Chapter 54: Who is a Guru?
Rita: What is the role of a Guru?
Swamiji: Whoever guides you is a Guru. Whomever you consider as superior to you, from whom you can receive blessing and guidance, is a Guru. As things are not clear to your mind, naturally you have to approach somebody who can guide you. If everything is clear to you, then you need not approach anybody. The Guru is necessary as long as things are not completely clear.
Rita: What is the relationship between the Guru and the disciple?
Swamiji: A Guru is one who initiates a person into the technique of God-realisation and guides that student continuously as long as it is necessary for the purpose of carrying on this technique of meditation for God-realisation. The relationship is as between a teacher and a student. There is no other relationship.
Actually, a Guru does not mean a person who just teaches something. He is not merely connected with learning. His connection is with spirit, the spirit of God, finally. Learning is a secondary thing. You may learn or not learn; that is a different matter, but the spirit has to be established in itself. Towards that purpose, if anybody can guide you until such time as such guidance is not necessary, that person is the guru.
A Guru cannot be changed. Once you accept a person as your guide, it is permanent. You cannot change the guide from time to time.
Rita: If a person chooses a Guru, is there a past association between them?
Swamiji: Every contact has a past association, not only a Guru, but everything. The past association determines the present context, for every kind of contact.
Rita: What happens when the Guru drops the body? Is there a sort of individuality, or does he just dissolve in the Universe?
Swamiji: He may retain individuality, if he takes rebirth. If he does not take rebirth, then there is no individuality, and there will be no relationship afterwards. It is like the relationship with God at that time, because they have merged with God. But if they have maintained an individuality still, then, of course, the relationship continues.
You can't have a relationship with the Absolute. That is not possible, unless you yourself become the Absolute. If the Guru merges into the Absolute, then there is no relationship. You can't maintain anything. It is another way of saying that the relationship is with God Himself. But if you maintain an individuality, then the relationship will continue. Even in the next birth, it will continue. Unless there is some individuality, some personality, a relationship is not possible. You can't have a relationship with the Absolute. Only below that level a relationship is possible.
Rita: If a person is still on the personal plane...
Swamiji: Then the relationship will continue even in the next birth. Whether the person is alive or dead, that is a different matter. The relationship will continue. If a relationship was maintained in this life, it will be carried over into the next life; but if the relationship breaks for any reason, then it won't be carried forward. If it continues in this life, it will continue in the next life, also. If it has ceased in this life for any reason, then, of course, it won't be carried over into the next life.
Rita: Swamiji, it is not clear. If the aspirant is still on the personal plane and the guru has merged, what happens?
Swamiji: Then you can't have any contact with that person. He is not a person at all. No contact is possible. You must then contact the Absolute; that is all. Or else find another Guru, or take God Himself as the Guru, because contacting him is another way of contacting God. So why do you say "Guru" and all that? It is God only. A person who has merged into God is God only, so he is no more a Guru. He is not a person and, therefore, he is not a Guru also. He is a Universal Being, so you cannot maintain any personal relationship with him. Otherwise, at lesser levels a relationship is possible.
Rita: How can you know if your Guru has merged or not?
Swamiji: You cannot know it; it is not possible. You must assume that he has not merged, and then maintain the psychological relationship. God will bring a blessing in some way for that. Many devotees consider God as a person, and it works in some mysterious way. Though God is really not a person, you can consider Him as a person and He will react as a person, according to your feelings.
Sean: The Guru cannot really change into God, so he must have been God all along?
Swamiji: Why only he? Everybody is like that. You are also God alone potentially.
Sean: So, the relationship with the Guru all along is really a relationship with God, and it doesn't change when the Guru leaves the body?
Swamiji: You cannot have a relationship with God, because He is impersonal, unless you consider Him as a person. There is no such thing as impersonal relationship, because impersonality means non-externality. If it is non-external, there is no relation.
Sean: So then the Guru is within?
Swamiji: Why do you say "within"? He is everywhere.
An American Visitor: Swamiji, in the USA there is a movement that says that the Guru is within; therefore, you don't need to find a Guru.
Swamiji: These are all very hasty remarks of people who don't understand the gravity of the situation. If the Guru is inside, then the world also is inside, so why do you travel from place to place? You cannot have only one thing inside, and other things outside. It may be that the Guru is inside in one sense, but he is outside, also.
Why do people go to colleges and universities when the university is inside the heart? Can you close all the colleges and universities in the world because they are inside the heart? They are inside in some sense, but not literally. There are difficulties in understanding the ultimate problems of life which require guidance.
You go to a scientist in order to learn science, and a philosopher to learn philosophy. Every art and science requires some guidance from somebody who is expert in it; otherwise, you could purchase a book and become a driver, engineer, astronaut, merely by reading a book. That is not adequate. In the beginning, you require guidance from a competent person. Later on, you may become competent yourself, in advanced stages. In the earlier stages, personal guidance is necessary. Otherwise, you may go astray.
American Visitor: Swamiji, one problem is that many people in the West are raised to be independent and free thinking. They don't want to subject themselves to any such discipline.
Swamiji: They must understand what they mean by "free thinking." Does it mean thinking anything one likes? Or, is there some system and discipline in thinking? If not, then what is the use of thinking? They need not think, also. It will be only an erratic movement of the mind. Freedom and license are two different things. We may have freedom, but not license.
The way in which we behave with another person is also a kind of discipline. If we behave in any way that we like, then society will crumble one day. Even social existence would be impossible without a code of conduct. If we want to behave in any way we like, then others also will behave in any way they like. This is called rebellion, not society.
We cannot be free unless we share a little of our freedom for the sake of freedom of others also. To the extent that we allow freedom for others, our freedom is limited, so here comes discipline. We cannot have all the freedom for ourselves and nothing for others. People have to think a little rationally, and not make abrupt statements.