Gurus - From Guru to God
by Life Positive
Bringing the Guru to LifeThere was a picture of Swami Vivekananda hanging on the wall facing my chair in my room. From that day, Swami Vivekananda became my Guruji, says Dr Chandrashekhara Udupa.
Between him and meHe felt oneness with the whole creation that pulsated as love and service to all around him, says Swami Tejomayananda, spiritual head, Chinmaya Mission worldwide, of his Guru, Swami Chinmayananda
Guru of the Little WaySadhu Vaswani taught by precept and example that life was larger than livelihood. He urged that character, not money, should rule the world; and character must grow out of courage, says Dada J P
Dancing on the FireUpon hearing his name, I knew Swami Rama was my Guru, says scholar renowned meditation teacher, Swami Veda Bharati
Next to God, the Guru is the most difficult entity to describe or contain. How does the unenlightened, limited consciousness evaluate and categorize an enlightened consciousness? The task is
Dr A Chandrashekhara Udupa, the founder of Divine Park, a non-sectarian spiritual organisation based in Saligrama, near Udipi, chose Swami Vivekananda as his Guru while a young medical student. Today, the Swami speaks through him, and has inspired this practising medico to continue his Man-building mission.
As a medical student living away from home, in Mysore, I did not receive the money order from home one week. Penniless, I dragged on for a day drinking water only.
There was to be a lecture by Swami Jagadatmanandaji, a monk of Sri Ramakrishna Mission, at the Shivananda Jnanalaya in Mysore that day, on the life and message of Swami Vivekananda. My hunger for that message overcame my hunger for food.
Swami Jagadatmanandaji delineated the greatness of Swami Vivekananda. “So limitless is Swami Vivekananda’s love for mankind that, though he has passed away, his spirit lingers in the air that we breathe, and toils day and night for the weal and welfare of mankind. Those who offer intense prayer to him will certainly receive his guidance and help.” That was the moment when a ray of hope gleamed in me, and I felt as if somebody had knocked at the very door of my heart. I resolved to go on a rigorous course of sadhana, taking Swami Vivekananda as my supreme master.
There was a picture of Swami Vivekananda hanging on the wall facing my chair in my room. From that day, Swami Vivekananda became my Guruji.
“My mother can’t feed me here when I am hungry, I have no money to buy the things needed to cook my food. Save me from the anguish of hunger.” I offered prostrations again and again to confirm my total surrender to him. The skin on my forehead was bruised, and my knees started bleeding. When I woke up, I didn’t feel tired or weak, though I had strained myself. That was my first experience of Guruji’s grace.
My passion for Guruji became vehement. If, for my classmates, there were friends to chat with, to accompany them on a stroll in the park, for me, Guruji became everything: my friend, guide and philosopher.
The mere fact that my Guruji was not deaf and inert, fostered and fortified my rapport with him. I started to spend more time speaking to him, playing with him, and sometimes quarrelling with him for fun.
I increased the number of my prostrations to crush and clear the blocks of karma within myself. “Forgive me for the misdeeds of all my past lives. Show me the noble path, and guide me, and lead me on. I am your humblest servant, dasanudasa, shower on me your mercy, and never forsake me!” I felt that each prostration drew out a little of the stock of my accumulated karma to be offered at the feet of Guruji.
The days of my starvation were the days of my inner awakening and rejuvenation. During those days, the bond between Guruji and me became irretrievably strong. After 11 days, I got money from home. Five letters posted from home on different dates reached me on the same day, when the backlog after some disorder in the postal service, was cleared. I resumed my cooking and eating at last. But by this time, I had accepted Swami Vivekananda as my
succour and support. He had become my wealth and fortune. I had named my room as ‘Viveka Sampada’, and I wrote it legibly on the door of my room.
As days passed, an intense desire grew in me to see my Guruji, who, I was sure, looked after me at every moment of my life.
The Guru’s vision
When all the others, after drinking and feasting to their heart’s content, were dancing in joy to receive the New Year, I was walking to and fro outside my room, yearning for the sight of Guruji, pining for his vision, longing for his words. When my eyes started drooping, I came into the room and sat down. All at once, there was a flash of light, and I had the vision of the resplendent face of Swami Vivekananda. “Do you really have the vairagya?” he asked, and vanished. I opened my eyes. It was five minutes after midnight. I still felt the brightness on the edge of my eyes, smelt the strange perfume in my nostrils, heard the ruffle of the saffron cloth in my ears, but I couldn’t see him anymore. He had already disappeared.
I wished I could run to my mother, and narrate to her my experience of having seen Guruji. But the next moment, my enthusiasm was subdued. I wondered whether my Guruji did not really know my mind, or whether he thought my vairagya (renunciation) was not genuine.
Anyhow, till he came back to me and pacified me with soothing words and assurance, I swore not to touch any food. I didn’t go to sleep thereafter. I spent the rest of the night and the following morning, in meditation and prayer, offering humble prostrations to his feet.
I laid my head on the pillow and craved for my Guruji. I asked him again and again, “Is my vairagya false? If you were to dissect my body, and get a cross-section, you would know that every tissue of mine is yearning for you, craving for your vision.”
I didn’t know when I went to sleep. But all at once, an awakening arose. There seemed the flash of a dozen strokes of lightning on the horizon of my mind. My heart beat fiercely as my breathing became swifter and swifter. A strange thrill caught my spirit. As I opened my eyes, I saw my Guruji peeping into my mosquito net. His hands, always held in a clasp of the arms, now lifted me up. My whole body underwent a divine shock. I wanted to open my mouth and say, “I have in me real vairagya, I need you and you only”, but before I could utter anything, he spoke. “Walk on fire, fly in air, I am here, why do you fear?” A sense of fulfilment gripped me.
I never disobeyed God after my intellectual maturity. I would do Sri Guruji’s bidding unquestioningly, and then ask Him if my behaviour met with his approval. He would commend my behaviour, pat me on my back, and ask me to keep it up. I know very well that it was only through His good offices that I could earn God’s grace. Even now, I offer Him grateful salutations for the favours He has conferred on me.
My days as a medical student were spent as a severe penance. Sri Guruji had clearly stated that studying was of supreme importance, and that study time should not be wasted on sadhana at that juncture. One day, I felt extremely depressed, and I decided to do prostrations till 9 pm. During the four hours that followed, I did as many as 1948 prostrations. Even though Guruji advised me against it, I plunged into sadhana with undeterred enthusiasm. When the prostrations were about to hit the 2000 mark, Guruji’s magnificent form appeared before me, held me in a tight embrace, and told me to stop. “Of course, your efforts will be rewarded with special grace,” he said. That night, He appeared before me, and disclosed that He had been carried off His feet by my enthusiasm and the intensity of my sadhana. “Look here, my child, as a special reward, I will stand revealed before you in various forms,” He said. In all, He showed me 142 forms, to my great delight. When I feasted my eyes on those enchanting forms, realisation dawned on me that God tests us every moment.
The chemistry between a Guru and his shishya will ever remain a mystery. How can one say what clicks or ticks between them? On one hand, even insignificant gestures, such as a smile, a pat on the back, a good-humoured dig…all add up to the warmth of this relationship. On the other hand, it is too deeply divine to be fathomed.
When I listened to Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayanandaji for the first time in 1969, I was awestruck by his dynamism and conviction. This led me to Sandeepany Sadhanalaya in Powai, Mumbai, in the year 1970.
The Vedanta course was yet to begin. Sometime after my arrival, I was appointed as his personal sevak. That night I slept just outside his kutia (bedroom). The next morning at 4 am sharp, his power-packed chanting of OM reverberated throughout the kutia like a thunderbolt! It startled me out of my sleep. Believe me, since then I have not needed an alarm clock, even during my travel in different time-zones!
Then I accompanied him to Uttarkashi. He was teaching us Adi Shankaracharya’s Vivek Chudamani bang on the bank of the Ganges. One day, he asked me a question on this text. The tone of my reply was feeble. He told me that I should roar so loudly that people on the other side of the river should have no problem in hearing me. Little did I realise then that this training would stand me in good stead, especially during electrical power failure in the middle of discourses!
He worked on me like a true master, letting my personality unfold with natural ease. It was in Uttarkashi again, that he asked me to keep an account of expenses. Now, totalling, tallying, counting, etc. was not my cup of tea. I told myself, “There is no point in saying that I like doing this, and I don’t like doing that; let me just do it”! So, that night I did all the calculations. When Gurudev saw the ledger books up-to-date the next morning, he was very happy. Today, this knowledge of accounts helps me greatly while looking into the financial aspects of administration. That was the special charm of his leadership. He worked tirelessly, and inspired others to give their best.
By and by, I got many insights into Gurudev’s attitude that has really moulded me. For instance, Gurudev’s lifestyle gave one an impression that he was a jet-setter swami living out of suitcases, and zipping around in swanky cars (when not globe-trotting). There are several occasions, though, when he has given to me subtle and silent lessons on simplicity and austerity.
One winter, he was camping in an ordinary house in Rajasthan. The house was sparsely furnished with threadbare curtains and carpets. A rich mill-owner who was bowled over by Gurudev’s oratorical prowess, offered Gurudev his hospitality. “It pains me to see you staying here in such inconvenience; please do shift to my home! I will be most honoured to host you”. Gurudev’s reply stunned all present as he said, “Once I spread my asana, I will not roll it back until my yagna is over”. Such was his reverence towards the work he had undertaken that it naturally rubbed off on me too.
Love and service
One hot summer noon, we were at the Allahabad railway station waiting for the train. It was running late, and the sweltering heat was acutely oppressive. Gurudev was sweating profusely, but would not allow anyone to fan him. I was amazed at his equanimity.
Another aspect of his that struck me was his immaculate punctuality, be it for a class, an appointment, or a general satsang. I must mention here that although he came across as an unflinching disciplinarian and a perfectionist who was particular about minor matters like opening or folding of envelopes, many were the times when people felt his molten love and moving compassion. Countless erring souls would shamefacedly beg for forgiveness, and he would soothe us, saying, “Where is the other for me to forgive?”
Such identification and empathy spontaneously flowed from him. He felt oneness with the whole creation that pulsated as love and service to all around him. Indeed, his every breath was a teaching! It is hard to discern what punya I had done to watch him intimately, and rejoice at his every word, look, laughter, his affectionate glances, and his passionate grit.
People ask me how it feels to be ‘in his shoes’. I say, “I am not in his shoes, I am ‘at his feet’. I have also been asked whether I have ever met a mahatma (a realised soul) as described in the Bhagavad Gita. Without batting an eyelid, I respond, “Yes, I have! I have seen, served, learnt and lived with such a mahatma. He is none other than our beloved Gurudev. He lived like a mirror – reflecting everything, rejecting nothing, yet retaining nothing”. Do I miss him? I feel his presence even in his pictures.
None can repay a spiritual master. The ‘vanara-s’ of Ramayana could not repay Lord Rama, but they all made Him indebted to them with their seva. I cannot repay or replace Gurudev, ever. The prayer of my life is my seva to him. The poetry of my life is the moments spent with him. He is ‘Dariya-Dil’… an ocean in which waves like me exist just to kick alive, play about on the surface, and merge back into him. Shri Chinmaya sadgurave namah.
No words can adequately describe the glory and greatness of the Guru. Infinitely greater is he than words may tell. His effulgence, his radiance, his holiness, his transcendence, cannot be chained in words. Indeed, there is no difference between God and the Guru. Because God chose to be invisible, He created Gurus.
In him, we beheld the beauty and blessedness of the life that is lived in the Eternal God. He lived a hidden life in the hidden God. Like water, he sought lowly places. He found the secret of peace in surrendering his will to the Will Divine. He walked the way of self-annihilation.
Though many of us regarded him as our Guru, Sadhu Vaswani never wished to be called a Guru. “I am not a Guru,” he said; “I am a disciple of all!” He was a man of spiritual magnetism. He carried with himself a tremendous power of the Spirit. Around him was an atmosphere of light – a mark of the servants of God and humanity. People looked at him, people heard him. And they exclaimed, “What manliness, what strength, what an impressive personality!” Everyone around him looked so insignificant in comparison. And yet he gave himself no special airs. He was one of the humblest of men that ever trod the earth. And he was an ocean of love. Love flowed out of him in an endless, ceaseless stream. His eyes were radiant with love. His words were vibrant with love. The very tips of his fingers thrilled with love. “What is your religion?” he was asked. And he said, “I know of no religion higher than the religion of unity and love, of service and sacrifice.”
One day, he was in a village. The village folk looked at him, and wondered who he was. “Are you a Hindu or a Muslim?” they asked him. “I know not who I am,” was his answer. “Do you believe in the mosque or in the temple?” they asked him. And he said, “I know not. I only know that I and my brother are one. I also know that salvation does not abide at Mecca or in Mathura, and that there are heavy fetters on your feet, if there is not love in your heart.”
Sadhu Vaswani was born on November 25, 1879, in Hyderabad-Sind, a land that has given birth to many dervishes (contemplatives) and fakirs (men of renunciation). After passing the M.A. examination, he was appointed as professor at Vidyasagar College, Calcutta.
He was 30 years of age when he went to Berlin as one of India’s representatives to the Welt Congress, the World Congress of Religions. His speech there, and his subsequent lectures in different parts of Europe, aroused deep interest in Indian thought and religion, and linked many with him in India’s mission of help and healing.
He became Principal of Dyal Sing College, Lahore. Later, he was invited by the Maharaja to become the Principal of the Mahendra College, Patiala. There was a brilliant career open to him, but he was still young – barely 40 – when he renounced everything, to be, in his own words, “a humble servant of India and the rishis.”
“Why do you give up your lucrative job?” they said to him; “you are still young. You have a bright future before you; you can make money, heaps of money.”
“Life is not given to make money,” he replied. And they asked him, “What is the purpose of life?”
He replied, “To dedicate it to Love Divine – to serve, and be poured out as a sacrifice!”
Sadhu Vaswani was not a teacher of the ascetic way. To fulfil the purpose of life, Sadhu Vaswani taught, man need not run away from the world to the solitude of a mountain cave or a forest grove. He must live in the world, and fulfil his duties and obligations.
Sadhu Vaswani’s ideal was to be in the world, but not of the world. He repeatedly asked us never to forget that we were here as pilgrims, that our stay on this Isle of Enchantment – the earth – was for a brief while, and that we must retrace our steps back to our homeland, which, alas, we had forgotten in the shouts and shows of an ‘empirical existence’.
Sadhu Vaswani taught by precept and example that life was larger than livelihood. He urged that character, not money, should rule the world; and character must grow out of courage. He was careful to point out that courage must be distinguished from the will-to-power, which made men and nations aggressive and selfish.
He was a born orator. He addressed large crowds of men and women. They heard him, they marvelled at his words. He awakened new aspirations in the hearts of those that listened to him. When he spoke, he filled the hall with the rich music of his words, and the richer music of his heart.
He was a prolific writer – in English, and in the sweet, lyrical Sindhi language. In his writings, an unknown world unfolds itself before us: new dimensions fill us with unbounded wonder.
In him, intellect was blended with eloquence, and both were penetrated, through and through, with a spiritual fire. He preached the great truth of salvation through communion with the common man. Dear to him, as children of the One Eternal Life, were the “disinherited” and the “downtrodden”. And in his heart was reverence and love for all the spiritual leaders of humanity, for all seers and sages and saints, for Krishna and Jesus, Buddha and Chaitanya, Muhammad and Ramakrishna, Tuka and Gnaneshwara, Zoroaster and Lao Tse, Socrates and Plato, al-Ghazali and Rumi, Nanak and Kabir.
Sadhu Vaswani was a disciple of the Flute, and a worshipper of the Cross. He had experienced the rapture of the vision of the unity of all races and all religions in the One Spirit. “There are,” he said, “so many who can believe only one thing at a time. I am so made as to rejoice in the many, and behold the beauty of the One in the many. Hence, my natural affinity to many religions: in them all, I see revelations of the One Spirit. And deep in my heart is the conviction that I am a servant of all prophets.”
Sadhu Vaswani thought of himself as a pilgrim on the Path of Love.
One day, I asked him: “What is the way of love?” He said: “The way of love is the little way.”
“What is it to tread the little way?” And he answered, “To tread the little way is to be humble as dust: for the heart must be emptied before it can receive the treasures of the Spirit.”
The emphasis in his life was on being little. “In my hermit-heart,” he said, “there sings a little song – ‘May I be as Thy little ones – the rose, the leaf, the lisping child!”
People spoke of him reverentially as a sadhu. But he said, I am not a sadhu, but a servant of the sadhus, the rishis and the saints.
To an age which worships at the altar of “greatness”, Sadhu Vaswani, in his quiet way, showed what it was to be a “little one”, to live a hidden life in the Hidden Lord. Sadhu Vaswani kept away from the shouts and tumults of men, and in his silent corner, bore witness to the deeper values of life.
“What is the deepest aspiration of your heart?” the Guru asked me once.
And I answered, “To be enlightened. Master, grant me this only gift – the gift of enlightenment.”
He said, “To be enlightened, you must be nothing, nobody.” He paused for a while and added: “If you become nothing, who is there to be enlightened? This is true enlightenment. The wave merges with the sea: the wave becomes the sea!”
I heard of my Guru first in the 1950 Kumbh Mela at Haridwar where I was then preaching in a small ashram. A satsang of spiritual sadhakas had been called. I had the ambition to find the greatest Himalayan Guru that could be. So I inquired among the sadhakas: Who is the greatest name among the Himalayan yogis? I was repeatedly told that it was Swami Rama.
The name just stuck in my heart and mind. I knew from that moment that I had to find Swami Rama.
I left India in 1952. I travelled through many countries, preaching and establishing organisations. Somewhere in the journey, I got married and had children. Eventually, I began teaching at the University of Minnesota in USA.
All these years, no desire ever occurred to see another swami or yogi or Guru. All I knew was that some day, I must find Swami Rama. (Do read his Living with the Himalayan Masters – I call that book his business card!)
And, he came to my city, Minneapolis! On Diwali day, 1969, I called his hotel, and set up an appointment to see him with my family. The same evening, he identified himself as the very Swami Rama I had been looking for; that very same evening he talked of his Rishikesh ashram, and told me, “I will pass that ashram to you”. In other words, he knew me.
A year earlier, I had travelled through many temples in South India searching for an expert who would initiate me in sri-vidya, but I was disappointed. That evening, as I followed him out of his room, he turned to me, and said: I will teach you sri-vidya! He knew me.
For a few weeks, I kept insisting that he visit our home.
“Yes, I will,” he would say.
“I will let you know” – was the standard reply. Then one day the reply changed: “I will come on a Guru-var. Thursday”.
“Swamiji, which Thursday?”
“I will let you know!”
Finally I called on a Wednesday: “Swamiji, it is Thursday tomorrow; would you come?”
“Yes, I will come.”
“What time shall I pick you up?”
“I will let you know!”
Surrender to the Guru
In the initial stages of the relationship, the disciple is always critical of the one who would be his Guru. I was very critical about his uncertainty with time. I would say in my mind: someone should train these Rishikesh swamis before they start off for the western lands; here we are busy people, and have to manage time with such care!
That same critical thought came to mind at his most recent ‘I will let you know’! But a deeper self picked up the phone, called the South Asian Studies Department, and told the secretary to cancel my classes for the next day, and that, my apologies, I would not be able to join the department meeting also.
As soon as I put the phone down, without one second passing, the phone rang. “Pick me up at 8.30 tomorrow morning.”
I learnt my first lesson: first cancel something from your life, give something to the Guru, however insignificant, before pressing him/her to do this or that or something else for you. If you have surrendered, you don’t need to ask for more; the Guru will ring you on his own.
A few months passed. The Guru’s shakti became manifest in the freely conferred grace, kripa, in the yoga-diksha (it is not a ritual) into the surya-vijnana branch, whereby one did not know oneself to be the body for three days and nights; one was only a being of streams and streaks of lights like rays of ten thousand suns.
A few words more
His own Gurudeva, my grandmaster who lived in the Machhu Puchhare mountains of Nepal, left his body in 1981, at the age of 160. A year later, one night I asked my master in his Nepal ashram: “You used to say that you are always with your Guru; now that he has left his body, are you still with him?”
“Yes, even more so, as the barrier of the body is gone.”
Many times seekers ask: How would I know whether I have indeed met my Guru?
The simple answer is: If you have doubt, you have not yet met him/her. Your inner self will tell you.
Upon hearing his name, I knew Swami Rama was my Guru; I knew it in 1950, 19 years before meeting him physically. And he practically came to my doorsteps, all the way a few degrees south of the Arctic!
It is not just the disciple who is searching for the Guru. One who has knowledge is charged by the parampara, the Lineage, to pass it on down the generations. One is helplessly bound to that vow. Thus the Guru is constantly scanning the world for a suitable vessel into whom to pour his/her non-verbal experiential knowledge. Quite often, the disciple thinks: his/her search has been rewarded as he/she finds a Guru. But the Guru says: it is I who have called you.
A few months after meeting my Guru, one day I was escorting him at Minneapolis (USA) airport. I said: “Maharaj-ji, sometimes I feel such love rising in me towards you.” He answered: “What you feel is my love reflecting in the mirror of your heart.”
I now find the same conversation often repeated between this self and the students. It is my love to which they are responding, but do not always recognise it to be so.
But, ah, what a dance he has led me even after dropping his body in 1996... How he has at times so painfully burnt my impurities, and doesn’t still stop...
Are you willing to burn?
Are you willing to dance on the fire?
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