Bhakti Yoga Meditation
Home: Who is the Guru

Who is the Guru or
Spiritual Master?

What is the role of a Guru or enlightened Spiritual Guide? This is one of the most important questions on our spiritual journey.

The Hindu scriptures describe that there are are only three eternal existences, yet the role of the Spiritual Guide is so great he is described as a fourth existence.

By far and away, the simplest definition of the
true Saint is the one who knows God. Knowing has
two meanings. One meaning is theoretical spiritual knowledge and the other is practical experience of God. The one who has both of these is the true knower of God and a true Saint.

The Vedas use two terms to describe this:

  • Shrotriya -- complete scriptural knowledge
  • Brahmnishtha-- practical divine knowledge (God-realization)

Because of his scriptural understanding, the Saint is able to teach us the philosophy of what is God, what is the soul, what is maya, what is the mind, what is the intellect, what is detachment, what is attachment, what is devotion and what is our Divine goal.

When we have problems with our spiritual practice, on the base of his understanding, the true spiritual guide resolves these issues for us. Following these valuable instructions settles our doubts and improves our spiritual practice.

But the main qualification of a true Saint is his practical experience of the Divine.

In fact, the word "Guru" means the one who dispels the darkness of material ignorance ('gu'), and the one who introduces the light of God's love in a disciple's heart ('ru').

If you ask a person, "Can you give me a million dollars?" He might say, "Sure, no problem." Although he may be a brilliant economist, in reality, he only has two dollars in his pocket. No matter how much he reassures you of his wealth, the most he can give is two dollars. How could he give you more? Likewise, if you want God's divine bliss, it will come from the one who has already has it in his possession.

Here are some guidelines for recognizing a true Saint who has this inner Divine quality. It is a fact that uncountable souls have received this kind of divine association, evolved spiritually, and attained their ultimate aim of true happiness. The association of a such a divine guide is an essential part of our spiritual journey.

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The Most Rare Accomplishments

Jagadguru Shankaracharya said there are three things that are extremely difficult to attain:

  1. A human birth
  2. A desire for God
  3. The association of a true Saint

A soul very rarely receives a human birth, and that too, is due to God's grace. Of those who have received a human birth, even more rare are those who are true seekers of God's love. But just possessing these two is not enough to succeed spiritually unless you also have the association of a true Saint. If all three occur in the same birth, that soul's spiritual success is virtually guaranteed. To this end, the Saint gives many opportunities for his association.

After recognizing a Saint, how do you start receiving his teachings?
Is it necessary to be initiated?

The Multi-Faceted Nature of the Guru

The Vedic scriptures describe four different philosophies about the Guru and all of them are simultaneously correct. They are:

  • The Guru and God are equal. The Vedas tell us that one who gains the knowledge of God becomes like God. Neither is superior to the other. The Saint attains all the powers possessed by God, and as such, both are equal.

    Suppose you have a hundred dollar note and another person has ten $10 notes. Who has more money? You would say that both have the same amount. Similarly, the words "devotion", "devotee", "God" and "Guru" are synonymous terms.
  • God is greater than the Guru. The Bhagavad Gita states that no one is greater than or equal to God. This is not difficult to understand. God is Supreme, and every soul, whether liberated from maya or bound by maya, is a subordinate power of God. In other words, an individual soul becomes a Saint because of God. As such, how can he be greater than God?

    God was, is and forever will be the supreme divine power. Even after divine realization, a Saint may become equal to God with respect to divine powers, but a Saint doesn't become God. In fact, one power a Saint never possesses is the power to create. This alone resides with God.
  • The Guru is greater than God. A soul in maya can't see, understand or know the truth of what is God. God is not only omnipresent but also dwelling in the the heart of every living being. In spite of this, every soul has been facing towards the world and away from God since eternity. A person is bound by all kinds of ties of attachment in the world. Even if he cuts one of these ties, he remains bound by countless others.

    So from the point of view of our spiritual self-interest, the Saint has a greater place than God because he awakens us from our material infatuation and inspires our devotional potential, explains the philosophy and path to God, protects and graces the soul on the way, and in the end, removes his veil of maya and graces him with divine enlightenment. For this reason, the Vedas says there is no divine power equal to the true Saint. He is the greatest.

    Goswami Tulsidas reiterates this idea in the Ramayan, and in the Bhagwatam, God Himself says, That is how great the Saint's position is!
  • Guru and God are one. Saying that God is greater than the Saint, or that the Saint is greater than God, or that both are equal, implies there are two different personalities.

    Ultimately the scriptures reconcile these ideas with the understanding that God and Guru are one. The Guru is God's grace giving power on this earth. Divine grace joins a soul with God. Because of this, the Vedas say that whatever devotion and surrender you have towards God, you should have exactly the same surrender and devotion towards the Guru that is guiding you on the path to God. It can be understood that God Himself appears on this earth in the form of a Saint to grace the souls with spiritual happiness.
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