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The Guru principle

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Over the course of 35+ years of Hindu practice, from having a guru and not having one, many have asked me if a teacher is needed in the learning and practice of yoga=meditation, leading to samadhi and eventual moksha.

My answer has always been, ‘Yes’, of course.’ How fortunate one is to have a guru. There are, however, many caveats to consider. 

In this day and age we have more information than we actually need. We can have multiple gurus. We can buy their works on Amazon. We can place them in our hearts and minds, as we will. We can put such teachings into practice. Yet, there may be one Sat-Guru, working in the background. Remember his or her lineage and how you might have been to  find it. 

Mine stems from Haidakhandiji Baba, then flowers in through Ram Dass, Paramahansa Yogananda, Vamadeva Shastriji and Dharma Pravartaka Acharya.

Haidakhan Babaji left what was known to be his last visual body, before I had even come to hear of his name. He came to me in dreams. From many directions. Not just dream-symbology. He revealed himself as someone who’d been with me in some sense, since early childhood. Since I could remember. He had maha-samadhi when I was still a Christian teenager. His love lingers daily.

Guru Distortion

Unfortunately, there are spurious or false gurus. This is to be expected. They only want your money, your adoration, your compilation, or your body.  Usually, combinations of these. Such gurus still might have much to offer the shishya. They may have great teachings. They may have great compassion, along with nefarious motives. 

It’s most important to note that a guru and teacher, might very well be two different things. Actually, the true guru might have little to nothing to say or teach. Simply being in his or her presence, stands fast and can bring the follower to truth, quite quickly. However, the gunas (qualities) of such an individual and his or her lineage, must appear before blind following.

The guru and the teacher can be one and the same, beyond the usual teacher-student relationship; where the teacher often offers Vedic knowledge. The guru who chooses not to speak a word or very little, still has an immensely positive influence on his/her devotees. Though detrimental qualities can be caught like a cold, from others. Even a so-called ‘false guru’ can uplift.

Distinguishing an organic Guru from a false and detrimental one

The genuine sattva-guru has no ulterior motives. Whether dealing with one who is already in some way ‘spiritual’, or in dealing with groups in a general and  mundane fashion. He/she (the Guru) has equal love, compassion and understanding for all. 

No matter where they might be on their journey towards Nirvana…he or she simply knows that everyone is an individual who can comprehend his or her teachings, or mere presence in a unique and optimal manner, or also in diverse ways. The guru knows every individual is the first and only creation of his or her own kind, and should be treated as such.

A guru does not crave praise. They are embarrassed if anyone bows before them, stands before they enter a room or gives them any unnecessary adulation. 

Though this is traditional and has its reason, cause and effect, the true guru is not concerned. Furthermore, the true guru does not deal with the love of money, lust or greed. The guru gives teachings without the need to be recognised Not for, nor by them. 

The guru might have absolutely zero sense of ego and will never self-aggrandize. Though the guru might have left-over ahamkara (ego) that is used in a spiritual way, in order to lift up his/her shishyas. The Guru seldom starts organizations in his/her own name. We know that there have been ones who do, who become multi-millionaires. Who have done great things. Nothing’s wrong with having money. There can be many things wrong with how one gets their money.  

The guru is most always available. Gurus are not ‘mystery mongers’. They may perform tapas or types of sacrifice, but they do not advertise them or brag about them. They do not go into hiding for months and come out with a book for sale. Perhaps a few do. Look at Baba Ram Dass who would have been worth close to $100 million. He gave it all to charity. He also never referred to himself as a guru. 

The guru is never dismayed or not happy, not content. A good sense of humility and humor are always a sign of Guruji. Of course, he or she may be anxious, confused at times and quite depressed. The difference is, a true guru doesn’t stay these ways for long.

Guru East & West

In the west, we’ve come to see a guru as someone with some sort of Jedi mind. One who will automatically and quickly relieve us of our ignorance and displeasure. 

No. A guru from India and her cultural realm, can likely be a layperson; but someone who has great knowledge and great presence to share. These gurus should have no problems with seeking devotees to support them, if need be. Simply because he or she is not attached to such silly things, most of us find ourselves in the mists. 

When the so-called ‘Guru’ starts making millions of dollars, instead of or in spite of his/her kooky followers, we can plainly see a problem. We can see why the term ‘guru’ has become mundane or worse: a term synonymous with the word, ‘charlatan.’ 

This has become a part of misappropriation of Hindu thought and tradition. It spewed to the west, then regurgitated back to indigenous Hindus, in a mixed format. In the west we have auto-gurus, fiance gurus, self-help and weight-loss gurus, Etc. 

As Hindus, we don’t really have to come to a consensus regarding what a true guru is and/or is not. All we have to do is gain clear perception (buddhi), viveka (discernment) and Chaitanya/Vidhya (higher insight/intelligence.) As such qualities are what true gurus offer.

Having a personal or family guru is of great importance and fortune. But we do live in the Kali yuga, so just what should we expect? Especially from gurus who’ve made their way to the west, and turned Sanatana Dharma into Sanatana drama.

~Sean Bradrick

Ayurvedic counselor. Author of ‘A Hindu’s Guide to Advocacy and Activism.’

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