The Timeless Vedic Tradition of Master and Disciple
Lord Krishna expounds that a Vedanta Guru, who imparts to us the transcendental knowledge of Brahman (Supreme Reality), is no ordinary human being. This liberated one must be considered as the Supreme Lord Himself (Brahman in special form), manifest in human body to liberate us from the bewildering grip of maya (world of appearances and illusions), and at last lead us home to our true divine Self.
yasya saksad bhagavati jnana-dipa prade gurau
martyasad-dhim srutam tasya sarvam ku-jara-saucavat
"The Guru is the Supreme Lord Himself, because the Guru bestows the light of transcendental knowledge upon the disciples."1
A traditional Guru always comes with two conditions met: Guru must have a Guru and possess adequate knowledge of awakening scriptures. This Guru has a massive intellect, practical experience and an open heart. Only someone with a loving heart will bother to remove the ignorance in another who keeps getting lost in maya cobwebs. And may I add, a Guru does not “sell” their wisdom to the elite alone. They share this priceless wisdom selectively (to sincere ones who value the wisdom), but freely (cost is no barrier), with genuine seekers, in all eras.
Three Synchronized Occurrences
Sage Shankracharya from 8 C.E. expounds upon three synchronicities lining up in the verse below:
durlabham trayam evaitat daivānugraha-hetukam |
manuṣyatvam mumukṣutvam mahāpuruṣa-saṃśrayaḥ
He says: It is indeed rare to have three occurrences synergistically align in a seeker's single lifetime:
A human birth is rare enough (manushyatvam).
Next, to not be caught with worldly matters as a human being but possess a burning desire for Self- Realization is rarer (mumukshutvam). If you are one of those ones, burning to know who you really are, not just intellectually, but experientially, too, then don’t let others tell you that you are “too spiritual” or “not ready” or “not worthy”.
However, the third condition is a bit rare, which is to find a Guru, a realized soul who can help us along and mentor and course correct us on our goal of spiritual freedom (moksha). Maya is so tricky that we may think we are on a spiritual path, but we may be slipping into the sinking sands of maya without even knowing it! But to be connected to a living Guru who is accessible to us and knows us personally and takes interest in our journey is a rare occurrence (mahapurusha-saṃshrayah); and this last condition gets fulfilled, as per Vedanta, only due to our good karmas, inner readiness and divine grace. If Divine Allness (Ishwara) wants us to awaken from the bondage of maya, and it is our cosmic time to do so, then Ishwara will match us with the perfect Guru. (In fact, Ishwara will come to us as our Guru, say the Upanishads.)
It is clear now, when I look back, that Supreme Truth, Brahman, indeed manifested in the outer being of Baba, to liberate me from me from my own delusions in maya!
Why is a human birth necessary for Self-Realization?
Only humans are self-aware and can pose the ultimate inquiry that our existence impinges upon us: who am I?
Which type of human’s desire is for Self-Realization?
The ones who have become disillusioned with the world and seek another way. They are called “mumukshu” or one who desires “moksha” - total freedom from bondages and freedom from mind borne delusions.
During our human experience, sometimes there occurs a dissatisfaction with the conflicts, the pulls and pushes, the constant chase. One begins to wonder about the purpose of existence. Most people try to run away from this feeling of emptiness by pursuing monetary, sensual, emotional or religious fulfillment. They do not want to face questions that inquire about their endless pursuit: why am I chasing, what am I chasing, am I satisfied with the chase?
They have hypnotized themselves to the extent that they can commit crimes against self and others to fulfill their desires. If they are not fulfilled, they become angry, hurting themselves and others. They are in bondage, completely dependent on their relationships with people and objects.
But a moksha seeker does not want to continue like this; and this person struggles against being bound by the default desire, chase and constant emptiness (despite desire fulfillment) set up; and questions conditioned behavior. He or she wants to find the permanent, the real. Frustrated with drugging the self through an endless cycle of desiring and pursuing, which leaves it depleted, restless and empty, it wants to break through the mass hypnosis, and arrive at the truth. A moksha seeker struggles against their own baser nature. Now projections, illusions, crimes against self and others can no longer be accepted.
The moksha seeker wonders: have I come to manipulate, to beg for love, to fight power games, to feel alone, stricken and abandoned despite being surrounded by people? What is my reality? The desire to know more and be free comes into someone who has suffered enough, who does not want to suffer anymore. It is not a trait that can be ingrained. It happens, and each embodied being will one day become a seeker of moksha, or liberation from existential bondage, and want an exit into the Real, Truth, God.
Why is a Guru important for a true seeker of Self-Realization?
Having walked the path, since the Guru was once in bondage, but is no longer bound in maya, the Guru understands the struggle and the stage of evolution of consciousness of the seeker. The teacher helps the seeker channel emotions appropriately, giving knowledge about the field of existence, helping to see the truth in situations. The Guru lays the seeds of right jnana (knowledge) in the mumukshu, to understand the purpose of a life that otherwise may have seemed pointless, thus making a human birth worthwhile.Our life's purpose is to realize the divine Self. If there is no awareness, then life partners, disappointments, joys, sorrows, ups and downs, approvals, criticism are just like different flavored candy. Some we like, some we don't, and we keep trying out newer ones in an endless search for fulfillment.
The Guru reminds us that the entire divinity is hidden within, hidden while we stay distracted, acting out, reacting, misbehaving, complaining, dying, being born again, staying attached to transient attributes. The true Guru does not simply teach us feel good tools for more wellbeing or more transient joy, but helps us to understand the important versus the trivial, the eternal versus the non-eternal, the permanent versus the transient, and what we can ignore versus what needs our attention to turn inwards to our own indwelling divine Self.
Then, by receiving true knowledge of who one is (the Self) and who one is not (the non-self: body and mind), that is, the path of jnana yoga, a Moskha seeker begins to understand the larger reality and starts living from a wider perspective, instead of holding onto irrelevant things. He continues to enact various roles required in his life, but with awareness.
Thus, the desire for moksha is an earnest desire to realize the truth and for liberation from bondage.
1. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.20.17)
Acharya Shunya is a globally-recognized spiritual teacher and Vedic lineage-holder who awakens health and consciousness through the Vedic science Vedanta, and Yoga. She is the driving force behind Vedika Global, an online not-for-profit wisdom school and worldwide spiritual community, and the author of best-selling book on the Vedic art of mind + body + soul well-being and health, Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom (Sounds True, 2017) and forthcoming second book with Sounds True to be released in 2020, Sovereign Self. Acharya Shunya is a keynote speaker at national and international conferences, and serves as an advisor to the Indian Government in matters pertaining to global integration and cultivation of Ayurveda and Yoga. Receive her free online teachings and browse her current eCourse offerings here or see more about her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram. Subscribe to her YouTube Channel where she holds live Global Satsangs once per month.