Hindu tradition has laid a lot of emphasis on the role of a guru. The belief is that without a sensei, a guru, or an appropriate teacher the spiritual awakening of a soul becomes almost unattainable. Each syllable of the word ‘guru’ in Sanskrit has a meaning. ‘Gu’ means darkness or spiritual ignorance. ‘Ru’ means the destroyer who dispels the ignorance and brings the radiance of knowledge. Therefore, a ‘Guru’ dispels the darkness of ignorance and brings in the spiritual radiance to its disciple(s).
Chapter 4 Verse 34 of Srimad Bhagavad Gita also states, “Learn the Truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him with reverence and render service unto him. Such an enlightened Saint can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the Truth.” The importance of a spiritual master, a guru, cannot be undermined. In this age of self-paced study and eLearning, know that even regular concepts of science, mathematics, and social skills elude the learners without a guide. A spiritual path is all the more difficult without an appropriate master. Even after reading all the scriptures of the world and reading the interpretations by the philosophers who spent a lifetime in discerning the truth, there is no guarantee that any or all of it will make any sense without a teacher. Traversing a spiritual path requires ‘adhayan’, a lifetime of study and dedication to the cause. The task is herculean and becomes tougher without ‘guru-kripa’ or guru’s blessings.
What are the important characteristics of a guru? A guru is a humble soul enamoured with God, intoxicated in His glory, surrendered to Him. What is the role of a guru? If you see a mother goose and her goslings following her, you will see her correcting the course of an erring gosling, may be chiding it a little with her beak. A true guru is a pathfinder, a scholar, a teacher, a parent, a friend, and even a soul-doctor. A guru’s role is to nudge the disciple’s soul towards spiritual awakening, guide them towards goodness (satvik guna), lead them through the maze of material distractions, and connect them to God consciousness. How much of this can be imbibed by a student depends on their dedication towards their guru and their cause.
A disciple’s goal should be finding the ‘ishwariye’ (God) truth, to know Him, and find the right path to attain Him. There are so many hurdles and distractions in this spiritual path. The material world and its attractions are already so distracting, what to say of the other realms as you move up the passage towards the all-pervading Supreme Lord Himself. The other realms carry even greater charm, and it can befuddle a soul at each summit into believing that it is the ultimate destination. It can be explained better through a verse from Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7, verse 3 ‘Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth’.
A guru is worth adulation. No yardstick can define the extent of devotion a disciple should have towards their mentor. However, the reason a person looks for a guru is to be enlightened so as not to go astray on this spiritual journey. The biggest impediment is when this gratitude and adulation towards the guru turns into worship. If all your statements and sentences are accentuated with the glory of guru (jai gurudev) and not revelling in God’s glory, then you are grossly missing the point. A jnani (self-realised) guru will warn his disciples or followers against such gross errors that could be opening doors to hell. A right guru will shy away from self-glory and will never indulge in such erroneous action.
The current state-of-affairs in the country with the emergence of numerous so-called gurus all across, with a following that will put a showbiz star or a sports person to shame, is a real cause for worry. The worry is not the huge following, which is a good thing. The worry is not the sudden inclination towards spirituality, because I believe it to be the prime goal of a living being. The worry and the question is that is the intent right? Are most of these gurus really bringing their followers closer to God or are they trying to become gods? Are we choosing our gurus carefully or are we swayed by the popularity, just like the pop commercials? I understand that not everyone’s goal is His search. I mentioned that already in my earlier article, My Spiritual Side. Nonetheless, if people believe that their material well-being will be taken care of by their commercial gurus, think again. How can worshipping a guru help that? Probably they have some ‘siddhi’ (psychic powers) or a better connect with the Supreme, but a personal request requires personal intervention. I am especially mentioning this because I have watched people enduring abject failures, still singing guru’s glory, disillusioned, moving to another guru, hoping against hope to find solace, and so on. The guru hopping continues until such time they give up, resulting in disappointment with God, religions, and all the faith in the world. A quest gone awry! Only if this quest was better researched, better directed, with the right teacher, it would have borne altogether different results.
The idea is not to get all-preachy here since, to each its own. However, these disturbing trends and blind faith in someone, who is responsible for your spiritual well-being, can have uncertain effects. Movies like PK and OMG have crudely tried to highlight this trend to the ire of many. Some of this indignation is rightly directed due to the stereotypes used in denigrating a faith. Still, moving past this rage, one needs to take a long, hard look inwards, and honestly ponder. My faith has a record going back five to seven thousand years, surviving due to sound foundations. The depth of knowledge of spiritual realms, far beyond heaven and hell, attracts the scholars and faithful from across the globe. This would not have been possible without the religion’s acceptance of open dialogue and readiness to reinvent themselves by imbibing new concepts and experiences with the changing times. This trend should continue. There is a renewed thirst for knowledge and beliefs. The spiritual gurus that have sprung up recently on the scene are addressing much of this. However, some of them are not even true yogis and end up maligning the faith of the people. Hence, this caution is all the more important in choosing the right spiritual guide. Remember, the day the guru starts becoming your god and the day you start forgetting your God is the day you have lost your way. Do not forget your intent and do not get lost in the maze of pseudo-yogis. When you would not entrust your life to just anyone, how can you carelessly entrust your soul to someone on a whim?
||Sarvam Sri Krishna Arpanamastu||