Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gurus, Gurus and Gurus _ 2

I was warned that any discussion on Gurus tends to become acrimonious. I do not understand why any message on Gurus should be taken by some people, as an attack on Gurus in general and their Gurus in particular. I know that because of this, no one wants to discuss the institution of Gurus. Though quite a few books have been written on Gurus it is more from the point of view of the West. They invariably fall back upon the definition and writing in our old texts and very rarely reflect the realities of the present times.

A friend had posed a question

"What then happens to the hungry, traveler, saddened by life's trials, desperately seeking for guidance; a guide, a father, a mother, a manifestation, a personalization of the ultimate "God"? . "

This is the crux of the problem. Whenever we talk about Gurus invariably it is about Gurus who lead the disciple to Self- Realisation.There are Pravritti and Nivritti margas. There are Mumukshas as a class of society. Even in spirituality the goal could be Prathiba, Sahaja and Samarasa. Why talk only about self- realisation as if it is the only goal for which a Guru is required. Why dismiss all other Gurus as non- Gurus?

There are other gurus who deal also with the type of people enumerated above.

Tantric Gurus

The concept of Gurus is emphasised in all Tantric texts. By its very nature Tantric practices need a guru to initiate a person the Mantra, and also teach the various and elaborate rituals prescribed for attaining the Siddhi of the Mantra. These Gurus have a long lineage running to generations. Many of the Sampradhayas also believe that the Guru should be a Grahastha (householder) and not a Sannyasin.

There are hundreds of Sampradhayas and most of these Gurus are householders leading the life of a householder. There are thousands of disciples who have been initiated into these Mantras. Most of them are householders. It is again generally an accepted principle of these Sampradhayas that the initiate does not take any other Guru. Those who belong to the Great SriVidya Sampradhaya have Diksha names.

When we were discussing mantras and Siddhis earlier there was an attempt to dismiss all Mantras other than those, which lead to Moksha. Unfortunately most of the mantras in Mantra Mahodhathi and Mantra Maharnava are for attaining certain powers or Siddhis. A Tantric who attains a Siddhi of any mantra will get power. How he uses this power depends on him. Misuse of the Powers will result in losing the power gradually and also prevent him from attaining higher powers.

We find a number of these Tantrics making money out of these powers. They help the common man in overcoming obstacles, winning court cases etc. You may say that this is Black magic or dhurmantra. The Tantric scriptures do not make any such distinction and Tantrics have always for thousands of years used their powers for material benefits.

Hereditary Gurus

There are many families in India (especially among the Vaishnavites) where your family has accepted an individual or the head of a particular Math as your Guru. These Gurus could be either householders or Sannyasins depending upon the tradition. There are hundreds of gurus of this kind in India. The families consult the Guru on a regular basis regarding their problems.

Nath/Sidddha/Avadhoota Gurus.

We have all heard of the wandering monks, mad monks, and naked Sadhus of India. Most of these people belong to the Nath/Siddha tradition. These kinds of Sadhus do not follow the norms of the society. They are called mad because they do not conform to the norms of the society. But many of them had achieved the ultimate Siddhi. By mere look they could elevate the disciple to a higher level. Many Siddhas also were masters of indigenous medicine and alchemy. There is a system of medicine called the Siddha Vaidhya. They went around healing people. I can write & write about the greatness of these Siddhas without end. We talk about Prathiba, Sahaja, Samarasa, and not self- realisation here. These Gurus attained Sahaja and Samarasa.

It is in the Nath/Siddha/Avadhootha/Tantric tradition that the Guru is held in absolute reverence. In aishnavism also the Guru is venerated. The Guru does not hold this exalted position in the Advaita marga.

If we look at our history you will find that our great Gurus came from all traditions.

If you prepare a list of Gurus like

Bagavan Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
Swami Vivekananda
Disciples of Ramakrishna
Bagavan Ramana Maharshi
Mata Anandamayi
Paramahansa Yogananda
Swami Nityananda
Swami Muktananda
Swami Sivananda
Swami Chinmayananda
Bagavan Shirdi Sai Baba
Bagavan Sathya Saibaba
Mata Amritanandamayi
Shree MAA of Kamakya
Swami Sathyananda Saraswathi
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Swami Rama
Maa Rama Devi
Maharshi Mahesh Yogi
Papa Ramdas

You will find that everyone had his/her own path. As Bagavan Ramakrishna said there are as many paths as there are men. I had prepared the list of only those Gurus whose teachings and path I know something about. There are hundreds whom I am not fortunate enough to know.

I am sure some of you would have seen the web site referred by one of my friends here. (Let Us Reason ). I am giving below a paragraph from one of their pages.

" They learn spirituality by experience. Marilyn Ferguson states it this way,"The radical Center of spiritual experience seems to be knowing without doctrine ... the teacher does not impart knowledge but technique. This is the 'transmission of knowledge by direct experience.' Doctrine on the other hand, is second-hand knowledge, a danger .... 'Do not get entangled in any teaching." (The Aquarian Conspiracy, Marilyn Ferguson, Pages 371, 377.)"

They are right. The Guru teaches from his personal knowledge. So most of them taught the path they had experienced.

One of my friends had asked about the general qualifications of a guru. I do not think you can have one. There is an ocean of difference between a Vedantic guru and an Agora guru. Between a Spiritual guru of the Advaita marga and a Vama marga Tantric Guru. Instead of spending time in finding out about Conmen (calling them fake Gurus is an insult to Gurus) we can learn about all these gurus and their teachings. Most of the information is available on the net. Many of them also have ashrams all over the world. If you like the teachings of a Guru and would like to join their community you can visit their ashrams. If you want a Tantric or Nath/Siddha guru you have to really search hard as these kind of Gurus are not easy to find. You hear more about Con men masquerading as Gurus because Con men make better copy for newspapers and magazines than real Gurus.

If you are a spiritual or religious explorer/adventurer you can explore different margas, exoteric and non exoteric. All explorers do not discover the source of the Nile. Similarly spiritual explorers may never find the ultimate. Like in exploration the path can be dangerous also. But there is always a thrill in exploration.

We are blessed that Hinduism has produced so many great gurus. One of our friends had written that tolerance is the basis of Hinduism. It is not tolerance. It is acceptance of all paths. Most of us are yet to accept this concept of acceptance. Some of you may not consider some of the people on my list as Gurus. The principle is to be inclusive and not exclusive. Find out what is good in all men and if you find some good teachings try to absorb them. Lookout for Con-men and you will find one in every corner. It is a question of attitude and conditioning.

By then are we qualified to judge these great men? It is like a toddler in the Nursery class passing judgment on the Head teacher of the school. I would say it is worse. The difference in level is so high like a deep hole in the ground and the peak of the mountain. As I said earlier the only people who can give you an opinion are the disciples. Ask different disciples (beginners and advanced) and the dissenters (there are always some) and then may be you can decide. Even this I am not so sure. But do not put yourself in a straight jacket by going by any definition.

Gurus, Gurus and Gurus _ 1

Nowadays people are not satisfied with mere Gurus. So we have Maharshis and Paramahamsas.

In India we find that people approach a Guru for the following purposes.

1. For spiritual guidance (very few).
2. To get initiated into a Mantra.
2. Guidance and help in solving their problems.
3. To know about their future.
4. To get cure for their illness.
5. For wealth, fame and prosperity.

The Guru phenomenon also complies with the economics rule of demand and supply. So as there is a pent-up demand for all kinds of Gurus for solving all kinds of problems, all kinds of Gurus spring up. In fact the demand far exceeds the supply. That is why people have to search for Gurus.

We can be very puritanical and say that all these people are not genuine Gurus. I have some experience of meeting Gurus of various hues and shades all over India. The common factor among all of them
is (I am not talking about the Con artist)

1. They invariably have some power or attraction, which distinguishes them from the common man.
2. They are able to win the faith and devotion of many members of the public.

Anyone who fulfills the above qualification could become a Guru. I am not a Guru, as I do not fulfill any of these qualifications.

They could be good soothsayers, good healers, religious pundits who conduct yagnas for propitiation of Gods/Goddesses on behalf of their customers, good astrologers, good teachers etc. etc.

So depending upon your need you find a Guru. It is also possible that you want a Guru to belong to a particular section of society or an informal club.

These Gurus come from all social strata of society and have different levels of spiritual advancement. They could be renunciates, or Grahasthas. They have different goals in life. Many of them want to construct big ashrams, temples, hospitals, schools etc. Once anyone wants to construct an ashram, hospital he has to necessarily acquire land, money for construction. So they get involved in mundane matters. We call it Loukika. This could prove to be a quagmire. There are plenty of highly evolved Gurus who have stagnated and sometimes came down in their spiritual level because of their involvement in these activities. This is what is illustrated by the story of the Sannyasin and his kowpeena.

What is the relevance of all this to the question raised? One of our friends has echoed the feeling of every one of us when he said that we want our Guru to have all the comforts. He said that the Guru should live like a king. I am in total agreement. But the question is does the Guru want that? If that is his wish as his disciple you should offer whatever you can. Sometimes the question I raised might crop up. There is no correct answer to that question. We can only pray that we are not placed in such a predicament. You cannot wish away the problem.

Soomeone had said about a Guru arranging the marriage of a disciple. As I said earlier we run to the guru with all kinds of problems. Do you expect your Spiritual Guru to be a marriage counselor, career counselor, astrologer, and pranic healer? Sort of omnipotent. In my opinion the Guru was not right in arranging the marriage of a disciple. Just because he is Gurudeva he does not become God. I do not think even in the days of the Puranas Gurus decided whom the chelas should marry. This is sheer exploitation of the faith reposed in the Guru. I think the guru had an inflated Ego. This has nothing to do with culture. I find that the westerner takes his Guru more literally than the Indians. That is the reason why western disciples are preferred over Indian disciples.

You can quote books galore to say that the Guru has that right. But these books also give the father of a son/daughter absolute right to decide whom he/she should marry. Even now in India many parents claim that right. Most of us now believe that the father does not have that right. If it is so neither does the Guru. The scriptures also gave a lot of rights to the King even if he was a tyrant. We threw out the kings and are better for it. We are always selective in our reading of the scriptures.

Books which were written in an age when there was no appreciation of individual rights, when hereditary rights of ruling was the norm, when the society was feudal, cannot be taken to be the voice of God. What is written about spirituality is timeless. But the same cannot be said about code of conduct and other non-spiritual matters.

I find that the younger generation of today is more religious than my generation. I am sure they will become more spiritual as they grow older. Without being very rigid in our definitions and qualifications of a Guru, we can search for a Guru. You will definitely find a Guru to your liking. You should have absolute faith in your Guru. But you should also realise that Guru is not God or omnipotent. He is also a human being and also has desires, wants etc. You cannot expect him to solve all your problems. If you have a problem say about switching jobs you cannot expect your Guru to get you a job or decide which job
you should accept.

You go to the Guru. You state your problem either orally or mentally. The Guru either by a word or glance will give you the inner strength required to find a solution to your problem. The idea that the Gurus are also human and are bound by the same samskaras, ego etc. will enable us to understand the Guru and serve him better. This will also enable us to cope with the situation in case someday we discover that the particular Guru was a Con Man.

The people to decide whether a guru is genuine/authentic or not, are the disciples not the journalists and general public.

My Pranams to All the Past, Present and Future Gurus of the world.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mantras and Siddhis


The discussion about whether one should give the Mantra in print on
paper or over the Internet and whether one should utter these Mantras
has been discussed in many forums especially over the Internet. But
what we should understand that there is no forum in India where such
matters are discussed. Unfortunately there is very little opposition
to the commercialisation of Mantras and Tantras in India. We find not
only books but also cassettes and magazines, which give Mantras and
advise people to chant them for various benefits. Not one Acharya or
religious head has raised his voice against these practices.

Before I go into Mantra Sasthra I would like to say something about
Tantra, Upasana, Sadhana and Siddhi

We generally use the above terms whenever we talk about Tantra and
Mantras. Now there is a lot of confusion about these terms. I would
like to present a simple definition of the above terms. I am always
open to correction as I am not a Guru.

Upasana: Upasana is devotion to a particular deity or mantra. It
means approaching the Divine step by step till the self attains
identity with her. When somebody says I am a Durga Upasak, it means
that he is a worshipper of MAA DURGA. Upasana is different from
Bhakthi in that you concentrate on one particular Deity or Mantra.
The deity is normally called Ishta Devata. When you do mantra Upasana
you follow the procedures laid down for that Upasana.

Sadhana: is the method by which you do Upasana. Mantra sadhana means
the method followed is by recitation of a specific mantra. Tantra
sadhana means you follow Tantric procedures, which include Mantras.

Siddhi. - Means power or attainment. The common forms of Siddhi are

Ashtamaa Siddhi - eight great powers
1. Anima -To become tiny as the atom within atom
2. Laghima - To become light as vapour in levitation
3. Mahima - To become big in unshakeable proportions
4. Prapti- To enter into other bodies in transmigration
5. Prakamyam- To be in all things, omni pervasive
6. Isatvam-To be lord of all creation in omnipotence
7. Vasitvam- To be everywhere in omnipresence
8. Kamaru Tattva (Kamavasyitva) -Attainment of whatever you desire*

Source: Thirumandhiram- verse no.668 to 693

* Some books give it as Garima (the power of becoming heavy)
The minor Siddhis are
Doora Dharshan (clairvoyance)
Doora Sravan (clairaudience)
Iccha Mrityu (death at his will)
There may be others also.

Kariya Siddhi - Getting your heart's desire. This is what most of us
aim for. We pray to God to beget children, get promotion in job, get
wealth, remove unhappiness etc. etc. If you pray fervently you get
things done. This is also the easiest of the Siddhis to get. Pray for
a specific purpose and your prayers are granted.