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The myth of the Guru || Acharya Prashant (2017)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
22 min
30 reads

Acharya Prashant (AP): When we say that somebody didn't have a Guru, it's the same as saying that the fellow did not exist. The Guru is what you are. You cannot be and not have a Guru. You may accept that you are a disciple or you may not accept that you are a disciple, you may think of yourself as this or that, you may come, you may go; your being, your presence may be under doubt but the Guru is never in any kind of doubt. You are the Guru!

The contradiction the mind faces is that, because we consider ourselves to be bodily beings, we conceptualize the Guru too as a body. Not only do we see ourselves as bodily beings, but we are also so short of memory that we remember only the last few years of this life. So, we know nothing of our evolutionary process, we know nothing of all the forces that we came in contact with over millions of years, in fact, we do not remember anything even about our own birth. Does anybody remember his or her birth? That is the kind of memory that we have.

So, these two things combined together: first, you expect that the Guru would come only in a physical form, and second, you expect that you will remember when the Guru comes to you. These two things combined, sometimes give you the impression that somebody did not have a Guru. The fact is, it is impossible to exist without being the Guru. Remember, I am not saying without ‘having’ a Guru, because you cannot ‘have’ a Guru. Having is a choice. Having is like containing: you have your wallet, you have your shoes and clothes. In that sense, you cannot have a Guru; it is not a choice.

Guru is more like your breath; if you are, then the Guru is. You may ‘forget’ that you are breathing, that is alright. You may ‘ignore’ that you are breathing, that is alright. But you cannot be, without the breath; you cannot be, without the heartbeat. The Guru is like the heartbeat, you may forget him but he will always be with you.

Even the heartbeat is such a weak example, with the body the heartbeat will go away. The Guru won't go away even then. In the afternoon session, I was saying that the Guru is really sticky. But you will understand these things only if you can get rid of the notions that you have about the Guru. The notions that you have about the Guru are in fact the notions that you have about yourselves. What we expect from ourselves, we expect from the Guru. And that is the reason why we pre-decide what the Guru must look like. And that, you would now understand, is the reason why you keep missing the Guru. Because you have pre-decided that he would come to you only in such specific shapes and forms. He is too big, too free, to be driven by your wishes. And when he comes in his innumerable forms, in his unpredictable ways, then we miss him because we were expecting something else.

Q: Acharya JI, if God is everywhere, then what is the significance of Guru? Why do we need both God and Guru?

AP: Because God is seen by us in different names, forms depending on our moods and whims. Did God come to name himself as God? When God seems to help you, you call him the one who takes you from darkness to light, then in that particular mood of gratitude, you call him the Guru. When God seems to create, give birth, you call him the one who is creating: Father, Creator. When God seems to dissolve, destroy, take away, then you call him: Shiv — sometimes you call his action as prabhav , sometimes you call it as pralaya .

God does not abide by any of the names you give to him. But because we are limited, we see only one side of God at one time. We cannot see his totality. So, depending on which side we see, we give some name. When we look at him as a teacher, as the one who is holding our hands, as the one who is gently nudging us, pushing us, beckoning us, then we call him the Guru. When we feel a certain seductive pull, then we call him the Beloved.

Those who have known have sometimes even called God as a Butcher because he mercilessly destroys. There is no name that has not been ascribed to God—Mother, Father, even Brother, Mirror; All, None; This, That; Purna (Total), Shunya (Nothing); You, Me—it depends totally on you.

Q: What is the significance of the physical form of the Guru? How it helps a seeker?

AP: Yes and no. Even if the Guru is to come to you as a person, he will still not come to you as a person decided by you. You will never be able to ‘have’ a Guru, choose a Guru or decide upon a Guru. And the person who is coming to your life as a Guru will not teach according to the ways you expect.

The moment you utter the word ‘Guru,’ the image of a sober, realized master sitting and teaching his students comes to your mind. The Guru can teach you in a thousand ways. The Guru can appear in front of you even as a competitor. The Guru can appear to you in form of somebody who repulses you; somebody with whom you have a conflict or even as a tempting person of the opposite gender. So, even if the Guru is to come to you as a man or a woman, do not try to predict his ways. You will meet him in the most unexpected of places and in the most unthinkable ways.

In fact, if you ever come across a Guru in a very planned and structured way then rest assured, that Guru is not a Guru. The ways of divinity are unfathomable. It is another matter that the ego likes to be in control. It likes to decide on its own. It says, “All right, there are these five Gurus in circulation these days, their market is quite strong, they are getting all the TRP, so let me choose from these five. Which of these five speaks the sweetest? Which of these five appeals a lot to me? And then I will decide.”

This is just like choosing your favourite shirt or saree. You will only choose as per your taste and what you choose as per your taste can never benefit you. It can never be larger than you, it can never take you beyond yourself. There has to be a difference between choosing a Guru and choosing a Gulabjamun (a type of sweet), but we pick them up the same way; it must be sweet and hot, if possible.

Q: Acharya Ji, God is manifested through all of us. We all are actually one, then what is the need of a Guru?

AP: We are not one, we are nobody, but that is the limit we like to keep—"Alright! If you are saying that all this diversity is an illusion, then let us at least say that all this diversity is one.” But we feel very threatened if it comes to the total dissolution. It is not even one, it is zero. And that you cannot come to on your own, because till the time you are there, how can it be zero? Till the time you are there, you can maybe reduce hundred to ten, maybe you can reduce ten to one. But the final one will remain, as it has remained in your question. What would be that final one?—You, the one who is reducing; you, the agent; you, the thinker; you, the one who is concluding. That one will remain. To remove that one is like committing suicide and the ego wants to continue. The ego does not want to go away, the ego is not suicidal. That is the reason why this whole argument about doing it on my own and finding it on my own is such a lame argument as all arguments are.

You see, if you will find something, it will have the same quality as your other finds. What have you found so far in life? The different choices that one makes are all together as the different beads of a necklace. Just as you choose your life partner, just as you choose your job, just as you choose your car, your house, just as you go to the mall and choose the goods, similarly, you will choose Truth also and in a similar fashion you will pursue Truth.

But we like to console ourselves otherwise. “It is nice!” It is nice but it is the cause of so much of suffering. We like to say, “My all-other choices have only been a cause of lament for me, deep within there is no choice ever made by me that I do not want to correct or improve. Given another chance there is nothing that I would not redo in a different way. Even small things in life I could not do properly, but I want to claim that I will get hold of Infinity properly. If I would have to go to the market to get a little bit of Gud (jaggery), I am in doubt, I am in suspicion, I negotiate ten times and ultimately even after I have made the purchase I am not very sure if this is the optimum deal, but God, I will get on my own. Even to purchase Gud I have to refer to Wikipedia and Google, but God I will get on my own.”

Don't you see what we are trying to do? We are just trying to protect ourselves when we do this. And it is a very common tendency of mankind, and understandable. One has to be kind of sympathetic to this tendency, it is our own tendency. Sympathetic but not approving. You cannot side with this tendency.

Q: What is the difference between a Mentor and a Guru?

AP: No difference, really. There is no difference really between a mentor, a friend, a lover, a Guru or anybody who wishes you well, it’s all the same. There is no need to attach any special significance to this word. Whosoever helps you clear your mind is the only one good for you and he or she or that book or that situation or that group or that object or that animal is the Guru. Guru is a continuity, taking different forms at different times.

That is why it is said that Guru is always present. That is another way of saying that the present is always present and the present comes to you in changing forms. It comes to you in form of a bus, in form of a road, in form of a tree, in form of a man, in form of a wall, in form of a shrine; it takes countless forms and each form is potentially a teacher if you can be attentive to it. If you can be attentive to it, existence, at all times, has something to teach you. But you will not listen to it, you will not be open to it if you declare that Guru must take only a specific form. No specific form is Guru and at the same time, all forms are the Guru.

Q: Is it something like Dattatreya had found Gurus in everything, that everyone can learn something from somebody?

AP: Yes, yes, yes. But remember, you will not learn; otherwise, you will only learn what you will want to learn. Though it is a nice thing to hear that one must learn something from somebody but in our life, it usually translates to mean that ‘I will learn from a lot of people that I like, a lot of people that I have been told are respectable, a lot of people who belong to my community, a lot of people who are admired as role models.’

And also, remember that even though the Guru appears in countless forms yet at one moment he appears only in one form. Let the countless forms not be a distraction from the present Guru. If you are sitting in front of one entity, you could not be thinking of the hundred other forms or entities that have previously occurred to you. That is another trap of the ego. “Oh! The Guru can be anything, it can take a hundred shapes and sizes so why must I listen to one person?” At one moment, one person is everything. At one moment, one person is the absolute. The moment changes, the person may change but the moment is too small to think of other things. The moment is too unforgiving to wander here and there. The moment demands your complete presence.

Is that opening up a little?

Q: Acharya Ji, is it necessary that Guru must be present in a person’s form, or any other form is also possible?

AP: Only the learner is a person. Never make this mistake of thinking of the Guru as a person, never! The Guru may appear as a person but the person is never the Guru, kindly understand this subtle difference. To think of the Guru as a man or a woman is to rob yourself of the chance of surrendering. Because a person can never surrender to a person even if he tries to. And if a person surrenders to a person, it is not surrendering, it is slavery.

If you think of the Guru as a person then you will only be interested in the Guru's personality, and you will miss the essence. You are anyway looking at everything as material, do you want to look at the Self, the Truth too as material? Then why must you talk of Guru as having a name, shape, form, body?

And this difference, I am repeating, is important to be understood. The Guru can appear as a multitude of bodies but never think that a body is the Guru. The beloved can send you hundreds of letters but no letter is the beloved. The letter carries a fragrance of the beloved, the letter carries a message of the beloved, the touch of the beloved; but do not get attached to the letters, you will miss the beloved.

Q: What do we learn from the Guru?

AP: You have to unlearn from the Guru. You have so many places from where you keep learning. Even one’s birth is because of learning. You know what takes birth? All your ‘learning’ takes birth.

A couple of rabbits took birth recently at my place, and they are such learned rabbits. They knew right after birth how to crawl, how to hide, how to suckle. They would be very comfortable with each other. They would be cuddled together but when somebody else would try to touch them, they would recoil a little. All this is knowledge, from where did it come? From where did they get this? It is ‘learning’ that is born and it is ‘learning’ that is thereafter acquired all your life.

Guru is there to help you unlearn. Guru is there to help you forget everything that you know. All this that you know is your burden. All this that you know only gives you doubts, only makes you feel heavy and suffocated. The Guru helps you see, that this that you call as knowledge, this that you call as erudition, this you call as your cleverness, in fact, this is what is chaining you since so long. If you take something from the Guru, then you have totally missed the point. You do not come to take something, you come to get robbed, you come to drop.

We may have this and that—a lot of knowledge, experiences, conditioning—the whole baggage from the past, but still we know one thing: we do not like a heavy mind. Do we? Irrespective of what makes the mind heavy, nobody likes a heavy mind. Irrespective of the object that sits upon the mind, nobody likes objects sitting on the mind. In other words, nobody likes to suffer.

So, we may not know in a positive sense, in a sense of discrimination who the right Guru is, but in a sense of suffering, in a negative sense, we all know that we are in pain. We may not know what joy is but we know what suffering is. What if that suffering goes down a little? What if there is a little bit of relief from that suffering? A little bit of relief from suffering is surely not health yet, but is an auspicious omen. It is telling you that something right is happening.

So, the Guru for you will be the one in whose presence you at least temporarily forget your suffering, your load, your baggage. The Guru will be the one sitting in front of whom—time stops for you, you feel a certain peace, your suffering comes to at least a temporary cessation, you get at least a flavor of the Beyond, right?

And this experience is totally your own, you are not judging the Guru. Because you cannot judge him, you don’t have the faculties, the capacity to do that, and that must never even be tried. But though you cannot judge the one in front of you, yet you know your own experience at least. You know that you came with a headache, you know that you came with a rock inside you and now the rock is just beginning to melt, the first drops are there, and that will help you be certain that you are at the right place.

Q: Acharya ji, do you want to say that everything around us can be a Guru whether it is a bird, plant or animal?

AP: Yes, that’s what I want to say, but I am saying that with a caveat. Though I am saying that surely the Guru is imminent and the Guru manifests in all forms, shapes and sizes but you must also know which form will be beneficial for you.

You are talking about learning from a tree, tell me how many times do you really observe a tree? When you are walking down a road, all your attention is taken by people. When a man calls out to you, even that you sometimes miss. Your name might be Narendra and somebody says, ‘Hello! Narendra’, you miss even that. Does that not happen? We are so lost in our thoughts. How will you understand when a tree talks to you?

Only those must claim to learn from a tree, those who are as silent as the tree. A normal individual must not live in the delusion that he will learn from the sky, the stars or the tree. When you cannot even listen to that which a man says to you, how will you understand that which a bird says to you?

But what we are saying is, “I do not need to learn from a man, I would rather learn from the grass.” The same grass that you contemptuously crush under your feet? Yes, the grass is a Guru but the grass is a Guru only for those who can kneel down to the grass. Are we the ones who can kneel down to the grass and see the Omnipresent in a blade of grass?

But it can be a good means of escaping the Guru in form of a man. “Sir, I will not listen to you.” Why? “Because I can learn from the blades of grass.” Now surely the blades of grass are going to be incomprehensible to you but by talking about the blades of grass you have successfully escaped what could have come to you from the man. So, be a little alert about these things.

Q: To know what is actually beneficial for you, you have to be as still as the grass.

AP: Wonderful! It is only then that you realise what Joy grass-ness is. Yes? And then the grass is a Guru. Only then, remember! Only then, not before.

Q: So just be there? In any atmosphere just be aware, that’s all? And not have judgment or anything? Then only focusing on, just being aware of the surroundings that may make you learn from something?

AP: Not quite. Because when you are in an atmosphere, the atmosphere will be of your own choosing, your own making. Are you ever there in ‘any’ atmosphere? No. You decide which mall to visit, which movie to watch, which man to marry, where to take your kids, which school, which swimming pool, which country, which hills. So, the question of ‘any’ atmosphere does not arise, first thing is this. You choose your friend circle, don't you? You have chosen the contact list in your phone and those are the people that you are going to talk to.

The second thing is when you say ‘just be focused’—spirituality is about getting rid of the doer. In any environment if ‘you’ do anything then you are but maintaining yourself. So, it is far beyond just being aware. ‘You’ cannot be aware. You know what awareness is? Awareness is that which remains after you are not there. How can ‘you’ ever be aware? In fact, you must be very cautious of those who claim that they are aware or that they understand. Very dangerous people! When we say that in any environment we only need to be attentive and aware, you know what we are doing? We are giving ourselves the license to be in any environment. We are saying, “After all the environment does not matter, so wherever I am, if I am attentive then I am all right, I am spiritual, I am moving towards enlightenment.”

So, it means that I do not need to drop my environment. It means I can continue with my environment. It means that even if I work in a suffocating place, because of greed, then I can continue to work there. It means that even if I am in a bad relationship, the very sight of that person takes me down and depresses me, still I can continue to be with that person because any environment is all right.

No, any environment is not all right. When you change your environment surely changes. If you do not let your environment change then you cannot change.

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