Saturday 6 January 2007

Is a 'human guru' really necessary?

In a comment on the post Your comments and questions are welcome (1), Anonymous wrote:

Lakshmana Swamy says that one should have a human guru, which seems to be suicidal to the teachings of Bhagavan. Why does a senior Swamy like him subscribe to this idea? It looks as though Ramana were not existing as the eternal being.
If Lakshmana Swami has said that we need a 'human guru', I do not know what he means by this term. If he means a manifestation of the one eternal guru in human form, then yes, for most of us such a 'human guru' is necessary, but that 'human guru' need not now be living in his human form.

Sri Ramana is such a 'human guru', and the fact that he cast off his human guise more than 56 years ago makes absolutely no difference to his ability to help us in our struggle to return to our original source, which is our consciousness of our own essential being, 'I am', and which is the true form of the guru. His grace and guidance are as real and as powerful now as they were when he appeared in his human guise, and they will always be so.

The real guru is our own true self, our essential being, which always shines within us as our fundamental consciousness — our non-dual self-consciousness 'I am'. This fundamental consciousness of our own being is the original light, an illusory reflection of which appears as the individual object-knowing consciousness that we call our 'mind'. As such it is the light that illumines all other lights — both the physical light that illumines this world, and the reflected light of consciousness (our mind) by which we know that physical light and all other things (both our own thoughts and the objects that we imagine exist outside our mind).

Though it is the light to all lights, our fundamental consciousness of our own essential being, 'I am', is seemingly clouded and obscured by our deeply engrained habit of attending to thoughts and so-called 'external objects', all of which we form in our mind by our power of imagination. Because our attention is thus habitually extroverted, being always directed towards things that we imagine to be other than ourself, our own true self has to appear externally in the human form of the guru in order to teach us to turn our attention within, towards our own consciousness of being.

When we follow this advice of the guru in human form, we will discover the true form of the guru within ourself. This true form of the guru is our own natural clarity of self-consciousness, which was formerly obscured by the dense cloud of our mental activity or imagination.

The sole purpose of the manifestation of the eternal guru in a transitory human form is to teach us by words and example, thereby enabling us to understand the nature of the reality and the means by which we can attain it. Since these teachings of the 'human guru' remain and are available to us even after he has cast off his human guise, if we have understood his teachings correctly there is absolutely no need for us to look for any other human manifestation of the guru.

Even when he was living in his human form, Sri Ramana taught us that he is not the human form that we mistake him to be, and that the real guru is within us. The sole aim of all that he taught us was to turn our attention within, away from all forms, both human and otherwise. Therefore, though we should revere his human form so long as we mistake ourself to be a human form, we should always remember that the only true way to revere him is to do as he advised us, namely to turn our attention selfwards and thereby to drown our mind in the perfect clarity of pure self-consciousness, which alone is his true form.

As Anonymous correctly observed, if we aspire to follow the teachings of Sri Ramana but still believe that we must have some 'human guru' other than him, such a belief would truly "be suicidal to the teachings of Bhagavan". That is, since Sri Ramana taught us that we should direct our attention and all our efforts inwards in order to discover the real guru, who shines within us as our own true and natural clarity of self-consciousness, if instead we were to direct our attention outwards believing that we need to depend upon some external guru who is currently living in a human form, we would be going in a direction diametrically opposite to that in which Sri Ramana taught us to seek the ultimate and absolute reality.

The real 'human guru' helps us by teaching us that we cannot attain true peace and happiness, or true knowledge, by directing our attention outwards, but only by turning it away from all external things, including even our own thoughts and mind, and focusing it keenly and exclusively upon our own essential being. Therefore if any so-called 'human guru' tells us that we need to have a guru who is currently living in a human form, such a 'human guru' cannot be a real guru, because he or she is failing to emphasise that all we need do is to turn our mind within to know our own true self.

As I said above, I do not know in which sense Lakshmana Swami uses the term 'human guru'. If he uses it to mean the one eternal guru manifested in a human form, whether that human form is living at present or lived at some time in the past, then he is correct in saying that we should have a 'human guru', because we do need such a guru to tell us that the peace, happiness, absolute reality and true knowledge that we all seek are our own essential self, and that we can attain them only by turning our attention inwards to scrutinise our own true being and thereby to know what we really are.

However, if he uses the term 'human guru' to mean specifically a 'guru' who is currently living in a human form, then it is not correct to say that we need such a 'human guru' — or 'living guru' as some other people describe such a person. As Sri Sadhu Om used to say, if we want to depend upon such a 'living guru', we will end up being disappointed, because that 'living guru' will one day become a 'dead guru'.

The true 'living guru' is not merely a person who is currently living in human form, but is the ever-living reality, which exists within us eternally as our own true self. Only this ever-living guru can enable us to transcend the illusory duality of life and death.

Most of our misconceptions about the true meaning of terms such as 'human guru' or 'living guru' arise because we mistake the real guru like Sri Ramana to be the human form in which he temporarily manifested himself. However, as Sri Ramana always emphasised, the real guru is not the human form that he appears to be, but is the infinite, eternal and ever-present reality, which we all experience as our basic consciousness of our own being, 'I am'.

The reason why we mistake the real guru to be the currently living or formerly living human being that he appears or appeared to be, is because we mistake ourself to be a human being. This mistaken notion that we are a person, a finite individual being, is the root cause of all our ignorance and all the problems that we experience as a result of our ignorance.

This mistaken notion, 'I am a person' or 'I am this body', is precisely the problem that the real guru teaches us the means to transcend. Therefore no real guru will ever ask us to attach any importance to his own human form, because attaching such importance would only reinforce our mistaken notion that we ourself are the human form that we imagine ourself to be. This is the reason why Sri Ramana always emphasised that he was not the body that he appeared to be, and that the real guru is not a human being but is only the eternal reality, 'I am'.

With reference to Lakshmana Swami's saying that we should have a 'human guru', Anonymous asks, "Why does a senior Swamy like him subscribe to this idea?" This is a question that I cannot answer, because I am not sure exactly what his idea about our need for a 'human guru' is. I would like to think that by the term 'human guru' he is referring to the human form and teachings of our sadguru, Bhagavan Sri Ramana, in which case this is the correct view of all true disciples of Sri Ramana.

In this context, please refer to what I have written in my main website, Happiness of Being, on the page Happiness of Being - About Michael James, in which I explain the views of Sri Muruganar and Sri Sadhu Om regarding whether or not we need any 'living guru' other than Sri Ramana, and whether or not any true disciple of Sri Ramana would ever pose as a 'living guru'. What I have written there is as follows:
Some people who did not know either of them closely used to say that Sri Sadhu Om was a disciple of Sri Muruganar. Similarly, many people who did not understand him correctly believed that Sri Sadhu Om was acting as a guru and that I was his disciple. However, neither Sri Muruganar nor Sri Sadhu Om ever considered themself to be a guru, because they knew from their own direct experience that no intermediary is ever necessary between Sri Ramana and any of his followers or devotees.

Not only did they not regard themself to be the guru of anyone, but they also actively discouraged anyone else from regarding them as such, saying that if we sincerely wish to practice the teachings of Sri Ramana, he will himself act directly as our guru, providing us with all the help and guidance that we need in order to turn our mind inwards and thereby to merge and lose our separate individuality in the clear light of true self-knowledge, which is the essential and real nature of the guru. Therefore neither Sri Sadhu Om nor I ever considered our friendship to be a relationship between guru and disciple.

Sri Sadhu Om used to refer to all of us who were close to him simply as his 'friends', and he made it clear that he did not regard any of us as his disciples, but considered us all to be fellow devotees and disciples of Sri Ramana. For my part, I considered Sri Sadhu Om to be a very dear and close friend, but also a true guide and philosopher, and though in many respects our friendship was on a perfectly equal footing, I nevertheless inwardly felt great respect and regard for him as a very much more senior and truly dedicated disciple of Sri Ramana than myself.

Though it is not true to say either that Sri Muruganar was the guru of Sri Sadhu Om, or that Sri Sadhu Om was my guru, I do gratefully acknowledge the fact that my understanding of Sri Ramana and his teachings has to a very great extent been formed, strengthened, deepened and clarified through the direct influence of my close friendship with Sri Sadhu Om, and that as a result of the intimate friendship that existed between the two of them, through the clear and unobstructed channel of Sri Sadhu Om my understanding has also been very strongly influenced by Sri Muruganar.

Sri Sadhu Om often said that no true disciple of Sri Ramana can be a guru, because Sri Ramana alone is the guru of all who are attracted to his teachings. Whenever anyone asked him whether it is not necessary for us to have a 'living guru', Sri Sadhu Om used to laugh and say, "guru alone is living, and we are all dead", and he explained the real guru is not a physical body but is the ever-living spirit, the infinite consciousness of being that exists within each one of us as our own true self.

That infinite and eternal spirit appeared in the physical form of Sri Ramana in order to teach us that we are not this mortal body that we now mistake ourself to be, and that in order for us to know ourself as we really are, we must turn our attention away from all external objects and focus it wholly and exclusively upon our own real self or essential being. Having given us this teaching, the physical form of Sri Ramana has served its purpose as the outward manifestation of the eternal guru, so now our aim should not to be to find another 'living guru' (a term that most people understand to mean an 'enlightened person' whose body is still living) but should be to find the real inner guru, who is our own true self and who is always waiting to draw our mind inwards so that it may subside and merge in the clarity of true self-knowledge.

Because he was truly never the physical form that he appeared to be, but has always been and will always be the infinite spirit, which is our own real self, Sri Ramana's guiding help or 'grace' can never be diminished in any way, and is therefore no less potent now than it was when he appeared to be living in a physical form. All the help and guidance that we will ever need in order to attain true self-knowledge are available to us outwardly in the form of the teachings of Sri Ramana, and inwardly as our own natural clarity of self-consciousness, which we always experience as 'I am' (the true form of both God and guru), so all we need do is to turn our attention selfwards in order to experience the true nature of this consciousness 'I am'.


Anonymous said...

Concerning the discussion about Lakshmana Swami the point can be worked out more precisily. I have just re-read David's biography 'No mind, I am the Self'. Lakshmana's experience was that he was unable to stabilise his sporadic clear experiences of pure Self-abidance until he went into Bhagavan's physical presence again where he had in his very first darshan (it seems Muruganar took his place beside him, see p 220 in The Power of the Presence No II) the experience of the permanent dissolution of his I-thought that went back to its source, the Heart.

Probably is his view that for final liberation the physical presence of a jnani is essential stemming from this central experience. Also his main disciple Saradamma had, it seems a similar mano-nasa experience in the presence of her guru Lakshmana. Preceding was her long devotion and a continuous bhakti, 20 hours a day.

To my understanding and limited experience this seems to be the case with most genuine developments : a strong concentration seems to be a preceding factor for a genuine Self-experience. We could take Annamalai Swami's example who admitted francly that he was not very successful to follow Bhagavan's instruction to stay with the Self during his working days and only after many years of silent meditation in his asram he could realise and stabilise what Bhagavan had initiated with his embrace in the bathroom.

What is your view concerning this?


Michael James said...

I have answered the above comment by Erwin today in my new post, Where can we find the clarity of true self-knowledge?

Sankarraman said...

Regarding Saradamm,
I don't find any teaching at all. She has been deliberately projected to be a self-realized being. On the other hand, in the case of Muruganar and sadu om, there is a clear indication that they have understood the teachings of the Great Master, Ramana.

Sankarraman said...

Poonjaji is believed to be a great devotee of Bhaghavan. But I don't find any teaching in his books in the line of Bhaghavan. He rarely talks on self-enquiry. His devotees say that an atmosphere of silence is created in his presence.

Novice Charioteer said...

Thank you very much for this wonderful posting. I will now have to consider seriously not watching any further Mooji or Osho videos and focus on Ramamas teachings alone.


svarupa darsana said...

Novice Charioteer,
congratulations to your seriously made decision to focus on Bhagavan's teaching alone.
To know our actual self, which is what the atma-jnani is aware of as 'I', Michael's articles are an incomparable and inestimable valuable help.

follow the pointings said...

Dear Ann,
Your life is unfolding naturally.
Leave it be! It does not need any help.
Stay as neutral awareness.

svarupa darsana said...

follow the pointings,
what is neutral awareness ?
Please describe its features.