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Darshan with Swami Krishnananda during 1996
by Swami Krishnananda

14. The Role of the Guru

(Darshan given on February 6th, 1996.)

A spiritual teacher: In the West now there is a big controversy about the role of the Guru.

Swamiji: What is the controversy?

Teacher: Well, many people in the West are questioning the value and significance of that role.

Swamiji: I think this question arises due to a misunderstanding of what a Guru means. They think it is some person saying something to somebody. It is not like that. A Guru is an embodiment of an experience and wisdom far superior to the person who is regarded as a student or a disciple. If a guide is not necessary at all and one can get on with oneself, then one need not go to schools and colleges and universities. You can just purchase some books and become a PhD or a Master of Arts or whatever.

It has been found that a person who is ignorant of the higher nature of knowledge requires guidance on the path which leads to the higher comprehensiveness of knowledge. You require a guide for everything. A person cannot stand alone in this world. Otherwise, why should there be any kind of teacher? But there is some important aspect of this matter, which is also to be considered, namely: Is the Guru a physical body? If that is the case, when the body of the Guru is no more, there will be no Guru. So many people feel that they have lost the Guru and go on beating their breast and striking their head, and feeling bereaved.

It is not the body of the Guru who gives instruction. The body does not speak. It is the wisdom that speaks through the instrumentality of the speech of the Guru. The Guru is the comprehensiveness which is not outside the student, but above the student. There is a difference between being external and being above. A teacher may look like an external person before a student, but that teacher is, at the same time, above the student's comprehension. In a way, the Guru is the higher self of the student manifest in the personality of an individual who looks like a human being.

It is not easy to be a Guru; it is not anyone and everyone. Firstly, the Guru has to be established in a state of experience and knowledge far superior to the student's or the disciple's, so-called. Secondly, the exterior location of the personality of the Guru does not mean that there is no other element involved in the Guru's existence. You understand what it is to be higher than someone else. Now I give a small example. The president is higher than the prime minister. He does not physically sit on the head of the prime minister, so in what sense is he higher? The professor is higher than the student; he is also external because you can see him and photograph his body, but he is nevertheless higher. This 'something being higher' is not a perceptible category. It is a conceptual appreciation. Do you understand what I say?

“Oh, a very big person has come.” When you say “very big person”, it does not mean that he is very stout in his body, nor does it mean that he is very tall, taller than other people. His dimension of knowledge and power is wider than the dimension of knowledge and power of other people.

This understanding applies to the Guru also. The Guru is higher, not outside. A higher thing cannot be destroyed. Even if the personality of a president perishes, the president does not perish. It is a principle, and not a person. So a Guru cannot die, even as the government cannot die. Persons change, but the principle does not change. So nobody should cry that the Guru is dead, because the principle which was operating through the personality of the Guru is eternal. It was a blessing to students, and the blessing will continue even after the departure of the body if the student's consciousness is in a state of communion with the consciousness of the Guru. It is not one person sitting with another person; it is one state of consciousness trying to commingle with another state of consciousness. A student is one state of consciousness, and the Guru is another state of consciousness. One is larger in dimension, another is lesser.

So you should not take into consideration only the body of the disciple or the body of the Guru. The Guru is neither a man nor a woman, and so is the case with the student. The student is not a man or a woman. It is a principle of requirement in a particular state of consciousness. You are consciousness; you must accept it. The consciousness is using this body as an instrument of its operation, but we ourselves are not the body. So is the case with the Guru. And I feel there should not be any kind of controversy, provided there is an appreciable understanding of the meaning of it. Without a guide, you cannot exist anywhere. Everywhere, even when you walk on the road, you want a policeman's guidance: Where shall I go? Which way is the road? Otherwise, it is a mere self-complacency of a person: I can get on with myself.

The depths of the cosmos, the intricacy of life and the mystery of all creation is so astounding that no one can say “I know everything myself”. It requires a very powerful guide with an insight into these mysteries. A Guru is necessary, provided we understand what a Guru is. It is not just a Tom, Dick and Harry. It is one accepted principle of the higher dimension of knowledge. I cannot say more than this about the Guru. It is something higher, and not external. You can see the body of the Guru, but you cannot see the Guru as such. You can see the person who is in the post of a president, but you cannot see the presidency. You also cannot see the government. Where is it? Can you show me? If you go on looking around, you will not find the government anywhere. You see only people. So what is the government? Does it exist or not? So is the Guru.

You have put a very good question and a very important one, which is harassing the minds of many people these days.

A visitor: If a Guru who is established in the Absolute gives a clear instruction to a disciple, telling him what he has to do, is it possible that the Guru is telling this only in order to test his disciple, or is it always to be taken literally?

Swamiji: The Guru does not test the disciple, but educates the disciple, instils into the mind of the disciple the knowledge which, at present, is not in the disciple. There are cases where tests also become necessary, but that is not the primary goal of the Guru. The teacher need not go on testing the student. He only enlightens the student, and if the Guru or teacher you accept is competent, then that instruction should be followed because it comes from a higher source of knowledge.

When you understand everything, you may regard yourself as a master. But you should not have doubts in your mind. A person who has a doubt cannot be a teacher or a Guru. There should not be a single doubt in the mind. Everything is clear, from top to bottom. Such a person only can be a real Guru.

There is a definition of Guru in the Upanishad: shrotriya and brahmanishta. Shrotriya means he is learned in the deepest lore of spiritual living. He is highly learned, and he is himself established in the higher reality. He must have two qualifications in order that he may be a teacher. If he is established but he will not say anything, then you will not be benefited by him. But if he says that he is not himself established, that also is no good. So he must be a shrotriya and a brahmanishta: established, and also learned. He must be able to clarify your difficulties, and he must himself be convinced about it. A person who is not convinced himself cannot teach. There are some teachers who simply don't know what they are going to teach.

There was a teacher who was teaching biology. The student asked, “Sir, what is biology?” The teacher didn't know the root of this word 'biology'. “'Bi' means two,” he said, “like bilingual, and all that. 'Logy' means arguing. It is two kinds of arguments; that is biology.” Now what to do with these teachers? Then afterwards the boy came to the house and told the father, “I know what biology is.” He told him the same thing. The father was stunned. He said, “This is the kind of teacher you have got?” So many people are like that. They are not convinced themselves, and then they try to teach, which will be like a shell that is presented, without any substance.

The primary criterion is that one should be satisfied with oneself. Each one should put a question to one's own self: Am I a satisfied person, or have I any crochets in the mind, or doubts and harassments psychologically? Spiritual life does not mean living in doubts and suspicions, etc. It is a clarity that is spirituality, and each one can make some kind of assessment of oneself by putting a question to oneself. It is called self-checking or self-analysis. Am I quite satisfied? In almost every way, am I satisfied? Or is there something that is pinching me, causing me agony? If there is such a difficulty, it has to be handled first, and such problems should be removed. Self-satisfaction, composure of mind, a smiling face, goodness of behaviour, and love of God, this is spirituality. All these factors must be combined. You are essentially a good person; everywhere you are a good person. You don't irritate anyone. You are a really good person, with some element of godliness. Ultimately it is said that only God can be really good, and any element or percentage of it in your personality also makes you good.

In India especially there are some ways adopted to keep the mind in a state of concentration on the higher spirit. One of these methods is chanting, reciting, repeating the name, whatever you call it, of that great Principle. There is a great Divinity, God, or the Absolute, the Universal Being, whatever you may designate it. You are stunned by its presence. You are awestruck by the thought of it. You are delighted, and at the same time frightened by the vastness and magnificence of that Being, and you want its blessing.

“Come, Great Almighty, come!” When you utter this sentence, you feel a shudder within yourself. It is like saying, “Vast ocean, come and enter me.” You tell the Atlantic, “Atlantic, come and enter me.” What do you feel at that time? It is a shock. Would you like the Atlantic to enter into you? You will be unable to say what is happening to you at that time. Here is the great Atlantic of the cosmos. But the Atlantic may drown you, and it will appear that it will destroy your existence. The great Almighty also may do some such thing. It abolishes your individual personality. It takes you into its own bosom, makes you itself.

Prayers are offered – “God Almighty, make me Thine. Hallowed be Thy name” – because the name of the Supreme Being is most hallowed, most purifying. In these kinds of recitations, solicitations, feelingful exultations to the great, almighty, Supreme Power behind this universe, the calling enters into your mind. When the name is uttered, the form that is connected with that name also enters your mind. 'Dog' – utter that word. Immediately the mind takes the form of that object called the dog. 'Tree', you say. When you utter this word, immediately you feel a tall thing standing in front of you. 'Ocean' – immediately you feel what it is, the vastness and terrifying thing before you. Similarly, you call the name of the great Almighty. “Mightiest Being pervading all things, all power, all knowledge, deathless immortal, please come to me. Make me Yours.” Go on telling this one hundred times. “Great Almighty, I want You, I want You. Great Almighty, I want You. Great Almighty, I want You. I want nothing else. You are all in all. Whatever I want in this world, what I can expect in this world is within You, in You, and You are the very thing which I am asking for in this world. Unnecessarily I run after things externally, thinking they are existing outside me, but this outside so-called thing is within You, as I am within You. So I need not run after things because I have to run after You, which includes all things after which I am running. God Almighty, come to me, bless me. Thou art all, and I want You only, and nothing else.” Make this a kind of prayer.

You can create your own prayer. You need not have to read a book or a Bible or some Upanishad to chant the name of God. In your language, whatever is your language, from the bottom of your heart, cry to God “Come!” and He does not take time to come because He is timeless. Only if it is in the process of time will it take time to come, but it is a timeless, spaceless Being. It does not take time to come. At once it will manifest itself, instantaneously. Therefore, you are secure. You have got an eternal friend not far away from you, ready to come to you, to your succour. Consider yourself as blessed because this mighty friend is always with you and you shall never have any kind of problem. “If there is a problem, I will just call Him: Please help me.” This is a mantra. We chant some Sanskrit mantras, but you can have an English mantra also, as I mentioned. You have created your own mantra, which is the expression of the deepest feelings of your heart, and you will be sure that it will get materialised. What is affirmed in your consciousness will immediately get materialised into form and action. So be happy.

Om, Narayana, Krishna, Siva, Jesus – these are also good, but they are all set, ready-made mantras which are in the scriptures. Your heart's desire and its expression is the real mantra for you. Your needs must manifest themselves through the prayer. This is the whole important matter. Your requirements, your needs, the basic potentials of your heart, the recesses of your heart, they must manifest themselves in the prayer. It is not enough if simply like a machine you go on repeating some mantra, like a Tibetan wheel moving. You know a Tibetan wheel? They write a mantra on the wheel, and rotate it, so it means the repetition of the mantra. That kind of wheel is no good. It must be the rotation of your own being. You are repeating your own soul, practically. This is prayer, what they call japa in Sanskrit.

Do japa. Japa is the best thing – calling the name, calling the name, calling the name, that's all – and immediately the form which corresponds to the name will reveal itself. Name and form go together. Whatever name you suggest in your mind, that form will manifest itself instantaneously because that form is spaceless and timeless. So there should be no fear, provided your heart is open, clean and sincere, and it is really wanting it. Here Christ's statement is to the point: “Ask and it shall be given.” “Knock and it shall be opened.” “Seek and you shall find.” Can there be a more profound instruction from a Guru than this? Seek and you shall find. Your heart should say it, and not merely your eyes and ears.

God bless you. I have nothing more to say.