guru: so misunderstood...
“In the Vedas, first they say, mata —pita—gurudeva.
The first God to a person is mata, the mother.
Second is father, pita.
Third is master, guru.
And the fourth one is God.”
- Sri Kaleshwar
I want to talk about the concept of 'Guru,' one of the most maligned, misused and ultimately misunderstood terms in today's world, at least in the Western world.
|Ancient Roman statue of Jupiter|
Thursdays in Hindu India are referred to simply as "Guru Day," the day when the Guru energy is the highest, most accessible (many people will go to the temple of their guru or family deity, bringing offerings of flowers and fruit, taking the blessings offered & flowing there).
the word itself is composed of two small bijas, or seed mantra sounds, gu and ru -- loosely translated as 'the one who brings the light.' sounds like a great concept, no? then why is this one word so misconstrued, so often and so thoroughly?
in the East, the tradition of the guru is a long-standing one, through millenniae of human history. there have always been gurus -- the light-bringers -- and many of them are familiar names to us, like Krishna, Buddha, Rumi. in modern times, we've heard names like Paramahansa Yogananda, Muktananada, Ammachi, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (aka "the TM guy who was with the Beatles").
I'd suggest that we are highly familiar with other guru characters in our Western tradition, but we don't usually think of them as such: Moses, Socrates, Jesus Christ, and Mohammed, to name a few.
in the Western world of modern times, we've even adopted the convention of referring to an expert in any field as a 'guru' -- you know, there are high-tech gurus in Silicon Valley, car mechanic gurus, yoga gurus, even pizza gurus. in the secular sense, we seem to have little problem with the word.
in the more religious or spiritual context, however, it's a loaded term evoking many complex emotions, biases, beliefs and even conflicts.
(side-track but not really: in the ancient days, if a person was fortunate enough to find their true guru, all of their friends and family members were congratulatory, supportive, delighted: it meant that that individual was on the way to their real life, their real soul liberation, their real evolution.
nowadays, if you say you've found a guru -- well, people are likely to move away from you a little noticeably, as if you maybe uttered an obscenity, are emitting a strange odor, or just started playing a Barry Manilow recording [had a friend in college who used to clear his dorm room of lingering guests effectively, using the latter as a strategy]. the word 'cult' passes through their minds, as surely as if it were tattooed on your own forehead. it's a weird, uncomfortable reaction -- no one really knows what to say, or do, or how to respond, out of all the biases and emotional conditioning to the whole concept.)
part of this emotional reaction is that we've all seen -- this is true of both East and West, today -- false 'gurus,' charlatans posing as holy men or women while taking advantage of their credulous following. it's really more like good carny, what these folks are doing -- looking for the marks, playing a few tricks with a good patter, and raking in the money all the while.
these kinds of disreputable characters are, of course, not gurus at all, and are in fact the antithesis of what a real guru is, represents, transmits and shares with the world.
so what is a real guru?
|Some of the gurus in my lineage |
(clockwise, from top left):
Jesus Christ, Shirdi Sai Baba,
Mahavatar Babaji, Ramana Maharishi
Sri Ramakrishna, and Lord Buddha
A guru is a God-knowing person who has been divinely appointed by Him to take the seeker as a disciple and lead him from the darkness of ignorance to the light of wisdom.
- Paramahansa Yogananda
"I cannot stand anyone calling me guru. It irritates me.
Who is the guru? Satchidananda (Bliss, awake in Itself) alone is the guru."
- Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
despite my enormous skepticism, doubts, and hard-headed Missouri "Show-Me!" stance, I went to India in 1999 for the first time, to study intensively with a guru I'd met earlier that year, Sri Kaleshwar.
(I wound up living in India, on his ashram, for the next five years.
needless to say, I'd found the real deal.)
what I thought about gurus to that point was pretty much the normal skeptical idea; I assumed they were mostly charlatans, or if they were sincere spiritual leaders, that they were the crutch for insecure, un-selfconfident people who needed to lean on someone other than themselves -- I thought gurus were for the weak and the meek, not the strong and capable, people.
what I learned in India, however, was something of a vastly different nature.
I learned, first, the the guru is really a character who inhabits a physical body while being in constant, uninterrupted union with the energy of god. the real yoga. a walking, talking, blessing yoga in the form of a person.
secondly, I learned that the guru is a being who is utterly dedicated to the spiritual success and awakening of those around the guru. the real guru will work tirelessly, selflessly, day and night, to ensure the spiritual unfoldment of the sincere student. it is a bond beyond comprehension -- because it is a bond between souls, not personalities, that has extended over many, many, many lifetimes.
it's also beyond the normal comprehension because we are so accustomed to others wanting something from us - and the guru doesn't want anything, just our open heart and spiritual success.
A guru's only interest is to help you progress spiritually. If the teacher wants something from the disciple, he is not a master. The master's only desire is to give, not to take. But if the disciple has the wish to help the work of the master, that is to his credit—he is helped by giving to God's cause. - Paramahansa Yogananda
thirdly, I learned that the physical guru is the bridge to the supernatural world for the student who's willing to walk there. the guru has one foot in both worlds -- and an outstretched hand. it's hardly for the faint of heart to take that hand and allow oneself to be pulled through the looking glass -- but it's essential to spiritual understanding and enlightenment. it's the way that the guru energy helps a human being open their channels -- reawaken their soul essence and capacity, in order to recognize their own divinity in this world and operate, then, effectively from that recognition.
|It's always a mirror -- a mirror of love.|
The guru is a panderer (pimp) - his duty is to broker the deal between the devotee and the object of his desire: God. - Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
fourthly, it is the guru's duty to show the student the reality of this world, and this creation, especially the life and death opposites (plus what lies beyond them) and the reality of the face of god. the guru is like a match-maker, in that sense - between the seeker and god. once that acquaintance has been made directly -- the student sees the face of the divine, for real (not in a meditation or a vision) -- that bond has been established and the guru can back off a bit, leaving the student to learn directly from the god energy flowing to and through the student.
finally, I learned the most important point of all -- the physical guru, a human being in a form like anyone else's very human body, is merely an external representation of the real guru, the consciousness, that is existing in every human being, all the time. by recognizing the inner and outer guru and the dynamic between them, we are able to come out from our own illusions about what is life, what is the reality of this creation, and who are we, really.
It is like a small chicken inside the egg. Spirituality is like that. When do you expect the chickens to come out from under the hen?
The hen is like a guru. He knows how to prepare the chicken to come out. To be honest, it is possible for the egg to come out only when it's in the right position, when it comes under the hen.
Is a chicken really hidden in the egg? Yes, there is a chicken. But there is a process you have to do to make it come out. The hen has to do a process to make it come out, or the mechanism has to run inside the egg to come out.
In your body, you're like an egg. The illusions are like a shell. You need to come out. To come out means, you need to create your own mechanism of the energy system.
- Sri Kaleshwar
because our own consciousness is largely a stranger to us, a foreign thing we don't really contact or converse with on a regular basis, the concept of a physicalized guru is likewise a stranger... and often we tend to fear, or even vilify, that which we don't know.
but the guru's real role -- showing us the divine in externalized forms (sometimes, a range of them, the more the merrier when we're talking about seeing the face of god directly) as a kind of mirror, to the divine that is operating in each of us -- is largely misunderstood, and distorted.
it's a huge leap of faith, belief, understanding, confidence and self-love to accept and develop our own divine light.
in other words, in the beginning, it's hard for us to see the guru accurately because our own self-perception (in the mirror) is distorted. distorted with what? life experiences, heartbreaks, disappointments, cynicism, pain, -- basically, different expressions of our karmic baggage.
“The guru is the formless Self within each one of us. He may appear as a body to guide us, but that is only his disguise.” - Ramana Maharishi
it's much easier to look outside for authority, guidance, teachings -- and then often blame the very agent of those things when we get uncomfortable in their presence and relentless mirroring -- than it is to delve deeply inside oneself, for real, to see what we're made of.
delving inside is usually accompanied by a kind of purification -- meaning that it's often our inner demons that show up first, to be disarmed and dissolved, than our inner light and consciousness selves. it takes courage to want to go inside and start really looking closely at our own essence -- and it also takes the friendship and expert guidance of someone who really knows the whole journey, A to Z, to help us.
|Handing a rose to my beloved friend, |
guru and well-wisher, Sri Kaleshwar (May 2011)
Our relationship is immortal. He showed me the face of god, directly.
... and that is the unique position of a guru. the guru is one who already knows the way through the desert -- and is just waiting for us to ask for directions. most of the time, the guru is so accommodating that they'll walk right alongside us until we reach our destination -- whether we recognize their presence or not.
There is only one door to heaven. There are no side doors (to avoid suffering).
Even though a master is bringing short cuts, you have to go through the main door. You can't bribe somebody, "Please, can I get in the side door?" No chance.
But there is a chance the guru, the master, has some little authority that he can take care of your karma. He has some authority. Once he gives initiation to you, he can handle that karma and he can take it.
- Sri Kaleshwar
it's a peculiarity of the way this world works -- it is often human nature to bite the hand that feeds us the best nourishment of all. the real guru is often a figure in the center of a good deal of controversy -- stirring up many different, intense feelings and negative emotions in people, widely.
how could this be? they come to bring the light, right?
how come we're not all delighted and grateful about that light? why does the guru's life seem like such a thankless profession?
because of the karmic purification involved in being around a real guru. the energy, the Satchitananda that is the guru energy, as Sri Ramakrishna mentioned above, is a high divine light.
in the light -- the shadows can't stand.
but each of us is carrying tremendous shadows, usually without our awareness, and they don't dissolve without a fight, often kicking and screaming even on their way out the door.
frequently, our own negative tendencies get amplified (by really having a light shined on them!), and in our attempts to defend and deflect that light, choosing instead to try to hide or hold on to our own familiar, comfortable shadows, we wind up blaming the source of the light for our sudden and intense discomfort with ourselves... rather than seeing clearly that it's just our own stuff.
it's like when a person has a bug of some kind -- often we wind up vomiting out some toxins, and that relief to our system allows the system to rebalance itself, freed from those toxins.
emotionally, when we're getting closer to the light that we really are, inside, we do start to purge our toxins, energetically -- and it's not uncommon to see spiritual students vomit their emotional reactions, outbursts, negativities, blame, hatred, fury, and so on, onto the guru.
it is natural. (it's not very smart, really, but it's natural.)
and the real guru is happy to experience that, too, knowing that it's part and parcel of the evolution of the student's consciousness. a lot of shadows have to be cleared away before even the student can get a glimpse of their own inner light.
and the guru is willing to stand, absolutely unmoved, loving, calm, patient, in that storm of emotional vomit from the student -- standing in pure love, unconditional compassion, just waiting for the cycle to come to a close, and the time when the much-unburdened student is able to see more clearly, what's really what.
if you think for a moment about Jesus on the cross, betrayed, reviled, beaten and vilified by pretty much everyone around him, his case is an extreme example of this same principle -- and a testimony to the unfathomable reservoirs of patience, understanding, compassion, peace and pure love that the guru has for... well, pretty much everyone.
see if they wet their pants
The words Guru, Swami, Super Swami,
Master, Teacher, Murshid, Yogi, Priest,
most of those sporting such a title are
The litmus test is:
hold them upside down over a cliff for a few hours.
If they don't wet their pants
maybe you found a real
- Kabir Das
I could go on and on on this theme, but I think I'll stop for now -- and consider this post a kind of opening of the conversation of what is a guru.
in closing, I'd like to add that this-coming weekend (July 19-22nd) is the Full Moon of the Guru -- a highly auspicious and unusual time in the spiritual energy in this world. once a year, during the full moon in July, the Guru energy is completely flowing and accessible -- to anyone -- blessing the true inner desires and requests that we have.
"Guru Purnima Day, that day is the master’s energy. Channeling the master’s energy means my master, my master to his master, his master, then his master – the heritage of the masters’ cycles. There’s no way the illusions can hit, can touch, the masters’ cycles at the time. It is their energy.
That’s why they called it Guru Purnima, the moon of the Guru. A high percentage of that energy he’s controlling in his hands on that day. At that time he can create, he can make certain amazing things done in your life by grace of Mother Divine."
-- Sri Kaleshwar
Guru Purnima is a remarkable time for inner evaluation, for prayer, for clarity, and for opening the heart to the divine (however we think of it or call it) and asking, simply, for the real depth of what we want.
spiritual centers dedicated to this kind of energy tradition will be hosting meditations, ceremonies, retreats, all kinds of ways to honor the guru energy and to bring its blessings ever closer to the hearts and souls of human beings.
UCBK, my own home base temple dedicated to this amazing lineage of holy souls and representatives of the guru energy/consciousness, will be hosting a variety of events via webcast. (you can click here for a full schedule.)
finally, Happy Guru Purnima to all! I hope you'll take some time during this incredibly precious spiritual energy cycle to consider, deeply, your true desires and spiritual longings -- whatever it is that you're wanting to have blessed by the divinity, in your life. ask humbly, surrender the results into the hands of the energy, and be prepared for a miracle!
“The master and student relationship is immortal. The bond is not for this lifetime. That bond is forever and ever, for many lifetimes. Wherever you go, he is there... he can make the inner bliss grow in you very powerfully.” Sri Kaleshwar
|Sri Kaleshwar (1973 - 2012)|
"Why fear when I am here?
You're here, not only for yourself, you're here to help others.
Be a symbol for the love."