A true religion is one that fulfils the core purpose of human life – one that guides us towards self-realisation. It helps us filter the right from the wrong and gets us on the spiritual track. A true religion is, therefore, a prized asset in our spiritual quest. Because it is rare, only a few are blessed to receive it.
Jain scriptures, with their consistent focus on the soul, map the path to salvation with great clarity.
Shrut shastras expound the path for a true seeker while Charitra shastras expounds the dharmic dos-and-dont’s for a monk or a seeker who has renounced the world. These shastras provide material for deep contemplation.
Dharma is not just true religion, it is the repository of methodologies for correct thinking and behaviour. Dharmic concepts that uphold the world order include samyam (self-control), kshama (forgiveness), mardava (humility), arjav (straight-forwardness), shauch (purity), satya (truth), tapa (penance and austerity), tyaag (renunciation), akinchanya (absence of attachment), brahmacharya (chastity and celibacy).
Each of these concepts have been elaborated upon in depth in our texts. Reflecting upon them can greatly cleanse our mindspace and refine our spiritual sensibilities. While the scriptures and sayings of great men point us in the right direction, these tools can take us only so far. Therefore, for the purposes of guiding us, the scriptures advise us to find a true guru. For, it is the guru who shines a light on the way to liberation. Only he can hold our hand and take us to our destination.
All the true religions of the world agree on their singlemost common edict: find a true guru.
The guru is our ultimate guide in that one journey that will end all journeys. Without a guru, we are blind bats flapping aimlessly in the dark and dank maze of sansar, desperately seeking happiness but uncovering only misery at every turn.
An interesting story that is perhaps apocryphal drives home the significance of a guru. It is said that when Swami Vivekananda first visited his guru, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, he asked, “I have read the Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures several times, I lecture and give discourses on the Gita and Ramayana. Why do I still need a guru?” Ramakrishna did not reply.
After a few days, Ramakrishna handed him a parcel to be delivered in a nearby village by sea. Vivekananda agreed. A boat and a sailor were provided to him. He set out early. As he sat on the boat, he realised he did not know the way to the village. Nor did the sailor. Vivekananda went back to his guru to ask him the way to the village.
Ramakrishna told him, “Narendra, this is my answer to the question you asked me when we first met. Today, you have the medium (the boat), you have the resource (the sailor), you have the way (the sea), you know what to do (deliver the parcel), you also know where to go but you don't know the way. Similarly, you’ve read all the scriptures, and you conduct discourses on them. However, to realise the wisdom of scriptures one needs a guru, someone who has already traversed that path so that he can guide you through the journey and encourage you to not give up.”
We have the texts but without practical guidance, we are rudderless. Without the right guide, we may not learn the right thing. On the spiritual path more than any other, the guru holds the key to our liberation for the following reasons:
1. The guru has that rare experience of the self that we so covet. He is one of the very few to have been so enriched. His knowledge stems from personal experience. And in the world of spirituality about which we know nothing, his expert navigation takes us from ignorance to knowledge.
2. The guru is the embodiment of spiritual essence. To the disciple, the guru is the exemplar, a role model. The guru not only correctly interprets the scriptures for us, he lives those teachings. He is proof of the possibility of self-realisation. Observing him makes it easy not only to understand the path but also to implement it.
3. The guru protects. As with any other path, there are pitfalls in the spiritual path too. Without the guru, we might slip, falter or get distracted. Staying connected with the guru and his teachings keeps us anchored steadfastly to our goal and sheltered from our own mental frailty.
4. The guru is our channel to God or salvation. It is through him that we can reach God. It is through him that we can be released from the life-sucking mire of unhappiness. As Kabir sang, if God and guru were to present themselves before us, our first salutations would be to the guru. For it is he who takes us to God. Without him, we would stay where we are.
Dharma alone relieves our pain accumulated over lifetimes, and it is best obtained from a gnani (knowledgeable seer). In all his writings and letters, Param Krupaludev Shrimad Rajchandra has relentlessly stressed upon the compelling need for a Satguru in a seeker’s life. He says that if the guru is ideal, he will seat you in the boat of true religion and steer you across the tumultuous ocean of lives. Only with a true guru can we acquire the philosophical understanding of the nature of reality.
"ગુરુ જો ઉત્તમ હોય તો તે ભવસમુદ્રમાં નાવિકરૂપ થઇ સદ્ધર્મનાવમાં બેસાડી પાર પમાડે. તત્ત્વજ્ઞાનના ભેદ, સ્વસ્વરૂપભેદ, લોકાલોકવિચાર, સંસારસ્વરૂપ એ સઘળું ઉત્તમ ગુરુ વિના મળી શકે નહીં." (વચનામૃત, પૃ. 65)
A similar saying, “क्षणमपि सज्जनसंगतिरेका भवति भवार्णवतरणे नौका” tells us that even a momentary meeting with a self-realised soul could become the boat to help us cross the ocean of worldly existence (into bliss).
Hinduism propagates three paths to salvation: gnana, karma and bhakti. The first is through scholastic knowledge, such as Vedanta . The second is through impeccable conduct, such as Yoga. The third is through pure devotion. In bhakti, the other two paths blend seamlessly as devotion to a Guru naturally leads to the manifestation of right knowledge and right conduct.
Param Pujya Bhaishree explains that only a guru can evaluate our spiritual progress. Only he can confirm that we have achieved self-realisation if and when we do. Our intellect is incapable of making this judgment call.
A spiritual master uplifts many. Four of Shrimadji’s highly evolved disciples who were personally guided to their goal were Shri Sobhagbhai from Sayla, who told Shrimadji 11 days before he left his body about his exhilarating experience of the body and soul as separate entities, Shri Laghuraj Swami, a Jain monk who achieved self-realisation at the age of 44 under Shrimadji, Shri Ambalalbhai from Khambhat who served and cooked for Shrimadji, and Shri Joothabhai from Ahmedabad.
Each of the four disciples were men of great spiritual integrity and thirst. It was their enthusiasm and zeal for the truth that enabled them to appreciate the value of the knowledge that they had the privilege of having access to.
If finding a guru is rare, recognising a guru is rarer. If we are twice blessed in having crossed this obstacle as well, our life becomes a simple journey of doing just as the guru says - following his every word, his every command, his every teaching. If we wish to break free of the cycle of births and deaths, it’s available only and only in the lap of our aagnas and at the feet of our guru.
After finding Param Pujya Bhaishree at long last and after having been accepted in his compassionate circle of grace with our warts and all, nothing should stop us from following his footsteps. The world and this birth has to be cared for but in a disinterested way. We do our duties but always as a seeker, dispassionately, without involvement.
Each time we falter and slip into the fatal attractions of this world, we need to remember we are only prolonging our agony. A slip on a tightrope can lead to a fall but this slip could cost us several thousand lifetimes more. And there’s no way of knowing if we will ever find a Sadguru again. Are we ready to pay the price?
Shrimad has said, “Guru thavu te maha jokhamdaarinu kaam chhe. (It’s a hazardous job to be a guru).” P P. Bhaishree has, with immense compassion, accepted this burdensome risk for our sake. Are we ready to end our hazardous existence by surrendering, giving of ourselves completely? The guru gets nothing in return; he wants nothing. After all, what can we give him that he does not have? Let’s bow in complete devotion; let’s surrender ourselves, for, in this surrender, lies our victory.
Patanjali Yoga Sutra says, “If you think of the one who has gone beyond the cravings, the one who is liberated from cravings, your mind also gets those qualities. It begins to feel the peace, feel the quietness.”
Let’s feel his grace, his peace.
“Tumse o Jodi, tumse o Jodi, Sanchi preet hum tumse o jodi
Tumse o Jodi, avar sang todi, tumse o Jodi, tumse o Jodi”