The best God or Master to follow

The importance of a Guru... and the vacuum of his absence

The Bharatiya scriptures have always accorded a very special place for the Guru. It is said that the mother points out the father to the child. The father points out the Guru and the Guru points out the Lord.

The term ‘Guru’ is loosely translated as the ‘preceptor’ for want of a better word just as the term ‘Bharatiya’ is often loosely translated as ‘Indian’ for want of a better word. Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba says that the term ‘Bharatiya’ is made up of two Sanskrit roots - Bha meaning God and Rathi meaning lover. A person who has love for God is a Bharatiya and the land in which such people reside is Bharat. Since India has been the birthplace of many religions, prophets, men of God and the incarnations of the Lord, it is referred to as Bharat. Thus, when Swami refers to the glorious Bharatiyas in His discourses, He is referring to the people who love God and not exactly to those that reside in the geographical boundaries of India.

In similar vein, Baba says that Guru is made up of two Sanskrit roots - Gu which stands for Gunateeta (beyond attributes) and Ru which stands for Rupavarjita (beyond form). A famous Sanskrit verse says,
“Acharya Devo Bhava”
which translates into, “The Guru is God”, because the Guru shows the way to God.
In this scenario, one can only imagine the good fortune of having the Lord Himself come as one’s Guru as I strongly believe happened with the advent of Bhagawan Baba.

But having a Master / Lord / Guru in human form has a big disadvantage too. The physical human frame is temporary in its nature and has to go one day even when it is occupied by the Supreme Being. And when that happens, the devotees and followers are totally at a loss as to what to do. The form that they love and adore has departed and they are drowned in sorrow.

That is what happened on the 24th of April, 2011 when Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba left the physical frame. All devotees were heart-struck at this act of their Lord. And the question that arose in all was,
“What next now?”
And while some decided to wait for Him when He takes up the promised form as Prema Sai Baba, some decided to seek Him within. Some, in their desperation, began to seek Him everywhere - in other Gurus, other objects of faith (the house of a particular devotee which is ‘specially blessed’ or the company of a ‘devotee through whom Swami talks’).

The special blessing and a very significant lesson

And then someone asked me whether I am not waiting for Prema Sai. They asked how I am trying to connect with Swami. My heart raced back to an episode which happened during the Ashadi Ekadasi celebrations in 2009, the 4th of July to be precise.

The children of the Bal Vikas programme from Mumbai had put up a drama on the life of a saint, Gajanan Maharaj. Swami was very happy with their performance and as the drama concluded, He decided to move down the stage and grant them group photos with Him. I was seated on the stage, behind Swami, from where I was photographing the drama. As He was wheeled down the stage, He looked at me and said something.
I could not make out what He was saying and so I went close to Him. He was pointing to something behind me. I turned and saw that He was pointing to a cutout which had been placed on the stage. It was a large wooden frame on which there was a collage of all the saints from the land of Maharashtra. The frame had been placed on the main stage as part of the Ashadi Ekadasi decorations.

As He pointed to the frame, Swami asked me,
“Are you sitting along with your Gurus?”
I turned around, saw the wooden frame with the many masters painted on it and smiled. I almost nodded my head to say, “Yes” for were these not great men of God; masters who had shown the way to God? But in a fraction of a second before I could nod, I realized what I was about to say and changed my words. I told Him,
“No Swami. They are saints but not my Gurus. Only you are my Guru.
He smiled and He seemed happy with the answer which He Himself had inspired from within me.

The collage of the various 'Gurus' which had been placed on the stage for Ashadi Ekadasi.
The collage of the various 'Gurus' which had been placed on the stage for Ashadi Ekadasi. | Source

The bond between an aspirant and his/her Guru is very unique. It is made when the Supreme Soul decides that the time is now ripe for the ‘ignorant soul’ to gain wisdom and decides to make contact. That contact leads to a contract for evolution! Just like the tsa'haylu (connection) that Jake makes with his Ikran (the mountain vehicle) in the 2009 Hollywood blockbuster, Avatar, this is a bonding for life!

And Swami definitely showed that He appreciated that answer. It was the 7th of July 2009. There was a programme scheduled in the Sai Kulwant Hall to felicitate 4 senior devotees who had served in Swami’s institutions for more than 2 decades. After the whole programme (which lasted about an hour), Swami asked for the sweets to be brought to be distributed as Prasadam. It was Laddoos on that day. He blessed the sweets in the trays as they were taken up to Him.

Then, looking in my direction, He threw one sweet. Since I was in the second row, the boy in the first row went up to Him and took the sweet. He repeated the act and another boy from the first row went up to Him and took the sweet. Now, He looked straight at me and told me that I should take the sweet. Then, He threw the third sweet. When I went up to Him and took the sweet, He told me to take padanamaskar. I did so happily. Even as I was returning to my place, I realized with goosebumps on my skin
“Today is Guru Poornima!”

I immediately connected what had happened three days back where I told Him that He was my only Guru and this special blessing on Guru Poornima day!

Bhagawan called me out of the blue and seemed to 'reward' me for my one-pointedness in Love for the Guru.
Bhagawan called me out of the blue and seemed to 'reward' me for my one-pointedness in Love for the Guru. | Source

Another episode: The importance of holding on to one...

The second episode which I must mention happened on the day of Ramzan in 2006. It was the same day when Swami had revealed to us the unique theory of evolution among the Avatars! We were all ready to put up a cultural programme in His presence. Before we did that, He decided to speak with us in the bhajan hall. During the course of the interaction, He looked at me and asked,
“What is your name?”
“Swami, Aravind...”
“What is your father’s name?”
“Swami, Balasubramanya...”
“...and your mother’s name?”
“Hema, Swami...”
“Then, you are a Hindu. Why do you wear the costume of a Muslim?”

Here, in my excitement, I began to discourse to the Lord Himself! I said,
“Swami, I believe in the brotherhood of man and fatherhood of God. I am ready to wear Muslim costume for a Muslim festival, Christian costume for a Christian festival and Hindu costume for a Hindu festival.”
His reply was simple and straight,
“That is correct. But try to follow the code of at least any one of the costumes!”
He smiled and I sat back embarrassed.

Swami was conveying something very deep. He was urging me to hold steady to a single path with determination. He was trying to tell me that while digging the earth for water, it is better to dig one deep well rather than a dozen shallow ones. So too, when digging through the layers of ego (body-consciousness), it is better to do so via a single ‘form of the Lord/Guru rather than hold on to different forms with different depths.

Then there is the question that arises:
"Okay! I shall dig deep in a single spot. But what if, after all my digging, I do not strike water at the end?"
The answer from my heart is spontaneous,
"Don't worry. The Lord is pleased by efforts. If, in spite of all your efforts you do not get water from below, the Lord will shower rains from above!"

A small story...

Baba has narrated a beautiful short story about this.

There was once an aspirant who approached a Guru for guidance. The Guru gave him an idol of Lord Shiva with instructions for daily worship. But the aspirant found that, even after months of meticulous worship, he did not get any spiritual reward or elation. So, he reported his dissatisfaction with the idol and the Guru gave him another idol, this time of Lord Vishnu, and asked him to have another try. The disciple came after another six months demanding another idol, because even Lord Vishnu had failed him. This time, he got an idol of Goddess Durga which he duly installed in his domestic shrine. The two previous idols, were standing, dust ridden and neglected, on the window sill.

The Lord appeared, apparently when he was ill-treated!
The Lord appeared, apparently when he was ill-treated!

One day, while the Durga-worship was going on, the disciple found that the perfumed smoke from the incense stick was wafted by the breeze towards the idol of Lord Shiva on the window sill. He got angry that the ungrateful, stone-hearted God who was deaf to his heartfelt entreaties was getting the perfume intended for his latest idol! So he took a piece of cloth and tied it round the face of Lord Shiva’s idol, closing up the nostrils that were ‘inhaling’ the perfume.

Just at that moment, to his shock, Lord Shiva appeared in all His splendor and glory before him! The man was dumb-founded. He did not know how the ill-treatment had induced Lord Shiva to give him darshan.

But what had really happened? The aspirant, for the first time, believed that the Shiva idol was alive, conscious and breathing. It was that belief which forced him to tie the bandage on the nose. The moment he realised that the idol was full of chith(consciousness), he got the realisation he was struggling for!

Parting thoughts...

The Lord will appear to us in the form we love and adore. He responds always. Swami has said,

“There are people without faith who have got ruined. But those with faith will get ruined NEVER, NEVER and NEVER!”
(Nammaka Chadinavaru Unnaru Kani Nammi Chadinavaru LERU, LERU, LERU - in Telugu).

Even to this day, those words echo in my ears. He always thundered them thrice to remove any trace of doubt in my body, mind or spirit! As I sit before His picture, I pray,
“Lord let me not be like the monkey which constantly pulled the sapling out of the ground to check whether the root was growing. Let me water the roots of my connection to you with my heartfelt love and have faith that though I cannot see it, the roots are indeed growing. Let me hold firm to the name and form I have chosen. Let me dig my well deep and not start digging in a new spot.”

All said and done, like that lad in the story, maybe we need multiple idols to make us realize the life in that idol which is our first love!

PS: Even as I posted this article, I was 'sent' a beautiful quote of Swami Venkatesananda on Swami Sivananda's physical departure from the physical. I would like to modify that for the Love of my Life:

"..........So the ringing voice is silent. The majestic form has vanished. We shall no more see the sweet little figure clad in orange, gliding bare-feet, floating amidst the devotees, letters in hand, ready to distribute vibhuti, wisdom and work to us, his beloved children. That child-like giggling, with the chubby cheeks quaking with convulsions of joy—a laughter so wholesome that tears of joy bedimmed the sparkling eyes; a laughter that radiated the bliss of God to all—can be heard no more.The end is perhaps shocking. But that is not the end. It is a beginning. The Builder worked outside: he was on view. He created an inside, and he has entered it. Now he works inside, out of external view, but more truly and purposefully active, therefore. Swami has moulded us, given shape to shapeless masses, laid stone upon stone in us and built a shrine, entered it and is now busy at work in there..........."

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Comments 22 comments

piyu B 2 years ago

Sairam...enlightening to say the least.but each one to his own...is my way of thinking. Religious intolerance is what I cannot accept kindly. One is free to choose whom to pray and believe in, but if one cannot respect the faith of one another the world can never be at PEACE ...


sunita menon 2 years ago

W

onderful Aravind,

Its reassuring to read your articles, because I always feel so much love for Swami after I read it.


Ramamani Velamuru 3 years ago

Bro Aravind Sairam,

Very nice article.The last para was too good, read it several times.


aravindb1982 profile image

aravindb1982 3 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

Hello Mr.Happy! :) Again, you provide a very insightful comment. Roshan is another good friend of mine, provided to me by the "Great Spirit"! :)

"Either all are Gods or none are." Wonderful. Swami always states this without the "or". He stops at "All are Gods".

It was a lovely weekend indeed! :) And your comment topped it up...


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

lol Mr. Aravind, "exceptions" result in unfairness in my opinion: one person gets an "exception "while another does not. I see many issues potentially resulting out of this. And the second part would be that, to have exceptions would show a very judgmental God - it's okay if we were talking about myself because I am judgmental but we are talking of others and many Gods pretend not to be (judgmental) when in fact, as You said: they take exceptions/sides to whomever they wish.

I enjoyed Mr. Roshan's comment and particularly the question of: "How does it matter if you are wearing white or green or saffron (or not wearing anything at all like the naaga sadhus or the dhigambara Jains." - We give so much importance to names and rituals which we attribute to the Great Spirit, to how many times a day we should pray, or whether we should pray in one cardinal direction or other. Ultimately people even fight over these things and kill each other - thus, I use the name of Wakan Tanka - the Great Mystery of which we know nothing. We are All Gods or none are. Thus, nobody is any better than others (potentially) and we are all equal. The hierarchy of religious institutions does not observe this though and people strive for higher office all the time, or closer to the Prophet, or God, etc ... we indulge so much in our Earthly opinions, it baffles me sometimes.

Well, I wish your week-end was enjoyable : )

All the very best to You and your loved ones.

Cheers!


SARASWATI CHILUKA 3 years ago

“There are people without faith who have got ruined. But those with faith will get ruined NEVER, NEVER and NEVER!”

(Nammaka Chadinavaru Unnaru Kani Nammi Chadinavaru LERU, LERU, LERU - in Telugu).

“Lord let me not be like the monkey which constantly pulled the sapling out of the ground to check whether the root was growing. Let me water the roots of my connection to you with my heartfelt love and have faith that though I cannot see it, the roots are indeed growing. Let me hold firm to the name and form I have chosen. Let me dig my well deep and not start digging in a new spot.”

SAIRAM ! THANKS FOR SHARING THIS WONDERFUL THOUGHTS

Every time im waiting to read your stories

this time story u narrated about our mumbai ashadi 2009 celebration


aravindb1982 profile image

aravindb1982 3 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

@ Roshan - Nicely put!

As you would have realized while reading the article, this point was never debated at all! :)

The title "Best God" was simply put there as a "SEO technique" and "marketing method" to attract attention and it has done so! :)

The takeaway from your comment is definitely this:

"To thine own self be true"


Roshan 3 years ago

This is how/where are all the problems start...how religions take birth and later... the fights over whose God is greater(!!)...and what in heaven's name is "Best God"?! Isn't there only one God?! A Guru is a knower of Brahman...and a knower of Brahman becomes Brahman! (Brahmavid brahmaiva bhavathi)'. Essentially there is only one Guru and only one God. Let's transcend the names/forms/paths and focus on not even the teachings but the essence of the teachings of various Masters who are in fact one and the same (when they refer to themselves as "I" they are referring to the universal "I"). There are as many paths from the small "I" to the Big "I" as there are people on earth! Choose whichever path suits you best and do not feel guilty if/when you change your path. Don't we change our careers to earn, better, the same bread n butter? Instead of fighting over whether Batman is superior to Spiderman or not and whose fans we need to remain, let's focus on overcoming the evil that both Batman and Spiderman were trying to rid the world of! Mid way if you feel, Spiderman's ways suit you better than Batman's, then go for it. I am sure both Batman and Spiderman will approve: Even if they don't, it doesn't matter! 'To thine own self be true' Yes, one deep well is better than many small wells but many small wells, with some water is better than one deep well where there is no water at all for you (a dry well)!

'Be good, do good, see good. This is the way to God!' ~ Sai

How does it matter if you are wearing white or green or saffron (or not wearing anything at all like the naaga sadhus or the dhigambara Jains. Read: Not following any Master/Religion/Path) when you are being good? How does it matter even you change your uniform mid way while being good as long as you are good?! Spirituality is a very vast 'concept'. Let's not judge. There is no decisive path or 'best god'. It doesn't matter whether you remain a fan of Batman or Spiderman as long as you remain a man... of principles!


aravindb1982 profile image

aravindb1982 4 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

@ Mr.Happy - Thank you. It is perfect that you say "Happy Diwali"! :)

Felt very nice and special to be wished by you thus!

And as for the question, it goes back to the same Presidential Pardon example. The President does use the power to pardon right? It is up to him to decide and there cannot be an exact framework of rules to say which prisoner gets pardon and which does not.

So too, God does the 'miracle' as an exception and not as a rule! :)


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Just came back to say: "Happy Diwali!" (I am not sure if this is what I am supposed to say but I am sure You get my point lol)

Cheers!


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Greetings again Mr. Aravind,

Thank You for your explanations. I still have a question at the moment though, regarding your comment about: "God too, does not interfere in Dharma or workings of the world - they are the rules that have been divinely set." - What about Divine interference? Miracles I think You would call them.

All the best! : )


aravindb1982 profile image

aravindb1982 4 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

@ Mr.Happy - You are perfectly right - there is absolutely no difference in the names that we give to Divinity or that great energy or great spirit! Just like water is called different things in different languages but it is the same as far as quenching thirst is concerned, God/Rama/Narayana/Tanka/Allah/Jesus - all are names to denote that infinite repository of Love and Truth.

About the 'omnipotence' part. It is not that God is not omnipotent. If I have to give an analogy for this aspect, it is like the President of USA. He is a very special person though he does everything - eating, sleeping etc. - just like any one of us. He has great power though. He can pardon a murderer - the Presidential Pardon. But just because he can do so, he will not do so in every case.

On similar lines, the director of a movie can change the sequence in the movie anytime he wants. But he does not do it just because he can do it! At the same time, it does not mean that he cannot make a change.

God too, does not interfere in Dharma or workings of the world - they are the rules that have been divinely set. The rules have been based on the truth that man (and other beings) is not a body with a soul but a soul with a body.

Interesting discussions you evoke Mr.Happy... and a lot of thought too... Thank you....

:)


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

"The physical human frame is temporary in its nature and has to go one day even when it is occupied by the Supreme Being." - This is the first time, besides when I read Greek mythology when I hear of (a) God not being omnipotent. Very interesting!

“What next now?” - This part made me think of what happened after the Prophet Mohammad passed away. The confusion ... the split: Shia and Sunni ...

“Lord let me not be like the monkey which constantly pulled the sapling out of the ground to check whether the root was growing." - This made me laugh, as I tell myself when I am about to make a mistake: "Don't be a monkey", or sometimes I say "donkey". Haha!!

Now, I have to ask: were there not many incarnations of God, in Hinduism? Why would it be wrong to pay respect/seek guidance to/from Narayana and Shiva at the same time? Or Allah and Narayana ... or Wakan Tanka and Narayana? Or, all these manifestations of the Creator?

Cheers! : )

P.S. It just happened that I wrote a fairly long email today to someone about this topic of discussion: the many faces of God.


Mark Aspa 4 years ago

you have written a little treasure house of spiritual truths...again!


aravindb1982 profile image

aravindb1982 4 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

@ Poon Ratnam - Whatever is one's relationship with one's God, it should remain so for the entire life!

@ Maria - Thank you... thank you...

@ Shruti - I too remembered them only whilst I was going through the pages of my personal diary...

@ an Impressed Reader - Happy that I could trigger them in you... :)

@ Guru - Nicely put...

@ saisarannaga - That was borrowed language which I modified for our dear Swami!

@ poornimasrinath - I am impressed at how you follow and remember everything about Swami... Thank you for sharing your thoughts... :)


poornimasrinath profile image

poornimasrinath 4 years ago from Midrand, Johannesburg, RSA

Do you remember the query I raised about what happened after Swami asked about gunatheetha and rupavarjitha to the student L.K? ..The answer I got was guru is not only beyond guna and rupa..there is more to it..this is the realization that you got seconds before nodding your head..So you understood the word guru has more aspects to it. This is the same realization that I got after enquiring you and I found out very interesting experiences swami had given on this aspect and I really wondered how a small enquiry led to beautiful lessons :)


saisarannaga 4 years ago from Chennai in Tamilnadu, India.

A very nice ending, the last paragraph and the last sentence. Now He is working from inside. An apt insight. Thank you Sairam for sharing the beautiful episode.


Gopal 4 years ago

So true true true..........everywhere I go, temple or if I come across any Gurus only see Swami there. He always with us. Thanks for sharing.


An Impressed Reader 4 years ago

Nice post and beautiful experiences ..

Reminded me of a dream that I had 9 yrs back on gurupoornima day, in which Swami gave me padanamaskar .. I could recollect how the touch felt for days after that though it was a dream ..

And I happen to have had a dream similar to the sweet collecting experience too, wherein someone else picked the one swami threw for me .. And Swami took it from that person and gave it to me saying 'This is for you' ..

These dreams came years back but am still able recollect them to the minutest detail .. I enjoyed reliving them .. Thanks!


Shruti 4 years ago

Wow.... these were some experiences that I dint remember..... Very touching!


maria 4 years ago

this made me cry its so true and one of your very best

bless you and thank you


Poon Ratnam 4 years ago

Aravind, I can understand your love and feelings for Swami. Because I have the same thought and feelings. You can change any relationship in this world but not the mother. Swami is the mother of universe. How can we change? This lifetime is only for Swami. Jai Sairam

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