This article is an excerpt from “Reality At Dawn”. For further reading, please order a copy of the book on the digital store
Having in view our determined goal and the proper means to achieve it, our next lookout must be to find the right type of person as our guide, one who might successfully take us along the path of realisation. In all cases (including those pertaining to worldly attainments), we stand in need of the help of a capable guide. It may, however, be possible that after acquiring some knowledge, we may proceed further by our self-effort. But even then, we have to depend upon the experience of the teachers of the past, as contained in their books and writings.
In spirituality, the case is otherwise. The need of a guru, or master, grows greater and greater as we go on advancing and securing higher stages. Books are of no avail to us in this respect. They may help us to acquire a superficial knowledge of things to enable us to deliver eloquent discourses on spiritual topics and to win arguments, but a practical approach in spirituality through them alone is impossible. Yogic practices and sadhanas based on knowledge acquired through books are mostly misleading and even harmful to our spiritual advancement. It is only the helping support of a capable guide that can take us on up to our destination.
It is said of Maulana Rumi, a celebrated Persian poet and the author of eighteen books on spirituality, that once he approached a great saint to receive spiritual training from him. The saint asked him to throw all his books into the river if he wanted to have practical training from him. As this meant to Rumi the loss of his life-long labour, he did not agree to it. Several times he approached the saint with the same request, but received the same reply. Finding no other alternative, he at last submitted to the saint’s demand, threw away all his writings into the water and became his disciple.
Actual realisation comes only after training in the realm of practice, and for that, knowledge or erudition proves to be of little assistance. The help of a guru or master is, therefore, essential and indispensable for those engaged in spiritual pursuit. There have been cases, however, where sages have attained perfection by mere self-effort, surrendering themselves directly to God. But such examples are rare. It is really a very difficult course and can be followed only by persons specially gifted with uncommon genius. The guru is the connecting link between God and man. It is through his medium only that we can reach God. He is the only power that can extricate us from the intricacies of the path.
During our spiritual march we have to pass through various points, known as chakras (figuratively called lotuses). They are the centres of concentrated energy of the Real Power of divine force inherited by man. They are located in different places within the human frame. The intervening space between the two points is characterised as a network interwoven by numerous intricate fibres. As we proceed along, we have to pass through these entanglements of the intervening layers. We have to stay there for a considerable time to complete the bhog. Bhog does not only mean undergoing the effect of our past actions, but it really means passing through the process of unfolding the intricacies of the point which we have already arrived at.
Our stay at these points for the purpose of bhog is often very long, and in most cases it is almost impossible to get out of it by mere self-effort. It may, however, be possible at a few preliminary stages, but subsequently it becomes quite impracticable. It has been observed that most of the sages of the past who had tried it by self-effort only, remained lingering for their whole life on the very first or second stage and could not cross it. The fact is that at somewhat advanced stages we have to face what may be expressed as the slippery condition of the place. There we may sometimes go up a little but soon slip down again. The same thing happens again and again, with the result that higher ascent becomes arduous and well-nigh impracticable. Under the circumstances, it is only a forceful push by the worthy Master that can bring us out of the whirlpool. If the Master is not lacking in power and capacity, he will, by his own force, push the disciple up out of the entanglement and place him on the next higher stage.
It is therefore essential that the guide we select must be one of the highest calibre and worthy of the task of tearing off the intricacies at a glance with the aid of the extraordinary power at his command. It can only be one who has himself attained perfection or complete negation of self. Hence we must connect ourselves with such a great power by feelings of love and attraction. It does not matter much what conception of him we entertain in our mind. We may call him our friend, master, servant or whatever we might be pleased to choose. But he remains after all our guide or guru, as he is commonly called.
Unfortunately, today the selection of the proper guide is much neglected, although every religious-minded Hindu believes that it is incumbent upon him to have a guru in order to satisfy his craving for spiritual benefit. Generally, people select anyone for the purpose, without any regard to his capabilities or worth. They are induced to do so mostly by persuasion or by miracles displayed by those so-called gurus to attract the ignorant masses. The disciple-hunters are not wanting. They are as numerous as the leaves of a tree, for to most of them, gurudom is a very profitable job that can secure enormous income which they cannot otherwise earn. Besides, they command the highest respect and personal service from their disciples. The ignorant masses thus fall a ready prey to these self-seeking professionals.
A petty miracle or an ordinary display of something charming or attractive is enough to attract hundreds of these silly sheep to their fold of gurudom. A simple threat to pronounce a curse upon one who happens to displease them may bring thousands into their abject submission. Not only this, but in order to ensure monopoly of their profession, they declare that none but one belonging to the privileged class has the right of being a guru, whether he may be a sannyasin or a householder. They claim to be world teachers of religion by birth, irrespective of their capability and worth. Sannyasins, too, you will find these days in multitudes posing as mahatmas and professing to be jagat gurus (world teachers). Is it not a pity to find such professional imposters, who are a shame to the nation and the religion, roaming about with complete impunity to cheat and defraud the ignorant people in order to serve their own selfish ends? It is high time for the masses to open their eyes and see what havoc has been wrought by them. Gurudom as a monopoly of a privileged class is only an absurdity, introduced by the professional gurus to safeguard their personal interests.
The popularly believed principle that a disciple can never break off the sacred connection with his guru under any circumstances is also a cunning device adopted by those false gurus to make their position safe and secure, and it is nothing but a fraud. The practice of initiating a disciple (though really based on sound principles) has been much abused by most of the modern professionals who do not understand its real significance. Their only function as a guru is to breathe a few mystical words into the ear of the disciple at the time of initiation and tell him to follow certain ceremonial practices by way of worship. Their duty to the disciple ends with it, and nothing remains for them to do for the betterment of the disciple except to give him their darshan every year and get their annual tribute from him.
Really, a disciple should formally be initiated only when true faith exists in him and divine love takes prime root in his heart. Initiation signifies that the disciple’s link has been connected with the Supreme Power. In that case, the spiritual force begins to flow to the disciple automatically according to the absorbing capacity he develops in himself. It depends much upon the power and capability of the Master to establish a sound connection, for which high calibre is needed. A sound connection, once established, shall continue as long as the disciple does not secure liberation, which in such cases is not a far off matter to be attained after numerous lives.
In fact, if a disciple is initiated in the right sense, as mentioned above, by a guru of high calibre, the question of breaking off from him can never arise. But for the professional gurus who perform mock initiations to serve their purpose, it is a matter of constant anxiety. Therefore, in order to keep a disciple permanently in their grip, they proclaim it as a divine dictate that he shall be courting all the miseries of hell if he ever thought of breaking off from them at any time. The ignorant masses accept it as the gospel truth, trembling at the very idea of doing anything that might displease their guru. Thus, they always try to put up with all their atrocities in passive submission. I am sure there is not the slightest suggestion to this effect found in our Shastras. It is only an ingenuity on the part of these teachers of religion.
I hold it to be the birthright of every man to break off from his guru at any time if he finds that he had made a wrong selection or had misjudged the guru’s capacity or worth. He is also free to seek another guru if at any stage he finds that his guru has not the capacity to take him beyond what he has already acquired.
On the other hand, a conscientious guru must himself, under the circumstances, direct his disciple to seek another, more advanced and better qualified, so that the disciple may not in any way suffer progress. This is the sacred duty of a true and selfless guru. If, however, permission to break off, sought for by the disciple, is denied by the guru on account of his selfish motives, the disciple is at liberty to break off from him at once and seek another. No moral or religious law ever forbids him from doing so.
A little advanced among the class of gurus are considered to be those who teach and preach on the basis of their knowledge of the Shastras and other holy books. They have established orders and ashrams where they enjoy a kingly position among their followers. They go out and address large audiences, telling them what to do and what not to do and explaining to them problems concerning maya, jiva and Brahman. People flock to them in thousands to hear their sermons, admiring their high ideas and extensive knowledge, and regard them as great mahatmas or saints. They ask them numerous intricate questions, and if they are able to answer them out of their stock of the knowledge of Shastras, their greatness as mahatma is established in their minds and they are induced to accept them as gurus. But really they have, thus, put to test their learning and not the real worth.
It must well be borne in mind that it is not learning or knowledge that makes a man perfect, but it is only realisation in the right sense that makes a true yogi or saint. It is just possible that the man who has thus impressed you with his outward form, learning or eloquence may be at the lowest level as regards practical attainments. Knowledge, therefore, is no criterion of a true mahatma or yogi. Similarly, the real test of a mahatma or guru is not his miracles or his extraordinary ways and manners, but only his practical attainments on the path of realisation.
The popular meaning of a mahatma as a great individuality does not seem appealing to me. I would define a mahatma as the most insignificant being or rather a neglected figure, beyond all feelings of greatness, pride or egoism, dwelling permanently in a state of complete self-negation.
There are some who hold the view that knowledge, being the preliminary stage of realisation, is essential and indispensable. I do not agree with them, on the grounds that knowledge is only an achievement of the brain, whereas realisation is the awakening of the soul and hence far beyond its scope. In books on spiritual science, we read much about the conditions of the mind at various spiritual stages and get acquainted with them, but as regards practical attainments, we are far away from them. We can talk to people about those conditions, advance arguments for and against them and establish our superiority in learning, but inwardly we are quite ignorant of them.
We attend lectures and hear sermons on the Gita, we recite portions from the Gita regularly every day, we read commentaries on it written by great men of learning, but what practical effect is thereby produced upon us? Has any one of us ever been able to acquire practically any one of the conditions depicted in it? They may, however, repeat the words “World is maya, Man is Brahma” and so on, but inwardly they are quite unconscious of what they speak in words. None has ever been able to develop the conditions discussed therein just as Arjuna did when he heard it from Lord Krishna.
The Gita, as we have it today, is really a commentary on what Lord Krishna spoke to Arjuna on the eve of the battle of Mahabharat. Lord Krishna had actually transmitted the very conditions, explained by words of mouth, into the heart of Arjuna, with the result that Arjuna was literally feeling the same condition prevailing all over, both within and without. Thus it was that every word which he heard descended right into his heart, producing a permanent effect.
The cause of the failure of modern teachers and preachers of the Gita to produce the desired effect upon the mind of the hearers is their lack of power to transmit those conditions. The various conditions of the mind discussed in the Gita are really the different stages that a man comes across during his march on the path of spirituality. They develop automatically from within. Formal means adopted to acquire a particular state of mind at a premature stage increases internal grossness, which is detrimental to our progress.
A real teacher is not one who can explain to us the soundness of the religious dogmas or who can prescribe to us do’s and don’ts. Almost every one of us knows enough of it. What we stand in need of from a guru is the true impulse to effect the awakening of the soul and his direct support in the course of our further march on the path of realisation. Such a man we have to seek for, if we aim at success.
It is, therefore, evident that while judging a man for our spiritual guide, we must take into account not his learning or miracles but his practical achievements in the field of realisation. A man who is himself free can free you from eternal bondage. If your guru is not free from the bondages of samskaras, maya or ahankara, it is not possible for him to free you from those bondages. Suppose you are bound to one pole and your guru to another, how is it possible for your guru to free you from bondage? Only a man who is himself free can release you from bondage.
People have, in most cases, gone astray for this very reason, as they have submitted themselves to the guidance of such unworthy teachers, whose primary motive is perhaps mere self-aggrandisement or some personal gain. With this view in mind, they are generally found to be eager to maintain their position and prestige by false impositions. To them, it is probably the greatest shock to their pride of power and position to acknowledge the superiority of anyone more advanced or better accomplished. This is nothing but ahankara in the crudest form. If you submit yourself to such a guru, you are sure to inherit the same feeling of pride, which is the worst type of grossness and is sure to hamper your spiritual advancement. Liberation is never possible so long as this evil exists.
Spirituality is, in fact, such a superfine state of mind that every other thing will seem to be heavier or grosser in comparison to it. The delicate feeling caused on the senses by the sweet smell of a rose is far heavier. I may express it as a state of perfect tranquillity and moderation, in complete harmony with nature. In this state of mind, all senses and faculties are, so to say, in a sleeping (or dormant) state. Their working becomes automatic, bearing no impression upon the mind. Perfect peace is one of its high stages, although the real thing is still onwards, when even the consciousness of peace fails. For the consciousness of peace too causes some weight upon the mind, though it is very insignificant.
When we are really quite unconscious of the very presence of peace, we are in a true sense free from the impression or the weight of the feeling. The condition at this stage is peculiar. It is really neither anandam (bliss) nor otherwise. Words fail to express the real condition of this stage. Such is the condition we have finally to achieve, for which he and he alone can be a capable guru who is permanently abiding in the condition described above, and has the power and capacity to transmit by his will force the spiritual state into the heart of the abhyasi and to remove complexities and obstructions therefrom. None below this level is fit to impart spiritual training to others.
It is a matter of greatest regret and pity that this age-old process of yogic transmission originated and widely practised by our ancient sages has now gone into complete oblivion in the very land of its origin, where today only but a few might feel inclined to believe it even. Some people try to ridicule it by misinterpreting it as nothing but mesmerism or hypnotism. I have explained this point in my book Efficacy of Raja Yoga. Here I may assure you that spiritual training for the attainment of higher stages is only possible by the process of yogic transmission and by no other means.
Frequent reference to this process, in the present society of educated persons, has led certain religious teachers today to defend their inefficiency in this respect by explaining to the people that there is nothing peculiar about transmission. It generally happens when you are in the company of a mahatma, or a saint, that you are to some extent relieved of your disturbing thoughts and feel comparatively calm for a while. This they claim to be due to the effect of transmission by the mahatma. Those who offer this explanation mean only to deceive the public with a view to whitewashing their incapacity. What they interpret as transmission is really the automatic radiation of the pious paramanus (fine particles) from the mahatma. It affects all those assembled there, with the result that calmness prevails to some extent so long as they are there. It is only a natural process and has nothing to do with transmission.
It is not only from a mahatma or saint that such paramanus radiate, but also from everyone, whether pious or wicked, saintly or devilish. If you are for some time with an impious or morally degraded person, you find similar impious paramanus radiating from him and affecting you, with the result that you find your thoughts flowing in the same channel for the time being. The effect of such radiation remains only for a little while and disappears when you are away from it.
This is the reason why often religious teachers are found to be making complaints of the indifference of the people to follow what they preach to them. They say that people, when they go back after hearing their upadesha (sermons), cast off all they have heard then and there, retaining nothing of it in their mind. I think it is not the people but the teacher, or the upadeshaka (preacher), who is really to be blamed for it, for he has not the capacity or power to transmit what he means to preach from the platform.
Similar views are expressed in connection with sankirtan performances. The peaceful atmosphere created on such occasions is claimed to be due to the effect of transmission. It is really the result of vibrations produced by the sound of singing in a chorus. We experience the same thing at all music parties which we attend. On such occasions, our mind is mostly focused on one and the same thing which is in our view, and we are, for the time being, unmindful of other things. In sankirtan, as our thoughts are located on some pious ideal, we begin to feel the same thing in our heart automatically. It has nothing to do with transmission.
Power of transmission is a yogic attainment of a very high order by which a yogi can infuse, by his own will force, the yogic energy or Godly effulgence within anyone and remove anything unwanted in him or detrimental to his spiritual progress. He can exercise this power not only on those assembled around him, but on others too who are away from him. The power can be utilised in any way at any time. One who has got command over this power can, at a glance, create temporarily or permanently a condition of the mind which is far ahead of the existing condition of the mind of an abhyasi and which otherwise will require a lifetime to be achieved. It is not only a vain assertion but a bare fact and may at any time be practically verified by anyone who pleases to do so. Sages have often, through power of transmission, changed the entire nature of a man at a mere glance. The wonderful examples of the great sages like my Master, Samartha Guru Shri Ram Chandraji Maharaj of Fatehgarh, Swami Vivekananda and others offer ample proof of it.
The solution of the problem as to what sort of man should be selected as a guide or guru is not difficult to seek. When our eyes are fixed on the final goal, we can never be satisfied with anyone who appears to be short of the mark. Every saint or yogi has got his own level of attainment and self-elevation. If we attach ourselves with any one of them with faith and devotion and secure mergence with his highest condition, we will ourselves attain a corresponding elevation. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary to select one with the highest attainments as our guru. If, unfortunately, we are somehow or other induced to select one with inferior attainments, we will correspondingly be lagging behind in our final approach.
Ordinarily a spiritual teacher should never consider himself fit for training others unless he has secured his approach up to Brahmanda Mandal at least (also known as Viraat Desha), where everything appears in the subtle form before it actually takes place in this material world. When a teacher has connected himself with that plane or sphere, he is constantly in touch with the inexhaustible storehouse of power. On the other hand, if a man takes up the job of training others in spirituality before acquiring this stage, he not only begins to lose his own power but is contaminated with the samskaras and grossness of those under his training, with the result that very soon he himself gets spoiled. In our Mission, permission to impart training is not generally granted at this stage even.
Really, a man is fit for the work of training only when he does not entertain in his heart the slightest impression of being a teacher or guru. I believe that if the idea of being a guru crosses his mind even once in his life, he becomes unworthy of being a guru for all his life. The very presence of this idea shows that he cherishes in his heart a feeling of self-importance or greatness.
The consciousness of being a master, if maintained, soon develops into pride, the crudest form of ahankara, and consequently into its resultant defects, which are the worst drawbacks in a guru. It is, therefore, essential for a man to get rid of these evils before he comes out into the field as a guru.
God is the real Guru or Master, and we get Light from Him alone. But as it is extremely difficult for a man of ordinary talents to draw inspiration from God directly, we seek the help of one of our fellow beings who has established his connection with the Almighty. It is thus quite evident that if a man comes out as a guru or master he has usurped the position really due to God, and as such it is nothing but mere blasphemy. He must, therefore, treat himself as the humblest servant of God, serving humanity in the name of the great Master. There will thus be no room for ahankara and for its resultant evils, which are unfortunately too common nowadays. Reality is totally absent where these evils prevail. A guru or teacher must, therefore, banish from his heart even the slightest feeling of greatness and superiority and consider himself as the humblest associate or a servant of humanity.
My Master of revered memory was an example. All through his life he treated his associates as brethren. The idea that they were his disciples never once crossed his mind. He was ever ready to offer personal services even to his disciples, and very often he did it without letting it come to their knowledge.
I think and feel it as an essential thing for a guru to give up his masterly position and feel himself an ordinary servant of humanity. His claim for personal service from the disciples has no justification except in cases of dire necessity, and that too only to an extent to which he himself is prepared to render to his disciples. Most of the so-called gurus nowadays encourage the practice because it offers them personal comfort and feeds their vanity. They say that by touching the feet of guru, or by massaging his limbs, the magnetic currents pass on from the guru to the disciple, thus helping the disciple to form pious samskaras. Thus, by this practice the disciple draws in much of purity and piety from his master. It may be true, but let me question them for a while whether the same thing is not possible if the guru renders the same service to his disciple. I think none can dare deny it. Evidently, then, the motive at the back is nothing but personal comfort and ease. In my humble opinion, the process should now be reversed in accordance with the need of the time, and the guru should himself render such services to his disciples.
Really the position of the guru is very strange. If he feels himself as a master, and hence far above his associates, it will be an ahankara of the worst type in a guru. It is really up to the disciple to devote himself to the service of his guru with love and devotion, and not the right or privilege of the guru to demand it.
I am reminded of an instance. A simpleton once approached one such prevalent type of guru and offered to become his disciple. The guru, delighted at the prospect of one more addition to his fold of gurudom, began to teach him the duties of a disciple. “You should,” he said, “be in complete submission to your guru, attending all the time to his personal needs and services. You should prostrate before him every morning and evening, and go to bed after the guru is asleep and get up before he wakes.” The poor fellow, finding himself incapable of doing all this, innocently questioned: “What will be the result if I failed to act in strict accordance?” “You will be turned out and doomed,” was the firm reply. “Then, sir,” he added politely, “it shall be very kind of you, if you accept me as a guru.”
We often come across instances of jealousies and frictions between a guru and his disciple. What is all this due to? It is only on account of selfish interest or personal gain. A guru must, therefore, necessarily be quite devoid of any personal motive or selfish interest. He must be totally free from all feelings of pride or greatness. He must be a selfless man and a true servant of humanity at large, teaching people out of pure love without any ulterior selfish motive of name, fame or money. He must have his access up to the farthest possible limit and must have the power of yogic transmission. Such a man we must seek for as our guide if we want complete success. It is better to remain without a guru all the life than to submit to the guidance of an unworthy guru.