Guru and Spiritual Consciousness

Lecture by Swami Satyananda Saraswati at Satyananda Ashram, Mangrove Mountain, Australia on Guru Poornima, July 1st 1977 – yogamagazine July 1978

This is the first Guru Poornima which I have attended outside of India. When the news broke out in India that I was going to Sydney for Guru Poornima, everybody thought that it was either a mistake in printing or that perhaps there was a town in India called Sydney. Where there is devotion and love, where there are people who are dedicated to the spiritual quest, that is a place of pilgrimage where a sannyasin can go, even outside of India.

Today, on Guru Poornima, the spiritual powers and grace of not only my guru, but all gurus, descend to this earthly plane in order to inspire the spiritually hungry aspirants towards spiritual life. The gurus don’t want emancipation; they want to live even after this mortal body is thrown away and the soul becomes free. The guru has the option to become emancipated completely, but he does not care for it. Guru is always aware of his disciples and the aspiration of his disciples. For the spiritual well being and evolution of his disciples, the guru prefers to remain in an interim space after death. Once every year he comes down with his spiritual vibrations, taking care of his disciples, inspiring, increasing and energizing them. Today is that day.

We have many festivals throughout the year dedicated to different spiritual forces because man has always felt a sense of incompleteness in him self. Right from the beginning, when he became conscious, he wanted a mother and he had one. Then he wanted a friend and he had the friend. Next he wanted a wife and he got that too. After that he wanted children and he got them also. He went on acquiring these worldly relationships through which he could express various dimensions of his personality: paternal love, maternal love, marital love, friendly love. He went on expressing and projecting his consciousness, but still he found that all these relationships were not enough. So he went in search of God, samadhi, nirvana, emancipation, because he wanted to project himself beyond the frontiers of finiteness. He wanted to expand his soul beyond the boundaries of time and space.

This is the answer to the questions of life – man is trying not only to conquer time and space, but to get out of it. It seems that man’s mind can never accept the bondages of time and space, even though he lives in them and may have to go on living in them for centuries. Even in his quest for samadhi, emancipation, man still found that he was incomplete. Then he wanted to have a relationship with a man which was based on time and space, but was timeless and transcendental, it was exactly at this point that he discovered guru and struck a note of success.

Guru is related to you; he is your relative. He stands exactly at the junction point in life which scientists also talk about where both the transcendental and the empirical meet. On one side is the empirical dimension of time and space, object and limitations; on the other side is the transcendental dimension of timelessness. Therefore, in a guru you can always find the aspects of both creation and reality; he is finite and at the same time a replica of the infinite. The discovery of guru is very ancient, and from that time different sages and saints in every period have emphasized the need of guru so that aspirants may have spiritual support.

For a disciple, guru may be the road to transcendental life, but for this road to be open, the intimacy, closeness, unity and oneness between guru and disciple must be supreme. Unless guru loses himself in his disciple and disciple in his guru, things will not really happen. However, losing oneself is a very difficult practice. We are afraid of losing ourselves; we do not want to lose anything, especially our ego. This ego is a great barrier. As long as it stands between guru and disciple, the channels of communication are insulated and the current doesn’t flow across. You have to remove the insulation in order to allow the energy to flow this way and that way. However, we have been living in a world which puffs up this ego. Economic inflation is a very recent affair but ego inflation has been going on for centuries.

When we begin to live with our guru as a householder disciple or a sannyasin disciple, we find one thing very difficult and that is the method or procedure. So what do we do? We first accept the guru and thereafter plunge ourselves into spiritual life and spiritual practice.

Spiritual life begins with devotion to the guru and developing a relationship with him. Spiritual practice begins with the mantra. Just as in the west when a boy and girl marry, they have a ring as the symbol of their marriage, the relationship between guru and disciple is established with the mantra and a mala – this is the symbol. The mantra is the replica of guru’s existence in you. It is a constant reminder. The mala is not merely a religious affair; the mantra is not merely a word; it is something which has been planted in you by guru at a certain moment of spiritual aspiration. When you sow seeds, what exactly do you do? First, you plough the land and break the hard soil, then you sow the seeds. After you have sown the seeds, you must take care of them, manuring and watering them at the proper times. The mantra is the seed, the bija; your heart is the field, and guru is the farmer. The field is very hard, actually, the upper layer is the intellect. If it is broken up, the seeds have a chance to grow. But if the seeds are sown without breaking up this top layer, then birds will come and pick them all up one by one. Finally, the farmer will return to find that nothing has grown out of this hard field of intellect because it cannot absorb the seeds. Therefore, soften the heart, fill it with devotion and it will be easier for the seed of mantra to grow.

The mantra which is given to the disciple should be repeated every day, using the mala and feeling the presence of the guru. Once you develop the image of guru in yourself, you are developing the image of your spiritual consciousness. At a higher level, the image of guru and your spiritual consciousness are one. At a lower level, however, they seem to be different.

The human body is a superior creation of God which has been ordained for us to fulfil the purpose of spiritual evolution. No other incarnation has access to the experience of the supreme being, God or atman, as we have. God created this superior frame for the fulfillment of this spiritual purpose, but by squandering away the qualities of this superior incarnation in lower enjoyments we bring upon ourselves pain, frustrations, heart disease, mental breakdowns, etc. All the problems that man is facing today are caused by misuse of this valuable instrument, the human body. That is the only reason. Not all of us need to become swamis, but definitely we must become devotees, bhaktas, and day by day increase our spiritual awareness.

It is always a pleasure for me to be with my disciples, but I think it is not necessary. There is a part of my personality which is in them, and there is a part of their personality which is in me. I don’t miss them and they also cannot miss me. The only problem is that we cannot see one another. In truth, every being is omnipresent, which means that we are not only here, but everywhere. This immanent, omnipresent, all pervading quality of consciousness is universal. Now, however, we are limited, even as energy lies dormant, arrested by matter, so the spiritual consciousness is arrested by maya, the material nature. Thus, we all must overcome the material nature of life in order to experience our omnipresence. Now, we can’t be everywhere at the same time. When we hear about omnipresence it sounds so simple, but when we try to practice it, we find it very difficult. At every moment of life we are arrested, limited, caught and obstructed by maya. The difficulty is to cross maya.

How can you jump out of the mind without the help of the mind? How can you jump over the mind with the mind? It is impossible to understand the logic. Mind is finite, and you want to jump into the infinite with the finite. That is the proposal everywhere. What actually happens, however, is that we keep on circling and circling the same route, never getting out of it. The mind is there ail the time, every day, experiencing, coming down. Some people talk about visions and shaktipath, but I feel that spiritual consciousness is something else. There is a moment when the mind has to die, but before the death of the mind, a new consciousness has to be born. The mistake everybody is making is that we are trying to annihilate the mind. No! Before the mind and mental patterns are annihilated, a new consciousness has to emerge. This is the birth of the spiritual baby. All the practices in yoga are aimed at the emergence of this spiritual consciousness which evolves side by side with the mind. After some time, when you can maintain spiritual consciousness, then you can start withdrawing the mind.

The consciousness is two fold – mental and spiritual. The mental consciousness you know very well- knowledge of objects, fears, illusions, memories, sleep, erroneous experience. With the help of this mental personality, we know the world, we live in our household, we meet our friends, we do everything. It is with the mind that we interact; without it what would happen? We would be crazy in the mental hospital. You cannot function in the world without it. You cannot run a business, earn money, manage a household, be a wife or a husband. Without the mind you can do nothing, because mind is the basis for all the activities of life. With an efficient mind, you are able to function efficiently in life, but if the mind is dull, you are nowhere. Mind is the basis of all karma and is responsible for ail accomplishments. It is called the mental consciousness, by which we know space and objectivity.

There is also another dimension of consciousness called spiritual consciousness which is not yet evolved. After it has developed considerably, the lower mental consciousness should be withdrawn. When the spiritual consciousness comes into full play and takes charge of your life, then your senses work in a very wonderful way. You don’t become inactive or look crazy. This more capable, more powerful spiritual consciousness is able to guide your faculties, your aspirations in a much better way. So in spiritual life, let us not talk about the extinction of mind, but the evolution of spiritual consciousness. In the development of this spiritual consciousness, guru is instrumental as an efficient cause. There are many instances in history where gurus have been able to arouse the spiritual consciousness in man. Developing this spiritual consciousness is the purpose of human life. If you live this life only with the lower mental consciousness then you are only living on the animal plane, the level of instinct. If, on the other hand, you know that the purpose of this human incarnation is the emergence of spiritual consciousness, then you can start working towards its development.

I am sure that the coming years are going to be very important for the whole world. I am not a pessimist, I have seen light. Every day, every week, every year, I see the spiritual consciousness arising, and the silver lining is on the horizon. We are no longer in the midnight of darkness, but at the dawn of our day. All over the world, people are working very hard to find a way to spiritual life. In the depths of their hearts, they are seeking a higher existence, a new means of cognition. They want to change the whole dimension of their perception. Such people are the mediums.

After a few years, the spiritual culture is going to be the culture of the majority. Wherever I go I find that spiritual centres are being fixed up properly and are becoming more and more beautiful Soon we will be having Poornima in every city, village and home. On this day people will rededicate themselves and remember their spiritual purpose, which then may not have been completely forgotten, but have simply been neglected. A new tradition is evolving in which we will have Guru Poornima wherever there are spiritual souls.