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In Quest of Sadguru
Chapter 1: Who is a Sadguru?

To know who a Sadguru is, first understand the meaning of the word ‘Guru’. What does the word ‘Guru’ entail? Who is a Guru? The literal meaning of the word ‘Guru’ is derived from the combination of ‘Gu’ and ‘ru’ - ‘Gu’ means darkness and ‘ru’ means light. Guru is, unarguably, the incandescent light of the supreme consciousness that eradicates the darkness of ignorance. Just as all darkness gets dispelled immediately in the presence of light, likewise, with the rising of the Guru in the form of wisdom, right within your own inner being, all the ignorance that was present in the mind since time immemorial gets eradicated instantaneously.
Now you may say, ‘we have been listening to spiritual discourses for so long, but yet we remain as ignorant as ever.’ See, this is the problem. All you have done so far is merely heard the words, but the question is - has the wisdom made a place for itself in your mind? I have never said that by merely hearing words of wisdom, one can ever become a gyani (self-realised, Gnostic).
It is only when the heard words of wisdom become your own conviction, that you will get liberated from the darkness of ignorance, not before that. The problem is that you never do this, as your conviction, your acceptance is only of the world and this will never eradicate your ignorance.
You must strive to understand all that you listen to and then contemplate over it a million times over. By persistent contemplation of the understood concepts, eventually the mind will have no confusion and will get established in it. It will get conviction, with no ambiguity left at all.
You should ponder over and ruminate on all that you have heard, to the extent that the meaning should percolate into you. ‘What did Gurudev say today?’ You should keep on remembering, deliberating, cogitating on it. And this will help you in getting the conviction, the certainty - without contemplation, how will you achieve this?
So, the Guru is the one who dispels the darkness of ignorance. And if you say, ‘I have been hearing but my ignorance hasn’t been destroyed’, then this does not mean there is any shortcoming in the Guru. After all, if you were to blindfold yourself, then even with the rising of the sun, you would be in darkness – now will you blame the sun for the darkness? The sun quietly spreads its sunshine the world over. It doesn’t proclaim, ‘Get up people, for I have arrived!’ And if you keep on sleeping, the sun is not bothered by that, how does it matter to the sun?
As soon as the sun rises, daylight spreads everywhere. One doesn’t have to request the sun to give light! And in fact, even if you are indoors, you can still make out that it is daytime – the sun-rays will seep into your home through the windows, penetrating your curtains.
Likewise, by being in the revered company of the Guru, by remembering the Guru, the river of wisdom abruptly starts flowing. The Guru has experienced the supreme truth, supreme consciousness and has been liberated of all ignorance. The Guru has known the light of truth within, the epitome of bliss within i.e. the Guru has known Shiva.
Shiva means Brahman, Shiva means the supreme consciousness and, Guru and Shiva are one and the same, because the one who has known Shiva cannot be separate from Shiva. In fact, there is no one other than Shiva, there is none but Shiva. When I say ‘Shiva’, don’t try to conjure up the image of Lord Shankar.
The difference between Shiva and Shankar is similar to the difference between the water vapour and the water in the ocean. One can see the oceanic water, but one cannot see vapour. Nevertheless, it is this very water vapour that transforms into rain clouds and the resultant rainwater falls into all water bodies, lakes and rivers. And finally with the confluence of the river into the ocean, the rainwater merges back with the ocean, which again gives rise to vapour, and thus the cycle goes on.
‘Shivatattva’ is the unmanifest, formless, subtle essence but when it manifests in a form, then whichsoever form it takes on, that very form is referred to as Guru. So, Guru is like the rain cloud. And we can say that Shiva is like the subtle form of the cloud that has not yet taken the form of a rain cloud. If the disciple is like a parched piece of land, then the Guru is like the rain cloud, quenching all the thirst with a downpour of wisdom.
Who is Shiva? Shiva is God. Who is God? God is Shiva. They are one and the same - the all-pervasive, eternal, bliss, truth, supreme consciousness. And the one who has experienced, who has known, who has attained the light of this supreme consciousness within, is the Guru. Hence, Guru and Shiva are one and the same, with no difference whatsoever.
This Guru form of Shiva awakens the supreme wisdom within the disciple and prepares the disciple to experience the ultimate truth, to get enlightened. The world is nothing but ignorance and maya. Maya means illusion, nothing but a dualistic cosmic illusion.
Illusion is false perception, misperception. We perceive something that does not correspond to what actually is. Illusions convince us of things that are not true. The sky appears blue, but is it really blue? Another example of an optical illusion is a desert mirage – weary travellers in scorching deserts often see what appears to be a lake of water. But this is not actually water, it is only an image of the sky above, produced by refracting light rays. So, although one sees the apparent lake of water with widely open eyes, it is untrue. Likewise, although it appears that we are seeing this outside world with open eyes, it is actually untrue and nothing but maya.
Your body too has originated from ignorance. The five elements have emerged from ignorance and our body is constituted by these five elements. The body is a result of ignorance; it has ignorance at its root of origin. This analytical, detailed, penetrating and conclusive wisdom is called the ‘Guru’.
The conclusive knowledge is that this entire world, including the body, mind, intellect is ephemeral, temporary and impermanent. God alone is eternal, the supreme truth. Guru imparts this wisdom to the disciple. Guru is not just a title that one gives to somebody or someone who wears peculiar clothes. The one, whose grace endows someone with the experience of this wisdom, is a Guru. Guru is wisdom. Guru is truth.
But then again, the body through which this wisdom emerges, through whom you receive this wisdom, that body too is a Guru. Remember that although Guru does not merely refer to a body and represents pure wisdom, even the person, the body through which this wisdom is flowing to you, is also hallowed, venerable.
Often I get asked, ‘who is a sage, how to identify a sage?’ It is indeed very difficult for ordinary people to recognise, to know, who is an enlightened mystic. Nevertheless, the scriptures have quoted some attributes – the one who has experienced the supreme wisdom (bear in mind that not mere acquaintance with words but rather experiential wisdom), only such an enlightened one who knows his true identity and who has experienced the supreme truth is a Sadguru.
Guru is the hallowed one, the one who is pure, pious, sanctified. Let alone a Guru who is way, way above, even to label someone as a sadhu, that person should have these pristine attributes, otherwise he cannot be a sadhu. A seeker is the one who has a pure mind, then one day he will become a sadhu, and eventually sadhu will progress to become a sage and then possibly a Guru.
Guru is the one who is the epitome of purity, the embodiment of compassion, forever showering his grace on one and all. So much so that even on meeting the most vile and nefarious individual, the Guru doesn’t get disgusted or revolted, he does not discriminate, and treats everyone with the same eye of benediction.
The scriptures describe the key attributes of a Guru – tranquil, pure, pious, polite, free from anger and lust, virtuous, the one who has conquered the need for sensory gratification andis no longer a slave of the sense organs. Guru doesn’t want anything from the disciple. Guru is self-assured, completely autonomous, but a disciple seeks all from the Guru.
Sadguru is the one, who adeptly eradicates all possible doubts from their very roots, completely destroys all fear of life and death, and shares the wisdom of the presence of God within. The one, who enables the disciple to experience the absolutely whole, unblemished, ever-free God, is the Sadguru. The one who has no attachments, who is always tranquil, always contented and completely self-reliant, ever-free is the Guru.
It is sheer foolishness on the part of a disciple to think that ‘the Guru cannot do without me. I do everything for him, what will happen to the Guru if I were to leave.’ Don’t harbour any such delusion, for the Guru is completely autonomous; he is not dependant on anyone. Rather, it is the disciple’s providence that he has the good fortune of living under the Guru’s refuge.
Guru is the one who stays free, forever contented in the wholesome inner bliss, forever peaceful, forever calm in all situations, at all times and in all places. Guru is stilled within himself, forever immersed in sheer contentment and bliss.
Guru is the one who is beyond all duality and non-duality. Duality is the presence of two, the belief that there is ‘I’ and the ‘other’. I and God are two separate entities - this is duality, and devotion happens in this duality. Duality is the presence of ‘I’ and ‘you’, ‘I’ and ‘God’. Whereas non-duality believes in singularity - I and Brahman are one. I and God are one and the same, and there is no separation between them.
But there is neither duality nor non-duality in a Sadguru, he is beyond both. Sadguru is not tied down to any viewpoint or counter viewpoint, he is beyond all doctrines. Sadguru is the one who can never ever say ‘I am’. Rather, there is no ‘I’ just ‘am’. He is always in utter silence, utter quietude.
The one who says, ‘I am in duality’, and the one who says, ‘I am in non-duality’, both are in bondage. This is because the very act of speaking is bondage, thinking itself is bondage.
Sadguru is the one, whose one glimpse alone is enough to fill your heart with joy, whose one glimpse alone gives you immense mental strength and peace. Such a simple sign to recognise! No matter how foolish someone is, he too can perceive a sense of joy and peace in the presence of Sadguru. So, the one whose mere sight transforms the agitation of mind into a state of peace and calm, is a Sadguru, this is the miracle of a supreme Guru.
Guru is the one, who knows his body to be nothing but a corpse, dead. If you were to keep a stack of money in front of a dead body, or get beautiful women (or men) to sit by the body – would that make any difference to the corpse? Well, a Guru regards his living body to be no more worthy than a dead one.
Swami Nirmal Maharaj used to say, “Gyani carries his own dead body on his shoulders. He is separate from the body and is established in his own inner truth. The body holds no meaning for him. But due to preordination, the body is still alive, breathing is happening. And as per the preordination, as long as the body lives, one will have to lug it around.” So the gyani lugs his own corpse around. Not only is he dead to the world, but he is also dead to himself – well, when there are no desires, no wants, can you label that state as being alive?
The gyani regards his body as a corpse while knowing that aatma is unique, indestructible, and incomparable. It is indeed very difficult to meet such a Sadguru, the one who annihilates all attraction and attachment. And furthermore, even if you are lucky enough to meet one, it will be even more difficult for you to have the capability to avail his profound wisdom. Not everyone has the ability to make most of the Sadguru. It is indeed very difficult. It is only by means of all the virtues accumulated in previous lifetimes that one gets such a supremely endowed Guru, and on being with such a Guru, the disciple gets liberated from all worldly bondages.
Such an unparalleled attainment, will that happen casually? Only the sum total of all virtues accumulated over a period of so many previous lifetimes will bring you to the door of a Sadguru, else you will keep on wandering.
Such a Sadguru, who is the embodiment of wisdom, who has become one with the light of truth and eradicated all darkness, all ignorance, who has annihilated his worthless, insignificant ego, becomes a Guru just for the liberation of all the people in the world. After attaining the supreme state of thoughtless awareness, for him to leave behind his all-pervading existence, to re-enter the bodily confines and see other beings as being separate from him, to see them as ignorant and then to try to eradicate that ignorance – all this seems nothing more than a dream to him.
Even the smallest, tiniest action happening in the life of a Sadguru is not for him but only for the benefit of others. All his actions are for the upliftment of seekers enquiring into the truth. All his actions are to awaken ignorant people enveloped by the illusion of maya, to break their bondage.
If it wasn’t for this purpose, why else would the one who has known this world to be nothing but maya, nothing but a dream, why would he want to do anything more in that dream? But the Guru does this because just as his Guru had awakened him, likewise, he too wants to return the grace he had received, by awakening others. That is why we regard the Sadguru as the supreme benefactor.
One doesn’t meet a Sadguru until and unless the previous accumulated virtues awaken. And when one meets such a master, one receives supreme wisdom that liberates one from all worldly bondages forever.
However, woefully, such is the state of affairs in India that these days almost anyone can become a ‘Guru’ – just wear a long ochre robe, a garland around your neck and some tilak on your forehead, that’s it! Hire a few ‘disciples’ and they will do the propaganda of your Guru-dom! And people are so gullible, they readily believe anyone.
There will be no dearth of followers – after all, all the people who have a long list of desires are forever ready to do anything to fulfil their wishes. They are ready to go to any charlatan and do as asked – deludedly thinking that this will tick off their wish list. Given this blind pursuit of material desires, it is no surprise that there are so many charlatans ready to exploit these deluded, gullible people.
Beware of such fraudsters, cheats, the ‘pseudo-gurus’. And those who have got entrapped with such fakes, ask your self, ‘if the so-called Guru doesn’t have peace and calm in his own mind, how can he endow you with mental tranquillity?’ The one, who himself is drowning, who himself can’t swim, how will he take you to the shore? If a blind person tries to show the way to another blind person, chances are, they will both fall in the well. If the Guru is blind and so is the disciple, where will they reach? Nowhere!
The characteristic of a master is that he himself is liberated and guides others on the path of liberation, gives the precepts of spiritual practice and imparts wisdom.
Every human being has an ego, it is indigenous. A man is born with the ego. And the biggest, the greatest challenge faced by a human being is to free himself from the shackles of this inherent ego. Ego emerges in so many different guises, ways and forms.
See, man remains the same – ignorant with a diseased mind and a gigantic ego. And even when such a ‘diseased’ person enters the realm of spirituality, his selfishness is there too - he brings along the baggage of ego with him. ‘I am the best’, this is a very common affliction. Everyone always thinks he/she is the best, that no one is superior to them, irrespective of whether they have any virtues, any good attributes or not. Everyone thinks, ‘I am somebody, people should respect me.’ This expectation is there in the mind.
And sometimes to satiate this hunger, some people don the garb of a Guru. Then he convinces himself that he is the greatest, that people should come to him for his guidance and that everyone should sing his praises. Now to fulfil these desires, he gathers few followers. These so-called disciples then spread lies to the gullible people around saying, “You know, when I went to my Guru, I was so miserable, so troubled. But he blessed me, gave me a mantra and some water and tied a thread around my wrist, and that’s it, that was the last I saw my sorrows, as they flew away forever.”
Now, is there anyone in this world who has no suffering, no sorrow? And if there is someone who has the remedy for all sorrows, then why won’t people go to him? This is the reason why almost all villages, towns, cities have some temple or durgah or gurudwara, where it is said that by merely going to that place, desires get fulfilled. And there is such a long queue of people standing outside! These religious places then have their own committees, with a head person and people start consulting this person for almost anything and everything. People are brainwashed that they must respect these so-called Gurus and this is how their Guru-dom gets established and flourishes!
The scriptures say: Those so-called Gurus, who deceitfully delude the disciples, who divide the society on the basis of caste, creed, language, religion, and who spread spiritual misconceptions, one should refrain even from greeting such individuals and keep well away from these characters.
What are spiritual misconceptions? The allegation that ‘God is very far from you, only my voice can reach up to God and no one else’s. Only I know the way to reach God.’ The fraudsters spread these lies alleging that it is the truth. And they then ask the people to keep them happy and serve them, so that once these fraudsters are happy with the service, they will get these ‘people’ entry into God’s house! There are so many sects that run on the foundation that by merely chanting the Guru’s name, by following the Guru, the Guru will get them absolved and free them forever!
Although it is true that a Guru liberates you, but who can liberate the one who is not sincere, who doesn’t contemplate, who is impure, vile, who has no forgiveness, no empathy, no dispassion, who can liberate such a person? But the charlatans cheat people by making them believe that just taking a mantra from their Guru will free them, even if they don’t do any practise.
The drama enacted by these people has become so common now - a gathering of people, where there is no silence, just a cacophony of noise, all queuing to ‘narrate their experiences of the Guru’. Someone will say, “I had cancer, but I got the blessing of this Guru and I was cured.” i.e. a disease which has no cure in allopathy, homeopathy or ayurveda, it gets cured by just being blessed by the Guru!
Then the gullible people who listen to all these narratives start to think, “Oh, their illnesses got cured, maybe mine will too, no harm in trying.” Then just for ‘trying’, slowly thousands and lakhs of people start gathering. Now, there will be someone whose wish gets fulfilled and then he will start singing the praise of the Guru. And for the one who didn’t get what he wanted, the Guru’s followers will comfort him by saying, “Dear, you didn’t have faith, that’s why…!” On hearing this, the wretched fellow will feel worse and guilty that he didn’t have faith and that he doubted.
The one who creates misconceptions, who puts you in delusions, cannot be a Guru. Such an individual will keep you away from God. He will teach you that God lives way up in the skies, beyond the seventh heaven! And he will brainwash you into believing that only he knows the way to reach God. Such a deceitful person, who is full of lust and greed, who is violent, who is blazing in anger – such a sinful and deplorable person cannot ever be a Guru.
In this world there are many self-proclaimed Gurus, who satisfy their needs by taking money and objects from their disciples. However, there are only a handful of genuine Gurus who eradicate the roots of all suffering, all attachment from the disciple’s mind.
Kabir has said, the Guru who takes money, accepts gifts and wealth from a disciple but doesn’t eradicate the disciple’s ego, darkness and ignorance, such an individual will go to hell. If someone realises that inadvertently he has got involved with such a condemnable individual, he should immediately extricate himself out of that place and cut his ties off from that individual. And if he can’t do so, then he needs to fervently pray to God to save him soon from the grip of the vile person.