SOME time ago, on a Himalayan trek, an American lady asked me whether I enjoyed the role of Guru. I replied, “Being a yogi is fantastic, but being a guru is frustrating. If everyone who came to me was absolutely willing, it would be a moment’s job. But what can be done in a moment, people make you wait for a lifetime to do.”
The question is, are you looking for solace or a solution? If you’re looking for solace, a Guru is unnecessary. If you’re looking for a solution, then a Guru becomes necessary.
What is a Guru? Is he just a saint, a mystic, or is he more than that? There is often deep confusion in people’s minds about these categories.
Let us look at it this way. The Guru is your roadmap through uncharted terrain. In the past, any number of expeditions took off from Europe in search of India, but only one Vasco da Gama reached India. The rest either turned back or got lost. So, you can always do it yourself, but you don’t know how long it will take. If you had a million years, it would be wonderful. But the human life-span is so brief, it’s better to go with a roadmap. If you’re the adventurous kind, it’s perfectly okay, but you must just hope that you’re Vasco da Gama or Columbus!
What is the difference between a saint and a Guru? Self-realisation is one thing, capability another. A saint is a realised being with a certain energy space around him. He need not have any capability; he simply exudes a certain energy of sweetness and compassion. His blessings are good to receive. These nourish you, but they do not lead to self-transformation. It is like finding extra manure to fertilise your growth.
But a guru is a mystic with capability; he’s a mechanic who can pull you apart and put you together again. He has complete mastery over his energies but has rolled up his sleeves and is ready to handle the physical. He is like a butcher who chops away at the limited to release the unlimited in you. To play the role of a Guru takes ruthlessness. The Guru nurtures something with utmost care and love, but when the time comes he is willing to slaughter it.
There is a story about Gautama the Buddha. Ananda, his elder cousin, extracted a promise from him that he would always allow him to be by his side. Gautama gently warned him of the dangers of this, but Ananda did not heed the warning. Later, when many of his disciples had attained self-realisation, they asked Gautama, “We came much later, but we got it; why didn’t Ananda get it?” Gautama replied, “A spoon cannot taste the soup.” A subtle reply, but a brutal one. If a Guru is not brutal, he cannot be a Guru. He has to cut what is most dear to people off from them; that’s a very brutal job.
So how does one differentiate between a real Guru and a counterfeit? First, what is the transformation it has left in you? You saw God: so? How has it changed you? That is the question. Has it in some way transformed you into a more joyful, more intense human being?
And what is the Guru demanding out of you? If he is demanding your money or your property, it is not worth it. You must only go to that place where he is demanding your life. If you give your life, what can he do with it? Nothing! But he demands it anyway. Because that willingness to give away your life transforms you and your life.
On July 12 is Guru Poornima, a day that reminds us of the unique role of the Guru in our lives. Seekers often ask how long it takes for one to attain self-realisation. I always say, “Don’t worry about the ultimate. I’ll give you a simple method to take the next step. After that, the next step, then the next.” So, are there many steps? No. It’s just that if you sit with your Guru with your self-preservation instinct intact, you have to take a step in many instalments. But if you cast self-preservation aside, it is very simple for him to work with you. One step is all it takes.
Vol. 8, issue 4 | JULY | 2014