Guruyoga in Contemporary Times

Defining and Honoring the Timeless Path of Guru and Disciple

by Babaji Bob Kindler

In this day and age, Guruyoga — the path to enlightenment via taking refuge in an illumined soul — is unpopular. There are those rare ones who recognize and dedicate themselves to the few authentic luminaries who selflessly and sincerely serve God in mankind, but more plentiful are those who are involved with pseudo-guru’s who are interested only in building organizations and amassing wealth. For the sincere and the sedulous, to think of freeing the mind from its self-imposed bondage of various misconceptions, its abundant supply of recurring desires, wayward fantasies and fond but futile imaginations, what to speak of its onerous store of karmas and samskaras without assistance from a spiritual adept is itself unthinkable. Grace and self-effort must go hand in hand. Serious aspirants for attainment of nondual Awareness, the “Pearl of Great Price,” must take guidance from an illumined soul. Guru represents what is transcendent of mere salvation, what is referred to as spiritual emancipation — the realization of one’s innate freedom.

SWAMI VIVEKANANDA, a nityasiddha, or perfect soul, has stated: “The soul can only receive impulses through another soul, and from nothing else.” Elucidating further on this point, this sovereign of swamis declared: “To quicken the spirit, the impulse must come from another soul. The person from whose soul such impulse comes is called the Guru.” Expanding the conventional concept of spiritual teacher, he revealed the vast scope underlying the very principle of Guru: “Get the mercy of God and of His greatest children; these are the two chief ways to God. The company of these children of light is very hard to get; five minutes in their company will change a whole life, and if you really want it enough it will come to you. The presence of those who love God makes a place holy, ‘such is the glory of the children of the Lord.’ They are He; and when they speak, their words are scriptures.”

One could go on and on glorifying the eternal principle of Guru, and Swami Vivekananda often did. But not content to merely laud and praise, Swamiji also taught the art of distinction between the true luminary and the charlatan, the authentic adept and the pharisaical pretender: “The real Guru is the one through whom we have our spiritual descent. He is the channel through which the spiritual current flows to us, the link which joins us to the spiritual world.” Regarding the status of the preceptor and the valued transmission of Guruyoga, Swamiji explained: “There is nothing higher and holier than the knowledge which comes to the soul transmitted by the spiritual teacher.” Finally, and frankly, regarding fakes and quacks, he was blunt: “There are many who, though immersed in ignorance, yet, in the pride of their hearts, fancy they know everything, and do not stop there, but offer to take others on their shoulders; and thus the blind leading the blind, both fall into the ditch. The world is full of these. Every one wants to be a teacher, every beggar wants to make a gift of a million dollars! Just as these beggars are ridiculous, so are these teachers.”

These powerful words from a great soul like Swami Vivekananda should act to awaken us to the importance of spiritual transmission, which in turn should prompt us to seek out an adept preceptor for spiritual instruction conducive to our highest good. According to Sri Ramakrishna, this is the purpose for our life, for life lived in ignorance of our true Self is not life at all but an ultimately futile exercise in loss and gain, further attended by the painful processes of birth, growth, disease, decay, old age and death. What is more, short of any positive impulses coming from the Guru, what is implanted in the mind due to this kind of life are hundreds of negative impulses that serve to “drag from birth to death and death to birth the soul,” to quote Swamiji further. An ever-recurring transmigrating mental complex replete with enough desire-seeds to birth an impenetrable tangle of lifetimes in ignorance is the undesirable result. Thus, the poet-sage, Ramprasad Sen, sings: “Cut through this vexing maze with the fiery Name of ‘Kali, Kali, Kali’ and be free!” For this most favorable end, the wise Guru, Kali’s own child, is indispensible.

Guruyoga is an ancient principle founded upon the bedrock of direct experience and the emanation of nondual Mother Wisdom. Its sturdy, superlative basis I call “The Fivefold Foundation,” and consists of Guru Parampara, Paropakara, Guru Sadhana, Avidya Vinashana, and Lokasangraha — maintaining the teachings and integrity of a lineage, serving God in aspiring and suffering humanity, uncovering and pointing out the path to union with God, removal of ignorance from the collective and individual mind, and healing and uplifting an ailing world with salubrious spirituality. These five alone host a number of special subdivisions such as protecting universal dharma, awakening qualified beings to spirituality, imparting teachings to sincere aspirants, initiating devotees with the sacred mantra, teaching self-surrender, providing places of worship for the devotees, offering encouragement and guidance in the study of the scriptures, revealing access to true wisdom, affording essential instruction in the art of meditation, exemplifying steadiness amidst the world’s vicissitudes, helping sadhikas to destroy false misconceptions, convincing embodied beings of the dangers and limitations of relative existence, breaking the individual soul’s chains of birth and death in ignorance, impressing upon the minds of living beings the importance of discrimination and detachment, demonstrating how to live a divine life, showing how to integrate all thoughts and activities in love of God, and revealing the four states of abidance in Nondual Reality — to name a few. With this as a partial list, how is it possible to overlook or underestimate the power, purpose and plenitude of Guruyoga?