I still remember the moment I saw Swamiji. I was standing outside the temple in the Bengaluru Adheenam and he strolled by so gracefully as if he was floating on a cloud. I had never seen such a sentient being before. When he walked, his whole being seemed to be smiling. He exuded an unadulterated confidence.
People often say they feel this intense connection when they first see Swamiji. Many even have tears in their eyes. That definitely was not me. I had a mixture of emotions, mostly curiosity and confusion. While I couldn’t deny his presence, I didn’t really understand why I wasn’t having the same reaction as so many others. To be honest, I didn’t really even understand the purpose of a Guru.
The following summer, in 2012, I went to my first Inner Awakening (a 21 day spiritual retreat) after a little persuasion from my mother. We spent 3 weeks doing various meditations, yoga, and the notorious completion sessions. I was sold. By the end of the program, I saw all the practical benefits of having a Guru. I began to notice the subtle transformations I had made and understood why so many people sought out the guidance of a Guru.
I was rejuvenated and returned with an excitement to use what I had learned. But life got the best of me and I got caught up in its twisted web. The lessons began to fade and only the empty shells remained. Over the next three years, I struggled with even the smallest of problems. I didn’t understand. I felt like I was having a constant identity crisis – the battle between who I wanted to be and who I pretended to be. I was always losing against myself. I didn’t understand why I was facing these issues. Wasn’t the purpose of having a Guru to guide me through hardships? Wasn’t the purpose of spiritual practice to help me resolve any issues?
It wasn’t till much later I realized the fatal flaw in my cognition. I had limited Swamiji’s role in my life with the cognition that he was simply a teacher. And I had limited the role of spirituality in my life with the cognition that it was simply an extra-curricular, problem-solving tool.
Guru quite literally means “dispeller of darkness.” This rings true on multiple levels. He dispels darkness in the mind by teaching the spiritual truths about life. He dispels darkness in the heart by showing us the truth about ourselves. And he dispels darkness in our lives by removing any obstacles that may stand in the way of us reaching the ultimate. He is much more than just a teacher.
But what does “the ultimate” mean? What is our true nature? As Swamiji describes: “When you have a headache, you are not comfortable with the state – because you know that it is not your true nature. Your true nature is having no headache. In the same way, when you have some desire, you immediately want to come out of it – because deep fulfillment is your very nature and desire causes an imbalance in that fulfillment.”
We are constantly trying to regain that balance. A guru brings you back to that balance, back to your original state of being – fulfillment.
The relationship between a guru and a disciple is the most divine relationship. It is based on unconditional love and a deep, overflowing, friendliness. He has no expectations from your relationship. He has nothing to gain because he has already achieved the ultimate. He exists only to remind you of your own divinity.
Having a Guru is like having the guidance of a teacher, the support of a best friend, the love of a mother, and the assurance of God all packed into a single being.
Of course, I didn’t understand all of this initially. It wasn’t until I spent more time around Swamiji that I really understood it on an experiential level. It was like finding something for which I didn’t even know I was searching. Just being in his presence, he gave me the experience of my own divinity.
Consider it in terms of energy. If we have an object that is vibrating at a certain frequency, another object that is connected to it will also start vibrating at that frequency. Similarly, when we are connected to an enlightened Guru who vibrates at the highest frequency, we also begin to vibrate at that frequency. We experience our own divinity.Books and spiritual practices are wonderful but they cannot transmit the same experience as a Guru.
As Swamiji says, “Whatever [practice] you choose, remember that it is only the means for you to connect. The Divine power is always available. You only have to choose the path that is easiest for you! If you have a Guru, connecting to the Existential energy becomes effortless, as the Guru is the living, moving form of the formless energy. He is your direct connection to the Divine.”