The yearly celebration of Guru Purnima approaches, the Full Moon of the Guru (July 27), determined by the Vedic calendar as the full moon in the month of Ashadha, which is always in our month of July.
This is a good time to explore the mystery of the Guru, about which the West has a deep suspicion and misunderstanding, although anyone who studies the Christian Desert Fathers or Jewish mystics will find a similar reverence for the spiritual master in the West too.
Here is the secret: The seed of the Guru already lies buried in the silent core of your heart, just waiting to be sprouted by a ray of the divine sun. Yes, to be ignited by the word, the touch, the glance of an embodied Teacher.
When you are ready, the Master will come. And he, or she, only comes for one purpose: to ignite the Guru Tattva, the Guru principle inside you.
A real Guru is not your surrogate mommy or daddy. Not your financial adviser or marriage counselor. Nor a friendly ghost seated on your right shoulder. Don't waste the Master's time seeking advice about where to live, what job to take, or who to marry. Such childish dependency only distracts from the infinite possibility the Guru offers you.
The Master is not even your beloved, for Guru is not an other. Guru is deeper inside you than anyone you could ever call "I" or "Thou."
In Sanskrit, the root syllables of the word "Guru" describe a process, not a person. Darkness, "gu," is flooded with light, "ru." This is not mere relationship but internal alchemy, activated at the moment of initiation through the mantra of an incarnate Master.
Once the outward Guru sparks this internal process, the Guru Tattva takes over. After initiation, there is no need to chase after the external form of the Master, or to keep hanging out in his ashram. As long as you practice the Guru's sadhana every day - the instruction given you at initiation - the process unfolds wherever you are. Even if the Master is ten thousand miles away, you are wedded to the Guru in your heart.
Having a Guru is not a matter of faith or belief, but a matter of life or death. Guru is a flood of fire that hollows you out, illuminates your emptiness, then consumes you. Guru is annihilation. Guru is Shiva, the Destroyer. Guru dissolves everything except what IS. Guru is the embodiment of pure Presence.
I was with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Estes Park, 1970. He was talking to a small group of us about how effortless and graceful real meditation is. On the spot he made up this little parable. His words were so simple, it took me decades to really understand them:
The wave said to the ocean, 'How can I be like you?' The ocean replied, 'It's easy, just settle down.'
This model doesn't work very well, because we are not separate from each other at all. We are waves in one sea of consciousness, each wave individualized at its peak, yet merged with all other waves at its base. And the ocean isn't going anywhere.
The true "path" is more like surrendering to gravity than struggling to rise upward. Guru is the centripetal strong-force drawing a particle back to its wave-field. Guru is the attracting power of the depth. The Master who calls to this little wave is not another wave, but the voice of the ocean itself.
Many years later, after Maharishi died, I was with his disciple, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Guru Purnima. Sri Sri had now become Guru. (The supreme delight of the Guru is to see his own disciple become Guru. There is no competition.) I spoke with Sri Sri privately in his room and asked him: "Guruji, people have these fantasies that you are the reincarnation of Jesus, or Krishna, or Shankara. This seems to me like new-age nonsense. I want to know who you really are!"
He looked at me with eyes like galaxies whirling out of the void, shook his head slowly and whispered, "No, no, no. They don't understand. I am Nobody." And he meant it.
Oceanic silence enveloped me. I fell, I drowned, in Nobody. Only then did doubts dissolve. I knew, "Nobody is my Master."
By Guru's grace, I feel the intimate stillness through which this furious world spins. The healing waters of the Uncreated surround every creature.
A theater of light and shadow dances on the crystal of consciousness, but the diamond of Guru Tattva remains untainted by the circumstances that flicker upon its faces.
Unfathomable peace surrounds the most devastating battle. Blue sky encircles every cloud of pain. Guru is the sparkling wakefulness of space itself, permeated with compassion.
Joy and suffering, birth and death, arise and dissolve. But once and for all, through Guru's grace, divine light inundates our immaculately polished darkness.