The Spiritual Guide
SRI SWAMI SIVANANDA
No one can deny the need for guidance in order to achieve proficiency in any aspect of life. From a rudimentary state one progresses to a state of unique achievement. A child begins with addition and multiplication and, later on, becomes a brilliant mathematician. He is able to do so only with the help of a succession of teachers.
Self-effort, of course, does play a dominant role. There is also the question of the presence of the seeds of an innate genius, in need of unfoldment and fruition. Yet, it is within the scope of everyone to attain the highest state in any field, if not today, then tomorrow, if not in this birth, then in the next.
If you want to climb a hill, you have to plod on yourself, but you also need the help of someone who knows the path, and who can lead you to the summit through the safest route. Similar is the role of the guru, the spiritual guide.
Life abounds with numerous teachers. Every object, every occurrence, everything has a lesson to teach. But there is also the basic need for a personal guide, with whom one could forge a sense of belonging, repose absolute trust and confidence, and hold him in high veneration, so as to prepare oneself psychologically to reap maximum benefit from his spiritual guidance.
Expansion is the sign of life. In nature there is nothing static. Everything in this universe is set on a pattern that conditions the evolutionary process, until a cycle of creation is completed and returns to the creator. Human life is a means through which numerous souls in bondage can find release, and return to their original source the supreme reality.
The life-principle in the mineral matter passes on to the life-form in the various strata of vegetation, mosses, plants and trees their life-form again evolving into and passing through the animal kingdom, until they are embodied as human beings. The law of Karma or action and reaction sets in as soon as the soul finds a human form, for it is only man who is endowed with the faculty of reasoning between right action and wrong action, and, therefore, is held responsible for his fate.
Then onward the momentum of man’s individual evolutionary process is in his hands. By leading a good life he can attain a better life, and by leading a bad life he brings upon himself a life of suffering. Since nobody wants to suffer, suffering being contrary to the inherent nature of the soul, man always wants to move forward, consciously or unconsciously, from a state of inadequacy and affliction to a state of fulfilment and eternal bliss.
Experience in life shows that material objects cannot give one a sense of adequacy and fulfilment. Hence spiritual quest is not something which is unnatural to life. The urge for it must generate within everyone, if not today, then tomorrow, if not in this life, then in the next.
It is the spiritual guide who quickens the evolutionary process of man. He opens up before the seeker the avenues through which the realisation of the divine can be attained. The guru guides the aspirant, not only on the path of Sadhana, but in shaping the pattern of his material life as well.
The relationship between the guru and the disciple is extremely sacred. On one side there are deep understanding, protective care and keen interest for the other’s betterment, and on the other side, sincerity of purpose, trust, obedience and assiduous application.
There is something predestined in forging a true relationship between the guru and the disciple. When there is an ardent longing for self-realisation, the grace of God automatically leads the disciple to the feet of the right guru. As in the case of every other relationship, there is also mutuality in this.
The response of the guru cannot but be commensurate to the devotion and sincerity of the disciple.
It is, indeed, very rare to find a guru of the highest realisation. Even if one is not able to benefit from the direct guidance of such a guru, one should practise the teachings he has given to humanity, while selecting a course of Sadhana in the light of one’s personal experience. Anyone, who has a greater degree of experience in the spiritual path, can be of help to the neophyte.
The foundational principles of spiritual life are common. In most of the scriptures they are uncontradictory. The ethical base is of primary importance. Be sincere, truthful, practical and resourceful. The weak and the lazy have no place in the spiritual path. You must build up the strength of character in order to achieve anything in life. Deserve before you desire. Do something practical, substantial. The guru’s help will automatically come.
May the grace of God, the supreme guru, be upon you all.