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The True Guru

Guru is generally taken to mean "teacher", but the more correct if much less well known term is, interestingly, Heavy.  Originally, in India, the Guru was someone who had attained the highest level of consciousness, a liberated being (Jivanmuki). It is only because the Guru has totally transcended worldly limitations, and become consciousnessly one with the Absolute, or alternatively is an avatar or incranation of the Divine, that he or she is qualified to teach without error. And it is only because the Guru is Enlightened that it is safe for the disciple to follow his or her lead. The disciple, in submitting to the Guru, is actually submitting to God. The relationship between Krishna and Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita is the perfect example of the Guru-Disciple relationship

The true path of the guru is the path of surrender. To progress on the spiritual path, you have to surrender to the Divine (and to the Guru as the incarnation of the Divine) and renounce everything.

But as would be expected, this high ideal is rarely found in practice. Genuine Enlightened Beings are few and far between, and most who claim to be enlightened are far from it. In this instance, at best, the Guru is a spiritual practitioner who had attained a certain level of spiritual mastery and therefore was competent to teach others the same path.  This is the basis of any true Transmission of Doctrine in any society.  The Guru would have a few close and sincere disciples around him (more rarely "her", in view of the patriarchial nature of traditional Indian society) and live in humble unassuming surroundings.

Therefore, it is very important to distinguish the True Guru, the truely enlightened, divine, and avataric being, from the common guru (and often either fake or egotistic or with only very partial realisation), such as one finds in the West.

Sri Aurobindo on the Teacher of Integral Yoga

The following quote by Sri Aurobindo, from Synthesis of Yoga, describes the Teacher of Integral Yoga, but could be applied to the principle of the True Guru in general:

"The Teacher of the integral Yoga will follow as far as he may the method of the Teacher within us. He will lead the disciple through the nature of the disciple. Teaching, example, influence, -- these are the three instruments of the Guru. But the wise Teacher will not seek to impose himself or his opinions on the passive acceptance of the receptive mind; he will throw in only what is productive and sure as a seed which will grow under the divine fostering within. He will seek to awaken much more than to instruct; he will aim at the growth of the faculties and the experiences by a natural process and free expansion. He will give a method as an aid, as a utilisable device, not as an imperative formula or a fixed routine. And he will be on his guard against any turning of the means into a limitation, against the mechanising of process. His whole business is to awaken the divine light and set working the divine force of which he himself is only a means and an aid, a body or a channel.

The example is more powerful than the instruction; but it is not the example of the outward acts nor that of the personal character, which is of most importance. These have their place and their utility; but what will most stimulate aspiration in others is the central fact of the divine realisation within him governing his whole life and inner state and all his activities. This is the universal and essential element; the rest belongs to individual person and circumstance. It is this dynamic realisation that the Sadhaka must feel and reproduce in himself according to his own nature; he need not strive after an imitation from outside which may well be sterilising rather than productive of right and natural fruits.

Influence is more important than example. Influence is not the outward authority of the Teacher over his disciple, but the power of his contact, of his presence, of the nearness of his soul to the soul of another, infusing into it, even though in silence, that which he himself is and possesses. This is the supreme sign of the Master. For the greatest Master is much less a Teacher than a Presence pouring the divine consciousness and its constituting light and power and purity and bliss into all who are receptive around him.

And it shall also be a sign of the teacher of the integral Yoga that he does not arrogate to himself Guruhood in a humanly vain and self-exalting spirit. His work, if he has one, is a trust from above, he himself a channel, a vessel or a representative. He is a man helping his brothers, a child leading children, a Light kindling other lights, an awakened Soul awakening souls, at highest a Power or Presence of the Divine calling to him other powers of the Divine. "
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, pp.66-7 (5th edition, 1999)



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page by M.Alan Kazlev
The quote from The Synthesis of Yoga © Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1948, 1999
page uploaded 20 June 2005, last modified 13 November 2008