Is it the teacher or is it the one for whom awakening, like the noon time sun, shines highest and brightest, never again to set-- the one who abides so completely in essence nature; the one for whom that which we all are is their default state?
Awakening is the very essence of all being; that is to say, the nature of who we are, that which need not and cannot be done; that which cannot be experienced-- as the very ground of being, it is, rather, the condition of all experience which are expressions of the One Consciousness, the ineffable unspeakable Truth’s desire to awaken to itself through each of its instantiations, through each being, each interaction, each phenomenon, and each moment in time.
On the most fundamental level, the Guru is the force of awakening, that desire of Consciousness to know itself, and in so doing bodies forth into the universe, seeking itself through all of Life.
To be on the spiritual path is to actively engage this force through sadhana, not with a series of techniques that bring about awakening per se (that is already a done deal, and who you are at this moment, and every moment), but to engage in a series of techniques to bring about the necessary clarity, courage and strength to release all which stands in the way of that light, the light of awareness, from shining through and as you. Gurur brahmā Gurur viṣnuḥ Gururdevo Maheśvaraḥ
The work is in surrendering our all beliefs, assumptions and concepts of self, and how things and others should and ought to be. We release to the stream of Life, remembering and recognizing the Guru is Life.
way the practice of mantra facilitates this process is by strengthening the energy (mental-emotional) body so that we are able to be with and digest all experiences and in the process release our samskaras or our conditioning. And this is very different from the authentic personality that expresses itself in spite of all that is, and the freedom that comes from pursuing the desires that naturally and spontaneously arise within you-- not as a need for validation, not to satisfy an emptiness or a longing, not to convince yourself that you are worthy, but simply out of the joy of being. It is indeed the highest state to have desire to address an injustice, and to ease the pain of the afflicted, free from the illusion that anything is other than perfect.
OM Guru Deva
The Guru is the goal of Yoga-- it is the embodiment of the recognition of the truth of one’s being, and the consummation of this force of awakening in embodied consciousness.
Clues into the nature of Guru are in the mantras themselves. The names Guru and Deva are always chanted together, which is to suggest Guru is equal to Absolute Reality, to Deva, to the Truth of One’s being. The Guru is the one whose surrender is so complete to that which we all are, that there isn’t an ‘image of self’ (ego) to protect, preserve, defend, maintain, assert or push on to anyone. In that way individual consciousness is merged with Absolute Consciousness. Guru is the vehicle or container of Deva. Guru is Deva. This is the state of the jivanmukti.
The Guru can in fact “play” a role-- sometimes that role is teacher. But it is with the absolute awareness that the role it plays in that moment is the way Life dances and expresses through them. And they would simply laugh like a child should anyone even attempt to attach that title guru to them-- they would laugh because there just wasn’t anything to attach to. It was just as good as calling them by any other name. They would laugh, while simultaneously seeing the other as that, as guru.
There are more than enough accounts of such beings who exist across the time and traditions. To know and become inspired by them, to contemplate their essence, to chant the mantras, is a very beautiful, fulfilling path towards recognizing your own essence. That is devotion to the guru-- the devotion to your own essence, as you recognize and love it in another.
I understand why there is an apprehension, skepticism, and movement away from the idea of the guru-- not only because of the scandals surrounding leaders (and self-proclaimed gurus) that mire yoga and religious tradition, but of the general picture most often painted of our humanity. However, if we are critical and even skeptical of the possibility that a human being can realize and embody her or his or their essence completely, what does that say about our motive for practice? Why practice at all? This simple question is a powerful diagnostic. Has the mind already co-opted the practice that is but another self-concept we cling on to, preserve and defend? A new ego? The shinier, brighter, ego? It is so easy for our conditioning and for the ego to take over. It is for this purpose that we have teachers, to keep us on the path, to hold us accountable-- to push us onwards. All the while reminding us of who we really are-- perfect, whole, complete, and beautiful, exactly as we are now. Without these teachers it is very easy to stagnate and drop off on the path. Without these teachers, we could be lost in our own confusion. And these teachers are a gift of the Guru.
Tasmai śrī gurave namaḥ
Other gifts from the Guru, other forms the Guru takes on: friend, mother, brother, contrarian, the person who cuts you in traffic, your pet; Guru is also the storm and all sorts of bad weather. Guru is pandemic, market crash, and the troll online. It is all the Guru. It’s all Life.
My teacher recently shared: awakening is not another chapter in your autobiography. It is the end of the story.
Tasmai śrī gurave namaḥ
I surrender my life to the guru. Repeat.