All of us are made in the image of God and pervaded by Him, yet in our daily existence we identify with our name, form and personality as perceived by our senses. The hypnotic spell of the sense objects lulls us into a sense of well being and happiness. Very soon we realize that these joys are finite and are almost always followed by sorrows. It is when we face suffering that we suddenly feel the need to seek the help of a power outside us. At such times according to our religious traditions we go to the temples and do the rituals and try to bribe the Gods to fulfill our earthly desires of material objects and gratify our lust for sensual pleasures. We are caught up in the belief that pleasures can be isolated from sorrows and we can happy if all our desires are fulfilled. Our education, upbringing and the equation of happiness with pleasures of the physical body and worldly wealth delude us into pursuing this path with redoubled vigor. The light of knowledge is within us but is covered by the veil of ignorance. Once we realize that the pleasures of the senses that we chase are the cause of our doom we feel the need for the help of a teacher or guide who can lead us from darkness GU to light RU. In the true Indian tradition the word GURU is so profound that teacher or guide are inadequate terms to describe the meaning of the word. While we equate a teacher with a person who gives us knowledge a Guru goes beyond that and shows the practical application of this knowledge and converts jnana to vignyan.
This brings me the next set of question – Who is a GURU? How can I recognize Him? Can there be a GURU in absentia or an inspirational figure from the past maybe an avatar or an incarnation of God? Do I need one Guru or many to give me the light of knowledge in the many endeavors I undertake in life?
The most complete or holistic GURU is a person who has achieved Self-realization and is able to identify him or herself with the permanent universal consciousness at all times. Such a person is defined by the scriptures as Satchitananda i.e. one whose countenance exhibits the eternal radiance of a permanent joy and bliss. Such persons are Seers and are always in a state of equilibrium not agitated by grief or desirous of pleasures. They are always calm and serene and unaffected by the dualities of joy and sorrow, profit and loss or victory and defeat. Such self realized persons are very rare and only my good deeds can lead me to a Guru of this kind and give me the vision to recognize him. In my life a Guru in absentia has been Mahatma Gandhi. The documented life of this great soul and the influence he had on the persons whose life he touched is proof of him being a GURU in his lifetime. To many of us unfortunate to have not been alive in his era his writings and deeds have been a source of inspiration for many and will continue to inspire future generations. There are many who are convinced that in this violent world we need the serene leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. To answer the last question of multiple Gurus we just need to realize that there is a God within each of us and the light of knowledge is waiting to be uncovered by removing the veil of ignorance. If I am willing to empty myself and remove my selfish desires and reduce my ego to “zero” or “shunya” then all of God’s creation living or non-living can be my GURU. Do we not see in our day to day life numerous such examples? There are innumerable such examples and occasions where we can learn from others and make them our Gurus. From the ants learn the gospel of hard work, the elephants the lesson of gentleness, from children unconditional love, from nature the ability to give selflessly treasures from its bosom. My true and dear family and friends who bear with my ego and arrogance and yet love me unconditionally are all my GURUS.
What should be the relationship between a Guru and his disciple? An automatic feeling of deep respect for the Guru is translated into an intense desire by the disciple to acquire knowledge from the Guru. This does not mean unquestioning acceptance of all that the Guru says, but learning by respectfully arguing and understanding the truth. Even Arjuna in the Gita questioned Krishna on many occasions. A true Guru on the other hand does not hold back His knowledge and gives to the student all he can offer. Even as the light is shone and the darkness dispelled the effort to acquire the Knowledge leading to Moksha or salvation has to be made by the disciple.
Can Moksha or salvation be achieved without a Guru? I do not know the answer to this question. But I feel that all creatures are made in the image of God and Man is His foremost creation. So any man can discover the God within Him and rise to divine heights. The Lord guides Him on the path and leads him to moksha. Man has mind which responds to the senses and an intellect which gives him the discrimination to make a choice in his response and finally a conscience which gives him the power to choose the right from the wrong.
Is a Guru-Shisya relationship one of a commercial transaction in that the teacher gives a product in the form of knowledge, which the student consumes? The student pays and the teacher is paid and that is the basis of the relationship. We see this in our institutes of learning based on the Western model. This is an inevitable consequence of the capitalist model based on materialism.
In conclusion, I would like to invite all who read my humble thoughts to add to them and to become my Guru.
Long Live Sanatan Dharam