Knowing the Guru

Swami Gyanbhikshu Saraswati

Many people who visit Ganga Darshan from time to time say, “I have known Paramahamsaji since 1964. And Swami Niranjanji! I have known him since he was just a four-year-old child.” Some years ago I used to envy such people. How great it must have been to have known the two paramahamsas for such a long time. How nice it would have been for me to have come into contact with them long ago.

But such statements seem irrelevant today. Now I may also claim that I have been connected or associated with them, or have known them for the last twenty-two years. But is this claim valid? Certainly not. The association with or knowledge of the guru is not just a physical phenomenon. Name and form, in fact, do not matter much so far as knowing the guru is concerned. Now when I ask myself if I have been associated or connected with him, the answer that automatically comes is ‘certainly not’. Because this type of association and connection is highly transforming and I honestly feel that this has not yet happened in my case.

Now I understand that I cannot know the guru. I can know him only if he wants me to know him. At this point I am reminded of a brief portion of the prayer of Sri Valmiki to Sri Rama when the latter visited his ashram: “He alone can know you to whom you make yourself known; and the moment he knows you, he becomes one with you. It is only by your grace that your devotees come to know you.” It is quite apt to quote Swami Satyanandaji here. Once he said: “It is not necessary to tell how enlightened I am; only Milton can understand Milton, and only Shakespeare can understand Shakespeare. Only if you are Satyananda, can you understand Satyananda.” The message is amply clear.

Guru is the greatest psychologist. He can understand your outer and inner personality at the very first glance. Then he plays with you just as easily as a child plays with his toys. You may think that you are good, great, healthy, wealthy and highly qualified. But you will wonder that these attributes are not very important from his point of view. He likes and loves only your openness and simplicity. His one very simple, loving smile may launch you into a wonderful, beautiful, bright, blissful dimension never before experienced in your whole life. Yet an equally simple, cutting smile may dash you to the ground, leaving you thoroughly shattered and licking the dust there. Both these situations are beneficial for you. The first strengthens your broken self-confidence, and the second destroys a portion of your very strong, powerful ego. However, if you are not aware or your goal is not clear, you may become a victim of depression, doubt and distrust. This is a very dangerous and distressing situation from a spiritual point of view. Only the guru can redeem you from this mire.

Sometimes you find him chiding, abusing and rebuking you for nothing. And sometimes he is praising and boosting you, and that too for nothing or for a trifle from your point of view. Often his behaviour and actions may seem most irrational and illogical. One very famous example is the ill-treatment meted out by the great Tibetan guru Marpa to his disciple Milarepa. The guru asked the disciple to make a cottage for him on a nearby hillock. The boy carried the boulders, one by one, up the steep mountain until the cottage was completed. The guru inspected the cottage and told Milarepa to dismantle it and build another one, with the same boulders, in the valley below. The story is a long one – but the actions of the guru become more and more incomprehensible. Yet Milarepa became one of the greatest masters of his time.

The guru can be seen praising somebody for something and rebuking another person for the same thing. This is peculiar, funny and bewildering, and you just cannot understand it. Thus, seeing and knowing the physical form cannot lead to any tangible results.

How to really know him? I believe through his grace alone. Grace is something that cannot be desired, cannot be claimed, nor can grace be deserved. You cannot qualify for grace, you cannot say that I deserve grace. It dawns upon you, it is showered upon you. But how? Nobody knows. It is the secret of all secrets, the guhyatam rahasya.

One thing we should know: only a guru knows his guru, this we may take for granted. To quote Paramahamsaji, “Realize the guru, you will realize God.” Is God-realization that easy? Certainly not. However, obedience, service and remembrance can help the disciple in the quest to know the guru, in discovering the essence that he represents. Faith and surrender are the attainments, the outcomes of these three techniques.

Accepting any and all of the guru’s decisions unconditionally, without any logic or intellectual analysis, about things, subjects, objects and people, including yourself, holds the key. If you can accept all his decisions, instructions and actions, you are on the right track, the golden highway that may take you safely to your goal. Acceptance is a great precept as well as a very powerful practice, but at the same time a very difficult process.

The rocky ego blocks the effort. It is a great sadhana in itself. The ego always seeks its own satisfaction and fulfilment, and for this the mind and intellect fabricate a cobweb of logic and arguments. ‘Favourable’ and ‘suitable’ decisions, instructions and actions are accepted. But the moment they are otherwise, logic, reasoning, arguments and analysis come into play and the immediate conclusion derived is that it is not for me, nor for all, it is meant for some special sort of person. Unless and until you are aware of the tricks of your ego, you will not be able to come out of this dangerous mire.

The guru is giving something or many things to somebody and nothing to you. What so? Don’t question his judgement. If you do that, you have failed. It should not matter to you. He whispers something, sweetly and smilingly, into the ear of somebody, and you become jealous. Be alert at such times. He is a great psychologist like Krishna, as clever as Krishna, as wise a statesman-diplomat as Krishna. He is a managing director superior to and greater than the most successful and popular president of the United States of America. He is also one of the greatest servants of the whole of humanity.

Another important point about acceptance is: Can you accept his every decision, instruction and action without the mildest reaction on your mental, intellectual, emotional plane? If yes, good. But this is negative positivity: you have just accepted, not reacted against. Can you fully accept the same mentally, intellectually and whole-heartedly? If yes, this is really very great. This is affirmative positivity. It is the highway that will lead you to him and will enable you to one day realize him. Realize him and you will realize the Brahman.

Unless you understand him, you cannot accept him; unless you accept him, you cannot follow him. Unless and until you follow him in toto, how can you expect to know him. Unless you know him, how can you have even a glimpse of the divine? This fact has been very beautifully presented in Ramacharitamanas: “Without knowledge faith is out of the question, and without faith there can be no love. Shorn of love, devotion will not abide any more than the lubricity produced by water.”

Always remember: Guru Sakshat Param Brahma – Guru is the supreme reality. But only theoretical understanding and belief will not take you very far. Rather, firm faith and deep, right understanding will certainly prove to be highly inspiring and motivating. In fact, faith, understanding and acceptance strengthen each other; they are interdependent and mutually supportive of each other, and accentuate each other.

Last but most important: Is it important to know him? Yes. Because he is your ideal, your friend, philosopher and guide, inspirer and motivator, and a point of reference to whom you can surrender your ego. Surrender and realization are two sides of the same coin.