GURU RUPA - Guru is the means
Spiritual teaching is powerless without the appropriate elements of delivery or transmission in place. The guru, or spiritual teacher, the sangha, or community of like-minded beings, together with the dharma, the teaching are all necessary. Not only are they all necessary but they need to be in correct relationship with each other.
The relationship between any three elements is immensely powerful but it is also complex. When people insist that spiritual teaching, insight and awakening are simple, it is because they are leaping onto the later experience of the realisation of absurdity.
If we do not oversimplify, undersimplify, and abstain from being opinionated, we can face the truth squarely. Neither our experience nor anyone else’s will define spirituality. Spirituality, if it has any pertinent meaning at all, cannot be defined unequivocally. Neither are words a method of conveying the teaching solely. However, when these words are spoken by a genuine teacher, then even words, movements, intonation, and feeling are drenched in Truth. Nothing can substitute for a direct link with the living word of a qualified teacher, and ou are encourage to be in close contact with your teachers.
The guru-disciple relationship is like no other. While the relationship is based on trust, intimate love and reverence, these characteristics cannot be forced. If change is demanded by the guru without the surrender of the disciple, exploitation ensues. The disciple must be willing to allow the Guru Principle to work, even in the face of deep seated habit patterns. Only when the disciple expresses total faith in the vision of the guru, can a great transformation and flowering of the personality occur. Ultimately, the disciple’s surrender is an expression of a faith in one’s Self.
Spiritual teachings are both complex and simple, at the same time. But this simultaneousness is not how you experience it. Through great complexities we emerge into the simplicity of practice, the calming of the mind, and the fading of questions. The mind becomes increasingly tranquil. Finally in breakthrough, the absurdity of the journey you have taken to your natural present state causes great humour, inwardly and/or outwardly. To take hold of any particular piece of this process and cling to it, merely reveals your prejudice, and the part of the elephant you can touch.
The esoteric secrets of the deepest spiritual teachings are available to us today on the click of a keyboard. However, in the past, the profoundest of spiritual teachings were reserved, kept in abeyance by the teacher and only presented when the student was able to receive them. This delicate play or dance of preparation, readiness, and masterful timing and sensitivity was a central part of the teacher-pupil relationship. In whatever cultural clothing it appears in the historical narratives, we can witness variously how Jesus of Nazareth reserved higher teachings for his disciples, in for example the Beatitudes. Buddha created a network of grading disciples according to ability. Ramakrishna took care that he was not overheard uttering the deepest sacred truths to his most intimate disciples, and inner circles of more 'advanced' devotees seem to exist in most teachers’ environments.
Today the teachings are more popular than the teacher in the true sense. Spiritual seekers 'sleep around spiritually,' attach to several teachers at the same time, and browse a little here, graze a little there, to create an individualised spiritual diet of preferred tastes and individualised 'feel.' The spiritual teacher however knows the problems this process inevitably leads to. S/he reserves the profoundest teachings for the right time, observing the pupil with insightful precision. Questions such as 'Who am I?' and 'How do I come home to my true self?' highlight that the questioner has been unclear, confused, paralysed by doubt, drifting, gliding, mesmerised by the distractions. Confusion does not aid spiritual effort, neither does bewilderment bring clarity. Indicative of spiritual development is the atrophying of questions, whereas the easy availability of esoteric truths contradict, convolute, and obfuscate the teachings and act as a goad to create questions, questions on questions, question about questions and so on.
I encourage you to enjoy the license we have today for indulging in the plethora of ancient and modern teachings, however, you must understand that the teacher gives you the teachings; you do not take them. Their truth is inherent in the teacher’s transmission, not in the matter of the words or mode of expression in itself. The teachings are nothing without the teacher. You will understand but little, and what you do understand will make you arrogant, afraid, confused, or all these. However, through the agency of the spiritual teacher, the same teachings will bring you to liberation, inspire you to realisation, and deliver you to freedom. The soul awakens in this lifetime.
Shanti Gowans is the globally recognised author and founder of Shanti Yoga™, Meditation and Ayurveda for the self, family and community.
Shantiji has brought the concepts and practices of a healthy body and a still mind to thousands of Australians through her Yoga and Meditation programs on national television... Read more about Shantiji's biography
Travel with Shanti & Peter Gowans this November for a trip of a lifetime.