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 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!
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?”
“What is your father’s name?”
“...and your mother’s name?”
“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.
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!
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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