The Guru Is Spirit
Sri Swami Atmaswarupananda
Early Morning Meditation Talk given in the Sacred Samadhi Hall of Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh
During his sadhana days in Swarg Ashram, Gurudev carried his sadhana to extreme levels. Afterwards, when he came to this side, he wouldn’t allow his own disciples to do some of the things that he did; for example, standing in the Ganga for long hours doing japa. Indeed, he recommended a balanced and integral yoga. He also said to eat a little, sleep a little, meditate a little.
And yet at the end of his Twenty Important Spiritual Instructions, which he tells us will lead us to moksha, he warns us that we must not give leniency to our mind. And Pujya Swami Chidanandaji, who can be very lenient with others, never gives leniency to himself, which indicates to us that a certain extremism is required for our spiritual life.
The scriptures tell us that if we practice absolute truth for 12 years that we will realise God. But this is a practice of truth that can only be considered to be extreme. It not only means absolute truthfulness with others in our daily life, but ruthless truthfulness within. And above all, it ultimately means the practice of Truth itself, abiding in the Truth. In addition, they tell us that if we will practise any other virtue equally strictly that that will also lead us to realisation.
However, even if we can keep our energy and determination at such a high level, the path and the goal of the spiritual life are so subtle that it is very easy to deceive ourselves and stray from the path. This is why we need a guru. But what if a guru is not available to give us this very subtle and fine guidance? Then we need to practise a basic truth that scriptures and the gurus try to impress upon us.
The guru is not his body. The guru is the Universal Spirit. And that Universal Spirit is omnipresent. It is present within us and without us. That Universal Spirit is capable of leading us and fine tuning us, not just through one body, but through any body It chooses to use, through any insight It chooses to give us, through any spiritual experience It decides to grant us–through any spiritual practice, through any passage in the scripture, through any casual remark from a friend. And, indeed, this knowledge in itself and the practice of this knowledge is a sadhana: “Practice the presence of God, seeing God in all, and that in itself can lead to you liberation,” Swamiji has said.
So while our spiritual life should be balanced and integral, we must not give leniency to our mind. We require a certain extremism. But above all, we require the constant guidance of the Spirit. Lord Krishna says, “If you want to cross this samsara, you must take refuge in Me alone.” In other words, for our sadhana, we must be constantly seeking His guidance–knowing that it is always available if we have the humility to accept it through whatever channel it comes.