I celebrate the birthday of Guru Dev, Sri Brahmananda Sarasvati, holder of the lineage of Adi Shankaracharya. He passed away the year I was born, yet his light silently infuses millions of souls on earth. I bow to the lineage of the Holy Tradition.
I've noticed that New Age do-it-yourself spirituality often disdains the notion of "lineage." But this bow is pure gratitude, not mere submission to authority. And this bow contains a deep secret. It is a shield of protection, a pathless path of surrender.
Enlightenment is never solitary. Enlightenment is sanga, the beloved community, a continuum of consciousness through time and space.
Bowing to one's lineage can be a tender acknowledgment that "realization" is not an achievement of our American individualism. Lineage is a bulwark against the charismatic ego of the solitary self-appointed "spiritual teacher."
Lineage is the humility of tradition. The flame passed from candle to candle never belongs to one wick alone. When I bow to my teacher, I am swept down into my teacher's bow to his teacher, and my teacher's teacher's bow, unto the vast "cloud of witnesses" in the blue sky of eternal awareness, which is this ancient Now.
The great Master bows to the holy tradition, no matter how enlightened he or she may be. Jesus acknowledged his lineage of desert prophets through his forerunner, John the Baptist (Mat. 3:13-15). My teacher, Maharishi, never allowed devotees to bow to him, or to offer padma-namaskar to his feet. He only said, "Jai Guru Dev" to his Guru, Sri Brahmananda Saraswati.
All gratitude to the masters who have passed the wisdom down through the ages. Their consciousness vibrates in the living mantra, and in the silence of the breath inside the breath.