Reflections on Guru (with words of Swami Rama)

Reflections on Guru (with words of Swami Rama)

“The energy and action of removing darkness are guru. Guru is not a person, it is a force driven by grace.

To put this another way, there is an intelligent momentum that pervades the universe that is moving all human beings toward the perfection we call God. Guru is that intelligence.

Everyone’s receptivity to that intelligence varies. It depends on preparation. In other words, guru is always there, but the student may not be ready to receive what the guru has to offer. When the student is prepared, the guru always arrives to help the student do what is necessary to progress in removing the veil of ignorance.

Guru is not a person, but guru can be represented in a person. One who has developed his or her own spiritual awareness to a very high level can guide others, and is considered to be a guru. Only one who is finely attuned to the inner guide can inspire the awakening of the inner guide in another. Guru is not a physical being. If a guru begins thinking this power is her or his power, then they are no longer a guide. The guru is a tradition, a stream of knowledge. 

Only one who is well established in the stage of nirvikalpa samadhi is an illumined yogi, and only such a yogi can truly guide other aspirants. Such a yogi is beyond the bondage of space, time and causation, and he is ever free, for it is possible for him to remain dissolved in Brahman and yet return to normal consciousness. 

The relationship of guru to disciple is indescribable. The relationship extends to the realm beyond the world, transcends death, and stretches far beyond the limited karmic bonds associated with family and friends. A mother and father help sustain the body of their child, and nurture and guide the child through formative years of life to adulthood. Guru sustains, nurtures, and guides a soul through lifetimes to ultimate liberation.

The guru wants nothing from the disciple. Guru is that force moving a soul toward enlightenment. The guru’s actions are from pure compassion. As the sun shines and lives far above, the guru gives spiritual love and remains unattached.

Guru is not the goal. Anyone who establishes himself as a guru to be worshipped is not a guru. Guru is like a boat for crossing the river. It is important to have a good boat and it is very dangerous to have a boat that is leaking. The boat brings you across the river. When the river is crossed the boat is no longer necessary. You don’t hang onto the boat after completing the journey, and you certainly don’t worship the boat.

Many times students come to the guru with a preconceived ideas and expectations of what the guru should be like, how he should behave, and what he should do for them. When these expectations and preconceived images are not met, the student becomes upset and may even leave the guru. This is not the proper way to approach a teacher. A student should not be filled with expectations and preconceived images, but with a burning desire to learn, and with firm determination. Then there will be no difficulty. The guru and the disciple can then do their work accordingly. The spiritual seeker should not worry about who the guru is, or what the guru will do. The seeker’s first concern is getting prepared, organizing his or her life and thoughts in a spiritually healthy way, and then working toward a way of life that simplifies and purifies. At the right time the master will be there.

The guru also teaches without words or actions. As the disciple learns to surrender and move the ego out of the way, and grows more selfless, the ability to learn intuitively from the guru grows. The student learns in the cave of silence. It is like tuning into the guru’s frequency or plugging into that stream of knowledge. The guru is always working from there. The disciple’s role is to gradually learn to also work from that place. 

Gurus impart the best of their knowledge in silence. When you are in silence, they communicate with you through silence, and in silence. For the student whose mind is in tune, that teaching is the finest of teachings. This silent communication can happen no matter where you are physically, whether you are 10,000 miles away or very close. 


The karmic bonds we share with those in our lives are generally based on past tendencies that pull us into physical situations and interactions to burn what’s falsely held within the body-mind. Refining/evolution through the gate of ‘pleasure and pain’ or more generally, ‘suffering’.

A guru is one who opens the gate of ‘wisdom’. The relationship (if it can be called that) with a guru is unlike any other, not being based on karmic bonds. Rather it is an arrangement by universal forces working for the whole. 

As satsang teachers become as ubiquitous as yoga teachers, perhaps the need to understand what a guru really is will become more important to help seekers navigate the spiritual path and also to preserve the sacred meaning of this word. Traditionally in India, there was the understanding that of those who had had the realisation of the Truth, there were differing levels of depth, subtlety of understandings and karmas of the body/mind that meant that some could be swamis, some sages, some saints and some rare ones, ‘gurus’ (of course the understanding could be shared in countless less obvious roles too). [see Sadhguru’s video on How a Guru is Different from Saints & Sages]

The relationship with the guru is one of aligning with the strains that flow from universal nature. Being with a guru means hearing beyond the words, seeing beyond what the eyes see. Very subtle workings guide if one is attentive to one’s own intuition.

It is also said that when you are with a spiritual teacher, the sadhana he/she has previously done and the path they have followed, is accessible in the energy around them and can be picked up by those in his presence, aiding their spiritual growth. What we often term as ‘resonance’ is informed by such subtleties. The pulling together strains into integration is the subtle work being done by the unseen hand. It is the Dharma working, the integrating force. The guru becomes your Dharma (as Sadhguru says of the gopis for whom Krishna became their Dharma by becoming their breath, their actions, their very life).

These contemplations arose on this day of Hanuman Jayanti and I was also reflecting on how in the Ramayana, Hanuman is representative of the ‘guru’, the intelligence and power guiding towards liberation. He is the one who first comes to whisper in Sita’s ear that he is a devotee of Rama (the Supreme consciousness) and will deliver her (representing the mind or ‘jiva’) to Him. His immense (spiritual) power is what makes this union/absorption possible.

Jai Guru

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