Do You Need a Guru?
When my daughter was four years old, I took her to a pumpkin patch to choose a pumpkin for Halloween. At the farm, there was a maze for children constructed with hay bales, stacked two high, all lined up side by side. The maze was quite large and intricate; she couldn’t wait to try it, and took off running with much joy and enthusiasm. She made her way down the path at the entrance and within a minute she came to a dead end. She laughed and turned around and went back a few feet and started down another trail. She again came to a roadblock and good-naturedly went back to search for another route. This happened three or four more times and each time it happened, she looked less and less enthusiastic. Finally, she found her way to the middle of the maze! She was beaming with pride and really excited that she had reached the prize in the center, a large bowl of candy. She picked out her treat and then followed the arrow that pointed to the way out. She made a wrong turn, again hit a dead end, and in what looked like Déjà Vu, went through the same process trying to get out of the maze, that she had gone through trying to get in. At this point, I could tell by the anxious look on her face that she was starting to get a little stressed out; she didn’t seem to be having fun anymore. I watched as she stumbled and fell, got up, took another wrong turn, and finally broke into tears. I heard her cry, “Mommy, Please Help Me! Come and get me”. I was quick to her aid, gave her a big hug, took her by the hand, and led her out.
The hay bales were as high as my daughters chin, so she couldn’t see the path in front of her; she had to try to find her way through the process of trial and error. From my perspective, I could see exactly where she was going wrong. I could see that if she had just turned right instead of left or if she had avoided a certain pathway all together, it would have made her adventure easier. I stood by and watched as she attempted again and again to find her way. I could have shouted guidance to her: turn left, no turn right, don’t go that way at all, but I wanted her to have her own experience of the maze; I wanted her to make her own choices and use her free will. So I stood by as my heart felt as though it would burst with love, and watched this adorable little girl stumble and fall, make wrong turns and become increasingly upset and dejected. Finally, when she asked for my help, I was there in a heartbeat.
That is what the Guru does for us. The Guru, stands by us, and waits for our call for help, and when we ask for help, the Guru is there to take our hand, and lead us down the right path, the path which leads directly to God. The Guru helps to lead us out of the maze of delusion and wrong choices, and helps us to avoid the dead ends and wrong turns on the spiritual path, he leads us right to the center, where the candy is… the sweetness, which is God. He brings us to where God resides, and he teaches us to dwell there, to live in that center, to attune our consciousness to that ever-new joy and bliss.
Do you need a Guru? That really depends on what your goal in life is. If your consciousness is firmly rooted in the material world, and you don’t feel that God is for you, then no, you wouldn’t need a Guru. It takes intense love and desire for God to attract the grace that is needed to receive the Guru. Receptivity is the most important factor in the Disciple / Guru relationship. There is a saying, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”. Receptivity is the door through which divine understanding can enter human consciousness. The way we receive is through attunement to the perfected consciousness of the great masters, the ones who have gone before us, the ones who can lead us directly back to God. If we decided to learn any new skill or take up a new hobby, we would sign up for lessons, we would find someone who was an expert, someone who could teach us and guide us. Our spiritual journey is the most important endeavor of our life, so we want to be sure that we receive our training from those who have attained final liberation, whose consciousness has merged back into the supreme, eternal, Infinite Cosmic Consciousness, and can show us the way.
Paramhansa Yogananda said, “ The bond with the guru, once established is not for one lifetime, it is forever, even after the disciple has attained spiritual liberation, he acknowledges the guru as the channel through which liberation came. The guru disciple relationship is one of eternal friendship and divine love”. The Guru promises that they will be with us, by our side, throughout our life, waiting for us to remember that they are here. They watch over us, they quietly love us, unconditionally without judgment, as we navigate our way through the maze of ego-consciousness with all of our likes and dislikes, our attachments and desires. They watch as we end up at the dead ends of our habits, unconscious behaviors, and perhaps even addictions. They feel infinite love and compassion for us as we start to feel weary, tired and defeated from the monotony of going over the same ground again and again. And finally, when our soul cries out to God, “Please help me, please come and get me”, the Guru rejoices and springs into action.
The Guru starts to knock on the door of our heart, very gently at first, and then a little louder. We may not hear because we are just waking up from the slumber of delusion, then they start to bang. Suddenly we think we hear something, so we open the door, just a crack at first, and then we see a little light shining through, so we open it a little more, until finally, we push it wide open and receive the Guru. We let them in to our heart, we attune our consciousness to theirs, and we begin to find the way out of the maze, the Guru has come to get us and lead us back home.
Paramhansa Yogananda made a promise to all sincere truth seekers, that if they earnestly asked for his guidance, he would lead them to their Guru, whether it was he or another. He also said that once we are blessed with the karma to attract and receive the Guru, we must be loyal to that ray of God’s light. God blesses us with the teacher who speaks the langue of our soul. It is not random, it is pre-destined. We should meditate daily, dive deeply into the teachings, follow the guidance of the Guru unfailingly, and he will take our hand, and lead us out of the maze of delusion, back to our home in God.