Importance of a Guru

December 11, 2009

He had the natural brightness sparkling in eyes. It is clear that all the children in campus look at him as their leader, both in style and in substance. He was the best amongst them in running, badminton and dancing, not that he liked to dance. This dislike for something he is good at only added to his charm as far as other children were concerned. They all go to the same school in a hired van and to sit near him was considered an honor amongst the younger children, to whom he would not condescend to talk much, if at all. About the latest movies or nearby restaurants, his opinion would be the final word in all discussions. In short, he was the hero of all other children. So much so, that to talk about his somewhat average performance in studies, or discuss his lower middle class background was considered a distinctly bad taste in the otherwise ruthless world of school children. Children value people not according to their social or intellectual merit but by their own standards. If someone can climb a tree well, he has done enough to warrant a place of respect in their world. Then, it does not matter if he earns his living by ironing clothes or being a watchman. If they value a certain thing and if someone is good at it, they are not averse to respect the person and follow his lead. It is not in their spirit to adhere to one thing they are good at and value rest of the world according to that one dimensional perspective.

How soon this openness is lost! The moment they acquire a certain image of themselves, they look at others purely from the perspective of not losing their earned ground. The ease with which children worship their idols is very rarely seen in grown-ups. In fact, this fact is very proudly strutted about by the so called intellectual people. `I do not like to consider someone as great’ seems to define their own greatness.

Just a few years down the line, one can imagine that many of these children will join professional education and their current hero, on account of being just average in studies, will not be able to pursue higher studies but will be forced to take up a job or study in a local college. The equations amongst his friends will change drastically. By the time they finish studies, a complete reversal in their relationships will be seen. The athletically not so good students might have increased their girth, but would look far more smug than the supremely fit version of their current hero. What is more tragic is that the hero himself will accept the new order and with passing of years the natural brightness in his eyes will take a cunning look of a person who is always desperately trying to maximize his gains in every situation.  This is the innocence lost and worldliness gained. It seems impossible in todays world to value some adult who is good at things that does not fetch any worldly returns and people who have accumulated wealth, in money or in education, are held superior in all respects in life. Probably that is why we have celebrities proudly voicing their opinions on spirituality in Sunday editions of newspapers.

Just like the boy, who was naturally good at things not considered important by the many, we will all lose our sense of self respect some time in our life and from that point onwards, bottom of our heart, will start searching for a person who will make us `better’ than what we are. The search for Guru has started in our life! It is a different thing altogether when we go to someone and seek his advice in our own attempts to understand spirituality. This has to be done if we were to progress. But, to hang on to someone’s words or deeds like clothes drying on a wash line and be content with this attitude is something one should avoid ruthlessly. This spineless attitude is not bhakti but an empty wish to complete ourselves by association. If we are near a great person, we feel that some of his greatness has rubbed on to us. Like moon in the sky, we strut around with his reflected glory upon us. This is not bhakti but a business deal. `I am feeling inferior and by coming close to you I make my sense of inferiority disappear’ is the deal struck between you and your guru. The real bhakti is a thing without any expectation, not even that of understanding oneself. Thus pure love can only be evoked by us at ourselves. One simply can not attain the purest form of bhakti or love with anyone else in this world.

A real guru knows all this and thus gives very little formulaic instructions. He will encourage his audience to embark on their own personal journey and urge them to discover their own points of temporary rests, rather than any final destination. He does not want to complete himself by making isomorphic copies of him in the form of disciples, but is so self-assured as to leave no trace of his existence when he is finished. The journey he had started was his own and is finished when he is gone. No one else can finish their journey by simply imitating his path. The importance of Guru lies not in finding solutions to your innermost problems but lies in him giving you tools to discover them yourself. It is then naturally clear that the more capable you are the less tools are needed for you to complete your journey. As an extreme example, Bhagavan Raman Maharshi did not have a Guru as he did not need any.

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