The Guru.

During my recent visit to Vashi, I attended a lecture on Vedanta by a Swamini, that is a lady Swamy who answered a question from the audience about the Guru appearing when the student is ready. She said that in the olden days, this was very much true as a Guru in physical form was very much necessary. She further said that the guru need not be a person but can be a source of knowledge like a book or a recorded message and pointed out that we live in blessed times because innumerable gurus are now available to us via the internet and the television / radio media. She says that now the Guru comes home to teach individually to learners who do not have to undergo the trials of seeking out a guru.

This is indeed very true and on reflection makes me wonder as to why more people do not take to spirituality now that the guru can come home and teach. Most would rather watch programs that titillate and entertain.

Be that as it may, she directly asked me how I found my Guru and I explained that a series of events starting from 1978 led me eventually to my current Guru. When she asked if I attended his classes even now, I said no and that he has now concluded his teachings and has asked his students to pursue the path by the traditional Sravanam, Mananam and Nidhidhyasanam. (Hearing, Reflecting and Meditating). And that I was following his instructions. She promptly pointed out that here is a clear case of the Guru being available in the form of books, and media to help me along without the physical presence of a Guru.

We are indeed blessed.

23 thoughts on “The Guru.”

  1. I have an aversion to the word ‘Guru’. There are people whose expertise and judgment I respect but I’d never call them gurus. It smacks too much of unquestioning devotion.

    Other than that, Ramana, how very amusing: I take it from what you say that we now live in guru inflationary times. Blessed? Not at all. Let there not be too many raisins in a cake.

    Ursula recently posted..Sensation

    1. I too use the word derogatorily when I talk about people with shallow knowledge expound as experts, notably in management consulting.

      I do not use it in such a manner when I discuss my spiritual teachers. Here too, there are charlatans parading as self styled gurus and swamis and I keep a safe distance from them.

      My Guru and his Guru both of who have played significant roles in my progress in Vedanta, are highly respected teachers trained in our traditional teaching method. They trace their lineage back to Adi Shankara.

      This particular Swamini comes from a different establishment but which follows the same tradition of teaching.

      For those who are so inclined, the internet and TV offers genuine teachers willing to share their knowledge for the cost of just what it would cost to use those facilities for entertainment. If one is not inclined or interested in pursuing the knowledge, the Gurus need not be accessed.

    2. I am taking the liberty to jump in here and hijack this comment for a while (I hope you don’t mind Sir Ramana). Certain concepts can never be understood until one understands the nuances of language from which those concepts are born. In Sanskrit, the word Guru simply means that (which can be a human, a book, an event, etc.) that takes one from darkness to light or that which removes darkness. The concept is explored to unparalleled depths in the oriental traditions of not just India but of all far eastern cultures. So by this thinking, one can learn from river to always flow and not stagnate; from sky to have a large heart and be ever-forgiving; from trees to be selfless; from a poor beggar one can learn to be grateful for whatever little or lot one has; from our enemies we can learn about our personal weaknesses. All these can potentially be our gurus. There are of course various classes of gurus. But the point is, because of half-baked ideas about oriental culture, confused westerners + eastern charlatans + sensationalist meda = explosive mixture of a load of rubbish that totally masked the real thing and created prejudice. Not all is as it appears, not all that we think we know we really understand and not all that we have opinions about is necessarily correct. Sadly we live in a time where the so called Gurus are available a dime a dozen, but there is sufficient guidance available in the eastern traditions and scriptures to point a truly sincere person in the direction of a truly realised Guru. The problem is people don’t know this, have prejudice, consider word of mouth and idle gossip as wisdom and have too many baseless opinions.
      Rohit recently posted..TED: Schools kill creativity

        1. Rohit, I take your point regarding “half baked ideas” about cultures so very different from our own. Which is one of the reasons Ramana does fascinate me since he is clearly steeped in his origins yet open enough to take an interest in that which is different, including “the West”. Did I just say that? The West? Never mind. Take it as a geographical reference.

          You, Rohit, say “Gurus are available a dime a dozen”. My point exactly. They are. Cheap currency. Which is why it is so important, regardless where we stem from, to pick what I call ‘mentor’ carefully.

          Let’s put it another way, and I am repeating my first comment: We need challenge in life. Best case scenario: Gurus/mentors will do so, not making it easy for us, not making it easy for themselves. The one answer to anything in life is to QUESTION, QUESTION, QUESTION. Answers will look after themselves. So I was taught: Think Greece, West to you, East to me: Plato/Socrates. Worshiping at the shrine of doubt. Then we might get somewhere.

          Ursula recently posted..Sensation

      1. How can I mind when you call me Sir Ramana? Fire away.

        Nice to see that someone as young as you are is so involved in this subject which is more to the oldies liking.

  2. Hi Ramana,
    I find your comments interesting and your post Guru brought up thoughts of my old longings to have one. I never did have a guru who would be a person and that would be wonderful to be able to ask questions and discuss maybe even argue points of particular interest to me. At the same time I had gurus in form of books or some messages which came in the right time for me. I agree that when a student is ready a teacher will appear. This is my experience.
    Interesting that a person with your ethnic background would choose Rodin’s Thinker as your avatar. I am of European background looking up to old cultures of India and China and you selected French inspiration. This is wonderful. We are one world.

    1. I am delighted to see you here Anna. I went over to your blog and read a number of your posts but was disappointed that I was unable to leave any comments.

      Yes, we are one world. We are also ONE. Real-ising that is the quest I am on.

      1. Thank you for you rnice welcome, Ramana. I was not aware that one can comment on my blog. I thought nobody was interested. I will fix it.

  3. the very name guru conjures up the ‘swing’in 60’s’ to me when all the celebrities were going to india in search of life’s meaning at the feet of a guru! remember mia farrow? and i think the beatles too… and many others…
    i have mainly been one to study on my own… but in my early days i’d have to say thoreau was a guru figure to me through his books.
    i’m a little like ursula in that i don’t give undying devotion to any one guru. book or person. anna’s comment was nice. she captured you rummy. well rounded and worldly! that’s you. and no. not in the physical sense! in the deepest philosophical sense! LOLOL.
    tammyj recently posted..jessie

    1. The guy who really did some good work was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi with his Transcendental Mediatation. He has left behind another Indian doing some good work – Deepak Chopra. That school, legitimate as it is, still catered to the Instant Gratification crowd. Meditative states are certainly useful but Vedanta’s goal is to KNOW. That is to be beyond experiencing.

      And, I have no problem with being well rounded both ways!

  4. You truly are blessed Sir Ramana for having found a physical Guru! It indeed is one of the most “durlabhatama” achievements for those blessed with a human birth as said by Adi Sankara. It is wonderful how true what she says. There are so many instances when wisdom flashes in the most unexpected forms through people, places, things and events…always guiding one in the right direction and focussed on the ultimate goal. All we need is the humility to accept this help and gratitude for what it gives us. I wish more people understand this. Seeing millions of people blindly following self-styled Gurus is heart breaking. What’s more surprising is the fact that so many of these Gurus actually don’t even follow the absolutely fundamental tents of Sanyasa Dharma or display the traits one would expect in a Yogi, let alone a Paramahamsa! Shocking to see so many exposés in recent times.
    Rohit recently posted..TED: Schools kill creativity

  5. Ursula: You make an interesting point. I suppose I belong to the same group of those of eastern origin but what the “western” world tends to call open to new ideas, which I personally think is rather inappropriate. However, you phrase it better as open to that which is different. In any case, my personal journey in that which is not immediately apparent (or more commonly referred to as philosophical or non-material) started by reading Socrates and then Plato. So I see exactly what you mean. Of course one MUST pick their mentor carefully. But the concept of Guru fundamentally differs to everything that the word mentor stands for. If we are only talking about a teacher then that’s not Guru in this context. Guru doesn’t just guide a person, the real Guru can quite literally transform someone and in unimaginable ways too. If a person uninitiated in the ideas of the oriental traditions comes to East seeking a guru with a conception of mentor in mind, they would rarely find what they seek. In that sense I like to draw a parallel between Western and Indian classical music. Western classical is all about synchronicity, every instrument has it’s role at exact points and playing exact notes. Everything is planned, ordered and organised. Of course the composition itself is the creative genius of the composer, but it is more an objective event than subjective. Indian classical on the other hand has a set of rules and notes one follows, but apart from that it is free flowing. It is more a subjective experience. How one composer performs a certain set of notes can be quite different to what another would. Western philosophy in this sense is about the visible world. The ideas, concepts and allegories are from the visible world. The eastern philosophy on the other hand is quite disconnected from the material universe. Surely it makes references to it but at its core it is all about delving deep within and experiencing what is essentially free from restrictions of any kind.

    The reason I say all this is to make a specific point. The goal of eastern philosophy and in particular non-dualism (Advaita Vedanta) is to reach a point where one is literally free from all doubts. The emphasis of western philosophy is on relentless questioning with a hope that one would eventually reach that which is our destination. It is indeed a good beginning but it has limitations.

    To conclude, therefore, yes one must choose their guru carefully. And as I said earlier, there is more than adequate guidance in literature to help one with this. But simply because 99.99% are charlatans shouldn’t mean one assumes all are and disregard the necessity of a guru altogether. Unfortunately this is what seems to be the current trend, at least in the west and more recently in the east too.

    Questioning and worshiping at the shrine of doubt is an excellent beginning and best initiation one can have, however, if all that questioning doesn’t take to you the point where questions loose meaning and doubts cease to exist, what has one achieved?
    Rohit recently posted..TED: Schools kill creativity

    1. Changes take place in our reactions to stimuli. I do not react the same way that I used to say fifteen years ago. My notorious short fuse has all but disappeared. I sleep better and dream less. I am more aware of things that my senses perceive. My interpersonal relations have improved to a level where there is hardly any conflict and when there is conflict, without trying to make my point, I tend to walk away.

      How good a Guru is for one is the student’s judgment based on how clearly he understands difficult concepts. A Guru’s compassion can be felt without the slightest doubt.

      These more or less summarise my personal experience.

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