Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Guru
In my last article, we saw how Lord Krishna began addressing Arjuna’s concerns. I also mentioned that we will see what was Arjuna’s response and Lord Krishna’s opinion of Karma yoga. Instead, I am going to get in to a topic that I consider as very important and it is the source of much controversy these days.
During the long exchange of comments with Mahesh Kalaal in my previous article, he asked “Who is Qualified? Who is Spiritual? Who is master?” His questions are the same ones that haunt every neophyte spiritualist. And in general there seems to be this idea that when it comes to spirituality, anything and everything goes and it is based on one’s convenience and whim.
These factors show up in some of the arguments many people against accepting a Spiritual Master. It seems like accepting someone as superior is anathema to their self-respect and, if I may add, self-importance.
In school, students do experiments in labs and write voluminous records on the results (remember, the same experiments year after year) under the guidance of a teacher. And they learn exactly the same thing without any doubt.
In spiritual science too, the same mood of experiment, analysis and results is allowed, under the supervision of a qualified master. Why years… everyday there are people who can attest to the fact of verifying what is being taught by one’s spiritual master.
Oh wait!! The teachers at the schools and colleges are ‘qualified’. They have a degree from a famous college and are easily identified. They are respected for their knowledge and are experts! We cannot be sure about a Spiritual master in that manner.
Do people send their children to a school only after looking at who are the teachers for different subjects? Do they actually look in to the qualification of each and every teacher? They simply trust the school administration… on basis of recommendations of people who have already sent their children to that school or based on news of how the school’s exam results are outstanding! What about the character of the teachers? Do they set positive role models for the children? How did their previous students fare in life or in studies? I don’t think anyone asks such questions. My point is that we are all so superficial in things in which we ought to be thorough.
In any case, people simply are made more aware of such modern things like degrees and such as they have been forced to fall in line with mainstream community, based on modern scientific development which is driven mostly by just 2 factors: economic opportunism and military expansionism. Just because majority of the people don’t know how to identify a qualified spiritual teacher, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist or cannot be found.
One basic misunderstanding is that nowadays people expect a degree for anything and everything. There will be a day when even unclogging a drain or cleaning toilets will require a ‘degree’!
Spiritual science has a different set of measures to determine who is qualified or bonafide and who can be or cannot be spiritual master. So, next time you search for a bonafide Guru, keep in mind that he doesn’t give you a visiting card with 2 or 3 letter degrees behind his name.
So, we come to the question who is Guru? How can we identify a bonafide Guru?
1. He belongs to one a bonafide sampradayas sanctioned and starting with the Supreme Lord himself, and must have been authorized to act as a Spiritual Master (Refer dharmaḿ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītaḿ – Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 6.3.19 and the next two verses)
2. He never presents any invented, self-made teachings (which are then considered as influenced by the defects of a conditioned living entity), but always simply repeats what the scriptures and Supreme Lord say, without any modification or distortion.
3. He follows Sastra strictly and guides his followers on the path of liberation away from material attachment.
4. He does not claim himself to be God, nor does he claim anything and everything as God.
So, putting this in perspective of our previous discussions, let’s see what Srimad Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam have to on this topic (click on the links to read the actual texts).
BG 2.54: Arjuna said: O Kṛṣṇa, what are the symptoms of one whose consciousness is thus merged in transcendence? How does he speak, and what is his language? How does he sit, and how does he walk?
BG 2.55: The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: O Pārtha, when a man gives up all varieties of desire for sense gratification, which arise from mental concoction, and when his mind, thus purified, finds satisfaction in the self alone, then he is said to be in pure transcendental consciousness.
BG 2.56: One who is not disturbed in mind even amidst the threefold miseries or elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady mind.
BG 2.57: In the material world, one who is unaffected by whatever good or evil he may obtain, neither praising it nor despising it, is firmly fixed in perfect knowledge.
BG 2.58: One who is able to withdraw his senses from sense objects, as the tortoise draws its limbs within the shell, is firmly fixed in perfect consciousness.
BG 14.21: Arjuna inquired: O my dear Lord, by which symptoms is one known who is transcendental to these three modes? What is his behavior? And how does he transcend the modes of nature?
BG 14.22-25: The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: O son of Pāṇḍu, he who does not hate illumination, attachment and delusion when they are present or long for them when they disappear; who is unwavering and undisturbed through all these reactions of the material qualities, remaining neutral and transcendental, knowing that the modes alone are active; who is situated in the self and regards alike happiness and distress; who looks upon a lump of earth, a stone and a piece of gold with an equal eye; who is equal toward the desirable and the undesirable; who is steady, situated equally well in praise and blame, honor and dishonor; who treats alike both friend and enemy; and who has renounced all material activities — such a person is said to have transcended the modes of nature.
BG 14.26: One who engages in full devotional service, unfailing in all circumstances, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.
SB 11.3.21: Therefore any person who seriously desires real happiness must seek a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of the bona fide guru is that he has realized the conclusions of the scriptures by deliberation and is able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, should be understood to be bona fide spiritual masters.
Do I see people staring in disbelief? Ok, shake your head couple of times, take a deep breath and relax. So, it is not a simple procedure to go in search of a spiritual master. If you are to ensure that a person has all the attributes as listed above, you basically need to be a bit knowledgeable yourself.
Instead of any further elaboration, I will close by quoting my teachers:
“Choosing a spiritual master is quite different from a mundane exercise of ‘choosing’ some physical article or a relationship in this material world based on the mind’s likes and dislikes. Going by personal appeal or by some superficial criteria such as popular acclaim or some other external traits, or making comparison — these are likely to be misleading. Rather, one must look for the symptoms of a self-realized soul manifesting in the person of such a spiritual master, in the light of scriptural directions as stated above.
In the course of this process, the most important criterion on the part of the aspiring disciple is to nurture and strengthen their own internal convictions, sincerity and commitment for spiritual life. If the disciple harbors ulterior motives for some temporary, material benefits, then one is likely to be misled in the search for a guru. Therefore one should progressively cultivate one’s own sincerity of purpose in seeking a bona fide spiritual master competent to guide one to ultimate spiritual perfection. (jijnasuh shreya uttamam SB 11.3.21).
When the disciple’s heart is ready and prepared in this way, Lord Krishna reciprocates with such sincerity and prayers by sending the bona fide spiritual master into the devotee’s life. It will become amply clear who one’s spiritual master is at that time and the earnest disciple will be able to readily recognize and thus proceed to solidify that relationship as described above.”
Article written by Ambi.