THE GURU... SPIRITUAL GUIDE
By Hierophant JL
It is a fact of life that each person needs a succession of guides and teachers throughout his existence. At the time of birth and infancy, our mother lovingly fulfills this role. In early childhood, our parents and other family members are our teachers on such rudiments as using the spoon and fork, brushing our teeth, donning our clothes, behaving properly in public, and a thousand other similar tasks.
Later on, the school teacher becomes our guide in learning how to read, write and count. Later still, in college, the professor is our instructor in honing skills that will land us a job. And whenever we attempt to do something new, whether it be a hobby such as mountaineering, photography or cross-stitching, or something perhaps more serious like apprenticing in the workplace, there is always somebody who first teaches, guides and coaches us before we can stand on our own. Even when we become old and sickly there still is someone who helps us cope with this period of physical decline. When we become sick, the doctor takes care of our needs and instructs us on what to do and what not to. Ultimately, at the point of death, it is usually the priest who gives us guidance and strength.
Thus, from the cradle to the grave, we are assisted by a host of teachers, helpers, guides, mentors and coaches. Sometimes these are family members and friends dear to us; at other times they are complete strangers. Regardless of who they are, the simple fact is we need them. Without them, we cannot do a task we set out to accomplish.
Why should it be any different in mysticism?
If we need guidance to be able to do the simple tasks of life, shouldn't we also need guidance in the more intricate and difficult path of spirituality? If we turn to a local guide when trekking in unfamiliar territory, shouldn't we also turn to a spiritual teacher when attempting to penetrate the secrets of the enigmatic inner life? Surely we do! The spiritual journey is a most arduous and perplexing one. The traveler attempts to conquer his mind and passions, as he tries to pierce through the seemingly impenetrable walls of his hidden inner being. These are gargantuan - and dangerous - tasks which can only be done with the help of someone who has already accomplished them. This someone, of course, is the Guru or Spiritual Guide.
The acclaimed Eastern master Hafiz was very blunt when he said, referring to the spiritual journey, "Take not up this task without a Guide unless you are an ass!" What he spoke, of course was nothing but the truth. Countless souls have gone solo on the spiritual quest, armed with much enthusiasm and great expectations, only to meet with failure. Without the Guru, they are helpless against the many dangers and pitfalls lurking on the path. Only one of these can easily lead an unsuspecting individual astray. A well-meaning aspiring mystic was Vishwamitra, who meditated for 60,000 years. But he fell in love, and this was the end of his mystical pursuits. Just one woman was all it took to upset his labor of thousands of years.
When we study the lives of great adepts and masters, we see that every single one of them, without exception, was helped along the mystical journey by a Guru, or even by a series of Gurus. Jesus, Buddha, Kabir, Milarepa, Vivekananda, Yogananda, and a thousand other great mystics in every part of the world, at one time or another, had a spiritual teacher or Guru. And when they themselves became mystics of elevated stature, they also became Guru to others who were ready to receive their guidance.
These words of Kabir are very instructive:
"That lord which even the great Brahma, Suras, munis (angelic beings, holy men) and gods could not find,
Though they become exhausted in the search, That Lord is found by ordinary mortal
Through the glance of a Master. Therefore, says Kabir, 0 brother seeker,
Do the devotion of a Master Who is the Lord Incarnate."
There can be no mistaking the meaning of these words. The Guru or Master is the human representation of the Lord. As Kabir said, he is the Lord Incarnate. All our lives, we seek God. We long for Him. At times, our longing becomes so intense that it moves us to tears and acts of desperation. All this seeking, all this longing, are for naught until we meet our Guru. In Him, we finally see God on Earth. We become witness to his wondrous Ways, we are touched by his infinite Compassion, and we receive divine Wisdom through his initiation and instruction.
Also according to Kabir's words, only mortals can find God. This too is reflected in the teachings of the Vajrayanis. Other beings more powerful than us seek the Lord mightily, but only in the human form and by a human being can He be found. This fact gives us immense encouragement, and it gives us yet one more reason to be thankful. This human life is glorious because while we live it, we have the potential to see God.
Thus, we make the most of this life. Many of us have already been awakened to its true meaning and goal. We must Realize, we must be Illumined. In other words, we must see God. And the way to this end is through a Guru. If you have met him already, you are fortunate beyond words. It means you are ready to receive his divine Teachings. You have prepared long before this to take Guidance. But above all, it is the Guru's Mercy and Compassion, which made your meeting possible. These are wondrous blessings, not to be taken lightly, and certainly not to be squandered.
As another Eastern master, Eknath, said:
"Extremely lucky are they who meet a real Master.
Some may tell the past, present, and future;
Some may stop the sun from setting;
Some may easily walk over a sea;
But difficult, difficult, difficult, indeed,
Is it to meet a real Master."
The real Guru, of course, is someone who has reached Illumination himself. Knowing the spiritual path intimately, he can guide his initiates through it. This is the primary qualification of a Guru. He may be a pauper or a king, a man or a woman, a bum or a respected citizen, young or old, gross or refined—these are immaterial outward distinctions. For a true Guru, the primary criterion, always, is spiritual attainment.
So, you think you have met him, judge by this standard, not by anything else. Do not judge him solely by his position, say as Hierophant or High Priest of an Order. Including our own Vajrayana Order. The Hierophant does not automatically become your Guru just because of his position.
Know also that when you are ready, the Guru will find you, not the other way around. You will not find him, despite whatever effort you put in the search. But he will find you, because his wisdom and ability are infinitely much greater than yours.
Listen too to the inner voice within you. If someone is your own Guru, you will know instinctively and without a shred of doubt in your heart.
Finally, having ascertained all this, serve the Guru with all your heart. In the words of Mirdad:
"Follow your Guide with a stout and fearless heart. His footprints, be they in the farthest star,
shall be to you as signs and sureties that you have already been planted there."
And from Darya Sahid:
"Grasp in thy heart the Word from the Guru's lips,
And be set free from all thy doubts...
When man makes the offering of self (to Guru),
the bonds of birth and death are broken."
May these words inspire and guide you. Here ends our Satsang.