am talking of a spiritual awakening - which causes you to question everything around you - even religion itself.

When the spiritual awakening takes place it is as if a curtain has been lifted and you are now seeing the next act. You are still aware of the previous acts, it is necessary to grasp the whole story, or the link in the story, but it is no longer important. Your awareness is fixed on the present act and at the same time, you are thinking to yourself, 'If the present act is so exciting, what is going to happen in the future acts?' For it is important to remember that this spiritual awakening is only one of many acts, and although it is of great significance to the whole story, it loses its splendour when you go on to the next act.

This time, for some, is an extremely difficult phase, for your whole balance is shaken. What you believed in earlier is no longer the solemn truth - and yet you have not really found a base for yourself. You are left floundering in the dark, hanging in mid-air. Many people never regain balance and become lost identities, incapable of facing life. For, after all, if you cease to find a meaning in your day to day life and existence, it is going to be very tough for you to carry on. You still have not ascertained a definite meaning for your existence, you only know that what you had believed all along is no longer the gospel truth. So what do you base your thinking, feeling, acting upon?

But some people are immediately able to balance themselves. These are the ones who do not dive too deep. They say, 'Well, this theory worked for me for so long, now I am aware of another higher meaning to my existence. I must find the thread which can link both, and thus make my life more harmonious. This kind of thinking is adequate for most people.

Then there is another type of person who gets this awakening and straightaway makes a jump, into the dark, deep abyss. He is able to cut off from the past and take the plunge - he is confident that there is something more infinite, more rewarding ahead. This man has strong determination, willpower and strength of conviction to face any eventuality of life.

Thus the quest for guru begins. For at this point of time, no matter which class of aspirant you are, whether you have dived in headlong and neck deep or prefer to remain at the periphery, it is imperative that you should seek a guru. The way is dark and hazy, and the pitfalls are many, you will need a guiding hand to coax you along. At this time you will find your guru or in some rare cases the guru finds the disciple. Of course, I might add that the guru you will find for yourself will be according to the quality of your awareness. If you are a sincere aspirant, then you will find a sincere guru; if you are looking for name and fame, you will find such a guru; if you are looking for wealth you will find a guru to suit your needs. So it is no use trying to blame the guru, he is but a reflection of yourself. Guru is always a step ahead in any endeavour. He knows each and everything and is alert to all that is happening. In that way, he is able to check you on the mental, physical, emotional planes.

For me, guru has become an inseparable part of my mind, my life, my breath and my consciousness. Without any conscious effort, and without even knowing that it was happening, I was becoming more and more enmeshed in this divine relationship. I had never known the magnanimity of a guru/disciple relationship. How it can fill your entire being, and pervade the very depths of your soul. I have always maintained a rational and intellectual approach to life. I have always questioned, doubted and criticised before accepting. This naturally caused a great deal of conflict in my mind because in relation to guru there is no room for doubt and questions. It is a relationship which can survive only on total faith and surrender.

How does one surrender? Intellectually we can all profess to do it. But in actual terms it is so difficult to maintain total surrender, every now and again your ego rears its ugly head. For total surrender, you cease to exist as an individual, you exist only in relation to your guru. Although at first this may seem servile, total surrender is a very rewarding experience. Of course, you must surrender yourself only to God or guru, otherwise if you surrender yourself to just anybody, you will be grossly exploited.