The Role of the Guru

woman teaching a class

 “A child cannot be born without a father and a mother. 
Clothes cannot be washed without water. 
There can be no horseman without a horse. 
So, without a Master, none can reach the court of the Lord.”
-
Kabir

Do You Need a Guru?

As you progress on your spiritual journey, sooner or later the question arises, “Do I need a Guru or can I do it alone?” Well, the answer is yes, you can do it alone, but when help is offered, why not take it?

Think of the spiritual journey like having a very large financial debt. Let’s say there are three men in this situation each doing his best to pay off his debt. It is a long, slow process, and, as a result, the quality of their lives is suffering. They have been in debt so long, they can’t remember what it was like to be debt-free.

One day, a multi-billionaire shows up and says, “Let me pay your debts, my wealth is so vast that I wouldn’t notice them.” The first man asks, “What’s the catch? What’s in it for you? This sounds too good to be true. I don’t trust it.” And he walks away.

The second man says, “Thank you. I appreciate the offer, but I prefer to do it myself. I created the debt, and I will repay it somehow.” He too walks away. 

The third man says, “Thank you very much. When do we start?”

Which man do you choose to be?

Types of Gurus      

The word Guru means “remover of darkness.” Anyone or anything that helps you remove the layers of ignorance covering your true essence is a type of Guru. 

Your first Gurus were your parents. Your school teachers and college professors also functioned in some way as Gurus, as does your priest or rabbi. Your pets and nature can also be your teachers, and now there are even financial and internet gurus.

In a spiritual sense, a Guru is someone who will help you on your journey of Self Realization. There are several different types of spiritual Gurus, including:

  • Teachers
  • Masters
  • Enlightened Masters 

Teachers

Teachers talk about higher states of consciousness and enlightenment without being established in these states themselves. These people can give you an intellectual understanding and teach you useful techniques. However, they will only be able to share from their own limited level of experience.

Masters

You can also choose to learn from a great Master, living or dead. You can learn many great insights from his or her teachings, but the lack of personal contact may limit your progress when questions arise. 

There are also living Gurus who are fully realized, but have chosen not to offer verbal guidance. You can benefit greatly by merely being in the presence of these beings. Receiving their Darshan, grace or blessings alone can give you a tremendous boost, but without a proper understanding, you may become confused by your experience.

Enlightened Masters

Fortunately, walking on the planet today are a few rare Enlightened Masters, who have awakened from this dream called life to discover Truth. In their infinite compassion to remove suffering, these Enlightened Masters have chosen to share themselves with the world. 

Having completed the journey, these beings can not only show you the way, but are also willing to help remove the veils of ignorance and delusion you have created for yourself.

According to Vedic literature,Moksha Mulam Guroh Kripa” or “The root of liberation is the Grace of the Guru.” This journey may not always be comfortable.

These Enlightened Masters will bring your “stuff” to the surface. They will make you work, often testing your limits. But they are the ones who can take you on the fastest path back into the Light.

How Do You Find Your Guru?

You’ll find your Guru through meditation, purity of intent, and a deep longing for liberation. Listen to a Teacher who may visit your area and read the teachings of living Masters. See what and who resonates with you and is offering what you are looking for. 

As it is said, “When the student is ready, the Teacher will appear.”

How Do You Recognize a True Guru?

A true Guru only teaches from Pure Love. Only Pure Love and Light can come from a true Guru and it arrives in whatever form you need in that moment. 

A True Guru should have:

  • A good understanding of the knowledge being taught
  • Purity in thought, word, and action
  • Ability to radiate compassion, forgiveness, humility, and peace

The joy of any true Guru is not to create devotees, but to eventually merge his or her consciousness with that of the students, raising them to their own full Mastery.

With any true Guru, you never need to surrender your free will or independence. A true Guru will never impose a determined way of life or way of thinking on a student. The Guru replies to questions that are asked of him or her in a purely advisory capacity. 

In the Indian sacred literature, it says that to get a human body is a rare thing in itself, but to get a human body and be spiritually aware is even greater. However, to be spiritually aware and find a Perfect Teacher is the greatest blessing a human being can have. 

You are already an enlightened being whose essence is covered over, but your soul will eventually bring your Guru to you. When you finally meet your Guru, it will resonate on many levels. There will be an inner peace and knowingness—a sense of trust.

A Word of Caution

Swami Vivekananda cautions, “There are people who, though immersed in ignorance, yet, in the pride of their hearts, fancy they know everything.”

Some may have even “tasted” enlightenment, but, without true knowledge, will help you progress very little, even if you spend a lot of time with them.

A true Guru doesn’t teach for any ulterior motives—for money, name, or fame. As the Vedas read, “Seek the company of those who seek enlightenment, but run from those who claim to have found it.”

The Final Step

Ultimately, the Guru doesn’t bring about Self Realization. He or she merely removes all the obstacles to it. The Self is always realized. 

Any external Guru can only take you to the doorway of Self Realization—your human “freewill” demands that you take the final step alone. This is the most critical time in your journey. 

This is when the ego tries every way it knows to distract you from the path and when some aspirants may “fall from grace.” During this time, your focus and resolve must be the strongest.

The Guru Is Your Own Self

Whether you have chosen to follow the teachings of a great Master or “go it alone,” you will eventually come home to the Source.

Ultimately, the Guru lies within you and all the great Teachers are nothing other than mirrors of your own self—someone you have created to remind you of all the things you have forgotten. 

The Light you see in these Divine Beings is a reflection of your own Light. You cannot bow to any external Guru without also bowing to yourself. The end of the journey is to rediscover the Enlightened Guru that is none other than your own Self. 

Remember Ramana Maharshi’s words: “The Guru is none other than the Self. As the seeker’s mind is bent outward, the Self takes a human shape as a Guru, to help drive it inward.”

Join Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr. Suhas, Roger Gabriel, Shambhavi, and Vamadeva Shastri for our advanced retreat, Path to Enlightenment. At Path to Enlightenment you will experience a guided journey through the timeless wisdom of Vedanta, the foundation of yoga philosophy, meditation, Tantra, and Ayurveda, that will lead you to new heights in your personal practice and enhance your understanding and connection to the universe. Click here to learn more. 

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About the Author

Roger Gabriel (Raghavanand)

Chopra Center Educator
Born in Liverpool, England, Roger Gabriel spent his formative years in the United Kingdom and first learned meditation there in the early 1970s. It instantly became his passion and he soon trained to be a meditation teacher under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. After moving to the U.S., Roger began studying Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of health care. In 1985, while helping to establish centers for Ayurveda and meditation, he met and became friends with Deepak Chopra. Since then, Roger has assisted Deepak with numerous training programs, seminars, and workshops; taught thousands of people on all continents to meditate; and helped to train hundreds of people to become teachers of meditation, Ayurveda,...Read more