What is a Guru?

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Post by Sarveswara on Sun May 18, 2008 8:27 am



The Science of Self-Realization

~ His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Choosing a Spiritual Master

What is a Guru?


“I was born in the darkest ignorance, and my guru, my spiritual master, opened my eyes with the torch of knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisance’s unto him.”


The word ajnana means ‘ignorance’ or ‘darkness’. If all the lights in this room immediately went out, we would not be able to tell where we or others are sitting. Everything would become confused. Similarly, weare all in darkness in the material world, which is a world of tamas. Tamas or timira means ‘darkness.’ This material world is dark, and therefore it needs sunlight or moonlight for illumination. However, there is another world, a spiritual world. That is beyond this darkness. That world is described by Sri Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita (15.6):


“That supreme abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by fire or electricity. Those who reach it never return to this material world.”


The guru’s business is to bring his disciples from darkness to light. At present everyone is suffering due to ignorance, just as one contracts a disease out of ignorance. If one does not know hygienic principles, he will not know what will contaminate him. Therefore due to ignorance there is infection, and we suffer from disease. A criminal may say, “I did not know the law,” but he will not be excused if he commits a crime. Ignorance is no excuse. Similarly, a child, not knowing that fire will burn, will touch fire. The fire does not think, “This is a child, and he does not know I will burn.” No, there is no excuse. Just as there are state laws, there are also stringent laws of nature, and these laws will act despite our ignorance of them. If we do something wrong out of ignorance, we must suffer. This is the law. Whether the law is a state law or a law of nature, we risk suffering if we break it.

The guru’s business is to see that no human being suffers in this material world. No one can claim that he is not suffering. That is not possible. In this material world, there are three kinds of suffering: These are miseries arising from the material body and mind, from other living entities, an from the forces of nature. We may suffer mental anguish, or we may suffer from other living entities – from ants or mosquitoes or floes – or we may suffer due to some superior power. There may be no rain or there may be flood. There may be excessive heart or excessive cold. So many types of suffering are imposed by nature. Thus there are three types of miseries within the material world, and everyone is suffering from one, two or three of them. No one can say that he is completely free from suffering.


We may then ask why the living entity is suffering. The answer is: out of ignorance. He does not think, “I am committing mistakes and am leading a sinful life; that is why I am suffering.” Therefore the guru’s first business is to rescue this disciple from this ignorance. We send our children to school to save them from suffering. If our children do not receive an education, we fear that they will suffer in the future. The guru sees that suffering is due to ignorance, which is compared to darkness. How can one in darkness be saved? By light. The guru takes the torch light of knowledge and presents it before the living entity enveloped in darkness. That knowledge relieves him from the suffering of the darkness of ignorance.


One may ask whether the guru is absolutely necessary. The Vedas inform us that he is: (Mandak Upanisad 1.2.12)
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