The importance of a Guru
From the preface by Shri Babaji in 'Guru Charanaambujam - at the Lotus Feet of the Divine Guru'
The first time that I heard something about a Guru was from my mother when I was a child. Telling the importance and greatness of a Guru who would be a Realized Soul, she said, “Even if God is annoyed with you, the Guru can come to your rescue and protect you, if you have total faith in the name of the Guru. But if the Guru is annoyed no god can help you.” This had a mesmerizing effect on my childhood mind as to how important it is to have total faith and surrender to the Lotus Feet of a Guru. A little later I heard the Bhaja Govindam of Adi Shankara, which made me become obsessed with the death thought and made me want to know the secrets of birth and death. That was the time when the thought came that I need to have a Guru who shall be Divine in nature, Self Realized and who could lead me to the Liberation of Self Realization.
Normally for people of this world when you mention 'Guru', a person in a physical body comes to mind. Ask yourself, “Is this all that the Guru is?” The Guru is omnipresent within and all-pervading. We need to visualize the Guru in our everyday life, every moment, in our every action and in the results that occur. 'Gu' means, the one beyond all the three gunas of sattva, rajas and tamas (like the good, bad and ugly) and 'Ru' means limitless omnipresent and omnipotent. The Guru is the Self, Pure Awareness of Existence, which is our torch-bearer to guide us all the time.
Indians all over the world celebrate Guru Poornima on the full moon day in the month of Aashaad, which normally falls in July according to the Gregorian calendar. On Guru Poornima, rich tributes are paid by students and disciples in honor of the Guru. This is also celebrated as Vyasa Poornima. Sage Vyasa is the writer of the great epic Maha Bharatha. Sage Vyasa is said to have compiled all the Vedas and legendary stories of the Puranas.
My Master Shree Swamiji had emphasized the importance of adopting one's Guru mentally and often narrated the story of Sage Shuka who got his doubts cleared from King Janaka. Swamiji said, “Suddenly one day when this doubt occurred to Sage Shuka, son of Veda Vyasa, who thought, 'I was born in the Ashram where meditation, fire sacrifices and other spiritual exercises are always performed in order to remember the Ultimate Truth of the Supreme Consciousness of Existence. Here I could engage my mind to keep the attention totally on the Ultimate Truth of the Supreme Being, in celibacy, abandoning all cravings of the mind, so effortlessly my mind could settle in to the real Self and remain contented. How could this King Janaka who is also known as a Jeevanmukta, a Realized Soul, keep His mental attention on to the real Self, when He has to attend to so many household and court duties, dealing with politics etc?'
"Sage Shuka expressed this doubt to his father Sage Vyasa. To this Venerable Sage Vyasa said, 'Because your consideration of me is only as a father, you are likely to take my answers casually and not pay real attention. So I advise that you consider King Janaka as a Guru from whom you need to know this Truth by overcoming ignorance about it. Go to the place where King Janaka lives and with all humility wait for the opportunity and permission of King Janaka. Then put this question as a prayer and request Him to answer at His convenience.”
Shree Swamiji, the beloved Master, always emphasized this fact that one needs to be sincerely interested to overcome the ignorance about Truth. Humility, surrender and seriousness are necessary so that the ever slippery monkey-mind can attain stability and the concentration to listen to the Master and to practice, according to His guidance, that which could result in a practical training to realize the answer. Well the story goes on to say that Sage Shuka went to Janaka and stayed outside His court with devotion and patience until Janaka came to take him inside. When Janaka permitted and requested him to speak, the doubt was expressed by Shuka.
Shree Swamiji, continuing the story would emphasize that Yogis often, instead of answering directly, may engage in a mysterious practical training to educate the student, which could appear unconnected to the question. King Janaka said, “Venerable Sage Shuka, as I have some court duties to fulfill, may I request you to go around my town of Mithila and enjoy the beauty? When you come back in the evening we can discuss and try to understand the answer for your doubts.” Before going, King Janaka had a candle placed on the head of Sage Shuka and requested that he takes care of the candle so that it should not fall down.
In the evening when Shuka came back, Janaka enquired as to how he liked the town of Mithila. Sage Shuka said “Oh! Master, though I went around Your town and my eyes were watching the town, my mind was fixed on the candle that it should not fall down, as that was Your command. Really I did not see anything of Your town, in spite of the fact that my eyes were watching.” King Janaka said, “In the same way as your eyes were going around the town and your mind was fixed on the candle, I am able to attend all worldly duties, yet keep my attention fixed on the Ultimate Truth.”
Shree Swamiji again and again told us about losing the ego. Surrender to the Guru means having total devotion, faith and seriously paying attention when the Guru is speaking or training you. Swamiji said that there should not be any arrogance; if you want to learn, become a disciple. Just as if you want a mother, you need to be a son or daughter. I remember somebody asking this question to Shree Swamiji: what is the need of a Guru? Swamiji answered bluntly in a short formula, “When you were born did you not need a mother? Did you suddenly fall onto the earth from the heavens? In the same way, if you need to overcome ignorance, you need a Guru.” The man nodded in acceptance of the answer with a deep thinking expression on his face.
In the course of writing my commentary on the Guru Geeta, from time to time I shall narrate such things also as Shree Swamiji taught me by practical and often strange, mysterious methods.
I always try to emphasize the greatness of the Guru and the need to be devoted, having faith and total surrender to the Guru. Some who consider themselves as knowledgeable Jnaanis have commented that there should not be attachment to one Guru. One should open up to all Gurus, etc. What they are talking about is attachment to the physical body of the Guru. Being in the physical presence of the Guru is a great fortune, like a bonus. Having reverence to the physical body of the Guru is not wrong but considering the physical body as the only existence of the Guru is wrong.
The Guru is omnipresent - everywhere and in all see your Guru. Everything came to us in the name of the Guru. That's how my consciousness got attached to the name of the Guru since childhood. God came to us as Guru and Guru appeared as God. When the Guru lived with us in the physical body, God lived with us. Now God is living with us as the Guru in the form of the Living Yogi. Saint Kabir's song penetrated into the deep inner layers of my heart long ago, when he said, “My mind wonders, 'If Guru and God appear together, to whom should we should prostrate first, to the Guru or God?' When the mind gets cleared of the doubt, it resolves by telling, 'To Thy Lotus Feet first, Guru, for it is Thou who told me about God.'” When we have reverence to the Lotus Feet of the Guru, God is so pleased. We are blessed because the Guru takes care of our egos.
I always emphasize that all knowledge has come down directly from the Divine Self either in the form of a manifestation or inspiration. This is mentioned in the legend of Skaanda which is about the greatness of the Guru and the need for a Guru that has come to us, descended from the Divine, in the form of conversations between the Divine Ultimate Truth and Its Unified Energy which is none other than the Divine Itself. Symbolically there are male and female aspects of the Ultimate Existence, that is Lord Shiva as the Existence in a Total Thoughtlessness state and Parvati as consort of Lord Shiva in the form of Adi Para Shakti – the manifestation of the One Unified Energy that is hidden in the one single Self that exists. The Guru Geeta is the result of conversations between Shiva and Shakti.
~ Shivarudra Balayogi