Questioner: You were telling us that there are many self-styled Gurus, but a real Guru is very rare. There are many jnani who imagine themselves realised, but all they have is book knowledge and a high opinion of themselves. Sometimes they impress, even fascinate, attract disciples and make them waste their time in useless practices. After some years, when the disciple takes stock of himself, he finds no change. When he complains to his teacher, he gets the usual rebuke that he did not try hard enough. The blame is on the lack of faith and love in the heart of the disciple, while in reality the blame is on the Guru, who had no business in accepting disciples and raising their hopes. How to protect oneself from such Gurus?
Maharaj: Why be so concerned with others? Whoever may be the Guru, if he is pure of heart and acts in good faith, he will do his disciples no harm. If there is no progress, the fault lies with the disciples, their laziness and lack of self-control. On the other hand, if the disciple is earnest and applies himself intelligently and with zest to his sadhana, he is bound to meet a more qualified teacher, who will take him further. Your question flows from three false assumptions: that one needs concern oneself with others; that one can evaluate another and that the progress of the disciple is the task and responsibility of his Guru. In reality, the Guru's role is only to instruct and encourage; the disciple is totally responsible for himself.
Q: We are told that total surrender to the Guru is enough, that the Guru will do the rest.
M: Of course, when there is total surrender, complete relinquishment of all concern with one's past, presents and future, with one's physical and spiritual security and standing, a new life dawns, full of love and beauty; then the Guru is not important, for the disciple has broken the shell of self-defence. Complete self-surrender by itself is liberation.
Q: When both the disciple and his teacher are inadequate, what will happen?
M: In the long run all will be well. After all, the real Self of both is not affected by the comedy they play for a time. They will sober up and ripen and shift to a higher level of relationship.
Q: Or, they may separate.
M: Yes, they may separate. After all, no relationship is forever. Duality is a temporary state.
Q: Is it by accident that I met you and by another accident shall we separate never to meet again? Or is my meeting you a part of some cosmic pattern, a fragment in the great drama of our lives?
M: The real is meaningful and the meaningful relates to reality. If our relationship is meaningful to you and me, it cannot be accidental. The future affects the present as much, as the past.
Q: How can I make out who is a real saint and who is not?
M: You cannot, unless you have a clear insight into the heart of man. Appearances are deceptive. To see clearly, your mind must be pure and unattached. Unless you know yourself well, how can you know another? And when you know yourself -- you are the other.
Leave others alone for some time and examine yourself. There are so many things you do not know about yourself -- what are you, who are you, how did you come to be born, what are you doing now and why, where are you going, what is the meaning and purpose of your life, your death, your future? Have you a past, have you a future? How did you come to live in turmoil and sorrow, while your entire being strives for happiness and peace? These are weighty matters and have to be attended to first. You have no need, nor time for finding who is a jnani and who is not?
Q: I must select my guru rightly.
M: Be the right man and the right Guru will surely find you.
Q: You are not answering my question: how to find the right Guru?
M: But I did answer your question. Do not look for a Guru, do not even think of one. Make your goal your Guru. After all, the Guru is but a means to an end, not the end in itself. He is not important, it is what you expect of him that matters to you. Now, what do you expect?
Q: By his grace I shall be made happy, powerful and peaceful.
M: What ambitions! How can a person limited in time and space, a mere body-mind, a gasp of pain between birth and death, be happy? The very conditions of its arising make happiness impossible. Peace, power, happiness, these are never personal states, nobody can say ‘my peace’, ‘my power’ -- because ‘mine’ implies exclusivity, which is fragile and insecure.
Q: I know only my conditioned existence; there is nothing else.
M: Surely, you cannot say so. In deep sleep you are not conditioned. How ready and willing you are to go to sleep, how peaceful, free and happy you are when asleep!
Q: I know nothing of it.
M: Put it negatively. When you sleep, you are not in pain, nor bound, nor restless.
Q: I see your point. While awake, I know that I am, but am not happy; in sleep I am, I am happy, but I don’t know it. All I need is to know that I am free and happy.
M: Quite so. Now, go within, into a state which you may compare to a state of waking sleep, in which you are aware of yourself, but not of the world. In that state you will know, without the least trace of doubt, that at the root of your being you are free and happy. The only trouble is that you are addicted to experience and you cherish your memories. In reality it is the other way round; what is remembered is never real; the real is now.
Q: All this I grasp verbally, but it does not become a part of myself. It remains as a picture in my mind to be looked at. Is it not the task of the Guru to give life to the picture?
M: Again, it is the other way round. The picture is alive; dead is the mind. As the mind is made of words and images, so is every reflection in the mind. It covers up reality with verbalisation and then complains. You say a Guru is needed, to do miracles with you. You are playing with words only.
The Guru and the disciple are one single thing, like the candle and its flame. Unless the disciple is earnest, he cannot be called a disciple. Unless a Guru is all love and self-giving, he cannot be called a Guru. Only reality begets reality, not the false.
Q: I can see that I am false. Who will make me true?
M: The very words you said will do it. The sentence: ‘ I can see that I am false’ contains all you need for liberation. Ponder over it, go into it deeply, go to the root of it; it will operate. The power is in the word, not in the person.
Q: I do not grasp you fully. On one hand you say a Guru is needed; on the other -- the Guru can only give advice, bit the effort is mine. Please state clearly -- can one realise the Self without a Guru, or is the finding of a true Guru essential?
M: More essential is the finding of a true disciple. Believe me, a true disciple is very rare, for in no time he goes beyond the need for a Guru, by finding his own self. Don’t waste your time on trying to make out whether the advice you get flows from knowledge only, or from valid experience! Just follow it faithfully. Life will bring you another Guru, if another one is needed. Or deprive you of all outer guidance and leave you to your own lights. It is very important to understand that it is the teaching that matters, not the person or the Guru. You get a letter that makes you laugh or cry. It is not the postman who does it. The Guru only tells you the good news about your real Self and shows you the way back to it. In a way the Guru is its messenger. There will be many messengers, but the message is one: be what you are. Or, you can put it differently: Until you realise yourself, you cannot know who is your real Guru. When you realise, you find that all the Gurus you had have contributed to your awakening. Your realisation is the proof that your Guru was real. Therefore, take him as he is, do what he tells you, with earnestness and zeal and trust your heart to warn you if anything goes wrong. If doubt sets in, don’t fight it. Cling to what is doubtless and leave the doubtful alone.
Q: I have a Guru and I love him very much. But whether he is my true Guru I do not know.
M: Watch yourself. If you see yourself changing, growing, it means you have found the right man. He may be beautiful or ugly, pleasant or unpleasant, flattering you or scolding; nothing matters except the one crucial fact of inward growth. If you don’t, well, he may be your friend, but not your Guru.
Q: When I meet a European with some education and talk to him about a Guru and his teachings, his reaction is: ‘the man must be mad to teach such nonsense’. What am I to tell him?
M: Take him to himself. Show him, how little he knows himself, how he takes the most absurd statements about himself for holy truth. He is told that he is the body, was born, will die, has parents, duties, learns to like what others like and fear what others fear. Totally a creature of heredity and society, he lives by memory and acts by habits. Ignorant of himself and his true interests, he pursues false aims and is always frustrated. His life and death are meaningless and painful, and there seems to be no way out. Then tell him, there is a way out within his easy reach, not a conversion to another set of ideas, but a liberation from all ideas and patterns of living. Don’t tell him about Gurus and disciples -- this way of thinking is not for him. His is an inner path, he is moved by an inner urge and guided by an inner light. Invite him to rebel and he will respond. Do not try to impress on him that so-and-so is a realised man and can be accepted as a Guru. As long as he does not trust himself, he cannot trust another. And confidence will come with experience.
Q: How strange! I cannot imagine life without a Guru.
M: It is a matter of temperament. You too are right. For you, singing the praises of God is enough. You need not desire realisation or take up a sadhana. God’s name is all the food you need. Live on it.
Q: This constant repetition of a few words, is it not a kind of madness?
M: It is madness, but it is a deliberate madness. All repetitiveness is tamas, but repeating the name of God is sattva-tamas due to its high purpose. Because of the presence of sattva, the tamas will wear out and will take the shape of complete dispassion, detachment, relinquishment, aloofness, immutability. Tamas becomes the firm foundation on which an integrated life can be lived.
Q: The immutable -- does it die?
M: It is changing that dies. The immutable neither lives nor dies; it is the timeless witness of life and death. You cannot call it dead, for it is aware. Nor can you call it alive, for it does not change. It is just like your tape-recorder. It records, it reproduces -- all by itself. You only listen. Similarly, I watch all that happens, including my talking to you. It is not me who talks, the words appear in my mind and then I hear them said.
Q: Is it not the case with everybody?
M: Who said no? But you insist that you think, you speak, while to me there is thinking, there is speaking.
Q: There are two cases to consider. Either I have found a Guru, or I have not. In each case what is the right thing to do?
M: You are never without a Guru, for he is timelessly present in your heart. Sometimes he externalises himself and comes to you as an uplifting and reforming factor in your life, a mother, a wife, a teacher; or he remains as an inner urge toward righteousness and perfection. All you have to do is obey him and do what he tells you. What he wants you to do is simple, learn self-awareness, self-control, self-surrender. It may seem arduous, but it is easy if you are earnest. And quite impossible if you are not. Earnestness is both necessary and sufficient. Everything yields to earnestness.
Q: What makes one earnest?
M: Compassion is the foundation of earnestness. Compassion for yourself and others, born of suffering, your own and others.
Q: Must I suffer to be earnest?
M: You need not, if you are sensitive and respond to the suffering of others, as Buddha did. But if you are callous and without pity, your own suffering will make you ask the inevitable questions.
Q: I find myself suffering, but not enough. Life is unpleasant, but bearable. My little pleasures compensate me for my small pains and on the whole I am better off than most of the people I know.
I know that my condition is precarious, that a calamity can overtake me any moment. Must I wait for a crisis to put me on my way to truth?
M: The moment you have seen how fragile is your condition, you are already alert. Now, keep alert, give attention, enquire, investigate, discover your mistakes of mind and body and abandon them.
Q: Where is the energy to come from? I am like a paralysed man in a burning house.
M: Even paralysed people sometimes find their legs in a moment of danger! But you are not paralysed, you merely imagine so. Make the first step and you will be on your way.
Q: I feel my hold on the body is so strong that I just cannot give up the idea that I am the body. It will cling to me as long as the body lasts. There are people who maintain that no realisation is possible while alive and I feel inclined to agree with them.
M: Before you agree or disagree, why not investigate the very idea of a body? Does the mind appear in the body or the body in the mind? Surely there must be a mind to conceive the ‘I-am-the-body’ idea. A body without a mind cannot be ‘my body’. ‘My body’ is invariably absent when the mind is in abeyance. It is also absent when the mind is deeply engaged in thoughts and feelings. Once you realise that the body depends on the mind, and the mind on consciousness, and consciousness on awareness and not the other way round, your question about waiting for selfrealisation till you die is answered. It is not that you must be free from ‘I-am-the-body’ idea first, and
then realise the self. It is definitely the other way round -- you cling to the false, because you do not know the true. Earnestness, not perfection, is a precondition to self-realisation. Virtues and powers come with realisation, not before.