by Babaji Bob Kindler
Taken from the book entitled An Extensive Anthology of Sri Ramakrishna’s Stories, six selections focusing on the Guru are introduced.
Cooking With Compassion informs us that there is a state of enlightenment beyond sagacious silence wherein the luminary, out of compassion, ventures forth into the realm of reiteration in order to share ignorance-destroying and life-giving truths.
The Consummate Ocean Voyage lets us know that there are different levels of divine manifestation of Guru-Tattva according to capacity, each facilitating the spiritual journey in kind.
The Atman’s Apprentice reveals one of the inner secrets of transmission from the guru, contrasting it to the lesser vehicles of conventional education or even higher intellectual learning.
Tending Brahman’s Blaze is a timeless testament to the salubrious effects inherent in pure Consciousness, especially as it appears in the fully illumined being or the spiritual preceptor.
The Broad-Minded Behemoth bespeaks of the guru’s ability to reach deep within the mind of the aspirant to seek out, find, and destroy that which impedes spiritual awakening.
The Shovel and Spade of Selfless Service endears the spiritual teacher to us all the more, demonstrating the commitment, effort, and sacrifice which such a rare being accomplishes for our sake and on the behalf of the world at large.
Offered here, then, are six salient selections of saviors, saints, sages, savants and seers — served solely via spiritual stories as scripture. May our consciousness be awakened!
“Butter heated in a pan makes a sizzling sound until the water is gone. Then, as clarified butter, it is silent. Put a rice cake on it and it again sizzles. Like this, a man gets realized, becomes silent, then returns to the world to teach.”
When seekers after enlightenment look out upon the many gurus offering to teach spiritual lessons, they are bound to behold a vast difference in them. Some speak loud and long while actually saying little. Some are sparing in what they say, which is nevertheless quite implicit. Others exude an aura of peace accompanied by a rush of teachings and a sparsity of words in turns. Some, again, are silent, either due to a tacit fullness of wisdom or possibly even a lack of knowledge. This is due to the varying levels of manifestation in human beings.
But in this teaching the Great Master is describing the fully enlightened preceptor, like Himself. In the initial phase of seeking there must be analysis, a search for meaning, and arrival at a definite conclusion. After realization begins to dawn, peace descends upon the mind and there is little to say and nothing to explain. All is then perfectly clear. Attracted by such a condition, sincere seekers approach the guru who attempts to put into words the profound truths gleaned from years of sadhana. Spiritual discourse is the result — wisdom transmission.
After the sadhana phase is accomplished, the teacher must discover the art of expressing Truth for the benefit of sincere aspirants. Disquisition, elocution, explication, exposition, and extrapolation are the five elements in this artform. Disquisition is the open way of formal discourse. A certain cogency and majesty which does not occur in informal talks accompanies this part of the transmission. Elocution is next, which is the ability to communicate directly with the listener’s mind so that the issuance of wisdom may have its full effect in the heart. Explication is a thorough presentation of all the details and minutia of any given topic in order that the student have a firm ground for understanding what is to come. Exposition then renders what has been explained in a cogent and comprehensible fashion which clears up any doubts or misunderstandings that may duly arise. Extrapolation, a subtle and superlative refinement to the art of speaking Truth, follows, for many finer aspects of the subject get revealed. This is the realm of transmission from heart to heart, soul to soul. Victory over the ills of relativity is thereby gained by the aspirant who thus wins the goal. Ignorance, in all its forms, is the loser.
The “butter heated in a pan” represents knowledge to be known. The “sizzling sound” is the effort at realizing this knowledge, while the “water” that evaporates symbolizes the disappearance of ignorance. The “clarified butter that is silent” indicates personal realization from which no explanation is needed or forthcoming. The “rice cake” placed on the clarified butter describes the mind of the student which causes the guru to “sizzle” once again with sagacious good-will and heartfelt concern. It is out of compassion, then, that a silent sage returns to the arena of verbal tutelage, though the stillness within remains undisturbed.
"To make an impression on an elephant, one must strike it on the head, for that is its most sensitive spot."
One of the important functions of the spiritual teacher is to open up the minds of people to universal views. It is not a matter of mere tolerance, which happens at a very rudimentary level of human understanding, but one of acceptance leading to empathy. Not only is there much unnecessary pain and suffering caused due to fundamentalism and sectarianism, but an entire spectrum of beneficial learning is overlooked due of this type of narrowness.
Indurate, belligerent, and bellicose people consider their religion true while others are deemed false. To understand the particular mental disease that these kinds of beings labor under, one has to see through their tough defensive exterior and perceive the mind-gripping fear and insecurity that possesses them. The guru is an expert in this penetration, and once having entered into the solicitous expanse of a bigoted person’s mind, plants a seed of positive doubt which eventually causes a rift in that curtain of fear. Later, congeniality dawns on the mind of that person and the positive human traits inherent within come shining forth. It is then that true universalism can gain a foothold in consciousness and open up a vision of harmony only dreamed of before. This strike to the head of ignorance is facilitated by Sri Guru: “Your grace evaporates the turbulent ocean of birth and death with its repetitious cycles of misery and suffering. Reverent salutations to the Ultimate Guru.”
“A steamship itself crosses the ocean and carries many others as well.”
A kayak carries one person across a river. A canoe will take two or three. A riverboat will takes dozens, while a steamship can navigate an entire ocean while putting into many exciting ports of destination. Thus is the guru invested with boundless power by the grace of the Universal Mother.
This power is not for show, for aggrandizement or for attracting accolades and praises. Nor is this power for transformation utilized for the mere doing of good or for storing up positive karmas. The Sadguru is beyond all need for these small considerations. To relieve suffering, save lost souls, guide aspiring seekers — these reasons come closer to the purpose, but still fall far short of explaining. An authentic spiritual preceptor has long since transcended the sense of what is good or bad according to the morals and mores of society or the pious outlook of conventional religion. Such a being cannot but emanate the bounteous blessings of love, wisdom, compassion and other divine qualities naturally, without any regard for the effect, in the same way that a sun must, by nature of what it is, warm and nourish all things, all beings. This spontaneous flow of precious boons radiates from the heart of the guru where the Universal Mother has taken up Her residence. It is no wonder, then, that such a being can carry so many to the jewel island of essence, the Divine Mother’s own precious land of perpetual enlightenment.
“One lights the fire, ten bask in its heat.”
The authentic spiritual preceptor is like a huge blaze which destroys all limitation and imperfection immediately or over time, depending on the degree of commitment and intensity in the aspirant. Around this fire, which burns through the grace and sacrifice of the Divine Mother of the Universe, sit perfect beings, luminaries, sincere seekers, struggling beings and forlorn wanderers. They “bask in the heat” of this wisdom fire, thanking their lucky stars, as it were, for the good fortune to be present at this auspicious moment in time.
This fire contains the wood of pure devotion, self-surrender, sacrificial offerings, heartfelt desires and the power to destroy accumulated transgressions. It burns spontaneously, without regard for consequences and with complete efficiency, all that is offered into it. The ashes of its remains are smeared across the brows of those who are through with the vanity and vexation of limited existence and who desire only close communion with the pristine Self within resulting in immersion into Brahman.
This blaze springs up in other locations throughout relativity, wherever beings gather to share, sacrifice or achieve purification through study, devotion and austerity. This fire is Guru, which removes the cold of suffering and ignorance from the mind, for it is not only heat but also light that emanates there. By that light thousands are led to Truth and by its heat thousands more are relieved of suffering. May Divine Mother light and tend many such fires.
“Can anyone pick out a yarn of a particular count? Only if you are in the trade can you distinguish between a forty count thread and a forty-one. If you live with a yarn seller you can also develop this talent.”
This yarn about the yarn-seller is one of the Great Master’s signature stories. It illustrates so well the subtle abilities that a sincere aspirant acquires by keeping close company with an adept guru. In the same way that an experienced merchant knows the tricks of the trade and is aware of the many fine points of the craft, so too the true spiritual teacher knows all the many teachings and how to apply them, having insight into the workings of an aspirant’s mind. When a novice first approaches the spiritual preceptor, some of what is said by way of teachings, and performed by way of example, is foreign and disturbing. But much is going on under the surface, both in the student’s mind and in the guru’s transmission. The ring of truth emanating from the teachings, though sounding far off and muffled at irst, is having its profound effect on the seeker’s subconscious mind, breaking down many age-old barriers formed by the repetition of negative thoughts and actions in past lives. As these obstacles of congealed negative mental energy are broken down, diffused and neutralized, the mind gets its initial glimpse of divinity and experiences its first taste of internal peace. As time in proximity to holy company auspiciously passes, the aspirant finds not only peace, but discovers that the many fine attributes seen in the guru are actually natural to the Self within and come easily to the surface. Thus does the novice, if sincere and persistent, gradually pick up the subtleties of the Divine Mother’s presence and teachings through the transmission of Her beloved vehicle, the guru.
“After the well is dug, some throw away the shovel and spade, but others keep the tools in order to help their neighbors.”
When enlightenment dawns on the aspiring human mind, the soul is through with embodiment in ignorance. There is no more need to reincarnate in the world of name and form again, at least not due to the weight of unresolved karma. The well of spiritual insight has been dug, the water of realization has been been struck, now the tools of practice and attainment can be discarded because the soul is free. This is the process and the consummation for the newly-liberated being. Ramprasad describes it as follows:
O my lazy mind
clearly you do not know how to farm.
You allow your own fertile expanse to lie fallow.
Under proper cultivation, the land of awareness
becomes golden with the harvest of illumination.
Sow seeds with every breath.
Protect the precious field of your soul
with the fiery fence of Mother Kali's name,
so the fruit of your dedicated effort
will not be stolen by the egocentric world.
Impenetrable is the fiery fence of Kali Kali Kali!
Even death dares not approach it.
Be utterly confident, O simpleminded poet.
Encircled by this powerful resonance,
your meditations in song will remain fruitful
for many hundred years.
The soul is the field of free decision.
Dedicate yourself to constant cultivation
for the sake of all conscious beings,
and the harvest will be without limit.
Your spiritual guide has given you
the mystic syllable of Mother essence
as potent seed to sow.
Water for irrigation flows abundantly through the heart
as pure love and tender devotion.
This dusty troubadour wandering through open fields
now pleads with everyone:
"If you find farming difficult,
please bring my poems with you."
Translation by Lex Hixon
There are other enlightened beings present on earth as well. The guru is one such, who has long ago achieved personal liberation and is now involved in returning to the world of name and form to rescue suffering souls from ignorance and delusion — a sort of metempsychosis for the melioration and manumission of mankind immured in the malaise of Maya. In the case of the guru, the “shovel and spade” of practice and attainment are retained and utilized in a masterful way to assist other beings desirous of acquiring non-dual knowledge leading to freedom. In addition, all the tricks of the trade are revealed as well, including the best place to dig, the best technique, how deep to go, when to rest, how to take care of the laboring human instrument, and other aids applicable to spiritual life. This means where to look for the essence of God, what teachings or practices benefit the seeker most efficiently, how to strike a balance between intense discipline and easy abidance, and what to do in order to facilitate optimum health for the limited body/mind mechanism. Indeed, the spade and shovel of spiritual life are well used by that one who is most concerned, and anxious to aid those who are thirsty for the water of Self-realization. To quote the Guru Stotram:
Eternal obeisances to the Wisdom Teacher
who graces us with the boon of holy communion,
who appears as all things movable and immovable
yet pervades them all as an immutable Presence.
Salutations to the Ultimate Guru
My Lord and Master is the Blessed Lord of the Universe
My undying Guru is the Supreme Teacher of the Universe.
My essential being is ever one with God Almighty
and is therefore the Self in all beings.
Reverent salutations to the Ultimate Guru.
Salutations to the Guru, who is the inherent Divinity in all.
Who creates the realm of being and becoming
but who is without beginning.
There is no one beyond or outside
of this all-encompassing Being.
Reverent salutations to the Ultimate Guru.