My Experiences with Guru
In the Taoist tradition, it is said each of us has a ming, or “contract with heaven.” The purpose of the guru, or master, is to assist us in fulfilling this contract. Only one who has fully realized his/her contract is truly qualified to assist others in realizing theirs.
These days it seems that there is a strong influence in the direction of being anti-guru. This is certainly understandable. The record as of late, in both East and West, of many who have positioned themselves as self-realized souls has not been particularly positive. Some so-called gurus were just not up to the task, some felt that they could behave any way they wanted, while others disappointed disciples by speaking high and virtuous words while exploiting their disciples.
Therefore the tendency these days is to conclude that the days of the guru is over. There are other teachings that say that as we enter the Age of Aquarius we no longer need a guru to become self realized. After all, the guru is within so why should we project a perfect external mother or father outside of us when we can realize the love that we are inside ourselves? These are all good reasons why the issue of Guru has been a problem.
Who Is A Guru?
From a Vedic perspective, the principle of guru is a deep and profound subject. It is called guru tattva, or the truth regarding the principle of guru. Guru is both a person and a principle. It is considered to be one of the great truths in this universe. One aspect of guru tattva is that there will always be at least one self realized person on the planet at any given time, no matter how bad things get. Another truth is that there can be different levels and types of gurus. For instance there can be a sat guru, fully self realized, and there can be a guru who while not totally self realized is acting on behalf of the fully realized saint or guru. Generally, it is considered better to have a guru who is fully realized. Guru’s teachings may vary due to their level of realization and the lineage they come from. Guru tattva also states that a true guru must be a master of his or her tongue (what he/she eats or speaks), belly (how much he/she eats), and genitals. This may sound basic, but consider all the hardships that have occurred due to one’s guru not being such a master. Bottom line is that unless a guru has these basic qualities, he or she is not guru, according to guru tattva.
I begin the article with this preface because, like many, I have had the experience of serving a “fallen guru.” I have learned a great deal from this. There was a time when I concluded the days of gurus are over. As I contemplated the issue more deeply, I remembered what my fallen guru’s guru, AC Bhaktivedanta Swami, said: “There are the cheaters and those who want to be cheated.” When I became honest with myself I realized that when I accepted this false guru, while I had some sincere desire to realize truth (and so did he), I was also very attracted to his beauty, strength, power, calmness, eloquence, ability to convince, skill and more. He had so many attractive qualities. I got what I silently asked for — yes, perhaps the projection of what I never had in my father — but it was not the real thing.
Another guru tattva principle: God knows the innermost desires of our heart and will send teachers that reflect these desires. Therefore, if we sincerely desire pure love of God and self-realization, then the true master will come. A true guru never controls the disciple nor is he/she controlled by anyone. The guru-disciple relationship is a gift. The guru who is established in truth is not attached to the disciple or to anything of this world. Therefore he/she can be a constant reminder and source of strength for one on the spiritual path. We have so many types of relationship in this world. How fortunate to have one that is based purely on achieving the ultimate goal of life. The guru is not simply a religious leader but a genuine spiritual force.
How the guru manifests in our life is a mystery. Some say it is grace alone that the guru comes to assist us on our path. Not everyone wants a guru and spiritual advancement is open to all regardless of whether one has a guru or not. Guru tattva does say, however, at some point on our path, especially if we have a very strong desire to be free from suffering, to become self realized or to develop pure love of God, then a guru is necessary and will appear.
Gurus I Have Known
Over the years I have had the great fortune to meet, both internally and externally, great masters such as Paramahansa Yogananda, AC Bhaktivedanta Swami, Ammachi, and my present guru, Srila Narayana Maharaja. These masters have always appeared in my life at the perfect moment. In hindsight, I can see how each guru has given me exactly the realizations I needed and was ready for at the time.
At times the guru issue has been a confusing one for me. Which one is my true guru? Am I being disloyal by sitting with another guru? This guru says something a little different than that guru; who is more self-realized, etc? I have come to realize that the principle of guru has been working all along. Each master I have come in contact with has taught me more about guru and has awakened a deeper desire and realization of my true self.
I am forever grateful to Paramahansa Yogananda for teaching me how to meditate deeply, to contact the source of love inside and to pray with all my heart. From there I contacted AC Bhaktivedanta Swami and some of his students who acted as guru. He answered so many questions about God and how I could have a personal relationship with Him/Her. He taught me my true identity and a great deal about guru tattva, what is guru and what is not.
Then I met Amma. I will never claim to say I understand who she is. She is beyond my comprehension. I have had many darshans with her over the past 19 years. These moments with her have been some of the most powerful experiences of my life. They have ranged from numbness, vividly experiencing my mind in a tormented self-critical state, powerful emotional releases, and heart-filled love and bliss. Each time I am with her, it is as if she reflects back to me how I am doing on my path.
All of these experiences have led me to the meeting of my sat guru, Srila Narayana Maharaja. He is a dear friend of the late A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. An elderly Indian man with piercing blue eyes, he is not of this world. It is very difficult to describe here my experiences with him. While I will not reveal inner experiences due to their personal nature, I can say being with him has opened my eyes and heart in many ways, especially in the area of love of God and understanding my true nature in that very personal relationship.
He is a master of Krishna bhakti. Many people these days think bhakti yoga, or the yoga of devotion, is for the weak of heart or the less intelligent. While it is true that I may be both of these, true Krishna bhakti yoga as taught in the lineage of Sri Chaitanaya Mahaprabhu down to Srila Narayana Maharaja is about realizing your true essence or self in relationship with God or Krishna. The idea is that we all have in seed form a pure spiritual form that is eternal, full of consciousness and full of bliss. Pure bhakti is the process of realizing our pure spiritual identity and form in relationship with God.
For many years I doubted this process and possibility. After meeting my guru, so many doubts vanished and so many realizations sprang forth automatically. For me, this was mystical, beyond the magic and mysterious stories I had heard and experienced before with other gurus. He has opened my eyes to my own ignorance and resistance, but also has empowered me to steadily traverse this path to the reality of God/Goddess. This was possible only by the inspiration of one who knows the truth. I know this because I have experienced what it is like to be with those who didn’t live and know the truth but spoke very learned words.
In closing I would like to say that I have learned so much about life, power, egos, disillusionment, disempowerment and more by being open to the path of accepting a guru. It has been painful and confusing at times. On the other hand I understand now that you really get what you ask for (what is the innermost desire of your heart). For all of it I am grateful. Most of all I am grateful for what Srila Gurudeva has opened to me due to his kindness and the desire of my own heart.
A final guru tattva: a true guru is the greatest and kindest well wisher and friend.
Jonathan Glass is an acupuncturist, Ayurvedic practitioner and founder of Healing Essence Center/Total Life Cleanse in West Concord, MA. He can be reached at 978-369-9228 or Jglass108@aol.com or visit http://www.totallifecleanse.com for more information.