The Guru is usually a term which connotes someone who is a teacher, guide, expert, or master. The word is also sometimes used to denote a person who has deep knowledge of a field – such as a “Marketing Guru” or “Advertising Guru” etc. However, the East the word means “Spiritual Teacher” and is prevailent in several cultures including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. The tradition of reverence for the guru in Hindu scriptures is apparent in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad (6.23) which equates the need of reverence and devotion for Guru to be the same as for God.
So why is the Guru so important? A deeper analysis of this question will possibly need volumes to be written. But in this article we would attempt to provide a general overview of the need and importance of a Guru.
However, do note that not everyone who are called “guru” can be trusted. One should not accept things blindly. People who follow things blindly are unfortunately always misled, taken advantage of and hurt. As MCKS advised, “Remember, anybody can say anything! Anybody can write anything! Practice discernment or Intelligent Evaluation.”
Why do we need a Guru?
According to Master Choa Kok Sui the term “Guru” comes from the word Zoroaster which means Teacher from the Sun. In the Advayataraka Upanishad (14-18, verse 5) the Guru is said to mean the dispeller of darkness (gu meaning darkness and ru the dispeller). In esoteric teachings darkness is sometimes used as a symbol for ignorance. it is said that ignorance can be dispelled by shedding light (since darkness by its very definition is the absence of light). Symbolically speaking the Guru symbolizes the Light. In this case teacher is often compared to a mini-sun, who always radiates light.
In Eastern thought, having a Guru or Spiritual Teacher is considered to be a priceless gifts. According to Ramana Maharishi, “The Guru is absolutely necessary. The Upanishads say that none but a Guru can take a man out of the jungle of intellect and sense-perceptions. So there must be Guru.” According to Saint Kabir, the Guru is greater than God, simply because a knowledge or experience of God is not possible without the Guru.
So why is the Guru so important in the Spiritual Traditions? There are four main reasons:
1. Guidance: The reason why one needs a guru is basically because entering the spiritual path is accompanied by many challenges, the guru in this case acts as a spiritual guide who can show the way and protect the disciple from fall. According to Master Choa Kok Sui, “the Spiritual Path is more complicated that the Amazon. The Guru has already been through the “forest.” Follow the guidance of the Teacher to avoid getting hurt.”
2. Teachings: The Guru is often compared to a mini-sun who always radiates light. This light involves the transference of energy and teachings which help the disciple understand and see the higher truth. In fact this light makes the teachings simple and clear. According to MCKS, “Mysterious subjects become easy to understand due to the transmission of the teachings to the students. Transmission is both received internally and externally.”
3. Spiritual Energy Conductor: To understand what this means we must first look at the principles of energy. When you do serious spiritual practice then you pull-down a lot of energy. It is written in Bible that Moses asked God to show him his face and God said “no one can see my face and live.” What this really means is that God’s energy (and other higher spiritual energy) is extremely potent… and if poured to one’s body fully may damage or destroy the body since the body would not be able to handle the intensity of the energy. This can be explained with the help of physics. If you connect a simple wire to 220 voltage of electricity, the wire can handle the intensity and therefore electricity can pass through it easily. Now, if you connect the same wire to the generating station with voltage of 13800 or more, the wire will instantly get burnt! So to be able to use electricity in residential areas, there are certain sub-stations with transformers designed to step-down the voltage, so that when it reaches our homes the voltage is suitable for consumption. According to MCKS, “The role of the Guru is like that of a transformer. The Guru brings down High Spiritual Energy to the level your subtle bodies can handle.” It is the Guru who makes Spiritual Practice safe.
4. Parent: The function of the Guru is similar to the function of a parent. Parents look after their young children caring and providing for them and protecting them. The Guru looks after the soul of the disciple or chela. This is one of the reasons that in ancient traditions the Guru gives the disciple a name (once he or she is accepted as a student). The Chinese name Choa Kok Sui (which means “fortune of the world”) was given to MCKS by his Teacher Mahaguruji Mei Ling. While the relation with a parent is for but a lifetime, the relationship with a Guru and disciple is supposed to be permanent. While a soul may have many teachers and guides, there is only one Permanent Spiritual Teacher (or Sat Guru). The relationship between the disciple and the student lasts aeons upon aeons. This is why there needs be a high degree of reverence and sense of gratitude that the disciple needs to have to the Guru. Therefore reverance to the Guru (and above all towards God) is a key component of Arhatic Yoga practice.
It is said that the debt that a disciple owes to the Guru cannot be repaid. Therefore, in ancient India, for instance, if you desired to learn something from a Guru then you would have to go and live in the Gurukul and work for several years before you could hope to learn anything. This is also a reason that in India during festivals such as Guru Purnima students give gifts to teachers as a token of their gratitude.
So do all spiritual aspirants need a Guru? In general, yes. It is possible to spiritually progress without having a Guru, but the entire process will be slow, difficult and painful. Even highly evolved human beings (such as a Arhat) needs a Guru to progress further. Exceptions to the rule are beings who have achieved complete God-realization. These are highly exalted beings and are called Buddhas, Christs, Bodhisattvas and Avatars in different spiritual traditions.
There is a lot more which is discussed on the Guru and the role of the Spiritual Teacher in our life in the Arhatic Yoga Prepratory Level workshop. The books and workshops designed by Master Choa Kok Sui are truly enlightening and might help you clarify the concepts and clear the doubts that you might have.