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May 13, 2021

What is a Guru & How do they Help Us.

There is a word that has taken the world by storm.

A word loaded with contradictions, insanity, faith, hope, charisma, and various other emotions: the word is guru.

The yogic texts define the word as “destroyer of darkness.” Gu meaning darkness and Ru meaning to destroy. A guru is one who helps remove the darkness of ignorance and leads us to the path of light.

A guru helps us gain knowledge, overcome our limitations, helps us accept the dark parts of our lives in the light of true understanding, and holds our hand through Sadhana to attain liberation.

All the scriptures lay utmost emphasis on the last point: the guru is the only one who can help one attain liberation.

The guru is someone who has walked the path to liberation before us and therefore has the knowledge and ability to guide us through the same. Only those who have touched the essence of all that is can help another to do so. Logically, this makes perfect sense. Now, let us take a look at the present reality. I see two categories of people.

One group consists of those who ask questions such as:

“Why do I need a guru?”

“How can I trust this person?”

“What is the guarantee that a guru can help me with what I need?”

Another way of thinking is this:

“I have been with my guru for many years, so I have complete authority over them.”

“I am the senior-most and closest to the guru.”

“I do not have to do any Sadhana since I have been with my guru all my life, and I know I am taken care of.”

I am equally in awe when I look at both these groups. Contemplating on them triggered a lot of questions and doubts in me to self-analyze more critically.

I’ve often found myself wondering as to the whole point of all this circus. If I am not working on myself to become a better version of myself, not able to face the dark parts of my personality, and have no check over my ego, how can any person help me—even if the person is my guru? How can anyone help in any way given such a scenario?

The human mind is a tricky monkey. We can tweak around any scenario based on our convenience and completely ignore the facts. The same applies here too. It is unfortunate to see that many people get lost in this rat race, a different one, indeed—compared to the worldly race.

I truly appreciate the honesty in the doubts and questions of the skeptics, but we live in a world where we rely on a detailed manual for using even the smallest of appliances. While being so careful about such trivial, worldly things, is it not logical to assume that we need someone who has walked the path before us to guide us through it? More like a human compass to charter through the unknown territories of creation.

It is equally important to note that the scriptures mention repeatedly that one should not accept anything being shared by the guru blindly. It is suggested that one needs to contemplate, understand, and experience it for oneself before accepting it. If so, then what is there to lose? If it works, stick to the person. If not, then move on.

I can also appreciate an attitude of surrendering to a guru and serving them for years. It is not easy to do so.

The tricky part of this is the ego. The ego is such a slippery path and one needs to be extremely cautious all the time. Within a split second, one can fall into the pit and get bruised badly.

Ego creeps in silently without one being aware of it. I cannot stop wondering as to how this is any different from being with a highly influential person in worldly affairs. How can we think that a guru would take care of everything in our lives without us putting in the required efforts?

Yes, the guru will go over and beyond with unconditional love and support to help the disciple. But they also expect us to work on our dark areas, ego, and incorrect understanding of concepts. If we don’t do any of this and think that just by being in their presence, our lives will be taken care of for good, then it is the most dangerous decision one can take in life. This situation is much worse than being an atheist.

My understanding of a guru is at many levels. The first level is definitely about a realized master, who guides us toward the absolute truth. At another level, a guru is each and every painful experience one goes through and the people involved in such experiences.

They all teach us important lessons that help us to move toward understanding the truth better. The key point here is to be open and aware during such experiences so that the universe can guide us toward where we are supposed to go.

In this sense, every day, every moment, every person, every leaf, every animal and every cloud out there in the sky is a guru for us in their own way.

As I write this, I realize that the two categories of people mentioned above have also taught me something: to keep my heart open without any judgment toward people and try to be accepting of them.

Each person’s path and learnings are different. Just like how a fruit falls off the tree on its own when it is totally ripe, when each person ripens, as it were, they will gain clarity in understanding the concept of guru in its true essence.

In the meantime, let us continue to learn our lessons each day to the best of our abilities, keep bringing light into our dark spaces, perhaps taking baby steps, and holding the heart space pure for our beloved guru to come and bless our hearts.

If we are lucky, the guru may choose to sit in our heart for eternity until there exists no duality and all there is one: the one who is ever-present, blissful, and all-knowing.

“Om Hreem Shri Gurubhyo Namaha” translates to: “I bow down to the Guru.”

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