Saturday, June 2, 2012

Do I Need a Guru?

This question and subject is far bigger than a blog article can do justice to but I had a few thoughts. Tomorrow we conduct a discipleship initiation for about a dozen souls taking discipleship to Paramhansa Yogananda through Ananda and my mind is dwelling on the subject for the purpose of sharing a few remarks on that occasion.

There is, on this subject, much talk of gurus but little, if any talk, about disciples. The first sentence of Paramhansa Yogananda's famous "Autobiography of a Yogi" refers to the "disciple-guru" relationship as the "concomitant" aspect of the Indian culture's search for eternal verities. The question has to be "What is and am I a good disciple" of life, of truth, of God (in whatever form I aspire to know)?

It is only when we have struggled and aspired to know God that we come to discover two inextricably linked realities of that search:  1) it is very, very difficult, and 2) the aspiration presupposes the desire and possibility of becoming one with God.

Until a person has made a sincere and sustained effort one cannot possibly achieve these two discoveries. And, not only sincere and sustained but an intelligent and intelligently guided effort, rather than something random and halting in fits and starts.

When God is "wholly other" we are free to imagine just about anything, including how great we are for imagining it. Then we can say we speak to God and that our ideas and impulses are surely God-ordained inspirations and no one is the wiser, including us!

But when we strive arduously and intelligently towards perfection and ego transcendence then not only do we see what herculean challenge we face but we also get glimpses of that very same divinity and realizations of our own potential. It is then, and only then, that the "guru appears." It has been well and frequently said that "When the disciple is ready, the guru appears."

This appearance of guru includes the appearance in our thoughts and in our heart that we "accept" our need for a guide. For as we begin to see our Self, then, and yes, only then, can we "see" the guru. The guru is a flawless mirror of our own, higher Self. We must have this twin epiphany that we need help and yet at the same time we see the possibility of divinity in human form. Until then we are like Don Quixote, jousting windmills of our own febrile imagination about what is God, what is the spiritual path, and what it is all about.

When I returned from India in 1976 after over a year of spiritual searching and sat in the darkened and nearly empty airplane somewhere over Tehran, there arose in my heart the silent acceptance that I could not do this on my own. It was soon thereafter that I discovered Yogananda's autobiography and the existence of the fledgling Ananda Community, founded by a direct disciple, Swami Kriyananda.

Returning to the guru's appearance, then, it may come through a book, such as "Autobiography of a Yogi." It may come more dramatically in meeting one's guru. I have had some aspiring devotees proclaim that "I am ready to meet my guru and be guided." But I can easily, sometimes at least, perceive that they would collapse like a house of cards at one tiny poke at their ego. Most have no idea of what it is like to not only be in the presence of a true guru but to live and serve under his guidance on a day-to-day basis. Disciples there can be many, perhaps far and wide, but close disciples are always very few.

So to those taking discipleship tomorrow I say "Congratulations" for you have seen the "promised land." On some level you have seen what it takes and where it goes. What it takes is help and where it goes is to freedom and true happiness.

A guru seeks only to be our friend and guide, nothing more. How sad or simply ignorant are those who resent, resist and repudiate the concept all together on the basis of their independence. They have no idea of what it takes. They have no idea how bound they are to their own karma, likes, and dislikes. And that's ok, too. But for those who are inspired to open their hearts and minds to the intelligent, sometimes stern, but always seeking only our own highest good, divine friendship of a true guru (whether in human form or cosmic form), I say to you, "blessings!"

Nayaswami Hriman