You Need a Guru

Sannyasi Pragyananda (Denmark)

The kutir was full of people from all over India and many other countries. All were facing a cheerful, bright being seated at the very end of the hall, who seemed to fill the entire space. His dress of bright orange appeared more golden, and he radiated light through the warmth of his smile and gentle, gentle laughter. His eyes were shining like billions of stars glittering in a black night. In that moment, Paramahamsaji calmly leaned forward, with such an expression that everyone knew what he was about to say was of utmost importance.

“You need a guru.” He broke the short moment of silence with a sudden move back in his seat. “If you are so convinced that you don’t need a guru because he’s already there within you, then show me!” he added, his whole body moving with gentle laughter. “Then show me!” He reached out warmly as if welcoming any of us to reveal it. “I served my guru for twelve years: from washing his clothes, to preparing food and constructing buildings, and I also managed the ashram. I learned everything in my guru’s ashram. Yes, I was taught grammar and mathematics in school, but school didn’t teach me how to live life, how to manage and deal with life. That I learned only in my guru’s ashram.”

Paramahamsaji also said, “An image of your guru or God is not going to correct you when you go off track. It’s not stopping or ‘punishing’ you when you go wrong. Who is there to guide you physically, and to stand as an example of how to deal with the mind and manage the difficulties in life? The guru is one who can set the guidelines to follow. The guru can bring out the hidden treasures from your very own self.”

He looked at us, and said, “When I met my guru in Rishikesh back in 1943, he told me that a destiny has been given to everybody, whether it is to become a great artist, poet, musician, cook or saint. You only have to deal with one thing – the mind. To sit and just let it dawn on you is not the solution.” Breaking into gentle laughter, he said, “Do you think you can sit still with this mind jumping like a monkey all over the place? Man is born with a mind that can’t stay still, and you will have to deal with the mind, purify your mind. Karma yoga is the best tool for this.”

Paramahamsaji encouraged people to go to an ashram for just one month, do seva there, and go back home again. It enables one to see things from a different perspective, get to know one’s limitations and find the blockages holding one from realizing one’s potential. A higher knowledge is presented with kirtan and satsang, and karma yoga gives one the opportunity to integrate this into daily life. Most importantly, in an ashram you have the opportunity to receive the guru’s training directly.

One evening Paramahamsaji came and gathered us all together. There had been a silly fight over a few biscuits in the morning at breakfast. He sat with us and gave us just one lesson to think about and apply from the Bhagavad Gita (12:18):

Samah shatrau cha mitre cha tatha manapamanayoh; Shitoshnasukhadukheshu samah sangavivarjitah.

One who is the same to friend and foe, as well as in honour and dishonour, in cold and heat, pleasure and pain, who is free from attachment (is dear to me).

“That will do for now, when you have mastered this much, then we can proceed to the next,” he said. It was a lesson of great wisdom indeed.