Knowing the Guru

Swami Gyanbhikshu Saraswati

Since ancient times, guru and God have been the subject of discussions and treatises. This is but natural. God implies the ultimate truth realized or experienced as eternal peace and bliss. The seers and shastras, scriptures, have declared that there is no peace or bliss superior to that. It has also been repeatedly said that such a state of experience or realization is possible only with the teachings and guidance of a spiritual guru. Therefore, the life of a sincere aspirant is fully in the hands of his guru. He has to understand this point first. The depth, degree and intensity of this understanding depends upon the clarity of his goal.

Like the sun

The term ‘guru’ literally means ‘the remover of darkness’. But this definition does not reveal the essence inherent in the term. Guru, in fact, means light, pure and effulgent. Let us take an example. Is the sun the remover of night? The rise of the sun on the eastern horizon heralds the end of night. The sun does not have to try to remove the darkness of night. Similarly, the very presence of the being of the guru is capable of removing the darkness from the life of disciples and devotees. However, normally this does not happen. We have covered ourselves with such thick, strong and protective armours that the light emanating from his being cannot penetrate them.

Guru also means absolute purity, niranjana. Our aim is also to attain atmashuddhi, self-purity. The rays of wisdom emanating from the being of the guru reflect only on the serene, pure, transparent waters of the mind–intellect lake of the disciple.

The guru is like the sun and the disciples like the moon. Only that part of the moon shines on different days of the lunar fortnight as is exposed to the sun. Similar is the case with us. Most parts of our personality are covered with our prejudices and predilections, obsessions and idiosyncrasies. Hence, the light of the guru fails to illumine those areas and we continue to grope in darkness. Therefore, all efforts have to be made to open us up. How to accomplish this? Aligning oneself with enlightened people and enlightening ideas seems to be the important method. Guru himself is the most important reference in this regard.

Full of grace

Though guru is the spiritual guide, he also deals with our genuine mundane problems. He solves them in a subtle way so that we become free from the day-to-day worldly problems and worries, and are able to undertake our spiritual pursuits in all earnestness. However, we usually fail to recognize this subtle help rendered by him and take them to be our achievements. However, if we look around and compare things with people in similar situations, we can understand this point better. This help is an aspect of grace. A disciple, however, should never aspire for this. Spiritual pursuits imply desirelessness. We should always remember and apply this principle in life. This is very important from the spiritual point of view.

Not ordinary

The guru is not an ordinary individual. He is the embodiment of divine tattwa. We try to know and understand him through his day-to-day activities and behaviour, and therefore fail to experience the divine warmth, energy and quietude ever emanating from him. In fact, whatever he thinks, whatever he does or wherever he goes, there is a definite, meaningful purpose. Even the casual movement of his head, eyes, hands and fingers are significant. We can learn a lot from all these if we are ever alert and aware. We should always remember that there is nothing ordinary or usual about him, although it may seem to be like that. His smiles and stiffness, softness–roughness–toughness are all meant for purifying and enlightening the people related or attached to him. Thus, we should know for certain that guru is not an ordinary physical figure. He is the embodiment of effulgent light and pure, vibrant energy. One should not challenge him or complain to him. One should try to connect with him through one’s mantra and prayers at the level of emotions and feelings. Then we will receive energy and light that will slowly open the closed doors and windows of our life.

Not magical

Many people often expect something magical, miraculous and mystical from the guru. This is on account of a misunderstanding of the role of the guru in a disciple’s life. He is neither a magician nor a mystic. His basic role with regard to his disciples and devotees is that of an inspirer or motivator who undertakes the responsibility of guiding them on the path of inner journey. This path is not easy. Often it is bent, rugged, uneven, has innumerable roadblocks, pitfalls and potholes. If the aspirant is sincere about his journey, the guru removes the roadblocks, provides the roadbed, generates the right road-sense and thus makes him roadworthy so that he may continue his journey safely and strive hard to reach the destination determined by him. Yes, the guru is not only the guide or inspirer; he determines our goal also because he knows our strengths and weaknesses, ambitions and desires. Thus he determines the goal, charts out the plan of the journey, indicates the road and warns of the doubts and disinclinations on part of the disciple while undertaking the journey.

Yes, he is infallible

The guru is infallible; he does not and cannot err. Wrongs and errors belong to the realm of darkness or ignorance. Why do we commit mistakes or blunders? The answer is simple. Our mind is blurred; the vision or perception is unclear and impure. As a result, we cannot see people, objects or events exactly as they are. Most of the time we are also not aware of our thoughts, actions, reactions and interactions. Things just happen, generally instinctively, or as per nature, prakriti. This is true of the wise as well. The guru, on the other hand, has absolute mastery over the six senses and, therefore, is completely beyond the shadow of nature. There is total clarity of vision and perceptions about everything, within and beyond. This makes him infallible despite active involvement with the people and their problems.

Passion, anger, greed, infatuation, ego, jealousy, hatred, etc., are antithetical to the concept of guru. If he has any passion at all, it is spiritual well-being and evolution of his disciples and devotees. He, in fact, incarnates and exists for this purpose alone. Sometimes we find him getting angry with somebody on some matter or issue. But this anger on his part is purposeful, and is completely under control. It is a tool for him to deal occasionally with people and problems around him. It is not like the case of ordinary people who, when angry, are completely under the grip of rajas and tamas. Similar is the case with other expressions. For him, each expression has a meaning and purpose. The things that may seem to be common, ordinary or trivial to us have deep meanings behind them.

Often we expect the guru to act or react in a particular way about a certain object, subject, persons or events. We even question as to why he did something in a particular situation. We conjecture that he should have instead done this or that. We may even blame him for a situation. This is a peculiar mental and intellectual approach. It means that we are trying to see him in the light of our own whims and caprices, likes and dislikes. However, the guru is objectivity par excellence. That is, in fact, one of his hallmarks. The only purpose of his incarnation or physical existence is the spiritual well-being of the particular or the universal. They may be his disciples or devotees, or just people who are attracted to his vibrant personality with love and reverence. Therefore, we should never try to look for shortcomings in his approach and action, attitude or behaviour.

He is the ego dissolver

Sometimes we ask the guru some personal questions, although the answers already exist with us. We ask just for his confirmation of our answers. But a great psychologist that he is, he will seldom oblige us. He will not fuel the fire of our egoistic nature. Indeed, one of his aims seems to be to break the rocky structure of our nature and make us as humble as possible.

If somebody works for his guru sincerely and without any expectation, he provides him with the necessary force and inspiration. One should never think that they are doing something that nobody else is capable of doing. The guru can take the work of a tall, handsome, powerful horse from an ordinary, road-side donkey. Therefore, we should just offer ourselves, taking every work as an opportunity to purify ourselves and evolve.

Guru’s grace is the most important thing in the life of a disciple. And he is ever graceful. Grace is ever flowing from him towards all his disciples and devotees, no matter who and where they are. His healing hands are always there to touch our head and heart. However, the ego of the head and impurity of the heart create a barrier, and we continue to sit empty on the bank of this perennial stream, unable to experience its refreshing and inspiring coolness.

Dedicated service to the guru and his mission with a sense of detachment and non-expectation is the tool for inner purification. Here begins the zone of effort for a disciple.