On the Guru by Swami Abhishiktananda

Uzen's picture

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Beyond the experience of things and places, of watching or participating in worship, of reading or meditating on the Scriptures, of listening to lectures, there is the experience of meeting those in whose hearts the Invisible has been disclosed, and through whom the glory shines in all its brightness-which is the mystery of the guru.

The honourable title of 'guru' is unfortunately too often debased by being used inappropriately, if not sacrilegiously. No one should utter this word, let alone call someone his guru, if he himself does not yet have the heart and soul of a disciple.

It is in fact as unusual to meet a real disciple as it is to meet a real guru. Hindu tradition is right in saying that, when the disciple is ready, the guru automatically appears, and only those who are not yet worthy of it spend their time in running after gurus. Guru and disciple form a dyad, a pair, whose two components call for each other and belong together. No more than the two poles (of a magnet) can they exist without being related to each other. On the way towards unity they are a dyad. In the ultimate realization they are a non-dual reciprocity.

The guru is certainly not any kind of teacher; not a professor, nor a preacher, nor an ordinary spiritual guide or director of souls, one who has learnt from books or perhaps from someone else that which he in turn passes on to others. The guru is one who in the first place has himself attained to the Real, and who knows by personal experience the path that leads there; one who is capable of giving the disciple the essential introduction to this path, and causing the immediate and ineffable experience, which he himself has, to spring up directly from and in the disciple's heart-the lucid and transparent awareness that he is.

We may say that the mystery of the guru is actually the mystery of the spirit's own depth. To come face to face with the guru is to come face to face with the 'self' at that level "of oneself that is at once real and most bidden.

The meeting with the guru is the essential meeting, the decisive turning point in a person's life. But it is a meeting that can only happen when once you have passed beyond the spheres of sense and intellect. Its place lies Beyond, in the 'fine point of the soul', as the mystics say.

In human encounters duality is still left intact. At their best we may say that a fusion takes place and that the two become one in love and desire; but in the meeting of guru and disciple there is not even a fusion, for we are in the sphere of the original non-duality. Advaita remains for ever incomprehensible to anyone who has not first lived it existentially in his meeting with the guru.

That which the guru says springs up from the very heart of the disciple. It is not someone else who is speaking to him. He is not receiving in his mind thoughts which have come from elsewhere and have been transmitted by sensible means. When the vibrations of the master's voice reach the disciple's ear and the master's eyes look deep into his own, then it is from within his own self, from the cave of his own heart, now at last discovered, that the thoughts proceed which reveal him to himself.

It therefore matters little what words the guru uses. Their whole power lies in the inward echoes which they cause. In seeing or hearing the guru, the disciple attains to the revelation of his own self, taking place at that deep level of himself for which everyone is essentially seeking, even if unconsciously.

Long ago the rishis of the Upanishads had celebrated the mystery of the guru:

Without learning it from another, how could anyone know That?
But to hear it from just anyone is not enough,
even if he repeats it a hundred, a thousand times...
More subtle than the most subtle is that;
it cannot be obtained by any discussion...
Neither by reasoning, nor by ideas,
nor even by the simple recitation of the Vedas,
can it be known...
Wonderful is he who can utter it,
wonderful he who can hear it,
wonderful he who knows it, having been well taught...
(Katha Upanishad. 2)

The brahmin who has examined the secret of the worlds
that are reached by (performing) the Law and the Rites,
loses all desire...
Nothing transient can lead to the intransient...
Renouncing the world and full of faith,
he departs in search of the master
who will reveal to him the secret of Brahman.
With thoughts controlled and his heart at peace,
he receives from him the ultimate knowledge,
which reveals to him the True, the Imperishable,
the Man (purusha) within;
(Mundaka Upanishad. 1.2)


madan_gautam's picture


Wonderful and true.

madan_gautam | Wed, 05/13/2009 - 13:13