“When the student is ready, the teacher shall appear.” – The Buddha.
A conversation over coffee yesterday veered around the subject of gurus. Do we really need a guru? Does someone else’s guru have to appeal to you? How do we choose a guru?
These are very pertinent and normal questions that arise in a seeker. But before attempting to answer them, we must demystify the word guru itself. In Sanskrit, ‘gu’ means ‘the darkness of ignorance’ and ‘ru’ means ‘the one who removes’. So, anyone, absolutely, anyone who makes you become more aware, who dispels the ignorance in you, is your guru. For instance, my daughter’s friend, Aneesh, is the one I turn to for all geeky queries. I just send him a WhatsApp message and pat comes the reply. In every sense, he’s my guru when it comes to tech issues. Or for all matters pertaining to law and legal strategy, we turn to our friend and mentor of several years, S.Vijayaraghavan – he’s our guru there. Or for anything related to music and sound engineering, we lean on a young composer and studio owner, Kumar Narayanan; he is always helping us learn something new every single time. So, in essence, this whole belief that a guruis a saint, a religious figure, matted hair, orange robes and such is, to put it bluntly, all rubbish.
Fundamentally, if you have the readiness and willingness to learn, your guru will appear before you. There is no need to search for one. Seek. Just seek within. And you will be connected to someone who can, at that moment, clarify, educate and make you more aware. There’s a difference between seeking and searching. There is always a frantic quality to a search. But seeking is subliminal. There is a yearning. There’s a pining. Not in a painful way. But with the curiosity of child, the thirst of a desert-weary traveler.
I have always found that when you seek deeply, within, with all honesty, someone comes to help you along. Always.
I remember, a few years ago, when things were horribly, horribly bad, on the financial, legal and business front, we were in our hotel room in Navi Mumbai. I had a series of workshops to run that week. But I had no energy, no inclination, to do anything. I was seeking a way to understand myself better, I wanted to know how to cope. That’s when one of the managers from the company that we were working with came up to our room and told me and Vaani the story of how he had survived 95+ % burns in a ghastly fire accident. He said, “You simply have to believe. Non-believing is not a choice. When you believe, you are at peace. When you are at peace, you can think with clarity. With clarity anything is possible. With confusion, and depression, and despondency, nothing is.” So, to me, to Vaani, that day, this manager was our guru. He removed the darkness of ignorance. He made us aware what believing really meant.
This is who a guru is. A genuine guru has no pretensions, peddles no methods and makes no promises. It is just someone who makes you aware of whatever you must know. But for a guru to appear, you must first be a seeker – ready and willing!