Here we describe the essence and fortitude of what a worthy guru is about.
The Criteria of a Guru
Perhaps you know that the word guru is a very old Vedic word. It means "one who dispels darkness". This expression "one who dispels darkness" is often used without deeper understanding. This darkness actually belongs not only to the psychic stratum or the spiritual stratum, but to all strata of human existence. That is, darkness prevails in all the three strata – in the crude physical sphere, in the psychic sphere, and in the spiritual sphere. So a guru will necessarily have to be able to remove darkness from all three strata. If a guru teaches the alphabet or some academic matter to students, they would be called a teacher – teacher in the academic sense. That will not do. If, again, the guru removes darkness from the psychic world, they impart intellectual knowledge to their followers, that will not be enough either. And if, finally, they dispel darkness only from the spiritual stratum of their disciples, that will not do either. The fact is that a guru – if one is to be accepted as a real guru – shall have to remove darkness from all the strata of the physical world, all the strata of the psychic world, and also all the strata of the spiritual world.
Now let us look at the spiritual world. In the spiritual world, they alone can be a guru who can lift downtrodden humanity to a high spiritual level, who can illumine humanity with spiritual effulgence. That is, only a Mahákaola has the requisite qualification to be a guru, others cannot be gurus.
In order to be an ideal guru in the spiritual sphere, one must be thoroughly conversant with the minutest details of sádhaná, every aspect of sádhaná, important or unimportant. The guru must not only learn those things, but must also possess the capacity to teach those practices to others. Otherwise he should not be treated as a guru. The Mahákaola alone has this capacity, no one else. Kaolas are those who by dint of sádhaná have successfully elevated their microcosmic stance and established it in the Macrocosmic one; but a Mahákaola is one who is a kaola, certainly, but at the same time possesses the capacity to help others as well to get to that exalted kaola position. In the past Lord Shiva was one such Mahákaola. Lord Krśńa was another. To be a guru one must be a Mahákaola. [note: A kaola can raise their own kundalini to, and perhaps beyond, the seventh cakra, sahasrara; a Mahákaola can raise, not only their own kundalini to such heights, they can also raise the kundalinis of others to such heights as well. Raising one's kundalini is demonstrative of progressively escalating intimacy with the Universe.]
One must possess knowledge regarding sádhaná, not only thorough knowledge of the shástras [scriptures]. And in order to gain thorough scriptural knowledge, one must know as many important languages as are necessary for the purpose. That is to say, it is not enough that a guru acquire the necessary qualifications to be able to teach sádhaná (that is, impart lessons on the practical cult); they must possess adequate knowledge of theory also. That is, in order to know the inner secret of sádhaná, they must possess thorough and authentic scriptural knowledge; then only should they be accepted as a perfect guru in the spiritual sphere. One who has a fairly good knowledge of sádhaná and can also help others in that realm, but is completely devoid of intellect, or knowledge of languages and scriptures, cannot be a perfectly competent guru in the spiritual sphere; for, being a guru, they will have to explain the theoretical side also. If, suppose, I say to someone, "Do this," I should also explain why he or she should do that, and at the same time I should be able to support it in the light of the shástras.
You may raise the question, "What is a shástra?" You might point to a voluminous book and call it a shástra, but that would be misleading. Shástra in the true sense means, Shásanát tárayet yastu sah shástrah parikiirtitah – that is, "Shástra is that which disciplines and liberates humans." So a guru must be well versed in shástra, otherwise they cannot show the right path to humanity. The term guru would be a misleading misnomer – which is never desirable. Shástra does not necessarily mean the Vedas; it means the way to emancipation through inculcation of rigorous discipline; it is something that prevents one from taking license in the name of liberty. It means clear instructions that guide everyone along the path, that lead to attainment of prosperity and welfare -- that degree of rectificatory punishment which will be conducive to one’s well-being."
A spiritual guru must be well-acquainted with all the processes of sádhaná, must have the capacity to convince others, must possess complete knowledge of the scriptures, must know many languages, and must have comprehensive knowledge and intellect, plus some extra qualifications. What are those qualifications? Nigrahánugrahe shakto gururityabhidhiiyate – "the guru must possess the capacity both to punish, and to love, or bless, their disciples." Punishment alone, without love, is not good. Love and punishment should go together, and the degree of punishment should never exceed the degree of love. Then only can one be called a real spiritual guru.
A guru must be an authority on all subjects in all the three strata:
As a spiritual guru, they must be thoroughly versed in spiritual science – both the theory and the practice. They must know how Parama Puruśa associates Itself with jiivas [unit beings]; and they must know how jiivas associate themselves with Parama Puruśa (they associate themselves just as the Ganges merges into the Bay of Bengal). Otherwise, how can they teach this science to others?
And who knows this science? Only Parama Puruśa knows it, because It Itself has created everything. It has created our sense organs, and It has created the tanmátras(1) that our sense organs detect. It can create anything It likes. But remember, It does not do anything. Its "doing" means Its thinking. Things will take shape as It thinks. No one but Parama Puruśa knows how It does it. So how can people know Parama Puruśa if It does not teach to others the science of knowing It? Only Parama Puruśa knows the science and the method to realize It, to know It; because It has created both human beings and the path that they must move along. So people can know the method by Its grace only. Hence it has been said in Ánanda Sútram,(2) Brahmaeva Gururekah náparah – that is, "Brahma alone is the Guru." Through Its physical structure, It teaches the actual science to the spiritual aspirants. People should clearly understand this.
There are many people who are prone to think that in the spiritual realm there is no need to acquire intellectual knowledge for God-realization; and in support of their thesis they mention the names of some great men. Now it is true that for God-realization, academic qualification may not be necessary at all: there is no differentiation between a learned person and a foolish one. But in order to be a guru, one must be a learned person. God-realization is not enough for a guru, they must possess other qualifications as well. So a person who is devoid of learning and scriptural knowledge and the capacity to teach others, and the twin capacities to punish and reward Its disciples, should never be accepted as a spiritual guru. A guru does not mean only a spiritual guru, he must be a guru for the intellectual and physical worlds also.
After the spiritual sphere comes the psychic sphere, which is cruder than the former. That is, the guru must be aware of the nature of the human mind – what it is made of, how it should be elevated step by step from crude to subtle, how all the unit minds can march together in unison towards the goal – in a word, he must know both the theoretical and the applied sides of psychology. He must know a thousand times more than is written in books. He must assimilate everything through Its own refined intellect. And then only can he teach others perfectly. That shows that he must be not only a spiritual guru, but also a guru in the psychic world. There is a sense of want in the human mind. One who can remove the sense of want is a guru. In order to qualify as a guru, one must have the power to remove psychic wants.
As in the spiritual sphere, so also in the psychic sphere, a guru must be learned. He should be well-versed in the humanities; in fact, in all branches of human knowledge. In order to be a spiritual guru, it will be sufficient that he have mastery over scriptural treatises; but to be a guru in the psychic sphere, he must be well-versed in all branches of human knowledge. A limited knowledge of a few scriptures will not do. And simultaneously, he must be conversant with the style in which the human mind functions, as also in the method to control and guide it properly.
Next comes the physical world. The followers, the disciples, of the guru, are men and women of flesh and blood having physical structures. They have their sorrows and miseries, their tears and smiles. This is their life. They have their problem of food and clothing; they have their pleasures and pains, their tears of pain and tears of joy; they become elated in happy circumstances and depressed when things go wrong. It is the duty of a guru to provide Its followers with the wherewithal for their progress. This is what an ideal guru is to do in the physical sphere. As a guru in the physical world, he will have to teach mankind such techniques as will solve their wordly problems – problems of food, clothing, education and medical treatment. A guru must see to it that their mundane problems are solved.
So in order to be a guru, one must come onto this earth with the highest qualifications in the spiritual field, and with the greatest capacity to face the mountainous obstacles in the physical world. To shoulder the responsibility of a guru is not child’s play.
(1) Literally, "minutest fraction of that", i.e., of a given rudimental factor of matter. The various types of tanmátras convey the senses of hearing, touch, form (vision), taste, and smell. –Eds.
(2) Shrii Shrii Ánandamúrti, Ánanda Sútram, 1962. –Eds.
15 March 1981 DMS, Ramrajatala
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