May 31, 2011

Dare We Trust? Life in the Fire of a Sat Guru

I just embarked on a two month (off and on) journey with my spiritual master, my guru. She is known as Amma by her devotees and internationally as the “Hugging Saint”. She is known to sit for up to 24 hours straight hugging all who come before her. She does this without stopping for food or taking a bathroom break. She does not charge any money for this and all are free to receive Amma’s “darshan” (blessing). Amma has been doing this for over 30 years.

Those of us who spend time with Amma usually cannot even keep up with her for one day. It is truly a miracle to see a being who cares nothing for herself just give and give at a level which defies the laws of nature as we know them, and I mean this literally. No other human being that I have heard of can do what Amma does for even two or three days, let alone close to 30 years.

My purpose in this article is not to convert anyone to be a devotee of Amma or any other being. It is to try to explain a little bit about the very subtle and confusing Guru/disciple relationship to those interested and who are perhaps even fearful of such a teacher.

Many in the West are confused about the Guru/disciple relationship – and I will confess – even though I have a guru, it still confuses me also. But I will share what I do know (or at least what I think I know) in this article and several upcoming ones as I chronicle a bit of my journey with this master over the next few months.

The Main Confusion

Most of the misunderstandings I have seen about the Guru/disciple relationship stem from the idea that when one decides to “follow” a master, they are somehow brainwashed and have “turned over their power” to another because they are mentally weak and looking for a “surrogate parent”(or something). This is especially the case with the Western mind, which places extreme emphasis on the “individual”, not the collective or the eternal.

I think there is some merit in this idea. Some certainly turn their power over to the master in ways that may not seem to support their sense of personal accountability or need for critical thinking, etc. But more common to my experience, of the thousands of disciples and devotees I have met from many lineages, is that the relationship is a constant, ongoing testing by the disciple of the master. In fact, if people actually followed the teachings of a master of any “Vidya” (path of wisdom), liberation would follow very quickly.

It is my feeling that *trust* is one of the biggest issues we all face. Even in the presence of a being performing super human tasks of endurance and compassion – like Amma, our ego holds onto power. No one really trusts the guru or anything in totality, especially ourselves. If we are to be honest, we would have to admit that underneath it all, we are just a bundle of confusion about the nature of the world. We have no answers for the real questions before us.

Questions like:

Who am I?
Who created the universe?
How was the universe created?
What happens after death?
Why is there so much pain and suffering in life?

These are the things we asked the grownups where we were kids. But they did not know. So we stopped asking. We shut down and became cynical. Or maybe over time we developed simplistic (even gutless) bromides like “the answers are within”. OK fine, the answers are within. But do we really go within to find them? I have not seen that to to be the case. By the way, I am not lecturing anyone; I include myself in this.

Most of us fashion a philosophy based on navigating our attractions and aversions (we call this “growth” or “wisdom”). Yet when pressed and faced with losing it all (which is coming) we tremble and shudder beneath the weight of our ignorance.

Those innocent, meaningful questions from childhood go unanswered. We are unchanged by our philosophies.

I Would have Never Believed It Myself

I began doing intense mediation at 19 years of age. Like most, when I met Amma 11 years ago, I was a firm believer in the “all of the answers are within” theory. But then I met a being who had all the answers – the Sat Guru – the one established in the truth I was philosophizing about.

Funny thing is, I did not even realize that I had had given up the search for meaning. That innocent mind that still hoped and trusted and wanted answers had been covered over, comfortably insulated in the certainty of my experiences.

As children we have hope. We come into the world a bundle of sensitivity. The tender bud of our hearts are so easily hurt and so fragile and close to the true pulse of life and love.

Dare we trust again in a world of exploitation and darkness? Dare we trust another who claims to have the answers? Maybe they just want something from us?


No, it is safer to just lock down that whole issue and remain safe from the fire and chaos of feeling disappointment.

Contrary to what others think, it is difficult to spend a lot of time around an authentic Spiritual master, because they threaten your very identity, your ego. They do not comfort you. Yet they are so pure and want nothing from you. They are an offering of love, in case you are still interested in finding the way back to the truth of your being.

The embody that truth within that we speak of.

without need.
without worry.
without end.

Just like my Guru.

Just like me.

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