Many people ask if it is necessary to have a guru in order to attain the goals of spirituality. Some people think that surrendering to a guru is akin to becoming a slave, a form of bondage. Currently we are like a king who one night dreamt he was a beggar and then became depressed. The guru is the one who wakes us up from the sleep of ignorance that is the very cause of that sorrow.
Even if we’ve forgotten a poem we’ve learnt as a youngster, it all comes back upon hearing someone recite the first few lines. Similarly, our current state is one of forgetfulness—a spiritual forgetfulness—and the guru’s teachings hold the power to awaken us.
There is a tree in every seed. But for that tree to emerge the seed must first go under the soil and break open. Similarly, even though we are that Infinite Truth, unless the shell of the ego breaks open we will not experience that reality. The guru is the one who nurtures this process.
If a sapling is to grow into a tree, it needs the most conducive environment. It needs to be watered at the right time, fertilised at the right time. It needs to be protected from various pests. The guru does the same thing for his disciples, on a spiritual level, nurturing them and protecting them from the various obstacles and pitfalls.
Just as a filter purifies water, the guru purifies the disciple’s mind, removing the ego. Currently we are falling slave to the ego at every turn. We are failing to use our discrimination and are thus unable to really move forward in life.
Once when a thief was breaking into a house, the people living there woke up and he had to flee. The people in the house shouted, “Thief! Thief!” and soon a large crowd of people were all running after the thief. The clever thief got an idea. He also started to shout “Thief! Thief!” and then managed to slip in with the crowd and elude capture. This is how it is with the ego. It is difficult for the disciple to catch it and destroy it on his own. Tutelage under a sadguru is essential.
The guru tries to completely remove the ego from the disciple. Surrendering to a guru’s instructions is not an act of slavery but the path to supreme freedom and everlasting happiness. The guru’s only goal is to completely free his disciple from sorrow. When the guru scolds him, the disciple may feel a little sad, but the guru scolds with only one aim—to uproot and destroy all the disciple’s negative tendencies and awaken him to his True Self. During this process, the disciple will most likely experience some emotional pain. This pain is similar to the pain experienced when a doctor squeezes a wound in order to drain it of all the pus and bacteria inside. In order to get it all out, the doctor may even have to slice the wound open. To an uneducated onlooker, the doctor may seem cruel. But if out of “sympathy” for the patient the doctor forgoes this process and simply applies external medicine, the wound will never heal. Just as the doctor’s only aim is to remove impurities from the physical body, the guru’s only aim is to remove the negativities of the mind.
In reality, the guru is not a mere individual. He is the parama tattvam—the supreme principle. He is the embodiment of truth, renunciation, love and dharma. In the presence of a sadguru, the disciple is able to imbibe all the guru represents and liberate himself. This is the greatness of the guru’s presence.
The writer is a world-renowned spiritual leader