The Noble Word "Guru"
By Swami Rama
The word “guru” is misused. It is such a noble word, such a wonderful word, a sacred word. After your mother has given birth to you, and your parents have raised you, then the role of the guru begins and he helps you fulfill the purpose of your life. All followers of a guru, whatever their age, even if they are eighty years old, are like children to him. He will feed them, give them shelter and then teach them without expecting anything in return. The relationship with a guru is so pure that no other relationship is even comparable. Everything the guru has, even his body, mind and soul, belongs to his student. But if he has any odd habits at all, they belong only to himself.
You try your best to something for the guru, but you cannot because he doesn’t need anything. Such a compassionate one spontaneously attracts your attention, for you are bewildered. You wonder, “Why is he doing so much for me? What does he want from me.” He wants nothing, for what he is doing is his duty, the purpose of his life. If he guides you, he is not obliging you, he is doing his work. He cannot live without doing his duty. Such people are called “gurus.” They guide humanity.
No human being can ever become a guru. But when a human being allows himself to be used as a channel for receiving and transmitting by the Power of Powers, then it happens. And for that, a human should learn to be selfless. Genuine gurus cannot live without selflessness, for selfless love is the very basis of their enlightenment. They radiate life and light from the unknown corners of the world. The world does not even know them, and they do not want recognition.
Guru is frequently considered to be merely someone who is trained in philosophy, meditation, and hatha yoga. From this point of view, the guru is expected to share his knowledge with the students, training them in scriptures and various spiritual disciplines. While the student may become dependent on the teacher and have high expectations about what the teacher should do on behalf of the student, the guru is nonetheless viewed as a teacher only. Guru is much more than a teacher. He or she represents the special energy that is guiding individuals toward their fulfillment as human beings, toward perfection. Grace is the impulse of that energy. The word “guru” is a compound of two words, “gu” and “ru.” “Gu” means “darkness” and “ru” means light. That light which dispels the darkness of ignorance is called guru. The energy and the action of removing darkness are guru. Guru is not a person, it is a force driven by grace.
To put this another way, there is an intelligent momentum that pervades the universe that is moving all human beings toward the perfection we call God. Guru is that intelligence. Everyone’s receptivity to that intelligence varies. It depends on preparation. In other words, guru is always there, but the student may not be ready to receive what the guru has to offer. When the student is prepared, the guru always arrives to help the student do what is necessary to progress in removing the veil of ignorance.
Guru is not a person, but guru can be represented in a person. One who has developed his or her own spiritual awareness to a very high level can guide others, and is considered to be a guru. Only one who is finely attuned to the inner guide can inspire the awakening of the inner guide in another. Guru is not a physical being. If a guru begins thinking this power is her or his power, then they are no longer a guide. The guru is a tradition, a stream of knowledge.
Only one who is well established in the stage of nirvikalpa samadhi is an illumined yogi, and only such a yogi can truly guide other aspirants. Such a yogi is beyond the bondage of space, time and causation, and he is ever free, for it is possible for him to remain dissolved in Brahman and yet return to normal consciousness.
The relationship of guru to disciple is indescribable. The relationship extends to the realm beyond the world, transcends death, and stretches far beyond the limited karmic bonds associated with family and friends. A mother and father help sustain the body of their child, and nurture and guide the child through formative years of life to adulthood. Guru sustains, nurtures, and guides a soul through lifetimes to ultimate liberation.
The guru wants nothing from the disciple. Guru is that force moving a soul toward enlightenment. The guru’s actions are from pure compassion. As the sun shines and lives far above, the guru gives spiritual love and remains unattached.
Guru is not the goal. Anyone who establishes himself as a guru to be worshipped is not a guru. Guru is like a boat for crossing the river. It is important to have a good boat and it is very dangerous to have a boat that is leaking. The boat brings you across the river. When the river is crossed the boat is no longer necessary. You don’t hang onto the boat after completing the journey, and you certainly don’t worship the boat.
Many times students come to the guru with a preconceived ideas and expectations of what the guru should be like, how he should behave, and what he should do for them. When these expectations and preconceived images are not met, the student becomes upset and may even leave the guru. This is not the proper way to approach a teacher. A student should not be filled with expectations and preconceived images, but with a burning desire to learn, and with firm determination. Then there will be no difficulty. The guru and the disciple can then do their work accordingly. The spiritual seeker should not worry about who the guru is, or what the guru will do. The seeker’s first concern is getting prepared, organizing his or her life and thoughts in a spiritually healthy way, and then working toward a way of life that simplifies and purifies. At the right time the master will be there.
The guru also teaches without words or actions. As the disciple learns to surrender and move the ego out of the way, and grows more selfless, the ability to learn intuitively from the guru grows. The student learns in the cave of silence. It is like tuning into the guru’s frequency or plugging into that stream of knowledge. The guru is always working from there. The disciple’s role is to gradually learn to also work from that place.
Gurus impart the best of their knowledge in silence. When you are in silence, they communicate with you through silence, and in silence. For the student whose mind is in tune, that teaching is the finest of teachings. This silent communication can happen no matter where you are physically, whether you are 10,000 miles away or very close.
When you sincerely tread the path, you will meet one who can help you with all setbacks.
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of Swami Rama of the Himalayas