A follow-up to “Gurus: Yes or No?”
Q: Can I follow the right path without a spiritual leader to initiate me and guide me?
It is certainly necessary to have a guru, but everyone already has one: God Himself. Patanjali very clearly says about God (Ishwara): “He is guru even of the ancients” (Yoga Sutras 1:16). This indicates that at no time in creation has there been any other guru than God.
But how can we get in touch with this guru? Through meditation. And for that we certainly need teaching either from a personal teacher or from studying the teachings of an good instructor in meditation.
It is good to have someone to ask questions about experiences in meditation, but Vyasa and Shankara both say that yoga itself becomes the teacher when our practice is correct and prolonged. I know this to be true. My first meditation teachers in America were extremely limited, though sincere, and often could not answer my questions. But in time my meditation experience gave me the needed answers.
Later in India I met highly qualified teachers, all of whom answered my questions and gave me practical instruction–never with the demand that I make them my guru. They were rare for India, that is true, but they were there and I found them by the grace of the One Guru. Twice I fell into the guru-trap, but both times I escaped through the mercy of that One Guru, and had learned my lesson permanently.
You have already been initiated by God Himself. Here is the relevant section from chapter one of Soham Yoga: The Yoga of the Self:
God is the guru of all
Without any doubt it is greatly beneficial to have a personal teacher (acharya) who can instruct the aspirant in meditation practice and answer any questions that might arise. But the true guru of every one of us is God.
“The Lord dwells in the hearts of all beings” (Bhagavad Gita 18:61). Dwelling in the hearts of all, God empowers and guides the questing souls. Gorakhnath, the greatest of all yogis, asked his teacher, Matsyendranath: “Who is the Primal Guru [Adiguru]?” And Matsyendranath answered: “The Eternal Beginningless One [Anadi] is the Primal Guru” (Gorakh Bodha 21-22). He continued: “Realization of that Guru gives us immortality” (Gorakh Bodha 24).
Since God is eternal, it is from him that all knowledge has come, especially the revelation of spiritual truth. And as we have just seen, that Guru’s first utterance was “Soham” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.1). As Vyasa observes: “His purpose is to give grace to living beings, by teaching knowledge and dharma [righteousness].” “There is no other but God to give the teaching which is a boat by which they can cross over the sea of samsara, and he teaches knowledge and dharma to those who take sole refuge in him.… For all the kinds of knowledge arise from him, as sparks of fire from a blaze or drops of water from the sea,” says Shankara. This does not mean that qualified spiritual teachers are not helpful to us, but dwelling in the hearts of all God continues to be the Guru of questing souls. All others are really only teachers (acharyas), valuable though they may be.
Yogiraj Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahashaya wrote to a student regarding the guru: “No one does anything; all is done by God. The individual [that seems to be the guru] is only an excuse; remain abidingly focused on that Divine Guru; in this is blessing.”
Swami Yatiswarananda, Vice-president of the Ramakrishna Mission, wrote to one of his students: “We bring the message of the guru of gurus.… please turn to him for light and guidance, for peace and blessedness.… The Lord, the guru of gurus, alone can give us the shelter, the illumination and the bliss we need.”
Sri Ramakrishna himself said: “Satchidananda [Existence-Consciousness-Bliss] alone is the Guru; he alone will teach” (1.2.8; also: 4.2.1, 5.1.2, 5.5.1). “There is no other Guru except Satchidananda. There is no other refuge but him. He alone is the ferryman who takes one across the ocean of relative existence” (1.12.8). “The more you will advance, the more you will see that it is he who has become everything and it is he who is doing everything. He alone is the Guru and he alone is the spiritual ideal [ishta devata] of your choice. He alone is giving jnana, bhakti and everything” (4.26.2). “Do you pray to Satchidananda Guru every morning? Do you?” (4.9.2).
These citations are taken from the Majumdar translation of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. From Nikhilananda’s translation: “‘I am a guru…’–that [thought] is ignorance” (p. 307.). “A man cannot be a guru” (p. 616). “If somebody addresses me as guru, I say to him: ‘Go away, you fool! How can I be a teacher?’” (p. 633). He was also fond of a devotional song addressed to God, which said: “Thou art my ever-gracious Guru” (p. 207).
God is the guru of humanity because he has implanted in us the Soham mantra. In the depths of our being, God is perpetually stimulating–actually teaching–Soham as the agent of the spirit’s evolution and perfection. In this way God is the guru of each one of us. The aspiring yogi can then feel safe and assured, for God will be his guru, just as he has been for all the enlightened throughout the ages. “He is guru even of the ancients,” affirmed Patanjali (Yoga Sutras 1:26). In the sixth edition of Paramhansa Yogananda’s Whispers From Eternity, on page 263 there is this declaration-vow to God: “Thou art my Guru-Preceptor; I am Thy disciple.”
Grow your spiritual library
- Yoga: Science of the Absolute – A Commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras