Does a spiritual aspirant need a Guru?

In this day and age when it is difficult to discern “holiness”, Bapu frankly asked aspirants to assess a saint 360 degree before deciding to surrender to him as a disciple. 

By Zee Media Bureau | Last Updated: Apr 20, 2017, 15:34 PM IST
Does a spiritual aspirant need a Guru?
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Sometimes, there are pearls of profound wisdom that are scattered with effortless grace by a saint. They force us to pause and reflect in this fast moving and highly competitive world.  

One such gem that emerged from the depth of contemplative thought was - “Sadhu Ko Swarag Chhota Hai, Sadhu Shunya Mein Sama Jata Hai.” (Heaven is too small to contain the greatness of a saint, but he can rest in a zero (nothingness)).

“Who can truly measure the enigma of a saint?”, posed prominent Ram Katha exponent Morari Bapu. While speaking on the topic of ‘Manas Brahma’ in Burma, the spiritual guru urged listeners to take refuge at the feet of a Realized Soul.

In this day and age when it is difficult to discern “holiness”, Bapu frankly asked aspirants to assess a saint 360 degree before deciding to surrender to him as a disciple.

And even if one cannot find a person whom he can place on the pedestal of gurudom, then a devotee can make Hanuman ji his Sadaguru or take holy book like Ram Charit Manas as a counsellor.

However, he felt that it is difficult to advance spiritually without any leading light because it is mostly only through guidance that higher truths are revealed.

Explaining the point, Bapu cited interesting mythological episodes like when sage Narada approached Creator Brahma to unravel the mysteries of life.  

The Question and Answer session between Narada and Brahma can be useful for us as well:

Narada: What is Satya (Truth)?

Brahma: Bhajan is Satya. Bhajan means three things:

  • Prayer,chanting, reflection on God etc.
  • To stop seeing faults in others
  • When you constantly want to give something to others

Narada: What is Tapa (Penance)?

Brahma: Virah/Viyog(Pain of Separation) – is Tapa or penance. Because this reduces our hunger and need for sleep.

Narada: What is Swarag (Heaven)?

Brahma: Meeting of saint is akin to heaven.

Narada: What is Naraka (Hell)?

Brahma: Ninda – Criticising others is akin to hell.

Having emphatically spoken in favour of the need to take refuge, Bapu then turned to say that there are also some ashreys (shelters) that we in fact need to give up.

Once,god Brahma was sitting in his lok (heavenly abode) when Prajapati (nominated Lord of the demigods) sat at his feet and asked precisely this question - which are the ashreys (dependencies) that a person should eventually leave:

Reflecting on the query, Brahma responded:

  1. When you obtain understanding, leave Dharma Ashrey (Dependency on Religion) – He meant that once a person obtains the essence of spirituality, he can leave over identification with religion. One need not leave one’s religious practices, but utility of the tool is over once you reach a destination. 
  2. Dhan Ashrey(Dependency on Wealth) – While money would continue to help fulfil basic needs and requirements, it should not become the sole aim of life.
  3. Dhyana Ashrey (Dependency on Meditation) – One should not be forced to sit in meditation. Meditation and Samadhi should become Sahaj (Effortless). We should do whatever comes to us naturally.
  4. Dhanya Ashrey (Dependency on Gratitude) – We should reach a point in life when we expect nothing in return. Not even a word of thanks let alone deep gratitude or vote of thanks from anyone for doing a good turn.

Once we have given up these four, all that is left to do is Bhajan.

Bapu summed up by taking this thought a step further, saying there are only two vital essences based on which an entire lifetime can be spent. The first is ashrey - the refuge in the feet a Realized Soul, and the second, is ashru (tears) which flow out of love and devotion.