Many of us may have heard or come across the concept of preceptor (Guru) who apparently possesses the divine power to remove all the sins of man, thereby making him immortal. It is hard if not impossible to find an authentic Guru in this day and age (Kaliyug) where many people have begun to cheat people in the name of spirituality, but as the wise say, “You need not go in search of a Guru, he/she will automatically come to you whenever you are ready to progress on the spiritual path.”
Mystics and monks attest that there is a special kind of knowledge (the all-pervasive knowledge) that the Guru imparts, which liberates a man from the worldly attachments permanently, thereby taking him to the pinnacle of spirituality (aka enlightenment). However, the sages believe that the divine wisdom can only be revealed to a high-souled spiritual aspirant after the Guru duly examines him or her.
The sages across all faiths corroborate that enlightenment (freedom from the cycle of birth and death) requires an indispensable purity of mind obtained as a result of the aspirant’s good actions over several lifetimes. They believe that this is the prerequisite for anyone who wants to seek the eternal truth. It is only by the results of noble deeds done by a man that he becomes qualified to attain the supreme knowledge about his own Atma (Soul/Supreme Self). An authentic Guru is one who puts an end to the darkness and shows the right path to those who have entered the forest of worldly (illusory) existence and have become directionless due to their wavering mind.
Let us try to understand the relevance of a Guru and the sacred Guru-Shishya bond through the following story.
In a village named Harshapuri, there lived a disciple named Dhruva and his Guru Yogeshwara. The disciple diligently served his Guru with utmost love and devotion. Similarly, the Guru nurtured and protected his disciple as his child.
Long ago, as a young lad, Dhruva had approached his Guru with wooden sticks in his hand (Samit) to be offered into Yogeshwara’s fire (oblation), which was always burning in his Ashram (monastery). Bringing piles of wood to the Guru was a traditional practice for a Guru to formally accept a spiritual aspirant as his student.
Since then, Yogeshawara had taken complete responsibility of Dhruva’s spiritual development. But he wanted him to attain a certain level of spiritual maturity before he could initiate him into the Supreme bliss of Brahman. Yogeshwara was an adept Guru who had entered Samadhi (state of supreme consciousness), after years of meditation and penance. He had incarnated to uplift humanity and to continue his divine legacy by training eligible spiritual seekers. Dhruva wanted to follow the footsteps of his Guru. His Guru meant the world to him and he always obeyed him and served him with tender loving care.
Soon, he started meditating more and more number of hours under the guidance of his Guru. But like most disciples, he found himself quickly distracted by things around him. The Guru knew this weakness in his disciple and created the right opportunity to remove it.
One afternoon Dhruva was meditating at his Guru’s Kutir (hut), while the Guru was meditating at the riverbank. In the Kutir, there was a big lamp lit by the Guru at each dawn and it would keep burning until dusk.
Just when Dhruva closed his eyes and began to meditate, strong winds began to blow and a dust storm had covered the entire village. Dhruva’s mind began to worry thinking that the fierce winds would extinguish the lamp. He also began to worry that the lamp might fall down while he meditates and make the hut catch fire. So, he kept opening his eyes from time to time to check on the lamp. This took his focus away and he found himself breeding fear and uncertainty in his heart. But he remembered that his Guru had told him to think of his feet whenever he found himself in any difficulty. He began firmly bringing his focus towards his Guru’s lotus feet with staunch devotion. This slowly began to ease Dhruva’s breath.
The Guru, who was meditating on the riverbank, observed all that was happening in his Ashram using his Siddhis (supernatural powers), and so, decided to put an end to his disciple’s quandary. He used his Siddhis to purposely make his hut catch fire and at the same time giving divine vision (Darshan) to Dhruva in his heart. The raging fire started to engulf the entire roof of the hut. Meanwhile, the villagers nearby gathered outside the hut and began to panic. They had no means of putting out the fire. They found Dhruva seated inside the hut absorbed in deep meditation and so, began calling out his name loudly, in order to make him rush outside the hut. They were afraid to step their foot inside the hut, as they felt that the chance of making it alive was very low.
After trying to divert Dhruva’s attention for so long, the villagers had lost all hope of saving him. Then one man shouted at him: “Don’t you see the fire?” Are you not awake?”
Dhruva, who had now been initiated by his Guru, smiled and replied with great effulgence in his heart: “I do see the fire (in my own heart) and I am fully awake (enlightened) now.”
The villagers thought that Dhruva had gone mad. They screamed and began to run hither and tither and began fearing for their own lives. But Dhruva kept firmly sitting in the same Yogic posture (Padmasana), meditating on his Guru’s feet. He would not move from the spot without his Guru’s permission.
Meanwhile, Yogeshwara, who had seen all these events using his divine capabilities, used his Siddhis to immediately stop the fire from spreading. Within minutes the hut had no trace of smoke or fire. It seemed as if nothing tragic had happened there. Not only was the serenity of the ashram restored but also that of the mind of Dhruva. The external fire was extinguished but the one inside Dhruva’s heart was lit forever. He had realized his true Self – Brahman, thanks to his Guru’s grace.
Bringing wooden sticks to offer into the Guru’s Yagya is a mere formality and an external act. A true disciple makes himself like the wooden sticks, only then can the Guru light the fire of knowledge that can engulf the ignorance of the disciple. With ignorance burned to ashes, only the light shines forth!