Who is a Guru? What is a Sad Guru? How Do I Get a Guru? How Does the Search Begin?

Posted: October 29, 2009 in Guru, One Guru
The following is from Swami Sivananda’s “Guru-Bhakti Yoga”

Search for the Right Guru 

43. Nowadays there are many pseudo-Gurus and disciples. Be careful, when you choose your Guru. 
49. It is a rare privilege to become the dust of the Lotus-Feet of Guru who is free from Raga-Dvesha. 
57. He who eats too much, and sleeps too much cannot serve according to Guru’s taste. 
_______

 Who is a Guru?

A series of talks

By

Sri Swami Venkatesananda

(A direct disciple of Swami Sivananda Maharaj)

He who imparts the theory concerning self-knowledge and guides us in our practice is not a Guru, but an ‘Acharya’, a teacher. From this teacher you learn about self-knowledge. It is not self-knowledge but a peripheral knowledge, which may be very necessary as otherwise we might be easily misled.

Just as the description is not self-knowledge, a technique is also not self-knowledge, nor does it lead to Atma-jnana; but it is necessary. In the Yoga Vasistha you have a fantastic double negative statement concerning this. Vasishtha says that a teacher does not give you Atma-jnana, but you cannot attain Atma-jnana without a teacher. As we go on, this will become clear. The Acharya is the person from whom we gain an understanding of the theory, the peripheral knowledge or a description about (not of) self-knowledge, self-realisation or Atma-jnana.

He guides us in our practice and may even prescribe a practice for us, and if we are responsive to him he removes the obstacles that we may encounter on the path. He is not exactly a teacher in the modern sense of the word. Here the word ‘teacher’ refers to some kind of a person who is aloof, who walks into the class, spits out what he has not been able to digest and walks out. That is what you see in schools and colleges nowadays. In the Gurukula system where the students lived with the teacher, there was the transmission of theory and guidance in practice without aloofness. There was a certain amount of physical and psychological intimacy, and a certain openness between the teacher and the taught. This is not to be confused with the modern definition of a teacher in the schools and colleges of today, where there is no psychological rapport at all.

This word ‘Acharya’ to me nearly sounds like the word ‘Achara’. Acharya means teacher, Achara means your conduct, your lifestyle. So an Acharya is involved in the pupil’s Achara, external behaviour. For instance he might emphasise punctuality, so that you come at the stroke of nine. He might emphasise that you should not look through the window, or look here and there. There can be training in behaviour, but no Acharya can compel your attention, no Acharya can impose understanding upon you, so there must be a certain psychological rapport. Only then is there a guidance or governance of behaviour. If you are attentive he transmits to you information about self-knowledge, and guides you in your practice. That is the only responsibility of the Acharya. So an Acharya is more a teacher than anything else.

Apart from the word ‘student’ there is another word, ‘pupil’. A pupil is not only the person sitting in front of the teacher trying to learn something from him, but the word ‘pupil’ also means the diaphragm which closes and opens in your eyes. When you go in the sunlight the pupils close, and when you are in darkness they open. That is what happens in the relationship between the teacher and the pupils. If the teacher is brilliant they close up, they can’t take the light anymore. If the teacher is interesting, funny, dark or stupid they open up wide—with the result that it seems to be far easier to learn rubbish than to learn something worthwhile. If someone sits there and discusses a hundred ways of robbing a bank it is interesting, there is not a dull moment, the pupil is keenly interested in it. But if someone sits there and discusses Upanishadic wisdom not only the pupils but the eyelids close.

If there is psychological rapport and if the Acharya is able to govern the pupil’s behaviour then it is possible for some transmission to take place. Psychological rapport is possible only if both the teacher and the taught are on the same wavelength—otherwise you go to sleep. Physical behaviour can be tailored, but the teacher has no access to your mind, leave alone to your heart. In a strange way, Gurudev Swami Sivananda understood this. He understood the psychology of the masses, the problems of young seekers—people who are used to the theatre, to films and an exciting, fast life. If they are put in a Vedanta class they would probably go to sleep, so he invented interesting methods of transmission. A dialogue from the Upanishads was enacted here and people who otherwise fall asleep when exposed to the ideas of the Upanishads sat up and looked and listened and something got through. This was Swami Sivananda’s wonderful method—and later he invented the Yoga museum—audiovisual instruction where you participate and try to understand.

Still we are at the stage of the Acharya and the pupil. There is mere transmission of information between the two. It is called ‘information’ because it creates a form in you—information. Gradually, drop by drop, these bits and pieces fall into you and take form. If you are quite satisfied with the form you are lost, because you build an image with this information and treat that image as the truth, as self-realisation. In your study of the Isavasya Upanishad you must have come across a puzzling Mantra:

“They who are devoted to ignorance go to hell. They who are devoted to knowledge go to a greater hell.”

How is that? If you are devoted to the image that has been formed in you when the theory was imparted you are stuck forever, there is no way out of it. You have devotedly and devoutly built it up and the whole being resists any change in that image, so you are lost. But once this image is formed, if you realise that it is only information about Atma-jnana—it is not Atma-jnana itself but merely a description then it is possible that you are inspired to go further. The ‘Jijnasu’ stage is over and you are creeping into the Jnani stage. Then someone else appears, and that is the Guru.

If you read the first chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita very carefully you will see that Arjuna thinks he is the Guru. He boldly and arrogantly teaches Krishna what is right, what is wrong. When he discovered that Krishna refused to be his disciple (!) he collapsed, and as he collapsed the words ascribed to him are very inspiring:

yacchreyah syannischitam bruhi tanme
syshyas-te ’ham sadhi roam tvam prapannam (II. 7)
Arjuna said:

Destroyed is my delusion, as I have gained my knowledge (memory) through Thy grace, O Krishna. I remain freed from doubts. I will act according to Thy word.

Tvam prapannam—“I have surrendered myself at your feet because I don’t know the truth. I thought I knew, but looking at the way you are unimpressed by my teaching, I feel maybe I am wrong. So I surrender myself at your feet.” Sishyas-te—“I am your disciple.” yacchreyah syannischitam bruhi tanme,—“Tell me what might lead me to Sreyas.” This word ‘Sreyas’ is extremely difficult to translate. It has been taken to mean ‘your ultimate good or spiritual good, enlightenment, liberation’. That is where Arjuna says: “I am your disciple.” Krishna is still not the Guru. It is only in the eleventh chapter that Arjuna bursts out: “Oh! you are the Lord of the whole universe.”

What is the state of the disciple when he has found the Guru—not the Acharya? It is beautifully described towards the end of the Bhagavad-Gita:

nashto mohah smritir-labdha tvatprasadan maya ’chyuta

sthito’smi gatasandehah karishye vachanam tava. (XVIII. 73)

All these are vitally important. Nashto mohah—“my confusion, my delusion has gone.” There was a confusion to begin with, but that has completely disappeared. If that happens you are an enlightened disciple, you have found the Guru. Smrtir-labdha—it is not merely gaining or regaining memory but… Normally, you remember what others did to you and you remember what happened to you so far, but you don’t remember yourself. You don’t know yourself, but you know everybody else; you don’t know who you are, but you know the entire world! Even when you try to recall a past experience all that you remember is what others did and what others said. The self is completely ignored in knowledge, as well as memory. So smrtir-labdha means: “Now I remember who I am.” Tvatprasadanmaya’chyuta—“By your Grace,” not by your instruction! The Acharya is gone. The Acharya merely put up a structure within and the student became aware of that structure. The structure knocked down false notions and deluded ideas that were entertained before, and created the climate for enlightenment.

It is the Guru’s Grace alone that brings about this enlightenment. No amount of theory and no amount of knowledge can ever bring about enlightenment. If the cloth is dirty you put it in a bucket of water with a lot of soap in it. Has the cloth been cleaned? You hope so. When you take that cloth out it is full of soap. That’s not clean—the cleaning happens afterwards. In order to get rid of the rubbish called worldly knowledge you may need a spiritual instructor who gives you knowledge about the self, but in order to gain self-knowledge none of these would do. It is only the Grace of the Guru that flows directly into your heart without the interference of your mind that can bring about this self-knowledge, Atma-jnana. Gatasandehah—“There is no doubt,” the mind and the heart are free from doubt, and therefore whatever has to be done is done without hesitation. That is what is called ‘spontaneous action’. The shock of the vision of this cosmic form probably brought that about in the case of Arjuna, because a similar expression occurs even at the beginning of the eleventh chapter:

yat tvayo’ktam vachas tena moho’yam vigato mama
(XI. 1)

Arjuna said:
By this word (explanation) of the highest secret concerning the Self which Thou hast spoken, for the sake of blessing me, my delusion is gone.

Who is a Guru?
gukaraschandhakarascha rukarastannirodhakah andhakaravinasitvad-gurur-ityabhidhiyate
“That light which removes the darkness of ignorance is the Guru.” He in whose presence you gain this, is the Guru; or that is the Guru. That moment or that event where the scales of ignorance drop away and this inner structure of theory (which has been put there by the instructions of the Acharya) begins to grow and is realised—there is the Guru.

When you go round India you will meet dozens of Gurus who say: “I am your Guru”. Gurudev never said that for one moment. Occasionally he used to say “You are my disciple” or “He is my disciple”; and some of the older disciples here probably have one letter at least where Gurudev said: “I have accepted you as my beloved disciple, I shall serve you and guide you.” But with all respect and adoration to Gurudev I may tell you that it was meant more as an encouragement to the disciple than as a statement of fact. When Swami Sivananda said: “I have accepted you as my beloved disciple”, you felt that you had a claim over Swami Sivananda, you could write to him more freely. That is what he wanted. The next sentence is: “I will serve you.” You have never heard of a Guru serving a disciple, the disciple is supposed to serve the Guru! So in that formula itself he has cancelled this Guru business. He never regarded himself as a Guru. It was for us, not for him.

It is the disciple’s experience that is the Guru, and the Guru need not know when that experience happened to you. You may say, “You are my Guru”; it is not for the Guru to say, “I am your Guru.” I can go to the Guru and say, “I am your disciple” when I am prepared to do exactly what he tells me to do, and not till that stage is reached can I boldly say: “I am your disciple, you are my Guru.”

Till then there is no Guru. It is very important to remember this, otherwise you can get into all sorts of muddles. Suddenly you go to somebody and if he scratches your back and says: “Oh, I see a brilliant light around your face and you are going to attain enlightenment in three months”, you say: “Ah, you are my Guru!” If he asks you to bring a cup of milk from the kitchen you say: “Ach, what kind of Guru are you? You are no longer my Guru—it is finished.” This is a travesty of truth.

Gurudev insisted (as does the Yoga Vasishtha) that you cannot attain enlightenment without the help of a Guru, and to Swamis who wanted to be Gurus he said, “Be careful, don’t become a Guru.” You should not become a Guru, but I must have a Guru. I need a Guru but nobody is prepared to be my Guru! You see the tangle here? What must I do? Swamiji was emphatic there: “Be a disciple! From head to foot be a disciple! Then you will find a Guru.”

Early in 1947 Swamiji was sitting in the office. A young man from South Africa who had stayed with us for about two or three months was leaving that day. He walked in, prostrated to Gurudev, and started crying. With supreme love and affection Gurudev looked at him. He said, “Swamiji, I have to go today, and in Africa where do we get a Guru like you?” Suddenly Swamiji’s expression changed and with a very beautiful, meaningful and mischievous smile he said: “Huh, you don’t find a Guru in Africa?” By this time the man’s grief had gone, his tears had dried up. He found the Master laughing and smiling. Swamiji then fixed his gaze on this young man and said, “Ohji, it is very easy to find a Guru, it is very difficult to find a disciple!” If you are a disciple naturally you’ll find a Guru.

Disciple means discipline. What does the word ‘discipline’ mean? Not an army drill, but study. The Acharya gave you some information which produced a form within you; and now you wish to study this. The Acharya said that happiness is in you, that it is not in the object of pleasure—but that is not your experience. You have experienced pleasure from that object and in its absence you are miserable. So what do you do? You are studying this inner structure, studying the workings of the mind, the arising of the self, the ego. But it is not clear because you are full of impurities, dirt and filth. Therefore in the course of the study of oneself an extraordinary discipline arises. It is not discipline which is imposed upon you by others, it is not discipline which is goal oriented, but it is a discipline born of intense search. When this discipline manifests itself in your heart you will naturally find your Guru. You go and stand in front of someone and … that’s it. You don’t need to exchange a word.

Some of us came here in 1944 and found Swamiji and some others. He was radiating bliss, radiating peace, radiating joy. We looked around and saw that all the things that you and I consider vital to peace, happiness, prosperity and all the rest of it, were absent here. There was absolutely nothing. A cup of tea in the morning was almost celestial manna, ambrosia. Living in such conditions how were these people able to smile, to radiate joy! What is that, possessing which he led such a life? You began to wonder and something clicked. There was no need to exchange one single word. Looking into his eyes you realised that he had found the truth, you had not. That was enough to humble you, make you collapse at his feet.
Truth is not transmitted by word, but is always transmitted non-verbally. I can tell you I am angry with you, but you know the truth because non-verbally you have not sensed I am angry with you. There are occasions (of which I am sure you are aware) when someone might smile, and you sense anger. Non-verbal communication alone is truth, and truth can only be communicated non-verbally. Information you can pass on, so the passing on of the information is the business of the Acharya. Non-verbal communication of truth is by the Guru. I don’t know if the Guru also knows that his disciple has been enlightened or awakened. Gurudev never discussed this.

On a spiritual level it was most beautiful to observe how he regarded everyone and everything as his Guru. (It is very difficult to explain this and probably more difficult to understand it.) That is, when this discipline becomes total, there is total awareness of Guru everywhere. Whether a person wore a yellow, red or green cloth, to Gurudev he was always Swami. Everyone was a Swami, everyone was Bhagavan, everyone was Devi. That is probably the state you will find yourself in if there is this total discipline. Then the whole universe becomes your Guru.
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This article is a chapter from the book “Bliss Divine”.

Guru

By

Sri Swami Sivananda

INTRODUCTION
The Guru is God Himself manifesting in a personal form to guide the aspirant. Grace of God takes the form of the Guru. To see the Guru is to see God. The Guru is united with God. He inspires devotion in others. His presence purifies all.
The Guru is verily a link between the individual and the immortal. He is a being who has raised himself from this into That, and thus has free and unhampered access into both the realms. He stands, as it were, upon the threshold of immortality; and, bending down he raises the struggling individuals with his one hand, and with the other lifts them up into the empyrean of everlasting joy and infinite Truth-Consciousness.

THE SADGURU
To be a Guru, one must have a command from God.
Mere study of books cannot make one a Guru. One who has studied the Vedas, and who has direct knowledge of the Atman (Self) through Anubhava (experience), can alone be enrolled as a Guru. A Jivanmukta or liberated sage is the real Guru or spiritual preceptor. He is the Sadguru. He is identical with Brahman or the Supreme Self. He is a Knower of Brahman.
A Sadguru is endowed with countless Siddhis (psychic powers). He possesses all divine Aisvarya (powers), all the wealth of the Lord.
Possession of Siddhis, however, is not the test to declare the greatness of a sage or to prove that he has attained Self-realisation. Sadgurus generally do not exhibit any miracle or Siddhi. Sometimes, however, they may do so in order to convince the aspirants of the existence of superphysical things, give them encouragement, and instill faith in their hearts.
The Sadguru is Brahman Himself. He is an ocean of bliss, knowledge, and mercy. He is the captain of your soul. He is the fountain of joy. He removes all your troubles, sorrows, and obstacles. He shows you the right divine path.
He tears your veil of ignorance. He makes you immortal and divine. He transmutes your lower, diabolical nature. He gives you the rope of knowledge, and takes you up when you are drowning in this ocean of Samsara (cycle of birth and death). Do not consider him to be only a man. If you take him as a man, you are a beast. Worship your Guru and bow to him with reverence.
Guru is God. A word from him is a word from God. He need not-teach anything. Even his presence or company is elevating, inspiring, and stirring, His very company is self-illumination. Living in his company is spiritual education. Read the Granth-saheb (the holy scripture of the Sikh religion). You will come to know the greatness of the Guru.
Man can learn only from man, and hence God teaches through a human body. In your Guru, you have your human ideal of perfection. He is the pattern into which you wish to mould yourself. Your mind will readily be convinced that such a great soul, is fit to be worshipped and revered.
Guru is the Moksha-dvara (door to liberation). He is the gateway to the transcendental Truth-
Consciousness. But, it is the aspirant who has to enter through it. The, Guru is a help, but the actual task of practical Sadhana (spiritual practice) falls on the aspirant himself.
THE NEED FOR A GURU
For a beginner in the spiritual path, a Guru is necessary. To light a candle, you need a burning candle. Even an illumined soul alone can enlighten another soul.
Some do meditation for some years independently. Later on, they actually feel the necessity of a Guru. They come across some obstacles in the way. They are unable to know how to obviate these impediments or stumbling blocks. Then they begin to search for a Master.
Only the man who has already been to Badrinath will be able to tell you the road. In the case of the spiritual path, it is still more difficult to find your way. The mind will mislead you very often. The Guru will be able to remove pitfalls and obstacles, and lead you along the right path. He will tell you: “This road leads you to Moksha (liberation); this one leads to bondage”. Without this guidance, you might want to go to Badrinath, but find yourself in Delhi!
The scriptures are like a forest. There are ambiguous passages. There are passages which are apparently contradictory. There are passages which have esoteric meanings, diverse significance, and hidden explanations. There are cross-references. You are in need of a Guru or Preceptor who will explain to you the right meaning, who will remove doubts and ambiguities, who will place before you the essence of the
teachings.
A Guru is absolutely necessary for every aspirant in the spiritual path. It is only the Guru who will find out your defects. The nature of egoism is such that you will not be able to find out your own defects. Just as a man cannot see his back, so also he cannot see his own errors. He must live under a Guru for the eradication of his evil qualities and defects.
The aspirant who is under the guidance of a Master or Guru is safe from being led astray. Satsanga or association with the Guru is an armour and fortress to guard you against all temptations and unfavourable forces of the material world.
Cases of those who had attained perfection without study under any Guru should not be cited as authority against the necessity of a Guru; for, such great men are the anomalies of spiritual life, and not the common normality. They come into existence as spiritual masters as a result of the intense service, study, and meditation practised in previous births. They had already studied under the Guru. The present birth is only its continuative spiritual effect. Hence, the importance of the Guru is not lessened thereby.
Some teachers mislead their aspirants. They say unto all: “Think for yourself. Do not surrender yourself to any Guru”. When one says, “Do not follow any Guru!”, he intends to be the listeners’ Guru himself. Do not approach such pseudo-Gurus. Do not hear their lectures.
All great ones had their teachers. All the sages, saints, prophets, world- teachers, incarnations, great men, have had their own Gurus, however great they might have been. Svetaketu learnt the nature of Truth from Uddalaka, Maitreyi from Yajnavalkya, Bhrigu from Varuna, Narada from Sanatkumara, Nachiketas from Yama, Indra from Prajapati; and several others humbly went to wise ones, observed strict Brahmaacharya, practised rigorous discipline, and learnt Brahma-vidya (the science of God) from them.
Lord Krishna sat at the feet of His Guru Sandeepani. Lord Rama had Guru Vasishtha who gave Him Upadesha (spiritual advice). Lord Jesus sought John to be baptised by him on the banks of the river Jordan. Even Devas (celestial beings) have Brihaspati as their Guru. Even the greatest among the divine beings sat at the feet of Guru Dakshinamurti.
A neophyte must have a personal Guru first. He cannot have God as Guru to begin with. He must have a pure mind. He must have ethical perfection. He, must be intensely virtuous. He must be above body-consciousness. Then alone can he have God as Guru.

HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR GURU
If you find peace in the presence of a Mahatma (great soul), if you are inspired by his speeches, if he is able to clear your doubts, if he is free, from greed, anger, and lust, if he is selfless, loving, and I-less, you can take him as your Guru. He who is able to clear your doubts, he who is sympathetic in your Sadhana, he who does not disturb your beliefs but helps you on from where you are, he in whose very presence you feel spiritually elevated-he is your Guru. Once you choose Your Guru, implicitly follow him. God will guide you through the Guru.
Do not use your reason too much in the selection of your Guru. You will fail if you do so. If you fail to get a first-class Guru, try to follow the instructions of the Sadhu (a spiritual person) who is treading the path for some years, who has purity and other virtuous qualities, and who has some knowledge of the scriptures. Just as a student of the Intermediate class will be able to teach a student of Third Form when a professor with M.A. qualification is not available, just as a sub-assistant surgeon will be able to attend on a patient when the civil surgeon is not available, this second- class type of Guru will be able to help you.
If you are not able to find out even this second-class type of Guru, you can follow the teachings contained in the books written by realised saints like Sri Sankara, Dattatreya, and others. You can keep a photo of such a realised Guru, if available, and worship the same with faith and devotion. Gradually you will get inspiration, and the Guru may appear in dream and initiate and inspire you at the proper time. For a sincere Sadhak (aspirant), help comes in a mysterious manner. When the time is ripe, the Guru and the disciple are brought together by the Lord in a mysterious way.
MYSTERIOUS HELP FROM THE LORD
Just see how the Lord has helped the devotees in the following instances. Eknath heard an Akasavani (a voice from the sky). It said, “See Janardan Pant at Deva Giri. He will put you in the proper path and guide you.” Eknath acted accordingly and found his Guru. Tukaram received his Mantra, Rama Krishna Hari, in his dream. He repeated this Mantra and had Darshan (vision) of Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna directed Namdev to get his higher initiation from a Sannyasin (renunciate) at Mallikarjuna. Queen Chudalai assumed the form, of Kumbha Muni, appeared before her husband Sikhidhwaja in the forest, and initiated him in the mysteries of Kaivalya (state of absolute independence). Madhura Kavi saw a light in the firmament for three days consecutively. It guided him and took him to his Guru Nammalvar who was sitting in Samadhi underneath a tamarind tree near Tinnevelly. Vilvamangal was very much attracted to Chintamani, the dancing woman. The latter became his Guru. Tulasidas received instructions from an invisible being to see Hanuman and, through Hanuman, to get Darshan of Sri Rama.
Competent disciples are never in want of a competent Guru. Realised souls are not rare. Ordinary ignorant-minded persons cannot easily recognise them. Only a few persons, who are pure and embodiments of all virtuous qualities, can understand realised souls, and they only will be benefited in their company.
So long as there is a world, there are Gurus and Vedas to guide the struggling souls in the path of Self-realisation. The number of realised souls may be less in the Iron Age when compared with the Satya Yuga (age of Truth), but they are always present to help the aspirants. Let each man take the path according to his capacity, temperament, and understanding. His Sadguru will meet him along that path.
SIKSHA GURUS AND DIKSHA GURU
Man has a twofold duty here on earth-to preserve his life, and to realise his Self. To preserve his life, he has to learn to work for his daily bread. To realise his Self, he has to serve, love, and meditate. The Guru who teaches him the knowledge of worldly arts is the Siksha Guru. The Guru who shows him the path of Realisation is the Diksha Guru. Siksha Gurus can be many-as many as the things he wishes to learn. The Diksha Guru can be only one-the one who leads him to Moksha.
STICK TO ONE GURU
Do not dig here and there shallow pits for getting water. The pits will dry up soon. Dig a very deep pit in one place. Centralise all your efforts here. You will get good water that can supply you throughout the year. Even so, try to imbibe thoroughly the spiritual teachings from one preceptor alone. Drink deep from one man. Sit at his feet for some years. There is no use of wandering from one man to another man, out of curiosity, losing faith in a short time. Do not have the ever-changing mind of a prostitute. Follow the spiritual instructions of one man only. If you go to several people and follow the instructions of many persons, you will be bewildered. You will be in a dilemma.
From a doctor, you get a prescription. From two doctors, you get consultation. From three doctors, you get your own cremation. Even so, if you have many Gurus, you will be bewildered. You will be at a loss to know what to do. One Guru will tell you: “Do Soham Japa”. Another will tell you: “Do Japa of Sri Ram”. A third Guru will tell you: “Hear Anahat (mystic) sounds”. You will be puzzled. Stick to one Guru and follow his instructions.
Listen to all, but follow one. Respect all, but adore one. Gather knowledge from all, but adopt the teachings of one Master. Then you will have rapid spiritual progress.
GURU-PARAMPARA
Spiritual knowledge is a matter of Guru-parampara. It is handed down from Guru to disciple. Gaudapadacharya imparted Self-knowledge to his disciple Govindacharya; Govindacharya to his disciple Sankaracharya; Sankaracharya to his disciple Suresvaracharya. Matsyendranath imparted knowledge to his disciple Gorakhnath; Gorakhnath to Nivrittinath; Nivrittinath to Jnanadeva. Totapuri imparted knowledge to Sri Ramakrishna, and Ramakrishna to Swami Vivekananda. It was Ashtavakra who moulded the life of Raja Janaka. It was Gorakhnath who shaped the spiritual destiny of Raja Bhartrihari. It was Lord Krishna who made Arjuna and Uddhava get themselves established in the spiritual path when their minds were in an unsettled state.
INITIATION-ITS MEANING
A Bhakta will be initiated by a Bhakta saint in the path of devotion. A Jnani will initiate a student of Vedanta in the Mahavakyas. A Hatha Yogi or a Raja Yogi can initiate another in his particular path. But, a sage of perfect realisation, a Purna-jnani (full-blown sage) or Purna-yogi, can give initiation in any particular path. A sage or saint like Sri Sankara or Madhusudana Sarasvati can initiate a Sadhak in any particular path for which the aspirant is fit. The Guru will find out by close study of the aspirant his tastes, temperaments, and capacity, and decide for him the most suitable path. If his heart is impure, the teacher will prescribe selfless service for a number of years. Then the Guru will find out for what particular path the student is fit and initiate him in that.
Initiation does not mean reciting a Mantra into another’s ears. If Rama is influenced by the thoughts of Krishna, the former has got initiation already from the latter. If an aspirant treads the path of truth after studying the books written by a saint, and imbibes his teachings, that saint has already become his Guru.
SAKTI-SANCHAR
Just as you can give an orange to a man, so also, spiritual power can be transmitted by one to another. This method of transmitting spiritual powers is termed Sakti-sanchar. In Sakti-sanchar, a certain spiritual vibration of the Sadguru is actually transferred to the mind of the disciple.
Spiritual power is transmitted by the Guru to the proper disciple whom he considers fit for Sakti-sanchar. The Guru can transform the disciple by a look, a touch, a thought or a word, or mere willing.
Sakti-sanchar comes through Parampara. It is a hidden mystic science. It is handed down from Guru to disciple.
Lord Jesus, through touch, transmitted his spiritual power to some of his disciples. A disciple of Samartha Ramdas transmitted his power to that dancing girl’s daughter who was very passionate towards him. The disciple gazed at her and gave her Samadhi. Her passion vanished. She became very religious and spiritual. Lord Krishna touched the blind eyes of Surdas. The inner eye of Surdas was opened. He had Bhava Samadhi. Lord Gouranga, through his touch, produced divine intoxication in many people and converted them to his side. Atheists even danced in ecstasy in the streets by his touch and sang songs of Hari.
The disciple should not rest satisfied with the transmission of power from the Guru. He will have to struggle hard in Sadhana for further perfection and attainments. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa touched Swami Vivekananda. Swami Vivekananda had superconscious experience. He struggled hard for seven years more, even after the touch, for attaining perfection.
GRACE AND SELF-EFFORT
Realisation cannot come to you as a miracle done by your Guru. Lord Buddha, Lord Jesus, Rama Tirtha have all done Sadhana. Lord Krishna asks Arjuna to develop Vairagya (dispassion) and Abhyasa (practice). He did not say to him, “I will give you Mukti(liberation) now”. Therefore, abandon the wrong notion that your Guru will give you Samadhi and Mukti. Strive, purify, meditate, and realise.
Guru-kripa-grace of a Guru-is very necessary. That does not mean that the disciple should sit idle. He must do rigid Purushartha, spiritual practices. The whole work must be done by the student. Nowadays, people want a drop of water from the Kamandalu (water-pot) of a Sannyasin and desire to enter into Samadhi immediately. They are not prepared to undergo any Sadhana for purification and Self-realisation. They want a magic pill to push them into Samadhi. If you have got such delusion, give it up immediately.
The Guru and the Shastras can show you the path and remove your doubts. Anubhava (direct experience) of the Aparoksha kind or direct intuitive knowledge is left for your own experience. A hungry man will have to eat for himself. He who has a severe itching will have to scratch for himself.
No doubt, the Guru’s blessing can do everything. But how can one have his blessings? By pleasing the Guru. A Guru can be pleased with his disciple only if the latter carries out his spiritual instructions implicitly. Carefully follow, therefore the instructions of the Guru. Act up to his instructions. Then only will you deserve his blessings, and then alone his blessings can do everything.

The following is from Swami’s Guru-Bhakti Yoga
On Finding the Guru 

69. Good things are always rare in this world. Musk, saffron, radium, sandal-wood, learned persons, virtuous persons, and philanthropists are rare. When such is the case what to speak of saints, Bhaktas, and Yogins, sages, seers, and Guru who is a realised one. 
70. If you do service of the Guru who is a realised one, the question of your salvation is solved. 
71. If you say that there are no good Mahatmas and preceptors, preceptors will also say that there is no good disciple. 
72. The company of the great souls is obtained by the Grace of God alone. 
73. Evil company should be certainly avoided by aspirants who want to serve the Guru and have his blessings. 
74. Who crosses this Maya? Only he who abandons evil company, who serves the large-hearted Guru, who is free from “I”-ness, and “mine-ness.” 
75. By keeping company with the Guru, who is free from likes and dislikes, one becomes dispassionate. He gets Vairagya. 
76. He develops Guru-Bhakti to the Lotus-Feet of Guru. 
77. He who serves his Guru with devotion attains the summum bonum of life. 
78. Aspirant’s mind gets one-pointed by itself without any effort by serving the Guru. 
79. Guru-Grantha-Sahib says that without Guru the path to God cannot be found. The Guru being God himself, can lead the aspirant on the path and guide him along the path, and he alone can make the Chela realise that he is himself God.
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