When you think of spirituality and religion, you may turn to books, scriptures, workshops or the Internet to find out more. Some will look for a person, a ‘Guru’, to tell you what is right or wrong, and essentially guide you to live better lives.
Even when you’ve found that Guru, you are not alone in wondering if that particular person is a true Guru. Embarrassed at having such thoughts at all, you wonder if it makes you any less a seeker. Are you a failure in the eyes of the Guru and the rest of His students? Should you be criticised, belittled or ostracised? Would you dare to voice such thoughts in public, or worse, in the presence of the Guru?
Well, on 30 April 2019, at 7C Life RealiZation Centre, these doubts and thoughts were aired aloud during a dialogue session with HH SwamiGuru called ‘A True Guru’. Included in this was a debate between a group of selected people on the following topics, namely:
· What is the meaning of a true Guru and what stops you from accepting a true Guru?
· What is the meaning of a true Seeker and what stops you from being one?
Consisting mainly of graduates of our 2018 Mindfulness Masterclass Programme, (Vicknesh, Malini, Aneeta, Veejay, Rakesh and Mohan) the teams took turns to share their ideas, thoughts and experiences they have undergone on their journey towards the true Guru. At the end of the debate, HH SwamiGuru weighed in with His thoughts, opinions and answers.
A TRUE GURU. OR, A TRUE GURU?
The first answer was derived from a previously published article where the Guru is regarded as the guide who teaches the Seeker. The Seeker is aware that what awaits him is eternal communion with the Divine. However, until he reaches that point, he will enjoy the journey with the Guru who will make sure that he does not fall into metaphorical holes that may appear along the way. He enjoys the walk with the Guru and surrenders all fears and worries to Him.
The second answer was that a true Guru is someone who made the effort to bring about a change in you. He would never walk away from the Seeker and does all He can to bring out the best in the Seeker. The example given here was the ability to speak in public. With a Guru’s grace, one could speak in public full of confidence and without fear.
The third person on Team 1 sought to go deeper – the Seeker often looked for a Guru for spirituality. As the messenger of the Divine, the true Guru guided a Seeker to receive a Guru’s blessing, thereby, moksha. This was done through the practice of pooja, dhyanam and bhakti.
The counter-arguments began with the idea that if a Seeker falls into a pothole along his journey, then so be it. If he encounters another hole along the way and does not avoid it, then the Seeker has obviously learnt nothing from the Guru. For the one who spoke confidently in public, the retort was, “If you can’t talk in public, just join Toastmasters.” And for the last, the response was, “Everyone around us is a Guru. So why get stuck to only one?”
A TRUE SEEKER AND WHAT STOPS YOU FROM BEING ONE.
In spite of having recognised someone as a true Guru, what stops a Seeker from total acceptance? This question and its answers are as old as time. In the Christian faith, even though Peter and Judas experienced the miracles of Christ, listened to his teachings and experienced the existence of Christ in a personal way, history still labels them as traitors. They were, in the end, fallible. Keep these in mind so as not to be surprised by the answers you read below.
For a start, a true Seeker learns to listen and be sincere to his Self. He needs to surrender in totality and believe that his Guru is taking him on the right path. He feels the blessings of the Guru every moment of the day and has faith and belief that everything in life is happening in Divine order.
What stops a person from being a true Seeker are the external pressures. With job and family stress, obligations to fulfil within the community, it can be impossible to completely follow a true Guru. Why spend precious time venerating a Guru? In this internet age, if the advice or counsel is needed, there’s always Google. Besides, there are way too many gurus in the world these days. Worse, some of them preach, but do not practice what they preach.
Some Seekers admit that they cannot understand what the Guru is saying; so, putting the teachings into practice becomes hard. There are those who feel that whatever success the Seeker achieves is through his own merit. Why, then, give the Guru any credit?
After hearing both teams present their respective points, HH SwamiGuru shared His views, which are paraphrased below.
THE TRUE GURU WEIGHS IN
If you see the Guru as the physical being and that’s what he teaches you, you are with the wrong Guru. A true Guru is one who teaches through Him, not by Him. If it’s by Him, He’s interpreting. Let’s use this example. Where are you hearing my voice from? The speakers, yes? Are these speakers speaking to you? It’s through those speakers that you hear my voice. Who is speaking? I am. Similarly, if the Divine is speaking, it’s through me; I am like those speakers. You need to understand the value of such a speaker.
The true Guru will learn when He teaches and imparts knowledge unconditionally. The true Seeker is someone who has learnt how to learn. He has acquired the knowledge and, when he applies it to his life, he becomes wise. There is no separation between the Guru, the Teaching, the Seeker and the Divine.
The Guru is an example of that Divine teaching and that’s why He can be a Guru to you. He also wants you to be the Teaching so that you will also become a Guru. So, if you leave after learning all you can from one Guru, the Guru will not become angry. It’s OK for the Teaching to be propagated by multiple Gurus and the true Guru will never feel offended.
The Guru can have all of divinity in him. He can also project Divine energies to you. But His physical being is not the Divine. A coffee can have sweetness that comes from sugar. You can enjoy the sweetness of the coffee, but however much sugar you add to the coffee, it will never become the sugar itself. The more the Guru is connected to the Divine, the more He becomes the embodiment of the Divine, but he is not the Divine.
Divinity is experienced from living. I can read a cooking book to you, a million times, but if you are not allowed to taste the food, then what is the point? The true Guru guides you to taste the food. You, as the Seeker, needs to live to experience such Divinity.
In essence, a true Guru doesn’t need to declare Himself as a Guru. It is the Seekers who’ve sought out his Teachings who recognise him as a true Guru. He will not ask you to forego your ambitions or goals, but ask, instead, that you live and experience the life that you have. Do this with happiness and joy within.
And that’s how you recognise a true Guru and a true Seeker.
The article was written by Catherine Yong.