A guru is someone who shows you the path. Someone who takes you by the hand and opens your eyes to a new way of thinking. By removing ignorance, they show you your true potential. And then they leave you to it, allowing you to continue at your own pace.
What is a Guru?
The concept of a guru is prevalent in every major religion.In Sanatana dharma (Hinduism) and general eastern traditions, the term guru usually refers to an adept who can guide others on the spiritual path.
The term guru cannot exactly be described as being a religious teacher or spiritual teacher, because a teacher merely imparts knowledge, whereas a guru is responsible for our spiritual growth, awakening wisdom from within and encouraging us to turn inward. In ancient times, students were sent to different gurus for different purposes, depending on what they were required to learn. Avatars (incarnations of God in Hinduism) also grew up under the tutelage of various gurus. Nowadays a guru is often known as spiritual leader, however it is not necessary that a spiritual leader is a real guru or create real gurus.
A true guru can be identified as someone who has gained spiritual insight, attained a high level of enlightenment, or has risen above the ordinary, and who is ready to act as a spiritual guide to impart the necessary to students who are ready. S/He is considered to be a source of knowledge, wisdom and inspiration for others and will teach his disciples (student) how to be still and remain stable while facing the adversities of life.
Guru means sacrifice, but that sacrifice should be of your petty ego and not of your own self or existence. Just like the moon, a guru’s light dispels our darkness and ignorance while at the same time allowing us to exist the way we are. A master (another term for guru) unlocks the door to a world where we don’t have to struggle, where even our failures are converted into stepping stones.
A real guru is a rare being, so when he or she manifests in your life, it’s an incredible blessing. He can be a spiritual leader or a simple monk living in the Himalayas. Initiation is the process whereby a guru formally and personally accepts someone as their disciple and usually this is done after the guru has observed the potential disciple over a period of time.
As disciples sincerely walk the path under the tutelage of a true guru, their innate tendencies gradually melt away, allowing them to progress along the personal spiritual path towards enlightenment and liberation.
A living guru can help us tremendously with our spiritual growth, i.e. becoming a better person, handling our emotions and rising above the suffering of life. However, it is not necessary to have a living guru because in reality true gurus have a purpose to help the world and those who are serving the world selflessly are usually in a constant race against time.
As a disciple grows, they could move away from the guru and awaken their inner guru who will then guide them through intuition and inner wisdom.
Some gurus can also be stepping stones, whereby a disciple moves from one guru to another after they have learnt and grown from the initial gurus. Books can be unlikely gurus and ancient scriptures which have been gifted to humanity by great saints and liberated souls usually act as a guide for our spiritual, religious and overall growth.
Most liberated souls, such as the Buddha, did not spend their entire lives under the tutelage of a guru. As shared by Om Swami, for a soul to provide shelter to society, they must be courageous enough to let go of all ropes and refuge. The ultimate goal of discipleship or having a guru is for the disciple to discover their own truth.
“The whole point of having a guru is to one day go beyond your guru, or at least match him. Merely holding your guru in reverence won’t take you too far. […] Eventually, a true disciple transitions from the guru outside to the one inside. ~ Om Swami, os.me
Why do we need a Guru?
We need a guru to guide us on the path towards our goal. This desire often arises when people start facing existential questions and delve into spirituality to find the meaning or purpose of life as well as the need to rise above suffering. The goal varies between individuals, and conveniently there are gurus for various temperaments.
The guru is the siddha, the adept, who has already been there and done that. His role is to guide the seeker and help such a practitioner get across the hurdles. For eons, all systems of various yoga and the practices thereof have been passed on from a guru to disciple.
To the highly committed seeker, finding and meeting his guru becomes an automatic act — almost like a preordained rendezvous. There is no need to reject your own religion, culture or social beliefs when you take on a master.
How do we choose a Guru?
We don’t have to go in search of a guru. When we tread the path with sincerity and honesty, Nature is left with no option but to manifest a genuine master and our guru will enter in our life. And until such time, even if people meet the right guru, they stay oblivious and unaware. It is advised to not be hasty in selecting a guru. A guru is not a formality or a transaction of convenience. He is not an item that can just be ticked off.
Individuals will usually take on a guru who is like them. In other words, your guru will most likely match your tendencies and way of operating in life. People who are constantly looking for shortcuts in life, will naturally be attracted to a guru who promises fast results. When choosing a guru, an essential question to be asked is whether the guru has real experiences and can demonstrate the final attainment of what you are searching for.
If, for instance, an individual wishes to attain the ultimate stage of meditation, i.e. Samadhi or wishes to experience a vision of God, then it will benefit them to only accept a guru who has relevant knowledge and first-hand experiences, instead of the guru merely imparting bookish knowledge.
There are gurus who are adepts in tantra, mantra or simply in meditation, whereas others can guide individuals on the path of devotion. Hence, before choosing a guru, one must have some clarity about their goal and purpose for walking on the spiritual path.
During the process of choosing a guru, you may be confused whether you have chosen the right guru. The presence of a true guru, will melt you and you will experience emotions which you cannot describe verbally in their presence, This process can take time, or it could happen instantly.
If you feel guilty, angry, resentful or restless in a master’s presence, it can only mean one of two things: a. the guru is fake, or, b. you are not ready for him.
Above all, in search of a guru, it is essential that we don’t make any attempt to deliberately feel reverence for any master. Surrender or acceptance can’t be forced; either you feel it or you don’t, or maybe you feel it intermittently. Either way, it’s fine. If adoration doesn’t come from within, give yourself time or get yourself a new guru. Faith need not be blind.
Who is an appropriate Guru for me?
A true guru will never tell you to tread his path blindly, instead he’ll encourage you to find your own. He’s gentle like the flowing river, warm like the winter sun, bright like the full moon, rejuvenating like the first summer rain. And, if you don’t feel gentle, warm, bright and rejuvenated yourself in his company, he’s not the right guru for you.
The most important criterion for determining whether someone is fit to be your guru or not is that the guru’s teachings must make sense to you.
Once you find a master who walks the talk, whose presence pierces your heart, whose teachings transform you, whose words make you feel divine, don’t let go of him because, with each unfolding moment, the guru will elevate you even higher.
You then experience your own greatness, beauty and magnificence in every thought of yours. The pristine you then shines softly like the full moon amid the night of emotions; both co-existing and complementing each other. The most important criterion for determining whether someone is fit to be your guru or not is that his teachings must make sense to you.
What should be the qualities of a Guru?
The right guru can dispel your doubts, help you cross hurdles, and assist you in spiritual attainment faster and better than you on your own. The role of the guru is often to shatter a seeker’s ego yet his presence will make you feel complete and help you grow. Your guru should have the qualities which you seek to perfect and should be the ideal individual whom you wish to become like. If you are a seeker wishing to attain samadhi, then your guru should have the quality of having perfected samadhi.
Additionally, a guru should allow you to move on when you wish to do so and never control you with fear. A true guru would have risen above the shackles of anger, jealousy and natural human tendencies. The simple reason being that if your guru hasn’t been able to overcome the afflictions of the mind, then it is erroneous to expect him to help you rise above them too
What if I don’t find a Guru?
If someone is unable to find a guru or have a deep desire to find one, then there are spiritual practices one can do to speed up the process of finding a guru. A disciplined spiritual practice carried out over a certain period of time, also known as a sadhana.
Performing the Guru sadhana can help a seeker either awaken their inner guru or lead them towards their guru through a natural turn of events. There is also a term known as guru tattva, whereas an individual does not seek the help of a physical guru but instead awaken their inner voice or inner guide. Everyone can unleash their inner guru, by walking sincerely on the path and using scriptures and meditation as their tools.
What does a Guru-Disciple bond mean?
The guru-disciple relationship is like no other for it’s free of the usual give-and-take exchanges. It’s one of the most intimate and purest relationships because there are no secrets and there’s no hidden agenda. It’s a bond, a covenant, capable of rapid, profound, and irreversible transformation.
When a seeker is sincere, when they practice to the T but still fail to walk the spiritual path, the fault is often not with the seeker but with the guru. In the presence of a genuine master, you feel important, loved and peaceful. Everything feels alright, life feels worthwhile. This is how you know that you are in the close vicinity of a real master.
It can take time for us to accept our guru and vice-versa, however this process shouldn’t be hastened, for once the bond is created, it is eternal and trust is the most important thing between a disciple and his guru.
FAQs -Speculating on the true meaning of Guru
Is it a bad thing to have many Gurus?
Some gurus are stepping stones, while others remain in our lives for longer periods of time. It is perfectly fine t have multiple gurus. One can take the nectar from anywhere as long as they feel that they can benefit from the wisdom and teachings. However, if an individual no longer feels connected to their guru, they should not hesitate to move on and seek guidance only where their heart feels at peace. As seekers progress down the spiritual path it is advised that they reflect and choose only one guru, as it will be beneficial to their spiritual growth. A path which has no place for guilt or confusion and whereby clarity of mind can help a seeker make progress. Om Swami also expounds on the question of having multiple gurus in his discourse
How do we know a real Guru?
Very often on the path of spirituality, disciples and seekers discover whether their guru is real or fake. A real guru will never forcefully use disciples to further their cause and the wellbeing and happiness of his or her disciples will always be the most important. If someone finds themselves dealing with a guru who doesn’t stand by his words or teachings, there are chances that he may not be a real guru. You can read about seeker’s past experience with fake guru in the narration of their story.
What does it mean to surrender?
True surrender is when we let go of our desires and put our faith in either our guru or God, that they will do the best for us as long as we perform our duty sincerely. Surrender happens over time and if someone is devoted and surrendered to their guru, they offer him/her a place in their heart and live the teachings which the guru imparted. Over time, devotees or disciples learn about this inner state of being and may share their experiences about offering guru pranams, which is another word for obeisance.
How can you know if your master is a fake, or if you are simply rebellious and not ready for him?
If a master’s cause or organization’s is more important than the wellbeing of those who look up to him and if you feel humiliated or feel that his acceptance of you is conditional, giving rise to fear, then it is possible that your master is fake. The ability to expound on scriptures isn’t an indication of a master’s genuineness, however, the ability to demonstrate relevant experience in the field you are interested in, is a good indication. As you walk the path, the presence of a guru will help you view life more positively and discover yourself on a deeper level. As a householder disciple of Om Swami shares about the beginning of her journey expounding on the famous saying of when the disciple is ready the guru appears: “My life was a roller coaster, where downs were more than the ups. Life is never easy and it is not meant to be, when we ourselves have messed it up over so many births, how can we expect it to be smooth?” And later, as her transformation started dawning, she went on to share that: “What good karma have I done I don’t know, nothing in this life at least. What have I done so deserving to be living in His time? Isn’t it His grace alone that I am here?!”As another author on os.me shares, gurus who stumble, can also be great sources of learning for us: “When we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that our most challenging situations are the ones that have caused us to grow the most. Fallen spiritual leaders don’t bring less light to our lives – they enlighten us more! It’s testing and trial that grow faith. While we strive for circumstances free from stress, it’s the pressure that makes us spiritually strong. The final goal isn’t to serve the Guru. It’s to embody the Guru, our own Divinity, that’s been inside us all from the beginning.”
How to find the right guru for you?
When we walk the path sincerely, Nature brings the right guru on our path. Sometimes we find him or her via books, acquaintances, technology or other means. And as this is mostly a spiritual path, the soul naturally feels an affinity towards our guru. We struggle to describe our feelings and the attraction is puzzling, however, Nature walks us through the journey. One of the greatest and essential sign of a true guru is that the right guru would have transcended their ego and only work for the benefit of humanity. In some cases, individuals who are not aware about the role of a guru, may also find themselves in the refuge and start being devoted to a guru. Very often, when we find a guru, and we remain stable in his service or in his love, it means that it is a connection of several lifetimes and it’s a bond which is likely to be eternal, if we desire for it to be. As a seeker shares, when he found the right guru for him he found the right guru for him : “It transformed my life for the better in ways that I couldn’t have imagined even 6 months back. I am a more spiritual, calm, equanimous, centered, tolerant, happy and kind version of myself than I was in 2019”
Trending questions and real-life experiences on Guru Definition, spiritual teachers, spiritual masters in os.me community.
Learn more or share your knowledge by answering questions, you can also share your real life experiences or ask your questions related to spiritual masters, spiritual wellness, meditation, or big questions of life.
- Is Guru the means to an end or the end itself? Guru is the means to an end. He is showing us the path he traversed to reach God/Self-Realization. We only have to walk the path, and he cant do this for us. Hence he is a means to an end. Read the answers or ask a question.
- What is the significance of chanting our Guru’s name? Is it a) We are doing it with love & everything we do with deep love connects to him and the divine. b) We are doing it with love & this is also Mantra chanting? Yes and Yes in my opinion. Tough thing to put it in words as there is NO explanation to the true faith, it all depends on a person’s devotion & desire to seek guidance. That’s, why we read and, hear, the stone becomes God and at times God himself is questioned. Read the answers or ask a question.
- How to find perfect guru for your spiritual journey?I was listening to Om Swami speak today on Audible and he said something profound. It’s supremely important to be the right kind of disciple. When the disciple is ready the Guru will come. That’s my truth and the truth of so many people here.
Read the answers or ask a question.
- Is it wrong to avoid talking about your Guru publicly or with those who don’t follow him?I think it might be helpful to use discernment depending on the situation. For me, my partner and mother had to know and thankfully they had no issues. Rest of the family and world to be honest I don’t know because I never bother to find out, to me it’s irrelevant. Read the answers or ask a question.
- If you’re not able to meet your Guru physically is there any way to develop spiritual bond with your Guru?The connection between a Guru and a disciple is beyond physical proximity. If you seek His presence just invoke Him within you for the Guru outside is the manifestation of the Guru within. Guru is your Ataryami, your Higher Self guiding you to your truth and the Divine Grace flowing from the Master is always available like an ever flowing river, you just have to tap in. The bond is of Love, complete Surrender, faith and Dhyana upon your Guru will establish this connection. Read the answers or ask a question.