Guru Tattwa

From Dharma of a Disciple by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

We are composed of five tattwas, and the spirit tattwa which is inherent within us in a subtle form. However, we are not aware of the spirit tattwa. We are aware of the five sensorial tattwas which can be experienced, but not of the transcendental or spirit tattwa. Yet, we say there is atma, spirit, in everyone. We cannot recognize that spirit as the special sixth tattwa because it is not composed of earth, water, fire, air or ether. The spirit is the presence of life; it is the presence of knowledge. It is a part of paramatma, the supreme spirit.

The Shanti Mantra of the Ishavasya Upanishad states:

Om poornamadah poornamidam poornaat poornamudachyate;
Poornasya poornamaadaaya poornamevaavashishyate.

That is full and this is full. Remove a part from the full, what you have removed is full, and what is left behind is full.

In mathematical language zero plus zero equals zero, zero minus zero equals zero, zero divided by zero equals zero, and zero multiplied by zero equals zero. The complete­ness, the fullness of life is God, and that is full, it is complete. The part which is emanating from God, in the form of spirit, inherent in each being, is also full. That spirit or atma in the real sense is the sixth element called the guru tattwa. The atma tattwa, the spirit element, is also called the guru tattwa. Why?

God is formless, infinite and ungraspable. Something which is infinite cannot be made finite. Something which is ungraspable cannot be grasped by the senses or the mind. However, its shakti, its power, has a role to play. What role or function does the power of God play in our life? Only one: removing the darkness of life.

As we remove layers and layers of darkness, of avidya, ignorance, ahamkara and asmita, the ‘I' identities, the ‘I' associations, the light of the spirit shines brighter and brighter. As the covering of ignorance and inner darkness is removed and the light shines, there is growth and development at every level. At the mental and emotional levels there is greater maturity, at the physical level there is greater physical balance, at the spiritual level there is greater inner awakening. Everything grows together. Everything moves and progresses together.

God is often perceived as the power that controls the individual and the universe. That is a perception, a thought, but the important point is that it is a presence which is transcendental and infinite, and which is also visible and finite. In the finite dimension, we have the experience of the transcendental shakti within us in the form of spirit. In the transcendental dimension, we experience that power as the cosmic spirit. The cosmic spirit is called God, and the individual spirit is called spirit. The great spirit is paramatma, and the individual spirit is atma.

Paramatma means the great spirit and atma means the contained spirit. Paramatma is the free spirit which is infinite while atma is contained, finite and bound. This bondage, however, is only of the senses and the extroverted mind; it is superficial, not internal. It is only related to the sensory expectations and desires, the mental, emotional and intellectual expectations and desires. It is the extroverted mind which defines the mental, physical, emotional and intellectual levels. The continuous interaction with sense objects is caused by the natural responses of the extroverted mind. In this state the open nature or the freeness of the spirit cannot be experienced. One remains confined to a limited role and experience of life. "Me and my family", comfort and luxury, pain and suffering, achievement and loss – life revolves around these ideas only.

The senses bind and limit the expression of the mind. The removal of the veils is the removal of the influence of the senses from the mind and this makes the mind peaceful and luminous. The more veils you put on your mind with stresses, anxieties, criticisms and negativities, the more lethargic, dull, negative and depressed it becomes and loses its clarity.

The spirit, which is the guru tattwa, is beyond the mind. The cosmic spirit, paramatma, is complete, full. The extension of that paramatma, in the form of the little lights burning for seventy or eighty years, is atma. That is the guru tattwa. That which separates from the full, yet manifests itself as full is the guru tattwa. It is an omnipotent energy and if it wants to manifest itself, it can do so in any form. When it wants to manifest itself in a way that can be grasped by the ordinary mind, it makes matter its medium. Moses saw the burning bush and here at Akhara we saw the guru shakti in the form of a flame which remained lit for eleven days. It indicated that a flame does not burn due to oil or wick, but due to a special energy.

Guru is not a person; it is a force, a power. In Christianity they say that the Christ-consciousness descended upon Jesus, which means that a higher consciousness unfolded in the graspable mind of the individual and Jesus became the Christ. In the same manner, a person becomes enlightened when that guru tattwa, the spirit-awareness is realized, when the spirit descends.

The descent of the spirit does not mean something coming from above into you. ‘Descent of spirit' may not even be the appropriate phrase. It is the ascent of consciousness which realizes the permanent existence of the spirit and makes the individual enlightened.

God is complete, therefore the guru tattwa is complete in the form of spirit and those within whom the guru tattwa awakens become the physical gurus. Thus, the Shanti Mantra of the Ishavasya Upanishad is indicative of the God who is unmanifest, infinite and eternal and also the guru who is manifest, who can be seen and who is as complete as God.

—5 August 2010, Yogadrishti Satsang series, Ganga Darshan, India