Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What About the Guru?

Interestingly I’ve received quite a few notes and questions regarding ‘the Guru’ recently. As you probably already know, I rarely use the term ‘Guru’ in the lessons of the course via email or in the blog. Yet, a lot of regular readers have had previous relationships, interactions, and encounters with the Guru principle in some form or another, and apparently some of them still have unresolved issues. In almost all cases, it is because of some flaw in their understanding of what the Guru principle actually is.

Since my own sadhana and spiritual history include the relationship with the Guru, I cannot exactly dismiss the questions that come here. People deserve some sort of answer. As for participants in the Course of Training, part of our relationship is that all questions will be answered.

When I met my own Guru in 1974, his primary instruction to me was to teach people in the West what a true Guru is.

I told him, “I have no idea what a true Guru is.”

He laughed and said, “Don’t worry, you will!”

He told me to open up a meditation center and to teach people what a Guru was. I asked, “But what if they have questions?”

He said simply, “You will answer all questions perfectly.”

In my mind, this takes all blame off me—it’s on him now. It relieves me of the responsibility of getting my mind involved. He’s the one who told me to answer questions, and through his grace they get answered.

36 years into the future following that dialogue, my observation is that most people, not only in the West but in the East as well, have a very limited understanding of what a Guru is. For this reason, I receive inquiries from people whose physical Guru has transitioned from his or her body, or who for some other reason is physically unavailable or inaccessible.

In the Eastern scriptures, it is said “God, Guru, and Self are the same.” They all refer to the same Principle. It is very important to understand this point. If we truly understand this simple principle, then we can never fully experience or believe that the Guru is not present.

The true Guru is not someone we might know or have known as a person. The Guru is not a particular personality or a physical body. It clearly states in the scriptures that the Guru is the “grace-bestowing power of God.”

The true Guru is that aspect of the Self that awakens, initiates, uplifts, expands, deepens, enlightens, liberates, or in some other way allows us to experience our fullest potential as an individual being.

One comment in particular following the previous entry was very heartfelt and clearly expressed a question shared by many in various ways:

Ghayas: Something very ironic is happening to me. This course is all about being in the present moment, and as I am starting to read the lessons and getting involved once again in this learning process, some reminiscences of the "good old days" of the old course keep popping up.

What I call "good old days" is that period when the course used to be a tool, on a specific path, helping students to understand, among other things, their relationship with the Guru, the sangham; in that time, I would read the lesson, and, in addition to practicing it in my daily activities, I would also attend workshops, intensives, programs at the center and go to the ashram, and test what I have learned in the lessons within the physical environment of the ashram and around the Guru.

The old course used to be the cornerstone of my sadhana in the sense that it used to fulfill, among other things, this function of strengthening my understanding of the relationship with the Guru. I'm feeling, now, a pain of separation! It feels like this era of being around the Guru, getting together for the summer in the ashram, has gone away without previous notice and honestly I'm being very nostalgic.

Now, it's ironic because this new course that you are generously offering to the whole world and multi-paths practitioners is all about being in the newness of the present. So I'm feeling somehow off track because this nostalgia of the past period of my sadhana is showing up when in every lesson I'm invited to come back to the present, to come back to the heart. I guess I just have to witness this nostalgic feeling (which has always been a familiar samskara), as well as the feeling of being off track (another familiar companion) and keep coming back to the present.

Any advice, though, would be most welcome to understand more clearly the evolution of sadhana from one particular form to another.

DRB: Ghayas, I feel your letter, and you can know that many other people feel the same way. I have heard or read the same thing in many different ways.

I started the original course in 1975. Among the principles I stated from the beginning was that the outer form of sadhana (spiritual practice, work on self-development) would always change. I also stated that many, many things would change over the years--where we lived, who we lived with, our work, our name, our lifestyle, our outlook, and especially the forms sadhana would take from time to time, but that the one thing that would never change is the Guru Principle.

The teaching has always been very clear: "The Guru is not a particular person or body; the Guru is the grace-bestowing power of God."

It was great fun in the "old days" that you speak of. Many of us remember them fondly. I have my own nostalgia. I'd love to go back and see everyone face to face once again. It was a magical time. Yet times have changed. The world has changed. People are more suspicious now. 'Foreigners' are especially viewed more suspiciously.

There is an ugly mood about, and it's simply the sign of the times. It was all prophesized long ago. People are quick to look for something to be angry about, something to attack, something to see as evil.

The result is that authentic spiritual teachers and groups are more low-key now than they were 20 or 30 years ago. Groups are smaller, teachers are less well known. And many of us have had to grow up and develop a strong relationship with the inner Guru.

We have had to actually practice the Guru’s teaching and learn to do puja to our own form, worshipping the divine inner Self that dwells there in each new moment.

My Guru said, "Do not think the Guru is a man sitting here in front of you with a beard and a cap on his head. The Guru dwells within you as your own Self."

My own seva, or service to God, has changed from teaching about the Guru to focusing on the principles of Truth that are immutable, infallible, and applicable to all people in all times and places. As Ghayas eloquently put it, the course is now for 'multi-path practitioners,' as we focus on the essence of the Truth of Being and not on any particular path or way of being or thinking except for being true to our own Self.

As the lessons say, come back to the present moment, come back to the heart, come back to your love. From here is a good beginning. Let us do our sadhana from moment to moment, remaining focused in the present, honoring the past and all the old experiences for what they were, for they helped us become what we are today, and have prepared us for all that will come.

What will come tomorrow, we have no idea whatsoever. Everything changes except the One thing that never changes. This changeless One is our true and eternal nature, the inner Self of all. If we recognize and remain aware of our own Self here and now, then everything leading up to now will have served its purpose, everything will be perfect, and even the future will be wonderful.

Someone else asked if it was possible to fall from grace. Here is the response to that:

I can certainly understand where the question comes from. I have gone through the 'dark night of the soul' when it truly feels as though we have fallen from grace and are lost and forgotten.

Ultimately the only true fall from grace is if we turn against ourselves in our own thinking. For example, every time we give into negative thoughts or emotions, we experience a loss of grace. If one were to insist on the path of negativity for a long period, then it would surely feel as though all grace had been lost forever.

Ultimately there is only the grace of our own Self. There is no external source of grace. Even the true Guru, the grace bestowing power of God, is a manifestation of our own Self. If there were an external source of grace, we would live in a world of duality, and the world of duality is only a temporary illusion.

Don't fall from grace in your own mind. Know that the source of grace is within you, and open yourself up to the grace of God that surges from within your own Self.

In the long run, there is no rising or falling. All that is the play of Consciousness. In Truth there is only eternal stillness. The apparent movement and motion is the play, the leela, the dance.

Know your true nature, live in the awareness of your own divine Being, and grace will follow you around and bestow upon you a charmed life.

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