Finding and Pleasing Our Perfect Teacher
Question: It is said that the fastest way to enlightenment is to be with a sat guru and let him take you over, literally following everything he says. What do you think of this, and how can we take advantage of it in this organization?
Answer: This has nothing to do with an organization. You should know that the moment you find your own guru you are within the last leg of your spiritual journey, the happy but difficult end. It is difficult because it is not the purpose of the guru to make life easy or to please us. On the contrary, the purpose of the guru is to help us get rid of the arch enemy of any spiritual practitioner, which is the ego. Not only theoretically, but practically, and this is a very painful process.
The yogic teaching is that when a person is ready, the guru will be at the doorstep, just outside the door. You may open the door and bump into your guru and not recognize your guru, but if your guru shows up you are very blessed. That doesn’t mean it is going to be easy. Don’t think that the appearance of the guru is the herald of easy times. No, it is the herald of difficult times and in the beginning, the guru will make our life difficult.
It has to be like this. Guru means a spiritual preceptor, our spiritual preceptor. Sat means perfect, so a sat guru is a perfect guru, a perfect spiritual preceptor. Such a preceptor has two qualities, according to the yogic scriptures. The first quality is that he or she is fully enlightened. Actually, we don’t use the word enlightened in yoga; we use the term Self-realized. The person is perfectly Self-realized, completely Self-realized, and having attained the highest spiritual realization, knows the Ultimate Truth directly. The second quality is that the teacher is also a master of the scriptures, so the teacher is a master of yoga in the full sense of the word – ultimate realization and a master of the scriptures. When a person has both qualifications, such a person is called a sat guru. Why does he need the scriptures? He needs them in order to communicate the knowledge to others, the way a musician needs an instrument in order to communicate music. It is very difficult, very rare to find such a teacher so if you find one, make sure you don’t lose him or her. Just hold fast, which means that when such a teacher gives you spiritual instruction, do your level best to practice it with devotion. Pray hard that the teacher will not disappear.
Getting such a teacher has nothing to do with this or that organization. It is a personal matter. Every person has his or her own guru. Now it may happen that all the people here have the same guru – Swami Sivananda, Swami Vishnudevananda – it can happen, but this is not the rule; the rule is that everyone has his or her own guru. It may be the same person, but it does not have to be the same person. Ultimately, all the gurus are one. There is an ultimate guru and all the other gurus are manifestations of that ultimate guru. But the manifestations are different. So my teacher is like this and your teacher is like that. This is how it works.
Finding our teacher is very precious. We should cherish it by pleasing our guru. One way to please the guru is to actually practice the teachings. Another is to help other people. Gurus are immensely pleased when we serve others; it brings them great joy. When Swami Vishnudevananda was giving the diploma of the Yoga Teacher Training Course – back when he was teaching the course himself – he would give the diploma with a prayer. This was his prayer: Whatever good you received, please go now and share it with others. Whatever good you received, please don’t keep it to yourself. That’s the idea. Share it with others. The yoga teaching is not for you, it is for all.
Swami Swaroopananda is a senior disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda. A practicing yogi from a very young age, Swami Swaroopananda has dedicated his life to the practice and teaching of yoga. He taught in Yoga Teacher Training Courses around the world and is currently teaching advanced yoga philosophy courses and lectures internationally. He is Director of the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat and acharya (spiritual director) for the Sivananda centers and ashrams in the Bahamas and the Middle East. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres.