The Guru is much more than a physical form, a Guru is a living medium by which we can easily connect and experience the energy of higher awareness. As live energy, a Guru is not subject to the limitations of a physical entity just as electricity cannot be confined in one place. The energy of a Guru is constantly moving, working, healing and transforming. Whether the recipient is known to the Guru or not is immaterial. A Guru’s energy flows not just where it is needed but more importantly where the receptivity is the greatest. Just because receptivity is lacking, that energy does not stop flowing, just as when we turn off the lights at home, electricity does not cease to flow to the house. It only ceases to manifest as light. With the flick of a switch electricity instantaneously reenters a dark space in the form of light. Similarly, once we successfully connect to the “source energy” through a medium such as a Guru, it will always be available to us. If we are not able to connect with higher energies, the fault lies within us and not with the Guru.
This usually happens when the mind becomes the source from which we draw upon. It is written in the universal law that everyone has a “free will” and nobody including a Guru can or will interfere with the freedom we have within the mind. That being said, a Guru out of immense compassion will patiently wait outside the doors of the mind, waiting for us to open ourselves to the only possession a Guru carries - the energy of awareness.
Our mind is what prevents us from enjoying this gift of energy from a Guru. In the limited awareness of an individual, the mind becomes the supreme entity and it suppresses any energies that are not of the same frequency or wavelength. Just as the capacity of a wire to conduct electricity is dependent on the type of conductive metal used, and not all metals have the capacity to conduct electricity, every individual has varying capacity to be a conductor for the flow of cosmic energy into the system we called the mind and the body. A guru is one who has, through his spiritual attainments, the capacity to be a pure conductor of cosmic energy and also the power to suppress, but not alter, the activity of the mind of an individual as this energy is transmitted. With this energy, the power of introspection sets in and we start to gradually self correct and put ourselves on the right path. In other words, with the help of higher and purer forms of energy, we start to change from within with the consent of our own free will.
Although electricity flows freely through transmission wires, in order to tap into electricity and bring it to our dwelling place, we need to construct a suitable robust network that can handle and distribute electricity throughout the house. The voltage at the point of electricity generation at a power plant is very high compared to what we use at home. Just as an electrical grid has numerous switches and breakers that measure and control the voltage of electricity that is delivered, a guru measures the capacity of an individual to receive his or her energy. If we want to receive more, we must first build a suitable infrastructure within our being through sadhana or spiritual practice. Spiritual energy is a valuable resource that cannot be equated in monetary terms. It is priceless, yet freely available to those who sincerely seek it.
This energy that the Guru has access to is usually given in the form of nada or sound and is called a mantra. A mantra is not a onetime connection that persists forever. Its energy continuously flows and we must maintain continuous awareness of it in order to tap into the flow. More we use the mantra in our spiritual practice, greater will be the flow of its energy. With this, the “electrical grid” within strengthens and we are able to receive and distribute a higher “voltage” of spiritual energy within our system. To the uninitiated, the energy of the mantra is insulated. A Guru breaks this insulation and connects the live energy of the mantra to our limited awareness, thereby expanding it.
A Guru - disciple relationship functions like an internet connection. For two computers to connect on the internet, a live internet is required along with the specific IP addresses of the two computers. Once we provide our IP address by removing the “firewall” of the ego and mental conditioning, the connection with the Guru is established. A Guru’s IP address never changes, it is static. Ours is subject to change and is dynamic. The devotional state of mind in which we first received the mantra initiation is the IP address we should keep in the forefront in order to maintain connectivity to the Guru. The mind is fickle, it constantly changes and when we are in sync with a fickle mind we lose our connectivity with the Guru. When constancy is established in the mind, a state of equipoise where we don’t react, judge or identify then our IP address will become static and we can easily connect with the Guru.
Just as a power plant cannot be acquired for free, we have to make big investments in the form of time, devotion and dedication to the mantra and its source, the Guru in order to set up a “local power plant” within ourselves. Till such time, the only source through which we can connect to those higher energies that a mantra brings is through the Guru. When we are able to directly tap into the energy of the mantra without the medium of a guru, it is called mantra siddhi. Till we attain this state of independence, the help of a guru is indispensable.
There are certain prescribed methods to maintain the connection with a Guru. Just like there is a maintenance manual for a power generator or any appliance for that matter, our shastras or “word of the seers” written thousands of years ago have outlined ways of maintaining connectivity with the Guru’s energy. These are outlined in the Manu Dharma Shastra. One thing that must be made clear is that a Guru never expects anything from us. The only wish of a Guru is to live on through the sadhana or spiritual practice of the disciple, whoever that disciple may be.
Just as we don’t careless handle electricity, the energy imparted by the Guru must also be cared for. Unlike electricity however, if the energy imparted by a Guru is handled carelessly it will never harm us. We simply lose touch with its beneficial properties. At the very least, we must maintain respect, adoration and gratitude to the Guru - disciple system that has been in place since millennia. Just as a baby depends on mother’s milk, a disciple depends on the Guru when first treading on the spiritual path. Just as a mother would want her child to prosper and shine, a Guru wishes the same of his or her disciples. In fact, a Guru would be very pleased if the disciple were to go onto to scale greater spiritual heights than the Guru.
Easy ways to lose the energy charge of the mantra imparted by the Guru is to lead a lifestyle that fails to incorporate noble principles. If our karmic behavior is one that does no mental or physical harm to another living entity, we are in a safe zone. In this safe zone, the connectivity with the Guru’s IP address is strong and dependable. If we deceive a Guru, in reality we are deceiving ourselves.
There is a story in our mythology about the brave warrior Karna. Thousands of years ago, only brahmins could get spiritual initiation. Karna was of the warrior class (kshatriya). He hid this fact when he approached Parashurama and asked to be accepted as a disciple and he wanted to learn and perfect certain spiritual disciplines. One day, Parashurama was very tired and wanted to sleep. Since there were only rocks and thorns around, Karna offered his lap as a pillow.
When Parashurama was in deep sleep a scorpion bit Karna’s leg leaving a bleeding wound. Despite immense pain, Karna did not budge as he did not want his Guru’s sleep to be disturbed. Once Parashurama woke up and saw the pain and suffering Karna had endured, he immediately exclaimed, “You are not a brahmin! No brahmin will be able to endure this degree of physical pain. You must be a kshatriya.” Saying this, Parashurama then told Karna that whatever connectivity the two had will not work when Karna needed it the most. Sure enough, on the battlefield when Karna was in dire need of Parashurama’s grace, he forget the mantra that was given to him to enable the flow of Guru’s grace.
The concept of only brahmins can receive a mantra should not be taken literally. In ancient times, society was divided along four castes; brahmins (priestly class), kshatriyas (warriors), vaishya (traders) and shudras (workers). This was based on ability not birth. Later, in the dark ages this concept was misused to suppress certain sections of society which is a dark stain in the history of ancient India. In reality, the four castes are represented in our own body. The face represents the brahmin or priestly class, the shoulders represent the kshatriya or warrior class, the stomach the vaishya or trader class and last but not the least, the feet represent the sudra or the worker class.
When we pay respect to an Icon of a Deity or to a Guru, traditionally we touch the feet. In this context, shudras or the worker class should be considered as the highest class even though they are represented in the feet of a human being. So rather than an outward display of devotion to a Guru or an icon, the lesson here is to work for others and serve humanity in the “feet” where help is needed the most. Those who have the knowledge (representative of brahmins), who can fend for themselves (kshatriyas) and those with the means (vaishyas) don’t need our help as much as those working hard to make ends meet or those in great difficulty. When we are standing upright, the head may be high above the feet, but when we are asleep, they are all in one line. In sleep and in death, there is no high or low, all are equal. Paying respect to the feet of the Guru or an icon is symbolic of the teaching that service to others is the highest form of worship. There is immediate connectivity established with the Guru’s energy by those who serve others. There is no ‘us’ and ‘others’. There is one indivisible energy that appears as many forms. To reach that state of understanding and to be established in it a Guru’s help is indispensable.