The Indian Teaching Tradition Part 2 Ch1
Stories about Gurus.
With or without a Guru.
The need for a guru is a regularly debated question in India, when visitors come to talk to a sage. His usefulness is never put into question, except by Krishnamurti, who remains isolated in his position, among Indians. The discussion is rather about the guru’s field of action, about the limits of his power and about the stages of spiritual evolution in which he appears necessary. The existence of exceptional cases who can do without a guru is admitted. The intensity of the need for a guru is one of the characteristic features of Hinduism. For instance, the story of an Indian student of Sanskrit grammar is narrated in this respect. Sanskrit grammar is a subject invested with a quasi- spiritual power among the traditional sciences. Thus, it is said that this student one day reached Banaras. It was some decades ago. He looked with passion for a guru, but could not find him. Desperate, he was determined to drown himself in the Ganges the very next morning. During the night, however, Panini, the author of the grammatical text he wanted to study, appeared to him and commented for him upon one after the other of all the aphorisms of his book; the student was saved... The most striking part of this story is that there is a strong likelihood for it to be true; the student in question was a friend of Gopinath Kaviraj, a very well known Tantric pandit of Banares, who passed away about fifteen years ago.
This need for a guru is not only felt by Indians. I met an American, who at present teaches history of religions at the University of Santa Barbara in U.S.A. He lived ten years as a renouncer (vairagi) together with his guru, mostly in the Himalayas. He told me: "the first time I met him, I clearly felt that he knew something that I wished to know. He had a skill in the art of life that I could learn from him. It is like listening to a pianist, or tasting the dishes of a cook, and wishing to be able to do what he does."
This need for a guru may acquire, in modern Hinduism, even a comic aspect: in Madras, I heard that there was a kind of "SOS guru" or "ritual emergency network": one telephones a certain number and a guru—who, in this case, is rather a kind of priest— gets on his scooter and comes quickly to perform the necessary type of ritual. Obviously he takes his bag with him, with all the necessary items for performing his duties in a dignified manner: water from the local sacred river, dry cow-dung for kindling the sacred fire, etc.
Fidelity to a guru may sometimes recall the feudal era and the loyalty of vassals to their lords. But the guru mainly has a sacred function; nevertheless, he could be a depository and defender of Hindu culture which has been threatened for long centuries by the political domination of the country. This point has not escaped the attention of the Shankaracharya of Kanchipuram, who is considered to be a kind of Pope of Hinduism:
"There is a reason why tens of millions of people happily remain in the bosom of Hinduism, in spite of powerful propaganda by other religions, wars, the temptations of money, etc.: we, the Hindus, we can develop devotion towards a great man present among us and who impresses us. This devotion regenerates our faith in our own religion. There is a text in the Vedas, saying that the blossoming tree automatically attracts bees. If we discover after observation that one among us is perfect, everyone will follow him."1
Hinduism is, to some extent, flexible and may accept sages who themselves had no guru: from this century one may quote Ma Anandamayi, Ramana Maharshi, Ma Amritanandamayi; others had only a short contact with their Master: the time for an initiation, some hours for Sivananda of Rishikesh, some days for Shri Aurobindo.
Nevertheless, Ma Anandamayi often declared that her parents and then her husband were her gurus. It is true, in the sense that they gave her a mantra, which she practised, and that they taught her a traditional religious language in which she later on expressed her experiences and thanks to which she could help others. Devotional songs, public readings of sacred books, religious theatrical representa-tions (Ramalila, Rasalila), etc., provide a background of traditional culture to those mystics who have neither guru, nor the ability to read many religious books. Thus, in India, not having a guru does not necessarily mean being cut off from spiritual tradition, which penetrates the receptive mystic as if by osmosis. A mystic guru may even, sometimes, be instructed by his first disciples, who may be more learned than himself in the intellectual knowledge of religion. In the West, receiving a mantra from a passing guru does not necessarily mean being related to the spiritual tradition of yoga. For a Westerner who wants to follow the path of yoga, a study of the, if not religious at least spiritual context of India, is almost indispensable in order to reduce errors of appreciation, and the most practical means for such a study is a deep reading of books and works on the subject giving a basis to the elements of oral teaching that he has received.
The first meeting is not something that someone can arrange, but something that happens. In their language, Indians say that such a relation existed already in a precedent life, and that the shock of the first meeting is but the revelation of a communion previously established. This ‘explanation’ at least has the advantage to appease the mental plane and to avoid the indefinite questioning as to how a chain of facts, apparently due to mere chance, have lead to a meeting which has changed one’s whole life.
The first meeting with the guru is expected in Indian spiritual literature in the same way as ‘love at first sight’ must show up in Western romantic fictions. Often the guru in the story greets the disciple by saying: "Here you are, at last! I have been waiting for you so long!..." This does not mean that the guru concentrates his psychic power in order to attract the disciple or to keep him close. It is his spiritual maturity, emanating from him like a perfume, that catches the latter’s attention: "When the lotus is open the bees come to it without being invited", the Vedas say. For his part, the disciple has to be ready (adhikari). If the sentence "When the disciple is ready, the guru comes" is found at the opening of this chapter as lemma, it is because it represents the essential Indian idea in the search for the guru. On this subject, Anandamayi Ma narrates a significant story:
"One day a small child hears its mother saying: ‘tomorrow there will be nothing to eat, because we have neither food, nor money to buy it.’ The child is not depressed for that. He writes a letter to God. But, when he reaches the post-box he cannot post his letter, because he is too small. A passer-by wishing to help, takes the envelope; but seeing the name of the addressee, "God", he smiles, opens the envelope, understands the problem and goes to his mother to give her what is needed."
To outline what may happen during a first meeting, it is useful to refer to Ramakrishna. The details of his life and of his teaching, known through many books and essays, have largely influenced sadhakas and yogis of the twentieth century all over India, quite beyond the limits of his Mission itself. Ramakrishna, in a certain phase of his sadhana, did not hesitate to pray for the coming of his disciples. One evening, he even went onto the terrace and called out in the darkness for their coming. He said: "A mother does not seek as intensely to see her child, a friend his companion, a lover his beloved, than a guru seeks to meet a perfect disciple."2 He had an obvious attachment for Narendra (Vivekananda) and Rakhal (Brahmananda, the first president of the Ramakrishna Mission). "Mother, I asked you to give me a companion who will be exactly as I am. Is it for this that you gave me Rakhal?"3
Even if this attachment is passionate, it remains impersonal: "I forget everything when I see Narendra. I never asked him, even involuntarily, where he lived, what his father’s profession was, or how many brothers he had."4 Such behaviour is surprising in Indian habits where these questions are almost compulsory. During his first meeting with Narendra, he asked the latter to sing, and the young man started:
"Oh spirit, come back home!
Why do you wander in the world, this foreign land,
and wear this robe which is not yours?"5
Narendra felt that he was before a man of God, but at the same time he had doubts and he asked himself if he was not facing a big baby who was the victim of hallucinations. In their second meeting, Ramakhrishna touches Narendra on the chest and the latter goes into ecstasy (samadhi). This event is very famous in modern Indian literature. This does not mean that the Master has the power to "give realisation". The disciple alone can attain realisation through his own strength, or, for some schools, through the grace of God. But the Master may give some spiritual experiences, as in this case.
Ramakrishna was aware of this "power of the first time". In the preceding chapter, we already mentioned his simile: the guru is like a serpent trying to "swallow up" his disciple, compared to a toad; if the serpent is too small, or the toad too big, both shall remain indefinitely stuck there, the latter in the throat of the former, and both of them risk dying on the spot. This image of devouring is not far from the passionate devotion of Ma Amritanandamayi for Kali:
"Oh Mother, Kali, You the supreme goddess,
Today I shall catch and devour you!
Listen what I tell you!
I am born under the star of death!
A child born under such conjunction
devours his own mother.
Thus, either You eat me,
or I eat you — this very day!"6
The meetings with the Master act as an opium pill given to a peacock every day at the same time: they are addictive. It creates a need in the disciple. Even if the latter is not prepared for it, he will feel the presence of a sage like Ramakrishna, "in the same way as you feel the burning of red pepper in your mouth irrespective of whether you previously knew about it or not."7 Some, like the old pandit Padmalochan, cry for the first time since childhood when they meet their Master.8 Other ask themselves: "Who is this man who speaks to me in such an intimate way, and who gives me the impression of being what I cherish most?"9 This impression does not diminish with time, but rather grows: "It is not difficult to accept Ramakrishna, to love him, even to worship him; however, it is difficult to forget him."10 One generation later, Vivekananda attracted Sister Nivedita, a Westerner, because she could feel that she was encountering with a man of spiritual experience and she was tired of simple religious propaganda.11
The disciple, and especially the guru, are aware that a force beyond the mind is waken up from that first meeting. There is a "click", the disciple "enters into the stream" from which he shall never come out again, to use an image dear to Buddhists. A French medical doctor, who had been a long time atheist and rationalist, felt, for instance, this click during his first meeting with Anandamayi Ma and he narrates in this way his initial experience which brought him to live for the last forty years in India as a yogi:
"The same evening, around ten o’clock, Ma granted me a visit for about twenty minutes. She was supposed to answer my questions, but I had nothing to ask. I wished only to have a spiritual contact. She looked like embodied divine thought. She was the one posing questions, clear, precise, going straight to the core of things, evoking precisely the points concerning me. But her words were only surface play. During those twenty minutes, she had infused in me something which was destined to last for long time, which still lasts..."12
For her part, Anandamayi Ma compared the action of the guru to a flood: "When the flood arrives, it does not discriminate like: ‘this tree should be saved, and that uprooted.’ It carries everything with it without discrimination." Indian spiritual seekers are sometimes pushed by a dramatic will to meet the Master; like that country-man covered with dust, presenting himself to Meher Baba. His disciples wanted to chase him away, but the sage felt that the visitor did not have an ordinary devotion and received him with open arms. In fact, it came out that the latter rolled forty kilometres to go and meet the one who was to become his guru.13
The guru imparts into the mind of his disciple a central image: that of his own face. Thus, he helps him to perceive the unity of the universe behind its apparent multiplicity: "As soon as you have seen Sai Baba of Shirdi, from the very first time, you begin to see his form everywhere."14 Sometimes the first meeting may be "striking" in the physical sense of the word:
"I was skeptical about Nimkaroli Baba before meeting him. When I prostrated myself before him, he began to strike me very hard; I experienced at the same time a great confusion and the feeling of the most incredible unity, which I felt for all my existence. It was so different from what I expected, and yet so familiar."15
In literature about the guru, one often finds the verse of a famous English poet: "They come to scoff, they remain to pray." Sometimes the conversion is spectacular and even humorous! An atheistic politician of an Indian village abhorred Meher Baba, whom he had never seen. He wanted to go to insult and publicly humiliate him, together with ten of his accomplices. He tried to lay hands on him at Hardwar, but Meher Baba, who travelled a lot, had already left for the next nearby town; there too he missed him. This little game lasted three months, during which time all his companions left him. But he wanted to corner Meher Baba at any cost. When at last he found him at the other end of India, something had happened in his head. He not only took off his shirt, as is customary in the South before the statues of the gods and before the great gurus, but he also took off his pair of trousers and prostrated himself full length before Meher Baba, who was, in this way, received by him as his guru...16
Usually, Indians do not take seriously those who call themselves disciples of a guru whom they have never seen, except either in dream or a photo. This may constitute the beginning of a relationship, but it is far from being considered complete. A life near the guru, at least for some time, is needed for the work to be done: in order to be able to polish an object, direct contact is necessary between it and sandpaper... Near an authentic guru, peace is felt. This represents his true power: the guru who has a "royal peace" actually becomes the king of those seeking peace. This is physically felt, and children feel it as well. I passed some hours with Masturam Baba, a sage following the devotional path (Bhakti). He lived on a shore on the banks of the Ganges in Rishikesh; I saw there some Indian children just four or five years old who could remain a full hour sitting in front of him without moving, without playing, silent, just being quiet.
Together with this peace, the guru transfers energy to his disciple from the beginning of their relationship. The successor of Swami Jnanananda (the spiritual Master of Swami Abhishiktananda), head of the Thapovanam ashram, told me that a few days after his arrival at the ashram, he went strolling around in the forest with his new guru. The latter suddenly turned round and threw the following question to him: "Would you cut down the trees one by one?" Since the young man was puzzled, the guru continued: "Would it not be better directly to put fire to the forest?" This was the first, unexpected, lesson about the difference between the psychological reflection and the immediate meditation of the yoga of knowledge (Jnana).
A visitor asked Nisargadatta Maharaj whether his guru’s world affected the world of his disciples: "Yes, it does, but only in a spot, the spot of now..." "In full consciousness, the contact is established. It needs an attention without effort where one forgets oneself."17 "The meeting of guru and disciple is not the meeting of two personalities. Is the meeting of a teaching with a confidence, a trust. From the union of both realisation is born."18
By narrating some spectacular stories of first meetings, I do not want to say that all first meetings with the guru are spectacular; far from it. The most frequent case is a contact, an attachment as fragile as a thread, but which one decides to keep on, even if it does not seem very powerful compared to all that is binding us to the world. "Two men carried away by the river, are heading towards a waterfall. One grasps a big drifting branch and mocks the other who has caught a small cord thrown to him by somebody from the shore..." Can one foresee what happens next?19
Before concluding this part about the first meeting with the guru, one may ask oneself if this meeting is not simply ersatz "love at first sight" in a society where marriages are arranged, but where the individuals remain strikingly romantic. A posteriori it can be said that if it was really a case of "love at first sight", the effect would not last a full lifetime. If it was a sexual desire, it would be frustrated by the taboo in the relationship between guru and disciple, and frustrated desires are even more unstable than satisfied ones. The religious Hindus are accustomed from adolescence to sublimation, to the conscious transmutation of libido in a spiritual energy. They are, then, able to draw the distinction between both the images, perhaps more than Westerners who are better prepared, or one could say conditioned, for love at first sight than for the meeting with the guru.
Broadening the debate while remaining within the domain of psychology, one may ask oneself whether the West is not handicapped in its capacity to trust. Behind this there is, perhaps, a basic lack of affection, the child having been less mothered and for less time in the West than in India. Furthermore, since Descartes, the Western thinking has attempted to reject the traditional stream, by making a "tabula rasa" of it. It is known that Descartes had serious relational problems with his father. Perhaps, the meeting with the guru—image of the "father-tradition"—wakes up in the West the buried memory of the "murder of the father", and makes it feel uncomfortable. One has to understand as well that normally the contemporary Westerner has had more emotional disappointments and splits than his Indian counterpart: divorced parents, changing affective relationships since adolescence. In Paris, 40 per cent of people live alone without a permanent couple relationship. Because of this, the Westerner keeps a bitterness, even sometimes a cynicism, disguised in the euphemism of realism; this inhibits him and prevents him from recognizing even the possibility of a relationship which works for good. In order to complete the picture, the said Westerner, if he has been "hooked" by a passing guru, has a good chance of being cheated, because he, more often than not, is completely ignorant of what should be and what should not be a spiritual master. As our society does not give any information on it, it suppresses this natural need of the individual, the "coming back of the suppressed", and so the first meeting with somebody who has the appearance of a guru is sometime carried out in an unforeseeable, wild way and not without damage.
Day to Day Life with the Guru
"How to become ‘experienced’?" One would feel inclined to answer: "From one’s own experiences." But along with tradition, the answer could also be, or perhaps shall even especially be: "By living with someone experienced." There lies an important difference between the guru and the therapist: the former lives with his disciples; the latter separates himself as far as possible from his patients and does not tell them anything about his private life. We shall come back to this difference in the last chapter.
The advantage of living with the guru for some time, is that it is already a way to personally verify whether or not the love bestowed on you is truly disinterested; it is also a mean by which to observe whether he practises what he preaches. One may directly watch, when the time comes, the way in which the guru reacts to the shocks of life. A French man told me that he was present when Swami Ramdas received the telegram announcing the death of his daughter. The latter maintained his usual large smile. A friend of his told once to Ramdas himself, when he saw how detached he was during a visit to his former family: "You are a well cooked brick."
The sage does not choose to become a guru. It is his disciples who put him in such a position: " The Ganges is always pure, it flows in an even and continuous current; it is when somebody enters it that its stream is troubled; otherwise it is always the same. In the same way, those who wish to ask advice projecting on a sage the image of Sadguru; in such situations the poor sage is forced to become Sadguru; if this case does not arise he continuously remains in a state of pure wisdom (satpurusha)."20
One may here go back to the difference between the devotee (bhakta) of a religious leader and the disciple (shishya) of a spiritual Master. The followers of a religious leader see him from far away. He does not have personal contact with him, he does not ask questions and he does not receive any answer from him. At most, he develops a cult for him, like a Christian for the Christ or a Vaishnava for Vishnu; he risks making mistakes if he is not already well advanced, interpreting in an erroneous way his own imagination as an absolute truth. The disciple, on the contrary, benefits from a direct confrontation with the Master. He studies his guru, and the latter does the same so that he can warn him of dangers. Ma Anandamayi says that the guru is present in a dog barking in the night to inform the disciple that there is a serpent on the road. The latter may, then, light his lamp and realise it for himself.
Life in common stimulates a spontaneous devotion to the guru. As Krishnabai said about Ramdas, whom she called "Papa": "Ram is far, Papa is near."21 One perceives that the sage is not necessarily identified with the image of yogi sitting in the lotus posture in a cave: Ramana Maharshi, who worked in the kitchens of his own ashram every morning from four o’clock onward, could also climb the mountain to catch a small sheep lost by a little shepherd on the slopes of mount Arunachala.22 He could also give, though after a moment of hesitation, a slap to a child who certainly deserved it because he had just been caught red-handed both lying and stealing.23 The disciples of Jnanananda, another well-known Vedantin Master, never saw him reading a book; an interesting detail for those who have the tendency to consider Vedanta as a purely intellectual matter.
The guru may encourage a close relationship between himself and some of his disciples: "One has to stick to a sage like a sucker. The fact that you stick to me cannot but be painful to me and complicate my life—but all these things are but roles played by me, and, as such, should not worry you. To "stick" in this way will soothe you from all suffering, and will give you happiness... I only wanted to give you an example."24 One has to make the most of the guru while one is with him: "One never realizes the usefulness of teeth when they are there", says a Bengali proverb.
Life in common is the occasion for the guru to teach through action, to arrange circumstances, or to take advantage of those which are spontaneously happening, in order to make the disciple understand something, or concretely to answer a theoretical question that he was asked long time before: a good guru knows how to "kill seven birds with a stone."25 The disciple learns how to live mentally in the presence of his guru, either in the ashram or outside it: "if you do not see the guru, the guru sees you" is a sentence that summarizes the belief of most disciples. When a guru moves a lot, as in the case of Nimkaroli Baba, waiting for him has become a kind of spiritual practice for some of his disciples: "For fifty years, whatever the town of North India where we resided, we have always kept a free room for Nimkaroli Baba in case he should come. Everyday we cooked his favourite dish: laoki, (a kind of gourd) and mung ki dal (small lentil) and if he did not come, we took it as sacred food (prasad)."
Life in common allows the guru regularly to repeat the essential points of his teaching, like a mother feeds her child or like a nurse who daily administers the same treatment for a given period. Even if a guru like Shri Aurobindo did not have, strictly speaking, a life in common with his disciples, because he was hardly meeting them, he devoted for eight years some ten hours daily to answering their letters.26 After some time, the good disciple does not feel the need to speak to his guru any longer; he can directly communicate with him beyond words. In a whole year of travelling with Vivekananda, Sister Nivedita had only a single private meeting with him, and this also was merely to speak about some plans for the school. She had to get used to thought reading,27 and to meditate on the game of her Master (guru-lila).
The disciple must not wait for his guru to make up his mind; as an old time disciple of Ma Anandamayi told me: "I never abandoned my mind in Ma’s hands." Those who remain for a long time near the guru may have the opportunity to see him in ecstasy (samadhi). It is said that samadhi is a stage to be overcome, at least for the samadhis involving a loss of consciousness of the outer world. But can one honestly say that one has overcome a certain stage if one has never actually experienced it?
Guru-lila, the Game of the Master
"The sage is an eternal child playing an eternal game in an eternal garden" Shri Aurobindo says. And the latter’s assistants who had the opportunity to see him every day confirmed the double aspect he had: player and impersonal at the same time.28 The guru is like the child: he has his thoughts very near to the body. Ramana Maharshi too could play in a totally impersonal way; he was seen clapping his hands while his disciples chanted a hymn to the glory of ... Ramana Maharshi.29 How astonishing is India!
The Master: This game for is not without some nostalgia would his disciples actually perceive his message? "I played the flute, and you did not dance" Christ said. We have seen the link between the guru’s playing, the playing of the actor in theatre and the playing of Krishna in Vrindavan. Some Hindus if asked why God created the world, answer: "for fun, for playing!." Even if this answer does not seem to be very serious, it is, perhaps, as good as any other... Certainly, guru and disciples "are pleased" by playing, but this game is more serious than many other so called ‘serious’ activities. Indeed it is the most serious game that exists, thanks to which consciousness becomes conscious of itself. The guru has multiple aspects, the disciple too. It is for this reason that they need to play with each other so as to learn to know one another. In Bhagavad Gita Arjuna calls his Master Krishna, Yadav, Madhusudana, while the latter calls the former also as Dhanajaya, son of Kunti, happiness of the Kurus, etc., It is, perhaps, a way of marking the multifarious aspects of a personality, together with his possible non-existence from the point of view of the yogi who has attained Reality.
The disciples see only a part of their Master, in the same way as the blind men, who wanted to know what an elephant looked like. They had never seen such an animal. The blind man who touched the paw declared with certainty: "Elephant is a pillar,—No, it isn’t, replies the one who touched its tail, it is a broom moving to and fro,—No, it isn’t, says a third one touching the trunk, it is a pipe blowing out hot and humid air." Knowing this story, one may understand why disciples sometimes find it hard to describe their guru: "Whatever you may say about Nimkaroli Baba, you may say the opposite as well."30 The latter, for instance, once sent all his disciples, willy-nilly, to listen to Krishnamurti in Delhi. At that particular session the latter declared with great conviction: "I detest all gurus..."
The guru’s game may also be to hide his power. Ramakrishna let himself be criticised for a long time by Vivekananda who, among other things, reproached him of being too attached to his disciples and of being the victim of hallucinations when he had visions of the Mother.31 Shri Anirvan, whom some intellectual and pretentious monks called upon for the first time, came dressed as a beggar, and humbly went to sit in a corner. The monks did not recognize him and continued to talk among themselves. Shri Anirvan went away: "They wanted to see me, and they have"32 was his comment. The sage gives full importance to his relationship with animals and may assist them while they breath their last. A kind of parrot who learned to repeat "Baba, Baba" was very ill. Meher Baba cared for him with great attention day and night till his death. He could not abandon the one who invoked his name, be it only a parrot.33
Speaking more generally, the guru’s game is a sort of festivity. Ashrams’ liturgy is itself a succession of festivals. His presence is able to put the rules upside down, to change the impure into pure. Brahmananda, the successor of Ramakrishna, used to ask one of his disciples to look at the horoscope; it was the Hindu traditional way of determining the most suitable day for leaving on a trip. Then, he used to leave any time that suited him. "God inspires me like this", he would say... Sathya Sai Baba confers upon the darshan he gives, an imperial character. Every year at Puttaparti for his birthday he receives about a million people for a week: "They are my guests, he says, feed them ...".
Stories of Power: Gurus, Women and Money
As the guru in Indian tradition is a renouncer,—and officially this is mostly the case,—his relationship with women and money needs to be examined with a critical eye by a would-be-disciple. With respect to this guru-disciple relationship, as far as this matter is concerned, has been expressed by Kabir as follows:
"It is proper for a disciple to offer
whatever he has at the feet of his guru;
it is proper for a guru
not to accept any money whatsoever from his disciples."34
Ramakrishna could not touch money, not even while sleeping. When somebody put a coin in his hand as he slept, he started trembling and struggling. One day his wife refused a big donation, while all day long she was cooking in a dark corner and she could have bettered this situation with a little more money: "Our power comes from our renunciation" she explained to her donor. Ramana Maharshi was even more idealistic, or more primitive if one prefers, in his reasons for not touching money: "I do not touch money, because I do not eat it."35
In fact, an Indian guru who wants to do without money, generally can. He can sleep outside in almost every season. Many ashrams give out some free meals. Some institutions (annakshetra) are even specialized in feeding wandering monks (sadhus). Free hospitals and dispensaries are found more or less everywhere. However, it was traditional to offer a guru a salary for his teaching, which lasted in general a dozen of years at the times of the laws of Manu:
"He may offer his guru as a token of affection, a field, gold, a cow, a horse, an umbrella, foot-wear, a seat, grains, legumes, or cloth."36
It may be seen that Manu accepted all kinds of possibilities for paying the guru...
In Tantrism, the guru is called, like the Mother-Goddess Lakshmi, bhukti-mukti pradayani (he who grants richness and freedom). In the other branches of tradition, it is said bhakti-mukti pradayani (he who grants devotion and freedom).... There is here a nuance to which we shall come back when we talk about the Tantric gurus. Whatever this may be, in popular Hinduism, the blessing of the guru is also experienced as a blessing for business as well, as is shown in the many "Guru Nanak restaurants" that are found all through North India, or the numerous shops where the photo of the guru is found among the images of Lakshmi (Goddess of Fortune), of Ganesh (god of the Good Beginnings) and the photo of the father of the family. India is also a country where religion remains an active sector of economy. Many people can live in its name, including hypocrites and bigots. Generally ashrams are exempt from taxation; never before were so many temples built in India as nowadays.
In Indian tradition, the guru’s power (shakti) comes through the rise of primordial energy (kundalini), which in the ordinary man is directed towards sexual activity. This sublimation or transmutation (ojhas) is produced by the sustained and prolonged practice of meditation, a precise and effective understanding of the relationship between body and mind, and by the example of a guru having himself attained this arousal of energy. Even if quite a few swamis (regularly initiated monks) seem to keep this ideal up, the sexual example given by the majority of sadhus (itinerant monks of all kind) is not so brilliant. It may remind us of the situation of the Christian lower clergy in the Middle Ages.
The sage is aware of this; he sees the sexual preoccupations of his visitors, but this does not arouse any particular emotion in him. He is like a child watching a rather lighthearted scene on the television. Generally, it does not trouble him, because it does not evoke anything particular in him.
Some Western writers like Peter Brent,37 who trained to be a journalist, arose beginner’s psychological interpretations of the guru-disciple relationship by evoking the possibility of a suppressed homosexuality. He himself did not believe much in this interpretation and in many cases had to acknowledge the uncommon sexual mastery of gurus he had met in India. There may be cases of homosexuality, in this strange and mixed milieu, because, in Hinduism, anyone can declare that he has started a guru-disciple relationship. But is this idea of latent homosexuality not the projection of a Westerner’s mind, which, having little control over its own sexuality, cannot even imagine a somewhat intense relationship without automatically eroticizing it? A guru who knows his job can dismantle, little by little, all kind of projections that his disciples pour on him, in the same way as a self-cleaning oven, if such a comparison may be allowed, can burn away the projections of fat on its walls as soon as they come. If love for the guru is eroticized, it destroys itself by being sometimes transformed into hate, its opposite. For this reason the disciple has to try, as far as possible, to project onto his guru only those emotions which are already purified enough by his personal work of meditation.
Guru, Shaman and the Crazy Man
We have already, in the previous chapter, established some differences between guru and traditional healer (shaman). Indian tradition, generally, does not confuse the two activities. However, some spontaneous healings may happen around a guru, though the latter does not look for them, and does not make a show of them. He will say: "It is your faith that saved you" or "It is God who has healed you." The radiance, the energy, of the guru awakens in each of his visitors a global faith in life which, in some cases, may manifest itself as a healing power. The dynamic influence of the mass of the faithful and the devotional concentration given out from it may also come into play. All these factors increase the healing effect of the guru, as in the case of Sathya Sai Baba.38
There is a relationship between the enstasis (samadhi) enabling a yogi to become a guru and the initiatory travels qualifying a shaman to practise his art. Both, as well as analysts, have the ability to interpret an inner experience and the language to describe it, as explained by Levi-Strauss.39 As for Mircea Eliade,40 he sees a historical relation between yoga and shamanism of the North Himalayas. Tantric tradition also accepts the fact that part of their knowledge came from the North, from the Kingdom of Shambala. In Indian society, a transition may be found between the "force of the antipodes," as Richard Lannoy says, (that is the magic vitality of tribal populations) and traditional Brahmanism, integrating such a vitality in the form of a charismatic guru often of Tantric inspiration. It would be interesting to develop these trends from the perspective of History of Religions, but this would be too long a digression.
Most sages during their sadhana have had some apparently psychopathological phases. But in Indian traditional psychology, the distinction between craziness in the medical sense of the term (unmada) on one side and mystic intoxication on the other, is clearly made, the former being dealt with by the Ayurvedic practitioner, the latter by an experienced guru. This distinction is better made in India than in the West, where the two are mixed up because of ignorance of the spiritual field among psychologists. I devoted a part of an essay in psychiatry to studying the psychopathological diagnosis that could have been made of Ma Anandamayi during her youth, when she did what she called the "play of her sadhana."41 In fact, symptoms of most mental diseases were present, but, every time, there was some difficulty in regrouping them into coherent syndromes. Furthermore, they did not last and they were followed by other symptoms which did not have any link with the preceding ones, at least according to habitual psychopathology. Once this period of sadhana had elapsed, Ma Anandamayi displayed a very normal behaviour and showed an uncommon energy. She answered questions for more than half a century, in a manner exactly adjusted to the needs of her visitors, among whom one could see political personalities like Indira Gandhi, for instance; or she could solve the various problems which could not fail to arise in the thirty-odd ashrams she had organized around herself. The quality of her relationship to reality could not be doubted, notwithstanding a period out of the world during her years of sadhana. Yogis have developed their psyche according to well specified methods unknown to Western psychology. The latter, with its diagnostic instruments based on ordinary psychopathology, cannot say much about the former’s troubles, when and if they see them. The microscope is a good instrument, but if it is used to watch the stars, either nothing at all will be seen, or if something is seen, it honestly can not be interpreted.
Meher Baba, among the well-known gurus of this century in India, underwent what could be called by psychopathology borderline experiences. After his meeting with his first guru, an old sufi woman, he remained six months in a sort of catatonic state; he could induce this same state in others, although for less time.42 Part of his activity was devoted to dealing with masts, the "God-intoxicated". But, in a centre where he had collected eighteen subjects, he had the conviction, shared also by his disciples, one of whom was a medical doctor, that only four of them were genuinely God intoxicated, while two were weak of mind, and twelve rather schizophrenic.
The sage strays from the trodden paths of society in order to discover inside him new roads: new in as far as in each generation only a small number of people succeed in discovering them. He is an "intravagant", to use the lapsus of Lanza del Vasto who asked a visitor coming to see him for the first time: "Why have you come to visit an ‘intravagant’ (i.e., an introvert) like me all the way up here in this remote area?" The "madness" of the sage is a way of making people around him realise the superficiality of social conventions, as shown by this anecdote:
"One evening, Nimkaroli Baba was squatting on a dirty road when a group of ‘important’ people, poets, judges, officials, came to see him. Since they were standing around Maharaj, he asked them: ‘why do you not sit down?’ With some hesitation they sat in the road. Immediately, Maharaj got up: ‘Fine, we may go!’..."
In the West, the usual way to go out of society is from below, by becoming crazy; even some monks in Christianity live for most of them in small societies, i.e. monasteries. In India, one may also go out of it from above, by becoming a yogi.
Tantric and Hatha-yogic gurus
To begin with, Hindu Tantrism has to be distinguished from Tibetan Tantrism. The latter, being usually linked to a monastic discipline, seems to me more serious in its spiritual practices and in the quality of its gurus than current Hindu Tantrism. In the latter, the ritual devotion to Shakti, Mother and divine energy at the same time, should be distinguished from the practice of forced awakening of Kundalini. The former is close to habitual Bhakti, the latter is more dangerous because the Hindu Tantric gurus do not have, generally, the monastic framework, the necessary discipline to allow them to lead a pure life while performing these practices. They have more independence than their Tibetan counterparts, but are also more likely to be caught up in intrigues involving sex, money and power. The most risky Tantrism both for the guru as well as the sadhaka is Left Hand Tantrism, where the habitual taboos are reversed.
As if by chance, the two most expensive ashrams in India to my knowledge are mainly Tantric ashrams; in one of them that I have visited for a short time, there are only Westerners, except the sweepers who are Indians. People think that the guru will release them from their suppressions, but, actually, he begins by relieving them of their purse... They want to learn how to handle their affective energy, not a bad attempt in itself, but their affective energy starts being manipulated by the guru, and they become dependent on him. Generally, the guru cult is the only traditional value that gurus of this ilk do not question, because it gives a kind of justification to their exploitation of people.
If Western people, like quite a few Indians, are fascinated by some Tantric teachers, it is because they have power; nevertheless it is precisely because of this power that they may be harmful. A disciple of Ramana Maharshi told me, talking about this: "The elephant has a certain strength; it is precisely because of this strength that, when he plays in the mud, he splashes it very hard." Around these gurus a particular kind of "client" may be identified, with a rather well defined psychological characteristic; they need to free themselves of their inhibitions, but their Superego, their paternal image, opposes it. They replace such image by that of the Tantric "papa-guru" who gives them his blessing to run after what they are looking for and who frees them of their sense of guilt by covering their psychological reality with a mystico-intellectual ointment...
Since some psychotherapists have almost the same way of working—justifying with cheap rationalizations complex situations in which the patient has got himself involved—it is not to be wondered at if they associate with the Tantric guru for their own affairs: birds of a feather flock together. In Tantrism of the Left Hand (vamachara), the question of perversion in the psychiatric sense of the term may arise. There are some common points, even if it is true that this Tantrism is a reaction against a Brahmanic society which is obsessional and hypocritical in many respects. Even if psychotherapists can learn a trick or two from a Tantric guru in order to interest his client and sometimes to have a short-term therapeutic effect, they do not realise that they are already caught in the same net in which they attempt to catch the others; in other words, that they are already slaves of their own power.
Westerners too easily consider guru and psychotherapist to be similar to one another: and it is widely believed that the latter does not need to justify the results of his methods in his own life. But the Sadguru, indeed, has to practice what he preaches. What is the value of beautiful speeches about liberation here and now, when the guru, after many decades, is less free of himself and of his defects than the average man? Taking the elementary precaution of making enquiries about a guru’s way of life and about the quality of his milieu, one can avoid disappointment, like that of this Westerner whom I met in India: she recognised that she had wasted ten years of her life with her Tantric guru, but she wasted another ten years bemoaning the fact. In all twenty years lost...
Once such points are clarified, one may also say that there are some Hindu gurus who have attained a high spiritual level by including Tantric elements in their sadhana: Shri Anirvan (cf. "Annexes"), Vishudananda of Benares, Ramakrishna in the last century. The latter had been initiated into the Tantras, as well as into some Vaishnavite practices, by a woman, Bhairavi Brahmini. As far as one can know, he has transmitted little of these Tantric practices to his disciples, but he did not deny that they could have their place: "In all houses, he said, there is a back door."
In common with Tantrism, Hatha-yoga produces a quick awakening of kundalini, of energy, when it is practised as a sadhana, that is to say, many hours, even eight or ten hours a day. This is very different from the Hatha-yoga practised for health purposes, for instance for half or one hour a day; in this latter case, it awakes energy in reasonable proportions. The awakening, when not mastered, is similar to a hypomaniac state with hyperactivity of all functions of the psycho-physical system. The main untoward effects for the yogi are an unexpected intensification of aggressiveness and of sexual desire. Since the sadhaka has a great faith in his art, he tries to solve this problem by intensifying his practice of asanas, because it is what he knows better, and so he actually aggravates it: if someone has burning sensations in his stomach while taking aspirin, it is not clever to take a triple dose of it to stop the pain, which is actually caused by aspirin itself. One risks being caught in a vicious circle.
An Indian guru of Hatha-yoga well known in the West although controversial, admitted: "the only thing that I do not master is aggressiveness." There lies the difficulty, and it is not a small one: if the guru is prone to anger, he will be felt as sadistic by his disciples and will attract masochistic followers. Strange deviation. I often noticed that in the West people do not know meditation, or distrust it, or lack a minimum of concentration for sitting in silence, or do not find teachers. Then, they vent all their frustrated mystic needs in the cult of yoga postures, and transfer their sense of guilt for not being able to master the mind, in their physical practices, which become unconsciously felt as suffering and punishment.
This leads to long term problems. There is a surplus of vital energy in an unprepared mind, whose subtle channels (nadis) are not oriented in the right direction by a daily work of meditation. In practice, the sadhaka, though developing a certain dynamism, has the tendency to inflate his ego and to become psychorigid.
According to Hatha-Yoga Pradipika, a reference-text of Hatha-yoga, samadhi, the goal of yoga, may be attained by postures (asanas), respiration (pranayama) and certain gestures (mudras). I asked Tara Michael, who has translated this text into French and who lived ten years in India, whether she had met some Masters who had attained realisation solely through this means, she answered that she had looked for them for a long time, but had not found any.
But I think that Hatha-yoga, performed gently and along with meditation, can only do good, especially in the West where many people do not do any physical activity, not even walking or climbing stairs. "The body is as delicate as a wrapping paper around a gift" used to say Ma Anandamayi. "One should be careful to unwrap it slowly, without tearing it apart." Some teachers should meditate upon this sentence, because it is for them that I see the danger of Hatha-yoga. They want to become great specialists of their art, some kind of champion, and, in order to impress their client, they force their body and their mind. Perhaps it would be useful to narrate here the story of the jnani and of Gorakhnath, the Hatha-yogi—a story that Ramana Maharshi liked to repeat to his visitors:
"One day a jnani (he who follows the path of knowledge) met Gorakhnath who declared to him: ‘thanks to my Hatha-yoga, I have the power to be struck by a sword, without even being scratched. You may try, I challenge you to have such power with your yoga of knowledge." The jnani accepts the challenge and strikes the hatha-yogi a few times. The sword is chipped, but the hatha-yogi actually does not have a single scratch. When the latter strikes in turn the jnani, the sword passes through his body like through a shadow, without meeting any resistance whatsoever. The jnani, smiling, looks at his opponent and tells him playing with the Sanskrit words: Kaya, chaya, which mean ‘body’, ‘shadow’. The hatha-yogi has to bow down."
The Guru, the Mother and Compassion
The guru is often compared to a mother: their common quality is compassion, their disinterested love being devoted respectively to the disciple (shishya) or to the small child (shishu). We have already spoken about this similarity in the first chapter. In ashrams, the guru is often associated with his main disciple, the Mother, who may look after his institution in his name and also succeed him when he passes away. This was the case with Shri Aurobindo and Mira, with Dilip Kumar Roy and Indira Devi, with Ramdas and Krishnabai. Conversely, if the guru is a woman, the main disciple could be the "father" of the ashram. In some ways, this is like a reproduction of the divine couple, for example Shiva and Shakti, Shiva seated in meditation and Shakti acting around him. As Shri Aurobindo says:
"The two who are one possess the secret of all power;
The two who are one represent the power and the rectitude of things."43
Through their mutual respect and obedience, the guru and the Mother may serve as "hangers" for each other’s egos. Shri Aurobindo, for instance, who had a very brief relationship with his guru, felt the need to abandon the direction of his practical life as well as that of the ashram to the Mother. He, perhaps, compensated in this way for his lack of protracted devotion to a guru in his itinerary, and at the same time he avoided focussing on himself the whole devotion of his disciples. Often in the ashrams, one can hear the song of guru kripa hi kevalam , that is: "The guru is but grace". Compassion is his intrinsic quality. He is always there to share, but there is nobody to take. If he does not remain engrossed in the happiness of samadhi it is because his disciples need him.
An anecdote will show how a guru may combine compassion and detachment. A French woman, disciple of Chidananda at Rishikesh, had recently lost her son in a car accident: one day she presented to Chidananda some of her son’s personal belongings. The swami treasured them near him, and the day of the next festival of the Mothers, he gave those belongings back to her for her to throw them into the Ganges.44 The attachment from which the guru allows one to free oneself are those attachments which are no longer meaningful. It eases the labour of mourning. The disciples of Ramana Maharshi had symbolically understood his action towards the members of the ashram when they noticed that he took up baby-squirrels that had fallen down from their nests, kept them in a cage, fed them and looked after them until they could live alone. Then, he let them free.45
The guru, like the mother, meets a need: he gives food to those who are hungry, drink to those who are thirsty. Sai Baba of Shirdi, whom many people came to see not to obtain liberation but to be healed of a physical trouble, or to solve their family problems, used to say this famous sentence: "I give them what they ask for, waiting for them to ask for what I want to give them"...
Seeing the guru: darshan and satsang
Darshan means seeing the guru, and satsang to be with him. The principle of darshan is the same as that of meditation: one becomes what he looks at. Even in rather big groups gurus have the reputation of being able to establish a personal relationship with each of the members of the audience, like Krishna who could establish a unique relationship with each of the sixteen thousand gopis surrounding him.
Nevertheless, it is in a darshan with a small group that one can better appreciate the game of the guru. Very often it ends with an individual greeting of the visitors who come to prostrate themselves before the Master. Westerners unconsciously influenced by the old Biblical taboos feel that they may go to hell if they prostrate before a man or a woman: but in Indian culture, the prostration is a common sign of respect: it is not infrequent for children to prostrate in front of their parents before going to bed. If the group for darshan is big, this procedure may last many hours. When Upasani Baba used to come to Bombay, there was a kilometre and a half long queue to greet him.
At the end of a long darshan of this kind, Nimkaroli Baba’s assistants brought to his notice that he did not even go to urinate. The latter pretended to get angry: "It is your fault! You forgot to tell me!"46 On another occasion the Baba received the visit of the army; trucks arrived, hundreds of soldiers descended and went to prostrate themselves at his feet;47 it is a scene difficult to imagine outside India... Sai Baba of Shirdi says that he attained realization by serving his guru, by watching him and being watched by him for twelve years. He did not even receive any mantra.48 Shri Aurobindo considered that his philosophy was especially intended for Western intellectuals in order to prepare them for the direct contact with the guru. The Indians, he believed, established this contact much more easily, and, consequently, were less in need of the intellectual aspect of his work.49
Nevertheless, one should not remain under the impression that this notion of darshan exists only in India. It is said that Emerson, the American writer, was a great admirer of Carlyle. He travelled all the way from United States to London in order to meet him. Having reached the pub where the latter used to go, he asked the waiter to show him Carlyle’s table; he went to sit at his side for almost two hours without exchanging a word with him; then he took his ship back to the Unites States. One of his friends asked him for his impressions: "I felt a tremendous peace and happiness"50 was his only answer.
Nisargadatta Maharaj, a Vedantin Master, attained realisation through devotion to his guru: "The quickest way to realisation is to meet one’s own guru with an empty mind"51 Every day, "he sang and danced with great abandon" before the image of his guru, forcefully banging a pair of cymbals...52 Sometimes he was also crying, or going into a sort of trance. When somebody asked him why he, the Vedantin, continued to perform the ritual in honour of his guru, he answered: "This is our custom; and then, it does not hurt anybody." He once told an American who had practised meditation for twenty years in India and whom I met later near Ma Amritanandamayi: "The Vedantic talks I give are for the others, for the intellectuals; for you who have devotion toward your guru, it is enough to cry thinking of him." Nisargadatta advised a visitor, who was risking a psychotic dissociation, but did not want to stay a few days more as he was asked, to focus his meditation on himself, i.e., Nisargadatta: "Reminding yourself of what I am, is the knowledge of what you are."53
It is strongly recommended that the guru’s darshan be mentally prolonged by the disciple: the latter may, as an aid to meditation, visualize the shape of his Master at the top of his head, between his eyebrows or at heart level. Seeing the Master is, in a certain sense, more important than listening to him. Once Ramakrishna reproached Vivekananda for accepting but a very small part of what he said, and he even asked him why he kept coming to visit him. "I do not come to listen to you, I come to see you" was the disciple’s answer, an answer that gave extreme happiness to Ramakrishna.54 An English writer, Somerset Maugham, had just arrived at the ashram of Ramana Maharshi. He fainted; when he woke up, the sage, who had been informed, was there watching him. They remained facing each other for an hour, without a word. Then Ramana returned to his hall, and Maugham, who was only there for a quick visit, left the ashram a little later.55
The guru, in the same way as the child-god Dakshinamurti, teaches through silence. Knowledge, (jnana) is acquired through the satsang, or rather its "atmosphere."56 It may be noticed that the term "atmosphere" contains the same root as atma, meaning "soul" in Sanskrit; in the atmosphere that the sage creates around him the soul is palpable. The sage who has had the experience of the Self is spontaneously silent. He is like Sita, who was asked to say who her husband was among a group of rishis in the forest. To each person that was pointed out to her she said: "No, no," but when they pointed at her husband, she simply remained silent.57 The sadhaka who has some spiritual experiences has an automatic tendency to speak about them. He is like the empty bottle which is filling up under the water. But once he attained the Self, once he is full, he is silent. If he then speaks again, it is in order to teach, again like a bottle which is again producing a noise when it is filling up another one.
One should not believe that a silent sage (muni) is inactive. Ramana Maharshi compares him to a spinning top: "The sage is characterized by an eternal and intense activity. His immobility is like that of the top which whirls extremely fast. His very movement cannot even be followed by the eye and, therefore, it appears to be immobile. The apparent inaction of the sage is similar to this. One has to explain that, because generally people confuse immobility and inertia. However, this is not the case."58
The guru speaks little, but at the right moment. I met a Frenchman who came to Chandra Swami in Hardwar, in the ’70s. He was more or less a hippy and at that time he did not have any money. He was fed by the guru together with two or three of his friends. He did not ask anything, while the others questioned Chandra Swami he just listened, and the guru did not ask anything either. Something pushed him to go back to the ashram rather regularly in the following years. After about ten years he asked his first question to the Swami: "Would you accept me as a disciple?—Yes, I do" the latter immediately answered. Since that time, he has not asked anything else, but he had organized his life for the last two years in such a way as to be able to come, with his wife, to the ashram for six months a year, now that his four children are independent; he seems very happy like this.
The guru teaches more by his example than by his words, but he teaches even more by his influence than by his example. He has developed, little by little over many years, the art of speaking without words: "My only ambition was to learn how to speak without words, that is to say, to be the smoke of a fire that the others do not see...this took me fifty years."59
This silent teaching is not alien to the intuitions of some Westerners; Rainer Maria Rilke writes to the "young poet": "I think so strongly about you, dear Mr Kaeppers, and I concentrate my vows on you in such a way that this should, it seems to me, help you in some manner. On the other hand, I often doubt that my letters may give you any real support... All I wish is for you to abandon yourself with faith and patience to the action of this wonderful solitude."60
Darshan is a privileged moment for the disciple; he may feel the universal countenance of his guru: "Between you and me, this body will never be a barrier" Ma Anandamayi said to one of her disciples who complained about the distance between her and Westerners. Beyond the satsang which consists of being physically before the guru, the real satsang is that of being with the Self. This is its ultimate meaning, and maybe what one woman, a great disciple of Upasani Baba, realised for herself: once she came for the darshan of her guru, prostrated herself at his feet and never got up again. Maybe she had first entered samadhi (enstasis) because her body was still warm in the evening. But later, her death was confirmed. On the way to the cremation ground Upasani Baba danced, saying that his disciple had attained an exalted state of realisation and he himself lit the pyre—a procedure which generally is performed by the eldest son.
"The guru is not a person". This is a fundamental point of Hindu tradition. This is difficult to understand for a Westerner who has built up his psychology on the strength of his notion of person, and who believes, as a result of this, that God is separate from such a person. For the Indian, this belief anchored on the person is a subtle form of psycho-rigidity. He knows very well that he risks neither craziness, nor death, if he becomes, step by step, slowly disidentified from this notion of person through the yogic quest. In fact, he reveals to himself, then, his divine nature, which was already dormant within. The guru is of the same quality as God, even if he does not have "quantitatively" all his attributes even if, for instance, he is not creator. He is, to God, what sea-water in a glass is to sea-water in the ocean, or what a tree is to the forest.
The Hindus know that there is a power which helps them, without troubling themselves about its name: God or Guru. As an example we could cite a small advertisement, published some years ago in a reputable newspaper of Bombay: "Thanks to Jesus, to the Virgin Mary, to the Holy Spirit and to Sai Baba of Shirdi for grace received." In the station-hall of Hardwar, I saw only two graffiti, inscriptions, of course in Hindi: guru ki jay, "long life to the guru", and Ram, Ram, Ram, one of the names of God most often given as a mantra by gurus. The signs of veneration toward the Master may sometimes have a peculiar echo for a Christian, like the leaves carpeting the road and the palm branches that the inhabitants of a small town in Kerala used when they fanned Ma Amritanandamayi, a thirty-six year old guru, during her solemn entrance in the village. This did not occur in very ancient times, but in the year 1989.
The realised sage is the height of what is sacred for a Hindu: Banaras is the most sacred town in India, the Vishvanath temple is the most sacred place in Banaras, and the Shivalingam (raised stone) is the most sacred centre of this temple. It is said that Trilanga Swami, a sage who lived on the ghats at the end of the nineteenth century, used to sleep with his feet on the Shivalingam. This did not seem to shock people. Even the Gods have their own guru; thus they are not proud believing that they are the only ones in Heaven. One of the largest temples of Shiva in the South, is called Rameshwaram, "God of Rama", Rama being himself a God too. The opposite situation is found in other places of Indian pilgrimage.
When a Hindu says that the guru is God, this for him evokes, if he said it in Christian language, not the terrible God of the Old Covenant, Lord of the armies and jealous of all the other gods, but rather the Jesus of the Gospels, who was called rabboni, our Master, by his disciples; or even the Jesus of the Holy Family, who was seen by his neighbours as an apprentice carpenter; or also the Jesus of the Eastern Morning, mistaken by Mary Magdalene as the gardener. The disciple, at the beginning, sees only the external aspect of his guru. But he discovers his divine aspect when he develops his own humility: "He has to grow and I to diminish" it is said in the Christian Scriptures. A proverb says: "There is no great man for his servant"... but there are great gurus for their disciples. Communal life allows the disciple to better discern where the greatness of his guru lies.
The disciple, having learned how to adopt complete humility towards his guru, acquires a maturity which allows him to receive without pride the veneration of his own disciples when he becomes guru in his turn. From the Hindu point of view, when Krishna declares that he is the one towards whom all paths converge, or when the Christ says: "I am the Way, the truth and the life" one should not give a sectarian meaning to the term. They speak from the viewpoint of identification with the Absolute, and not as heads of a particular community which should be imposed on all the others. In the same way, if some gurus are called Jagatgurus, "universal gurus", this does not mean that the whole universe has to prostrate before them, but rather that they have the ability to direct everyone according to the practice suitable to him and according to the sadhana he is already following. Ramakrishna, even when already recognised as avatar (incarnation) by a group of pandits, did not tolerate being called Guru, Karta (master) or even Baba (father): "This stung him like a thorn,"61 relates his wife Sarada Devi. He showed day after day, in various ways, his complete humility.
In the same way, Sai Baba of Shirdi, certainly the most venerated saint of twentieth century India, could say to his disciples, without fear of being extreme: I am the slave of the slaves, I am in debt to you, I consider myself happy to have your darshan [as if his disciples were his gurus]. It is a great favour to be seated at your feet. I am an insect on your excrement, and I consider this a blessing for me."62 Ma Anandamayi taught her disciples the utmost attention in every one of their actions. Once, and she was already very well known at that time, a girl of her ashram threw out some grains of rice when washing it and emptying the water into the gutter. Ma, coming to hear of it, told her: "If you do it again, I will go and eat them where they are." Needless to say, many years later the disciple still remembered the lesson.
If God made man in his own image, the spiritual Master is a bit more in God’s image, he is a clearer image of Him. In this sense Hindu devotion reaches its peak when, instead of worshipping a stone statue, he worships the guru, dressed with the attributes of God or Goddess. The cult of Sarada Devi in Calcutta during Durga pujas, after the death of Ramakrishna, remains one of the significant memories of the movement which was created around them. In such a context, the exclamation of Nisargadatta Maharaj: "God is my devotee" may be better understood. For whoever has really experienced what all this means, it is the highest of realizations. In this non-dualistic perspective, God is also the devotee of the disciple, and the guru does not see himself different either from God or from his disciple. When he speaks, "he is conscience speaking to conscience."63 He is at a stage where he may say: "As I hear the questions (that you ask me), so I hear the answers (that I give you)."64
The identification of Guru with God will enhance his power to help his disciple: "I have done 100 per cent; now you do 1 per cent", said Ramakrishna to one of his devotees.65 This, however, does not mean that a guru cannot have a sense of humour, if of course he is an authentic guru. Once an astrologist wanted to draw the chart of Ramdas; the latter laughed and replied: "Your planets!, Ramdas plays football with them!" He spoke from another point of view, even about himself. He used to say "Ramdas" instead of "I". Ramakrishna often said "here" to designate himself. Along the same line aiming at the non-identification of the "I", Ma Anandamayi often spoke of "this body", Yogi Raj Surat Kumar of "this beggar". It was in this spirit that Upasani Baba "married" his disciples to make them secluded nuns: during the "marriage" ceremony he held the hand of God’s statue.66
A guru is truly qualified to become a guru when he has forgotten his status of guru. This science of oblivion, rarely taught, is the subtility of subtilities. The student learns, the beginner sadhaka learns how to learn, and the advanced sadhaka learns how to forget. As for what happens to the sage, nobody knows but the sage himself. The guru manifests his divine and unlimited nature among other things through his patience, which is also limitless. "Stars, suns, and moons have no impatience. Silently, they follow the current of pure Existence, and this is what the true guru also does...,"67 a Baul’s song says. (The Bauls are a group of itinerant mystics in Bengal). Also without limits is the protection that the guru extends over his disciple. Ramana Maharshi, shortly before his death, answered one of his close disciples who asked him "Bhagavan (Lord) give me non-fear"—I have given you." This was his last word to that disciple.68
There are two possible scenarios with a guru. The first is that the guru has really attained a state of perfection, and he is right in not letting himself be dominated by the first person who comes along and who can recite by heart some passages of the Scriptures, or who has a degree in philosophy. He is right not to let himself be limited by those who have not attained his level of experience, and he is right to live in his mountain, following his own scale of values, like Ramana Maharshi when he said: "the walk of the jnani is like measuring sky with sky."69 The real guru reminds his disciple by all means that his real nature has no limits. He is like distant thunder: it is a faint sound, but which suddenly makes one aware of the vastness of space in which he revolves. Like Dattatreya, the Guru has learned from the Ocean and its waves to be vast and smiling.
In the second possibility, by far the most frequent, the guru shows, during his relationship with his disciple, that he has some defects. In this case, the disciple chooses always to see the divine spark in him first; and later on, if it does not work, to use his inner sense of truth and to see if this guru deserves to be still followed. It was the most common advice given by Ma Anandamayi to the numerous visitors coming to her to complain about the shortcomings of their gurus. The sage, among all human beings, is the only " human Being", in the sense that he partakes both of the Great Being and of the human. He represents the perfection of the Divinity, in the perfection of humanity. A Vedantin teacher, whom I met in Bombay, refers to a Sufi story in order to explain this relationship between the sage and God:
"There is a big banquet at the palace. Everybody is present, waiting for the King. The sage enters and sits on the throne. The First Minister, exasperated, asks him:
‘Do you claim to be the king?’
‘I do not; more than that’
‘Do you think you are the Prophet?’
‘Not at all; more than that’
‘Do you take yourself to be God?’
‘Oh no, more than that’
‘But there is nothing beyond God!
‘Right! that ‘nothing’ is what I am."70
The Guru-mirror, or the Reflections of Vacuity
One of the key points for the Western psychologist is to know how to reflect the emotions of his patient so that he can feel cared for, while at the same time keeping a certain distance. The archetype of the mirror is behind the notion of rogerian empathy, of counter-transference in psychoanalysis, of synchronization in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, etc. In the literary domain as well, a writer full of rich intuitions such as Marcel Brion, took the mirror as the topic of his last meditation. He entitled the last short story written before his death: L’Ermite au masque de miroir (The Hermit with a mirror mask).
The common man says that the eye is the mirror of the soul, that the psychism of an individual transpires through his sight. The eye of the sage is the mirror of the universal soul, containing the world, but not contained by it (atman). The mirror is a vacuity in which any object may be reflected. These two themes, mirror and vacuity, cannot be dissociated, and we are going to develop both in a parallel way. In order to teach a wild parrot how to speak, a mirror is used, behind which the talking person is hidden. In this way the bird thinks that another parrot is speaking to him and it gets the self-confidence needed to repeat what is said to it. In the same manner God reflects the human form of the disciple by speaking to him through his guru. In this way the disciple feels confident.71 Again, in the same manner, the disciple who sees God in the guru actually sees only the reflection of his own divine nature in a mirror which, properly speaking, cannot be called God. Upasani Baba explains: "If a mango is put before a mirror, the latter shows the reflection of the mango; however, you are not calling the mirror a "mango"; similarly, you could not call me ‘God."72
The guru, by imitating his disciple like a mirror, makes him aware of his own emotions. A mourning woman once came to see Ma Anandamayi; the latter started crying so much that the woman found enough courage again to comfort Ma and to tell her that the matter with her was not so serious. This is a form of paradoxical therapy. There is a common belief among disciples that the guru is able to take on himself all the evils which disturb them, though in an attenuated manner.
The guru is not an ordinary mirror. Neither he is a distorting mirror; he is rather a ‘re-forming’ mirror, so to say. He gives back to his disciple an improved and purified self-image and in this way helps him by suggesting to him, wherever he may be, the direction for his next step. There is a moment when the guru breaks the symmetry of the reflection, disassociating himself from his disciple in order to let him come out from his dream: it is the story of Krishna who, after a meal, rested under a tree with his disciple Narada. Krishna asked Narada to go and fetch him a glass of water. Narada goes to the nearest village, and gets to know the girl whom he had asked for the glass of water. They become friends, get married, have numerous children and live happily for many years. One day, a flood comes and takes away all Narada’s belongings and family. At the very moment when the flood was on the point of dragging away even Narada himself, he remembers Krishna, calls him and hears him telling: "stop dreaming; and go and fetch me that glass of water I asked you for..."
By considering the continual and quick interactions between guru and disciple, one ends up by perceiving that they are but one; in the same way that, by steadily gazing at the two fingers of a magician moving extremely fast, one ends up by seeing only one of them. The disciple reaches a stage when he understands that his guru is nothing else but the mirror in which he sees himself. This is a progress as important in the spiritual development of the disciple as the mirror stage in the psychological development of child: when he realizes who is this face in the mirror which he thought to be someone else, actually he meets himself. For a while, the child may call the face in the mirror: "mummy" because this is the first person he knows. For the same reason, a close disciple of Sai Baba of Shirdi did not call him "papa" (baba), but "mummy."73
A link may also be seen between the Guru-mirror and the "sign of the mirror", this symptom where the pre-schizophrenic, beginning to doubt his own personality, is in great turmoil and tries to reassure himself by looking at his face in a mirror. Sometimes, this is enough to balance things again; other times, this does not prevent a pathological evolution. In yoga, the deep defenses, considered by Western psychology as unassailable, are challenged, as for instance, identifica-tion with one’s own personality. Concentrating on the face of the guru, more effective than on one’s own face, helps one to achieve without risk the dissolution of what was believed to be oneself, in order to discover another Self, more fundamental and less conditioned by the hazards of our individual history.
The guru’s face, which is but one’s own face seen in the mirror that the guru is, is the reference of reality; once it is established, it is even possible to willingly consent to let the psychotic turmoil existing in any person rise to the surface, to stare at it and to appease it, without having to avert it by clinging, in an obsessional way, to the illusion of a rigid personality. This work cannot be done properly except with those subjects who not only are considered "normal" according to the usual norms of psychology, but are further endowed with a purified (sattvic in Indian psychology) mind.
The sage, if not asked about anything, has no thoughts. "He is like a child, who stops thinking about events soon after they happen. Thus, this shows that these events do not leave a deep impression in his mind. The same happens with the sage."74 His mind is empty of thoughts like the inside of a drum, so that he may resound according to the manner in which others play on him.
The disciple develops this vacuity, which is not a nothingness, by the contact with the guru. Nisargadatta Maharaj says: "Till the moment when I met my guru, I knew a lot of things. Now, I do not know anything... I know myself and I do not find either life or death in me, only pure being."75 This vacuity is synonymous with simplicity: "Where there is no mind, there is no ‘behind’ to this mind. I am totally forward, there is no behind! Void speaks, void remains."76 The disciple’s spirit is agitated, always in movement. The Guru’s spirit is immobile. From the contact of immobility and movement is born the right understanding, as a spark is born from friction between two sticks of wood.
If a sage is requested to say something about himself, he will remain silent, as silent as a tape-recorder on which an empty cassette is played. He has the stability of non-ego. Ordinary people are like cones on their end; a little push is enough to overturn them. Sadhakas are like cones on their base; a stronger knock is needed to tip them over. Sages are like cones on their side. In whatever direction one may push them, they cannot fall. This part about the Guru-mirror should not lead one to think that the disciple is forced to be the carbon copy of his Master. Vivekananda wrote: "Our Master Ramakrishna was so original! We have, each of us, to be original or to be nothing at all."77
The wish of the guru is to lead his disciple toward a unity overcoming the mirror stage: "Free yourself, destroy the wall of difference", said Sai Baba of Shirdi to a disciple who was leaving, "in this way we can see each other, we can meet face to face."
The Last Transmission
Can a guru wholly "transmit" himself into a disciple, and, if so, what are the qualities a disciple should have in order to receive such a transmission? Tradition says that this total communication is possible and for two reasons: on one hand, it is necessary from the institutional point of view, when there is a lineage of gurus which must be continued from generation to generation; on the other hand, from a global point of view there should always be in this world some sages who have a complete realisation, even if they remain unknown. According to the various spiritual traditions, it is a kind of prerequisite to the survival of humanity, be it in the hidden thirty-six sages of Judaism, in the forty saints of Islam or the sages of Mount Meru in Hinduism. The proportion of yogis and realised beings may vary in relation to the general population, but tradition maintains that there are ever a few of them in one place or another.
The sage, from his own point of view, is not under any obligation to choose a disciple to succeed him, except if he represents a lineage. He considers his disciples as parts of his own body, as emphasised by Sarada Devi when speaking about the disciples of her husband Ramakrishna: "All came from him and will return in him. All came from him—from his arms, from his feet, from his hair, etc., They are his members, parts of his body."78 Even if he apparently assigns different roles to them, this does not mean that he favours some of them and rejects others. He is like the director of a play who may assign the role of a rich person to one of his actors, and that of poor to another, without implying in his choice any sign of partiality.
The very fact that the guru passes away, that he gets rid of his physical frame, gives the disciples a complete maturity and allows the inner Master to assert itself. "It is for your own good that I go away..." the Christ said during the last Supper (Jn 16,7). In Hinduism it is said that it was good that Krishna left the gopis of Vrindavan in order to go to reign in Dwaraka, even if they tried to stop him by taking away the wheels of his chariot. They had to get detached from the physical form of the Master. The scene has been sung by poets and represented in miniatures countless time. Ma Anandamayi moved around a lot; she often said, when her devotees complained about her leaving: "It is not a a matter of going or of coming back. I am always with you. You cannot forget me. May one forget his own Self?"
He who receives the transmission of the Master sometimes may reveal himself spontaneously. During the funeral procession of one of the gurus of the Radha Soamis community, one of the disciples, Anand Swarup Saheb, entered into trance, ordered everybody to sit down and claimed that he had just received the transmission of the preceding guru. A good deal of the disciples, who were present at the moment have acknowledged the fact, and he has developed one of the more dynamic and famous branches of the community for many decades since.
Impending death pushes the guru to condense his message, like the Christ did during the last Supper. Nisargadatta Maharaj, seized by throat-cancer, some months before his death said: "There does not remain much time for me: speak to me of God, of yourself or of myself." He was not very much in favour of having his talks recorded, thinking that capturing the words like this would run the risk of further increasing the conditioning of his disciples.79 Some days later, he had an audio cassette of a previous talk of his which was being played, stopped, and collected his remaining strength to say: "Think well on what you have just heard, but infinitely more important: ask yourselves who is he who has listened."
Sometimes it is believed that the guru may transmit, may "give" realisation. But this is not the case; all he can do is to tell a disciple who has had some intense spiritual experiences that this is not the realisation. He is like the minister accompanying a beggar when the latter had obtained the favour of a private audience with the king. The poor person, never having entered a palace, asks, by pointing to people in every hall he passes through: "Is he the king?" The minister simply says "no" every time, and when he reaches the king’s room, remains at the threshold and, without saying anything, lets the beggar go in.
One of the old disciples of Ma Anandamayi told me: "One of the greatest services that Ma has rendered to us is making us understand that we were not realised. You would not see monastic disciples of Ma claiming to be realised. Since we were so near her, we could see the difference between her level and ours. There is a problem in the case of the disciple of a guru who is not spiritually well advanced: he may have the impression of being realised from the moment he has reached the level of his guru."
What does a guru exactly wish to leave to his disciples when he passes away? Shri Anirvan expresses it poetically in his own way:
"My ambition is not very high. It is that of living a life rich with impressions, bright up to the end, of leaving after me some books based on my lifetime research toward freedom, and some souls that would be awakened. My goal? To inspire some people and give them the greatest conceivable freedom for living their own lives, without noise, without prestige, without the protection of any institution, nothing. The goal of living in a simple way and of dying shining with brightness..."80
Other masters, like Upasani Baba, express their realisation in a more direct manner: "From my experience of all these years, I say with assurance that I live in the state of being-conscience-happiness (sacchidananda). Even if I get rid of this body, I exist for ever. If you remember me, you will come to me."81 Sometimes, the ‘testament’ may be revealed in the form of an incident. The night before his death Nimkaroli Baba left his ashram; nobody suspected that this was his last departure. When passing the gate, the blanket he wore as usual fell down: "Do not pick it up, he told his disciples, one must not be attached."82
If the guru has a successor, the disciples would have the tendency to follow him rather than stay near the tomb of the dead. For instance, the devotee who was responsible for the ritual prayer in honour of Sai Baba of Shirdi, while he was alive, did not stay near his tomb after his death, but went to continue the same ritual before his successor who was Upasani Baba.83 For the sage, death is the supreme ecstasis. His relative absence (of his physical body) becomes absolute presence.84 When the disciple feels that and does not really see any difference between the presence and the absence of the Master, he has attained realisation.
Worshiping the Tomb
According to Hindu belief, energy continues to circulate in the body of the sage who has taken maha-samadhi, i.e., the "great ecstasy," term given to the death of a yogi. Furthermore, since his body is pure, it is not cremated, but put sitting in lotus position in a cubic tomb that is called samadhi around which a cult is organized. Sai Baba of Shirdi said: "My grave will speak; my dust will answer to you. My sanctuary will bless my devotees and will meet their needs." And actually, Sai Baba’s grave has become an important Hindu centre of pilgrimage.
Since one becomes what one meditates upon, the seekers meditating on the tomb (samadhi) of a sage will be helped in their path towards enstasis (also samadhi) which is the goal of yoga. The grave of a sage becomes a centre of spiritual concentration near which his former disciples or the successors of his lineage may be met. The cult of the tombs of saints is not exc lusive to Hinduism; it is also especially developed in Christianity and in Islam, where the tomb is called marabout or in India dargah, in spite of the official veto on the cult of images. This devotional activity is part and parcel of the almost daily religious activities of a good number of Indian Muslims.
Some gurus, feeling that their end is near, may also consciously encourage their posthumous (post mortem) cult. Jnanananda of Tirukovilur, at the time of his last birthday, blessed his own statue; a strange photo of him may be seen nonchalantly resting his elbow on the shoulder of his own statue, and staring at the camera with an half-serious, half-amused expression.85 This should not shock people, when it is known that disciples worship their guru while still alive. Vivekananda and his companions regularly danced circling around Ramakrishna in ecstasy, in the same way as other Bengali may do for whole nights around a kind of pillar with images of Krishna, while chanting the maha-mantra (Hare Krishna...., Hare Rama...).86
The worship (puja) of one’s own guru is the highest of cults in as far as one has known that particular guru and has loved him. It has the advantage of reminding the disciples, when themselves have become Master, that they are nothing without the grace of their own Guru, thereby saving them from pride, the great risk that somebody who acts as spiritual teacher has to face, especially in India. Someone who is accustomed to worshipping a guru of the past will have less trouble in establishing a relationship with a living guru. D. Mukhopadhyay had developed a disciple devotion toward Ramakrishna, though the latter was dead decades before his birth. When he met Ma Anandamayi, it was enough for him to transpose the object of his devotion from a dead guru to a living guru. This did not cause him any difficulty: the ground was already prepared.87 The same occurred for devotees of the Ramakrishna Mission in Kerala, who recently have become disciples of Ma Amritanandamayi.
The saint is creator of sacredness in as far as the site where he lives and where he is buried later becomes a sacred place, a site of pilgrimage. A Hindu begins his religious career by visiting the nearby temples. Later, he moves to more distant pilgrimages and then covers the whole of India. On these occasions he visits the graves of those gurus who have recently passed away. Then, a day will come when he goes to a place where the guru is living, and he becomes his disciple, if thus is his destiny. This flexibility, this identity of structure between going to the temple and going to the Guru, this ease with which one passes from a ritualized cult to the worship of a flesh and blood being, are mainly responsible, to my mind, for the vitality of Hinduism.
Criteria to Discern an Authentic Guru (Sadguru)
To some extent, the whole of this work is an attempt to determine and specify these criteria. Meditation about what makes an authentic guru is a spiritual practice in itself and the best preparation for knowing how to recognize one of them if destiny leads us before him. We have already underlined the fact that in the West, this information about what is an authentic spiritual Master is not very developed, and this helps us to understand many mistakes of choice, which fortunately are not irreversible.
When the disciple meets the Sadguru he feels it: he feels the disinterested love of the latter towards him. Nevertheless, he must establish a lasting relationship with him in order to validate or invalidate this first impression, clear as it may have been. It is said that only a sage can recognize another sage. It is true, if one wants to say "recognize with certainty." But a spiritual seeker may form an idea of the level of a guru by distinguishing those signs appearing to him as favourable from those which do not seem to be so. Rather than a mathematical type of certainty, it is more like a medical diagnosis where an assumption of diagnosis is based on a series of arguments. In practice it is difficult to have an established and very precise opinion about other people’s gurus. The certainty is acquired with one’s own guru, and, after all, this is sufficient.
According to Ramakrishna, to become a guru one must have experienced at least the savikalpa samadhi (the ecstasy with meditation which flows continuously towards a given form). Failing this, a person is entitled to help others on the spiritual path if he pursues a pure life. It is a criterion that seems simple, but which already eliminates a good many of either known or unknown gurus. Western people often think that because someone is Indian, knows a bit of Sanskrit, some yoga techniques, some ayurvedic recipes and is amiable, he is entitled to become a guru. This may perhaps be true if one takes the guru in the general meaning of "professor", but this is no longer true if one thinks about the authentic guru, the Sadguru who has been the main subject of these chapters.
For lack of knowledge on this subject, and also for lack of psychological and spiritual discrimination, one does not realise how far a spiritual teacher may mix up true and false, the best and the worst, sometimes even without realizing it himself. It is for this reason that Nimkaroli Baba advised his visitors: "‘Sift’ the gurus. Be polite and respectful with them, but sieve what they tell you." It is important to know how to judge the tree by its fruits, keeping in mind however that if one is endlessly on the lookout for faults in gurus, one will end up by finding faults, but not gurus... This problem was already felt at the time of Christ:
"John has come, who does not eat and drink, and they said: he has a demon. The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and they say: is a eater and drinker, a friend of publicans and sinners. But Wisdom has been justified by her children (Mt II, 18-19)."
If initiation is compared to marriage, it could be said that it should "open both eyes before it, and only one after it." Sometimes, a guru-disciple couple may appear pathological, like couples of lovers. But it is difficult to judge from outside. Maybe they need to be like this to live, to balance themselves. Maybe if they happen to be alone, they may become worse, or even attempt to commit suicide. There are many different levels, as much in the quest as in the answer to this quest. Tradition has it that there is a greatness in remaining together for the better or for the worse. However, a guru is especially important at the beginning. Yet, an agreement must still be found about what "beginning" means. Many people I met who claimed that they did not need help to lead their spiritual life, still had, in my view, a long way to go before reaching that state of "beginning", and before being mature enough to benefit from the help of a guru.
The disciple, at some stages of his spiritual practice, reaches certain kinds of blocks, it is as if he were at the foot of a cliff. The guru tosses a rope to him from the top; then it is a matter of who is the strongest: if the guru is the stronger, he will lift up the disciple, if the latter is the stronger, he will pull his guru over.
A Sadguru is kept till the moment of liberation, even if this is attained only at the end of several lives, according to Hindu tradition. Once when Ma Anandamayi was mentioning this idea, a visitor asked her: "And what if one changes Sadguru?" Ma answered, with an indisputable logic: "If you change him, it is because he was not your Sadguru."
The spiritual level of a guru cannot be judged by the quantity of disciples he has. A master may be compared to a number. Some numbers are not high, but can be divided by many other numbers, like the number 54, for instance; a guru may have many disciples without having attained a high spiritual level. Conversely, prime numbers, which cannot be divided by any other, can be found until the infinite: tradition recognises the existence of great sages who remain isolated.
Some gurus keep their disciples in the expectation of secrets that they will reveal to them later, always later... In India they are called the "gurus with the clenched fist." It seems to me that, behind this blackmail about a secret, there is a great risk of spiritual manipulation. Vivekananda, who was at the same time a public man and the disciple of Ramakrishna who knew tantrism, said, in his usual striking style: "If the Devil exists, he exists in the secret societies." The Hindu gurus who insist on rituals do not keep their Western disciples for long; their cultural differences soon become apparent, and there is disappointment on both sides.
Even if the guru sometimes may appear to teach a fairly complex spiritual science, his prime function is to lead to unity. The word "science" etymologically means "division", like the word "saw" (French: "scier"). If the living being is divided and incessantly analysed, it will end up dying. What is death but such a thorough fragmentation of the body that it comes to dissolution? The feeling of being alive is also the feeling of being one. This unity is found again when the function of the spiritual Master is considered in its totality, beyond the very questions we have just discussed, that is to say, which particular guru is better than another or which particular guru is less good. Provided that they are sincere, all gurus are one.