“The primary guru is the Self.” – Bhagwan Nityananda
Guru – A spiritual teacher. That which dispels darkness.
Gu = darkness
Ru = That which dispels
It’s been said that without the guru enlightenment is unattainable. But who is the guru? An eighty-year-old man with a long white beard draped in ocher robes? A high-priest who can pontificate for hours on the nuances of a single line of scripture?
The tradition I come from teaches that Life Itself is the guru. Life (God/Goddess/Awareness/Spirit) teaches from within. It will never leave you. And It will provide you with a perpetual stream of lessons to nourish your growth.
Life does not exist out there. Life is not an object that you the subject are participating in. She is the Awareness at the core of your being, the energy surging through your body, the blood flowing in your veins. Life is “all in all”. A unitive whole. Your true Self.
Life knows everything about you — all your intimate thoughts, your hidden emotions, your secret desires and fears. She knows all of this because She is you.
As part of Life, the external teacher can play an important role. They may teach you philosophical and metaphysical principles that help expand your view of reality. They might train you in invaluable meditation techniques such as pranayama or mantra recitation.
You may even find one who can channel high levels of healing, creative energy. Or you may be blessed to discover one who acts as a living example of awakened consciousness.
These blessings are not something to brush aside. They are nourishment to open to and drink deeply from.
But when working with a teacher, you must never forget that it’s Life Herself guiding you toward awakening. The external teacher is an instrument through which Life can work.
When people worship the external guru, or hold them higher than themselves, they’re missing the point.
The Journey Toward Freedom
Life comes flowing in when you stop resisting It’s flow. When you relax the ego’s will, Life will guide you toward greater and greater states of freedom.
On that journey toward freedom, you will be stripped away of everything you’re not.
You can’t prepare for his trip. You can’t map out the route in advance. Nor will a degree in psychology or twenty years of scriptural study bring you any advantage.
What is essential is your deep wish to grow and your willingness to step aside and allow the process to unfold of its own accord. Life will reveal the path.
It reveals it by the obstacles it places before you. By the financial mistakes you make, the illnesses you have to overcome, the relationship challenges you face. It routes you down dead end roads in order for you to see the futility of your selfish pursuits.
The moment you give up, the moment you surrender your personal will and allow something greater to come in, Life will show you the way to greater states of happiness and fulfillment. At that point, you will view your difficulties and obstacles as blessings.
Your Internal GPS System
When you feel lost it’s because, like most people, you are being ruled by your conditionings — your likes and dislikes, your fears and desires. Those conditionings act like thick walls which distort the frequencies coming from your higher Self.
When you become cut off from that intuitive guidance, your ego-mind takes the wheel and drives you straight toward the cliffs. But when you are free of conditionings, and tuned into those higher signals, you navigate effortlessly toward more elevated levels of being. It’s as if you have a built-in GPS system with Nirvana set as the destination.
Your subtle energy channels and chakras serve as a powerful antenna or receiving system for higher creative energy. By purifying and refining them you become receptive to Life’s teachings.
If you allow Her to do so, Life will guide you through the process of purification and cleansing. You don’t have to root out your conditionings. You don’t have to rip apart your psyche and analyze it. All you need to do is open to what is in front of you at any given moment.
When you open, Life will present you with the experiences you need that will bring up each of the things in your past that you weren’t able to fully digest — all of the things that created your conditionings. (See article on samskaras.) To state this in another way, as you go through your day, you encounter situations which bring old karma to the surface. You then have the opportunity to work it out and free yourself of its influences.
The classic metaphor of karmic seeds describes how this works. A seed, given the proper conditions, self-generates. It grows, from within itself, into a flower, a tree, or a carrot. In the same way, given the proper life conditions, the samskaras (karmic seeds) stored within the subtle body sprout and grow within you.
Think of an alcoholic who quit drinking ten months ago, then decides it’s safe to have just one drink. The strong addictive tendency within them will dig in with its roots. It will spring up, take form, and twenty minutes later they’ll be in their car on the way to the liquor store.
In order to be free of samskaras you have to do more than stop the addictive activity, though that’s a great start. You have to break down the patterns within you that created that addiction.
In yogic teachings, there are two ways of dissolving old patterns. The first is to practice meditation. As you enter a meditative state, karmic seeds are burned in the fire of your higher consciousness.
The second way is through conscious living, through opening to Life as It unfolds moment to moment.
Those who practice meditation alone only make it so far on the path. There are people who practice meditation for decades, yet never seem to break free of their conditionings. They may experience high states of bliss when they are alone in their “cave”. But as soon as they enter the everyday world the familiar states of frustration and annoyance arise.
Life Is Indivisible
Your spiritual life can’t be separated from the rest of your life. Life can’t be compartmentalized, you can’t shove parts of yourself in drawers and give them labels such as: spiritual life, work life, love life, or family life.
In order to grow you have to surrender everything. Each aspect of your life has to become integrated into your spiritual work.
As you become more integrated, your meditation doesn’t end when you get up from the cushion. You don’t sit and practice opening for a half hour, then get up and forget about it for the rest of the day. Everything you experience throughout the day is something else to open to.
As you live your life you will inevitably confront events which cause you to close. Someone criticizes your work. The food you order at a restaurant comes out cold. The neighbor’s dog won’t quit barking. When these things happen, and you feel your chest tighten and your guts clench, you surrender. You let go. You open and allow the blocked energy that is creating the contraction in you to become unearthed and released.
It’s in this way that Life becomes your guru. She provides you with your own personalized path toward awakening.
No external teacher can offer this. The best they can do is to guide you back to Life, over and over again, until you have established a strong enough connection with Her to walk the path on your own, to travel on with an open heart and mind.