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குரு, சத்குரு, ஆச்சாரியர் — இம் மூன்று பதங்களுக்குள் உள்ள வித்தியாசம் என்ன? (Guru, Sadguru and Acharya – difference)

குரு என்கிற பதத்துக்கு, ‘இருளை நீக்குபவர்’ என்பது நேர்ப்பொருள் — அதாவது அறிவொளியைத் தந்து அறியாமை எனும் இருளைப் போக்கும் ஆசிரியரைக் குறிக்கும்.

ஆச்சாரியர் எனும் சொல்லுக்கு நேர்ப்பொருள், சரியான நடத்தையைச் சொல்லித்தருபவர் என்பது — இதுவும் பெருமளவில் ஆசிரியரையே குறிக்கிறது.

ஆனால், இந்து மதத்தில் குரு, ஆச்சாரியர் எனும் இரு பதங்களும் மிகப் பெரும்பாலும் மத/ ஆன்மீக ரீதியில்,  தனக்கு வழிகாட்டத் தன்னை அணுகும் சீடனை ஏற்று, அவனுக்கு வழிபாட்டு முறைமைகள், சாத்திர அறிவு இவற்றைக் கற்றுத் தந்தும், (அவசியமானால்) மந்திர தீட்சை நல்கியும், உபதேசங்கள் தந்தும், தாமே முன்னுதாரணமாக வாழ்ந்தும், வழிகாட்டித் தருபவரையே குறிக்கின்றன.

சில சம்பிரதாயங்களில் (உதாரணமாக வைஷ்ணவ சம்பிரதாயம்) அப்படிப்பட்டவரை (குரு என்று சொல்லாமல்) ஆச்சாரியர் என்றே சொல்வது வழக்கம்.

இருந்தாலும், சில நுணுக்கமான வித்தியாசங்கள் இருக்கின்றன:

குரு

சாமானியமான ஓர் குரு அடுத்தவருக்கு ஆன்மீகத்தைப் போதிக்கும் அளவுக்கு இறையருளும் இறைவனின் அதிகார முத்திரையும் பெற்றவராகவோ, பெறாதவராகவோ இருக்கலாம். ஆனாலும் அவர் தமது குரு வழியேயோ, தமது குருவால் வாரிசாக நியமிக்கப்பட்டோ, சுய முயற்சியிலோ, அல்லது தாம் பெற்ற ஒரு சிறிது ஆன்மீக அனுபவத்தின் பேரில் தாமே ஒரு குரு ஸ்தானத்தை ஏற்படுத்திக்கொண்டவராகவோ சீடர்களைச் ஏற்று அவர்களுக்கு உபதேசிப்பவராக இருக்கலாம்.

இத்தகைய குருமார்கள், தாம் செய்த சாதனா முறை, தமது குரு பரம்பரையில் கடைப்பிடிக்கப் பட்ட வழி/ சம்பிரதாயம், தமது குரு தமக்குக் குறிப்பாய்  உபதேசித்த சில வழிமுறைகள் இவற்றையே பெரும்பாலும் தம் சீடர்களுக்கும் உபதேசிப்பார்கள். உதாரணமாக, ஒரு குறிப்பிட்ட இஷ்ட தெய்வத்தை மட்டுமே வலியுறுத்திக் கும்பிடுவது, ஒரு குறிப்பிட்ட மந்திரத்தை மட்டுமே உபதேசிப்பது, ஒரு குறிப்பிட்ட பிராணாயாம முறையை மட்டுமே வலியுறுத்திச் சொல்லிக்கொடுப்பது, ஒரு குறிப்பிட்ட தியான முறைமையை மட்டுமே வலியுறுத்திப் படிப்பிப்பது, ஒரு குறிப்பிட்ட வழிபாட்டு சம்பிரதாயம், அல்லது சாத்திரக் கொள்கையை மட்டுமே ஏற்றுக் கொள்ளப் பழக்குவது — என்பதாக அவர்கள் முறைமை இருக்கும். அவற்றில் குறைபாடுகளும், குறுகிய மனப்பாங்கும் கூட இருக்கலாம்.

இப்படிப்பட்ட சாமானிய குருவிடம் சேரும்போது, அவர் அறிந்த ஞானத்தை அவர் போதிக்கிறார், அதனால் சீடர் பலன் பெருகிறார். கூடவே அவரது அறியாமை, புரிதலில் உள்ள குறைபாடுகளையும் அவர் சீடருக்குப் போதிக்கிறார்! உதாரணமாக — தமது மார்க்கத்தைத் தவிரப் பிற மார்க்கங்களை வன்மையாகக் கண்டிப்பது, விமர்சிப்பது, பிற இறை வடிவங்களை தாழ்வாக நினைப்பது, மற்ற ஆன்மீக சாதனை முறைகளைக் குற்றம் கூறுவது, பிற குருமார்களைக் குற்றம் கண்டு விமர்சிப்பது போன்றவை!

கவனிக்க: எல்லா குருமார்களும் இப்படித்தான் இருப்பார்கள் என்று எடுத்துக்கொள்ள வேண்டாம்.

சில சமயங்களில், ஒரு குரு, முறையான கல்வி அறிவோ, முறையான சாத்திரப் படிப்பு படிக்காதவராகவோ இருந்தாலும் கூட, சுய அனுபவத்தில் இறைவனின் தரிசனம், அல்லது இறையுணர்வு பெற்றவராக  இருக்கலாம். அவர் பெற்றது ஓர் நொடிப்பொழுதாய் அமைந்த ஓர் இறைவனின் காட்சியாக, அல்லது ஜோதி தரிசனமாக  இருக்கலாம்; அல்லது மிக உயர்ந்த ஞானத்தின் ஓர் அக அனுபவத் துளியாக இருக்கலாம்; அல்லது பரிபூரண இறையநுபவமாகிய/ யோக அனுபவமாகிய  சகஜ நிர்விகல்ப சமாதியோ,  பக்தியில் பூரணமாய்ப் பழுத்த பிரேம பக்தியாகவோ, ஐயம் திரிபறப் பெற்ற பூரண அத்வைத (இரண்டற்ற) ஞான நிலையாகவோ கூட இருக்கலாம்.

யார் பூரணமான இறையனுபவத்தைப் பெற்று ஐயம்திரிபற நிற்கிறாரோ, அவர் குருஸ்தானத்தை ஏற்றெடுக்கும்போது, அவர் சத்குரு என அறியப் படுகிறார். சத்குருவைப் பற்றிக் கடைசியில் மீண்டும் விரிவாகப் பார்ப்போம்.

ஆச்சாரியர்

மிக உயர்ந்த நிலையில், ஆச்சாரியர் என்பவர் யார் எனப் பார்க்கையில், எவர் தக்க குருமார்கள் மூலம் சாத்திரங்களை ஆழ்ந்து கற்று, அவற்றை மனனம் செய்து, மீண்டும் மீண்டும் அலசி ஆராய்ந்து, ஆன்மீக சாதனை/தவத்தின் மூலமும், பிரார்த்தனை, தியானம் மூலமும் அவற்றின் உட்பொருளைத் தம்முள் தமக்கு எட்டிய அளவில் ஐயமின்றி மிகத் தெளிவாகப் புரிந்துகொண்டு  ஓர் தெளிவான தத்துவக் கொள்கையாக உருவாக்கம் தருகிறாரோ அவர் (மத) ஆச்சாரியர்.

தாம் அறுதியாய் வரையறுத்து அறிந்த அந்தக் கொள்கையை அவர் தம் அணுக்கச் சீடர்களுக்குப் படிப்பித்துத் தருகிறார். தமது ஞானத்தை அவர் பிரச்சார சொற்பொழிவுகள் மூலம் பறை சாற்றுகிறார்.  பிற (மாற்றுத்) தத்துவக் கொள்கைகளைப் பின்பற்றும் சம்பிரதாயப் பண்டிதர்களோடும், விற்பன்னர்களோடும், குருமார்களோடும் பெரும் சபைகளில் அறிவுப் பூர்வமான, மூல சாத்திர (வேத வேதாந்த) நூல்களின் கருத்துகளின் அடிப்படையில் வாதங்களைச் செய்து, தமது கொள்கை, மற்ற கொள்கைகளை விட சிறப்பானது என நிறுவுகிறார். நமது இந்து மதத்தில் அப்படி அறியப்பட்டுள்ள மூன்று மாபெரும் ஆச்சாரியர்கள் சங்கராச்சாரியர் (அத்வைத சித்தாந்தம்), ராமானுஜாச்சாரியர் ( விசிட்டாத்துவைத சித்தாந்தம்), மற்றும் மத்வாச்சாரியர் (துவைத சித்தாந்தம்) ஆவர்.

இத்தகைய மதாசாரியர்களின் வழியில் பிற்காலத்தில்  வழி வழியாக குரு-சிஷ்ய பாரம்பரியம் மடங்கள் வழித் தொடர்கிறது. அடுத்தடுத்து அதே சம்பிரதாயத்தில் ஆச்சாரியர்கள் என்றே அழைக்கப்படும் குருமார்கள் தொடர்ந்து வருகிறார்கள். அவர்களில் வழியிலேயே வரும் மடத்தில் சில சம்பிரதாய/ விளக்க வித்தியாசங்களின்/ கருத்து வேறுபாடுகளும் வருகின்றன. அதன்  அடிப்படையில் உட்பிரிவுகளும் ஏற்பாட்டு உப மடங்களும் புதிய ஆச்சாரியர்களும் வருகிறர்கள். இவ்வகை ஆச்சாரியர்கள் மிகப் பெரும்பாலும் நல்ல கல்வி/கேள்வியறிவுடையவர்களாகவும், தமது சம்பிரதாயத்தில் கூறப்பட்டுள்ள சாத்திரங்கள், சாத்திர வியாக்கியானங்களில் அறிவுப் பூர்வமாய் நல்ல தெளிவும், தீவிர பிடிமானமும் உள்ளவர்களாக இருப்பார்கள். தமது சம்பிரதாயத்தில் சீடர்கள் கடைப்பிடிக்கவேண்டிய இறை வழிபாட்டு முறைகள், தோத்திர முறைகள், சடங்குகள், ஒழுக்க நியதிகள், கட்டுப்பாடுகள் இவற்றை எடுத்து இயம்புபவர்களாகவும் இருப்பார்கள்.

இப்படி ஒரு மடத்தில் குரு சிஷ்ய பாரம்பரியத்தில் வரும் ஆச்சாரியர்கள், சுயானுபவத்தில் இறைவனை அறிந்தவர்களாகவோ, உணர்ந்தவர்களாகவோ இருப்பார்கள் என்கிற உத்தரவாதம் ஏதும் இல்லை. (ஒரு சிலர் பெற்றிருக்கக் கூடும்). அந்த சம்பிரதாயத்தில் தீவிர பிடிப்பு, ஆழ்ந்த சாத்திர ஞானம், தீவிர குருபக்தி, குரு சேவை, ஒரு அவையில் நன்கு பேசும் திறன் போன்றவற்றின் அடிப்படையில் ஒரு ஆச்சாரியர் தம் அடுத்த வாரிசைத் தேர்ந்தெடுப்பார். அப்படித் தேர்ந்தெடுக்கப் பட்டவர் ஒரு குடும்பஸ்தராய் இருக்கும் பட்சத்தில், அவர் சன்யாசம் ஏற்று மடாதி பட்டம் ஏற்பார். இது வைணவமடங்களான ஆண்டவன் ஆசிரமம், ஜீயர் மடம் போன்றவற்றில் பின்படுத்தப் படும் முறை.

சில மடங்களில் (உதாரணமாக சங்கர மடம், ஸ்ரீ ராமகிருஷ்ண மடம்) பிரம்மசாரிகளே ஆசார்ய (/குரு) பதவிக்கு வருவார்கள்.

ஒரு பாரம்பரிய மடத்து ஆச்சாரியர், தமது சம்பிரதாயக் கொள்கைகள், இஷ்ட தெய்வ வழிபாடு, சாத்திரங்கள் இவற்றை மட்டுமே தம் சீடர்களுக்கு உபதேசிப்பார். அவர்களில் ஒரு சிலர், அபூர்வமாக உயர்ந்த தபஸ்விகளாகவும், அப்பழுக்கற்ற சன்யாசிகளாகவும் வாழ்ந்து இறையாநுபவத்தை சுயமாய் உணர்ந்தவர்களாகவும் திகழக் கூடும்.  அப்படிப்பட்டவர்கள் கூடுதல் மன விசாலத்துடன் மற்ற சம்பிரதாயங்கள், தத்துவங்களை ஏற்கும் தன்மை அடையப்பெற்றவர்களாகவும் இருக்கக் கூடும்.  இருந்தாலும், அவர்கள் தமது மட சம்பிரதாயங்களை வெளிப்படையாக மாற்றவோ, விசாலமாக்கவோ முனைய மாட்டார்கள்.  பிற முறைமைகளை வெளிப்படையாக சிலாகிப்பவர்களாகவோ, உயர்ந்த ஆன்மீகதளத்தில் ஒளிரும் அன்னிய சத்குருமார்களை வெளிப்படையாகப் பாராட்டிச் சிறப்பிப்பவர்களாகவோ பெரும்பாலும் இருக்கமாட்டார்கள்.

சில மடங்களில் (உதாரணமாய் ஸ்ரீ ராமகிருஷ்ணா மடம்) எத்தனையோ சன்யாசிகள் இருந்தாலும், அவர்களில் ஒரு சிலர் ஆச்சாரிய ஸ்தானத்திலும், ஒரு சிலரே குருஸ்தானத்திலும் இருப்பார்கள். ஆச்சாரிய ஸ்தானத்தில் உள்ளவர்கள், நல்ல சாத்திர ஞானம் பெற்று சீடர்களுக்கு சாத்திர வகுப்பு எடுப்பவர்களாகவும், உபன்யாசங்கள், அவையுரைகள் நிகழ்த்துபவர்களாகவும் இருப்பார்கள். குரு ஸ்தானத்தில் இருப்பவர்களுக்கே சீடர்களுக்கு மந்திர தீட்சை நல்கும் அதிகாரம் இருக்கும். (ஆச்சாரியர்கள், குருமார்களாகவும் காலப்போக்கில் ஆகலாம்).

 சத்குரு

குருமார்களிலேயே மிக உயர்ந்த நிலையில் திகழ்பவர் சத்குரு. அவர் தம் ஆத்ம நிலையை அல்லது இறையானுபவத்தை பூரணமாய் (சுய அனுபவமாய்) உணர்ந்து அதில் நிலை பெற்றவர்.  அவர் பக்தி மார்க்கத்தைச் சேர்ந்தவர் என்றால், இறைவனிடம் பூரண பிரேம பக்தி பூண்டு, அந்த ஆனந்த அனுபவத்திலேயே சதா திளைத்து, பின் தம் இறைனுடனேயே ஒன்றியவர். அவர் ஞான மார்க்கத்தைச் சேர்ந்தவர் என்றால், தம் சுய நிலை எப்போதும் அழிவற்ற ஆத்மாவே என்பதை அனுபவத்தில் உணர்ந்து ஆத்ம-பரமாத்ம பேதமின்றி ஒன்றேயான அத்வைத உணர்வில் திகழ்பவர். அவர் யோக மார்க்கத்தைச் சேர்ந்தவர் என்றால், சகஜ நிர்விகல்ப சமாதி என்னும் சமாதி நிலையை எட்டியவர். சத்குரு என்பவர் மனதை அழித்தவர்; பரிபூரணமாய் அகங்காரத்தை நிர்மூலம் ஆக்கியவர்; தமது ஜன்மாந்திர வாசனைகளிலிருந்து விடுபட்டவர்.  ஒரு ஜீவன் முக்தராய் தம் உடம்பில் இருந்துகொண்டு, உலகியர், சீடர்கள், பக்தர்களின் நலனுக்காகவே இவ்வுலகில் வளைய வருபவர்.

ஒரு சத்குரு, கல்வியறிவே இல்லாதவராக இருக்கலாம்; ஆரம்பப் பள்ளிக் கல்வியைத் தாண்டி மேலே படிக்காதவராக இருக்கலம். ஆனாலும் அவருக்கு சகல சாத்திரங்கள் கூறும் சாரமான உண்மைகள் உள்ளங்கை நெல்லிக்கனிபோல் தம் சுய அனுபவத்தின் பயனாய்த் தெரியும். மெத்தப் படித்த பண்டிதர்களும், ஆச்சாரியர்களும் கூட அவர் அடி பணிந்து, அடக்கத்துடன் அமர்ந்து தாம் ஆண்டுக்கணக்கில் படித்த சாத்திரங்களில் தமக்கு விளங்காத பொருள்களை அவரிடமிருந்து கேட்டுப் பெறுவர்.

சத்குரு என்பவர் சிகரத்தை எட்டிப் பிடித்தவர்.  அங்கிருந்து அவர் பார்க்கையில், அந்த் உச்சியை அடைய உள்ள எல்லாப் பாதைகளுமே அவர் கண்ணுக்குத் தெளிவாய்ப் புலப்படுகிறது.  அவர் ஒரு குறிப்பிட்ட சம்பிரதாயத்தின் வழியில் சாதனை செய்து மெய் நிலையை அடைந்திருந்தாலும் கூட அவர் அந்த சம்பிரதாயத்துக்குள் கட்டுப்பட்டவரல்ல. அவர் சத்தியப் பொருளை அடைய உள்ள எல்லா சரியான மார்க்கங்களையும், குருமார்களையும், மகாத்மாக்களையும், சாதனா முறைகளையும், சாத்திரங்களையும் ஏற்கிறார். தமது அளவிலாக் கருணையின் காரணமாக, எவர் எந்த சம்பிரதாயத்தை/ உட்பிரிவைச் சேர்ந்தவராயினும், அதன் வழியிலேயே அவர் மேலான கதியை அடையப் பெரும்பலும்  ஊக்குவித்து ஆதரவும் அருளும் நல்குகிறார். அவர் தம்மை ஓர் குறுகிய வட்டத்துக்குள் மட்டும் பெரும்பாலும் அடைத்துக்கொள்வதில்லை.

ஒரு மெய்யான சத்குரு, எல்லைகளுக்கு அப்பாற்பட்டவர். மதங்களுக்கும் அப்பாற்பட்டவர். அவரது உயர் நிலையை அறிந்துகொள்ளும் பேறு பெற்றவர்கள், மத வித்தியாசங்களை மறந்து அவரைச் சரணடைகிறார்கள். அவர் எல்லாத் தரப்பு, எல்லா மதத்து மக்களையும் காந்தம் போல ஈர்க்கிறார். மனித இனத்தின் மீது அவரது அன்பு தடையின்றிப் பொங்கிப் பிரவகிக்கிறது.

ஒரு சத்குரு, முன்பேயுள்ள ஓர் மடம்/ ஆசாரியப் பரம்பரையில் வருவார் என்று சொல்வதற்கில்லை. மிகப் பெரும்பாலும் ஓர் சத்குரு சுயம்புவாக (தாமே உருவானவராக)  திடுமென மனித குலத்தில் தலையெடுக்கிறார். எங்கோ ஓர் தொலை தூரக் கிராமத்தில், ஆன்மீகம் என்றால் என்னவென்றே அறியாத சாமானிய ஏழைக் குடும்பத்தில் கூட ஓர் சத்குரு வந்து பிறக்கக்  கூடும்.

ஒரு சத்குரு, அவதார புருஷராகவும் இருக்கக் கூடும்;  ஒரு அவதார புருஷர், சத்குருவாகவும் செயல்படக் கூடும். அப்படி இறைவனின் இச்சையால் மனித வடிவெடுத்துவரும் ஓர் அவதார புருஷர், உலகிற்குப் போதிக்க வருகிறார்; ஓர் புதிய பாதையைக் காட்டித் தருகிறார்; குளம், குட்டையில் தேங்கி நாறிப்போகும் பழைய நீரில் புது வெள்ளம் வந்து கலப்பது போல, ஒரு மதத்திலோ, சம்பிரதாயத்திலோ உயிரோட்டம் போய்த் தேக்க நிலை வரும்போது அவர் வந்து புதிய உத்வேகம் அளிக்கிறார்.  சம்சாரக் கடலில் மூழ்கிவிடாது மக்களை ஏற்றி அக்கரை சேர்க்கும் ஓர் பெரும் கப்பல் போல் அவர் வருகிறார்.

ஒரு சத்குருவோ அவதார புருஷரோ வரும்போது, அவர்கள் அடிப்படை நோக்கு மக்களை ஆன்மீக ரீதியில் முன்னேற்றிக் கொண்டுபோவதே என்றாலும், அவர்கள் உலகியல் தளத்திலும் செயலாற்றி மக்களின் உலகியல் தேவைகளை நிறைவேற்றுவதிலும், சமுதாய ரீதியில் மானுட சேவையையை சிரமேற்கொண்டு செய்வதிலும் கூடத் தயக்கமின்றி இறங்குகிறார்கள். மக்களின் தேவைக்கென, கல்வித் துறை, மருத்துவத்துறை, இயற்கை இடர்கள் வருகையில் நிவாரணப் பணிகள் என்று பல்வேறு செயல் திட்டங்களிலும் மாமெரும் சக்தியோடு செயல்படுகிறார்கள். தனி நபர் வாழ்வில் கூடக் கொடும் நோய், கடும் வறுமை, கெட்ட பழக்கங்களுக்கு அடிமையாதல், பிள்ளைப் பேறு இன்மை போன்ற பிரச்சனைகளுக்கு, மனித சக்திக்கு அப்பாற்பட்ட விதத்தில் தீர்வு தந்து அவர்கள் வாழ்வில் நம்பிக்கை ஒளியையும் ஆன்மீக விழிப்புணர்வையும் தருகிறார்கள்.

ஒரு சத்குரு வருகையில், அவரது வழிகாட்டுதலில் ஓர் புதிய குரு சிஷ்ய பரம்பரை உருவாகலாம்.  அந்தப் பாரம்பரியத்தில் வரும் பிற்கால குருமார்கள், அந்த சத்குரு காட்டித் தந்தபாதையை பிற்கால சந்ததியினருக்கு வெளிச்சம் போட்டுக் காட்டி தருகிறார்கள்.  அப்படி ஓர் ஒரு குரு-சிஷ்ய பாரம்பரியம்  சில நூற்றாண்டுகள் கூடத் தொடர்ந்து செயல்படலாம். அந்தப் பாரம்பரியத்திலேயே பிற்காலத்தில் மற்றொரு சத்குரு தோன்றலாம்; தோன்றாமலும் போகலாம். அவ்வாறே, காலம் செல்லச் செல்ல அந்தப் பாரம்பரியமே தகுதியற்ற குருமார்கள் வருகையினால் வீரியம் இழந்து தாழ்ந்தும், நசித்தும் போகலாம்.

அப்படியொரு சந்தர்ப்பத்தில், இறையிச்சையால் மற்றொரு இடத்தில், மற்றோரு சூழலில் ஓர் புதிய சத்குரு தோன்றுகிறார். அந்தக் காலத்துக்கு ஏற்ற வகையில் அவர் ஓர் புதிய வழி, புதிய வாழ்வியலைக் காட்டி, சனாதன தர்மத்தைப் புதுப்பிக்கிறார்.

இந்தப்  பாரத தேசத்தில் அனாதி காலமாய் நடந்துகொண்டிருக்கும் ஓர் நிகழ்வு இது.  இந்தப் புனித மண்ணின் மேன்மையையும், சனாதன தர்மத்தின் தனிப்பெரும் தன்மையும் அதுவே.

 

 

Do Hindu Gods too seek Moksha?

The concept of God is very multifaceted in Hinduism. At the grand perspective, we have Brahman (or Parabrahman) — the only existing, all pervading God beyond name and form.

Then we have functional God forms (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva) who are verily the manifestation of Brahman considered with separate identity for the tasks of Creation, Protection and Destruction. They are ever existent.

Perspective 1: Such a functional God is beyond boundaries and limitations. He is ever perfect. He is nitya mukta – ever free.

Perspective 2:  

Then we have the concept of Avatar — God descending to earth in human form.

When God comes down to earth as an Avatara Purusha He may sport a lila (play) of doing tapas (undergoing austerities) and attaining liberation as a human being, before starting teaching others. Some avatars may even sport a lila of taking instructions from Gurus too. E.g. Rama learning Yoga Vashistha from Rishi Vashishta; Krishna learning Kundalini Yoga from Rishi Sandipani; Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa learning Nirvikalpa Samadhi from Totapuri.

Perspective 3: 

Then we have the concept of God residing as in-dweller in each one of us.

God as an indweller in all keeps himself totally hidden on account of the ego of the individuals. When an individual, getting Viveka & Vairagya (Discrimination & dispassion) starts seeking the truth about his true status, he starts yearning for Moksha. “At that point of time God appears as the external Guru and and turns the mind of the seeker inwards; God the indweller pulls him in from inside” (as stated by Ramana Maharshi)

Why do some believe that ordinary persons like Mata Amritanandamayi or Sai Baba have extraordinary powers?

To answer this question, one must essentially delve deeper into the concept of Avatar in Hinduism. One must also try to understand the concept of Advaita in Hinduism. One must be able to grasp the grandest statement of Hinduism that everyone has the potential to attain Godliness. You may say, all these are essentially beliefs and say, “I can’t believe unless ‘scientifically proved’ ” , we will come to some amount of proving a bit later.

According to Hinduism, God takes up human form and comes to live among us to teach us the right dharma and show the way for spiritual advancement for earnest seekers from time to time. They also annihilate evil forces that tend to tilt the balance towards adharma and restore dharma — It is the Avatar.

Avatars, though by looks and physical behaviour will be like a human beings, they are NOT just ordinary mortals. So, fundamentally, Satya Saibaba and Mata Amritanandamayi are NOT just ordinary people. They are avatars.

The way they lead their lives, the way they demonstrate super-human capabilities right from childhood, the way they influence people who are truly attracted towards them through faith and surrender, the way they make miraculous changes in the lives of people (either overtly or covertly), the way they accomplish unbelievable tasks within unbelievable time-frame, the way they spread love and care on humanity cutting across all caste, creed and religious barriers, the way they create a massive revival of spirituality — are all beyond the comprehension of ordinary mortals.

Those who are skeptical,who think they are very rational, think they know all about human beings and God, think they are “scientifically oriented” , who declare themselves proudly as non-believers by closing their ears, eyes, nose, mind and heart and declare “No — these Godmen and Godwomen are all only frauds bent upon cheating and looting people” can only be deluding themselves from reality.

Now coming to the proof.

Thousands of personal experiences can be given by people who experienced changes in their lives by coming to Amma or Satya Sai. You will say “these are concocted stories spread by blind believers in vested interest”.

Just set aside some 20 minutes of your time by keeping your eyes and heart open and go through the following link that contains the historical record of what Mata Amritanandamayi has done in each and every year of her living in this world amidst us in the past 64 years:

Life Timeline of Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) – with images

Some of the happenings are deeply spiritual about which I am sure you will not be inclined to even learn/digest. But there are also things done to the world. There are records and proofs. Then come to your own conclusion:

How are the grandest tasks accomplished?

They are accomplished by believers’ dedication and hard work; through the money people donate willingly; through the fees collected from institutions; through selling of products and services that the believing devotees (consisting doctors, scientists, teachers, professors, doctorates, engineers, pharmacists, writers, publishers, technicians, artisans, labourers and so on) contribute with love and dedication. A considerable percentage of the services are voluntary.

After all, people who do all these works (as instruments of the avatar) are human beings with their own limitations, deficiencies and inefficiencies too. So, along the side of grand things happening, you will also find some shortfalls, some imperfections, some little blunders and some wastages here and there. But if you look at the macro picture, the negatives will not too big. It is also a part of the divine maya. Nothing is 100% perfect in creation.

Brief Life History of Shirdi Sai Baba

Who is Shirdi Sai Baba?

Shirdi Sai Baba (~1838/42-1918) was a very unique Avatar of God; he was a realized saint who knew his oneness with God. His Avatar perhaps was ordained to foster Hindu Muslim unity, though a vast majority of his devotees were essentially Hindus even during his times, as it is now; he lived in Shirdi (which was not his birthplace) for almost 60 years. Shirdi is in Marathwada region where Islamic population too is considerable.

He emphasised ‘Sabka Malik Ek‘ (God of all people is one). Saibaba was, in all probability, had no formal education, but he had extensive knowledge on Bhagavad Gita. His life and utterances reflected the highest truth of Vedanta. He was also very knowledgeable in Koran.

It is widely believed that his Guru was a Muslim fakir (a Sufi saint), who too was a knower of God. Sai Baba dressed up like a Fakir and lived in a dilapidated mosque. That lead some people to think that he was a Muslim Fakir.

Sai Baba did not put any of his teachings in writing; he never gave any discourses; however, his sayings have been recorded by his followers.

Sai Baba often hinted that he did not come to teach, but to awaken. He brought this awakening through his unconditional love towards his followers. Surrender to him unconditionally and he will never let you down –that was the level of confidence he imbibed into his devotees. Baba’s response to his devotee’s call for help is as eager, as ardent and as urgent as the devotee’s call itself. His sayings too stand testimony to this. It is true even today.

The way devotees throng at Shirdi in thousands on a daily basis and in lakhs on festive occasions despite the passage of more than a century after his departure from the world stand testimony to this assurance and faith.

Crowd of devotees waiting for Darshan at Shirdi Sai Samadhi. (Inset: Image of Sri Sai at his Samadhi mandir)

Birth and Early years

Little information was available from Sai Baba about his origins. Connecting historical happenings during his period, it is believed that he was born somewhere between 1838 to 1842.

There was no solid proof available about Sai Baba’s place of birth, religion or caste during his lifetime. Sai Baba never revealed anything about his origins to his devotees.

Two evidences from people who lived close with Sai Baba at Shirdi lead researchers to believe Sai Baba was a Hindu — one, he had his ears pierced and two, he was not found circumcised.  In later period, researcher (Shri V.B,Kher, a Sai devotee and a biographer of Sai) based on several hints collected from Sai Baba’s conversations with devotees in his authentic biographies, by visiting places mentioned there, meeting people etc,  was able to reasonably deduce where his birth place is.

It is believed to be villege Pathri, situated in Parbhani district of Maharashtra, some 150 km south east of Daulatabad. Connecting events of the distant past with family histories learned from aged residents of the village, the researchers also felt that a boy born in a Brahmin family of Bhausaris (Shukla Yajurvedi Brahmins of Koushika Gotra) who had reportedly left his home at an age of about five with a Muslim Fakir was Sai Baba in all probability. They also located the ruined house  of the Bhausaris at Pathri. The name of the Sufi Fakir who became the custodian and spiritual master of the young Brahmin boy was (deduced to be)  Roshan Sha Mia.

The family deity of Bhausari family was Hanuman. After picking up bits and pieces from Sai Baba’s utterances, Baba’s deep knowledge of Hinduism, his practice of celebrating Ram Navami regularly at Shirdi during his final years and the liking he had on Hanuman and a couple of other coincidences, Shri V.B. Kher satisfied himself on his findings. Shri Kher bought the piece of land in 1978 from a descendent of Bhusari Brahmin family at Pathri. Construction of a Sai temple there began in 1994 and On 19th October 1999, the Sai Janmasthan Temple was inaugurated.

Sai Janmasthan temple at Pathri, Maharashtra.

So, it is now more or less an agreed belief that Sai Baba was a Brahmin by birth. Even if he were to be a Muslim, Islam does not have any scope or provision to worship any person as God.

Saibaba reportedly traveled across several places of Marathwada along with his Fakir Guru. He (according to his own statements) was under the care of his guru for 12 long years and served him with love and humility and received love and blessings from his guru in abundance.  It is also believed that Sai Baba was indeed ‘born perfect’ and his innate divinity got just rekindled by association with such a formal Guru. Several statements of Saibaba reveals that he remained in a state of Advaita (a state of non-duality — being one with God) and uttered them with utmost authority and assurance.

It is learnt that Baba, after remaining a wandering monk upto his age of 25 to 30 and before coming and settling Shirdi, was staying in Aurangabad and he was the spiritual master of a fakir by name Bade Baba or Fakir Baba for 12 years. Incidentally,  many years later,  Bade Baba returned to stay with his erstwhile master at Shirdi in the year 1902.

Arrival at Shirdi

Sai Baba arrived for the first time at Shirdi some time the year 1868-1872, when he was around 25 to 30 years old. He was a serene looking young man, tempered by a disciplined life of tapas and austerity. He came to Shirdi along with a marriage party of Chand Patil of Dupkhed; Chand Patil (a muslim)  had brought Sai Baba along with him, to attend the marriage of his sister with one one Hamid of Shirdi.

How did Chand Patil get acquainted with Sai Baba?

The story goes that Chand Patil met Sai Baba on his way from his village towards to Aurangabad while going by walk after he unfortunately lost his mare. He met this young man (Baba) looking like a fakir under a tree, who told him that his lost mare was just in the nearby vicinity, close to a stream there. Patil went in search and was surprised to find his mare there. As he returned to the young Fakir to thank him, he found him preparing his hookah by getting a piece of burning charcoal and also some water by simply digging into earth! The fakir shared the smoke with the traveller too. Impressed by these miracles, Chand Patil took the Fakir reverentially with him to his home to be his guest. Subsequently, he also took him to the marriage ceremony at Shirdi to bless the couples.

No one knew the name of this Fakir. The story goes that when he arrived at Shirdi and got down from the cart, the local Khandoba temple owner and priest Bhagat Mhalsapati saw him first and welcomed him “Ya Sai!” (Welcome Sai) and this name Sai stuck. (The word Sai or Sain/ Sayi denotes Lord,God, saint, husband (beloved) or Fakir. Baba means father). Incidentally, after a couple of  years of arrival of  Sai Baba, Mhalsapati accepted Sai Baba as his Sadguru and became a lifelong devotee to serve Him.

After the marriage, the party with Chand Patil left Shirdi, but Sai Baba stayed back. Initially, Saibaba stayed at the outskirts of Shirdi in Babul forest for nearly 2.5 years, then under a neem tree for four to five years. During this period, he was deeply immersed in Self, ignoring rain and shine and living day and night in the open.

Living under Neem tree and Guru Sthan

According to another version of the story , it is said that he came to Shirdi much earlier, when he was about 16 or 17 years old and  lived with his Guru near the neem tree without much of public gaze across 12 years.

Sai Baba had mentioned about the existence of the tomb of his guru underground adjacent to the neem tree. When dug, four earthen lamps and a japa mala were found there. Baba prevented further digging as the tomb of the guru existed further below. Sai Baba mentioned the existence of a tunnel there where he did his tapas without getting disturbed from the outer world. His utterances on this matter were not so clear whether he was mentioning about his Guru and his life in the present Avatar or in his previous birth. This tunnel reportedly extended upto the Masjid to which Saibaba shifted to live later.

Later he shifted to the dilapidated Masjid where he lived permanently thereafter.

During these early years, Sai Baba had no proper food. He would go for alms and be content to eat whatever people gave him. However, a kind-hearted lady by name Bayajabai somehow seemed to understand the high spiritual status of Sai Baba and she took a vow to feed Baba before she ate her food. She would take the meals for Baba. go in search of him near the neem tree oand surrounding places in the jungle, locate him and feed him.

People by and large thought he was a mad Fakir, till a well known Vaishnava Saint by name Gangagir Bua, who often visited Shirdi, met Baba; he could grasp Baba’s true stature of divinity and he spread word.  Two other sadhus who lived in Shirdi at that time by name Devidas and Janakidas too started liking the company of the saintly Sai Baba. Soon, one by one people started going to him and were amply rewarded by his blessings.

Living at Dwaraka Mai (Masjid)

An old photo of entrance of Masjid (Dwarakamai). Sai Baba seen at the right extreme.

Mhalsapati, Kashiram Shimpi and Appa Jagle of Shirdi were the earliest disciples of Sai Baba, who surrendered to him and served him with devotion.  It is by their efforts that Sai Baba shifted from the neem tree to the dilapidated Masjid in Shirdi; This masjid became his permanent abode till the end of his life, spanning about 60 years. He named the place Dwaraka MaiMhalsapati became the closest of all and he served his Master till Baba left his mortal body.

An artist view of Sai Baba sitting inside the Masjid (Dwarakamai).

 In fact, it was Sai Baba who attracted devotees and ardent seekers living in distant places by creating circumstances in their lives or by sending word to them to come and meet Him. He said that his relation as  Guru with some of his disciples started a couple of births ago and he was duty-bound to take care of them and lead them to enlightenment across births.

After his permanent occupation at Dwaraka mai, more spiritually inclined seekers like Appa Kulkarni, Nana Saheb Dengle, Chidambar Keshav, Madhav Rao Deshpande, Nanasaheb Nimonkar, Nanasaheb Chandorkar, Das Ganu and others frequently visited Sai Baba and accepted Him as their Sadguru and surrendered to him.

By the grace and blessings of Sai Baba, Das Ganu  (real name Shri Ganapat Dattatreya Saharabuddhe) a former policeman left his job, surrendered to Sai and later blossomed into a great poet, singing the glory of his guru through his kirtans. He was hailed as a santkavi.

It was through Nanasaheb Chandorkar (a well educated person in Sanskrit and Hindu scriptures) that the outer world came to know of Sai Baba’s extensive knowledge on Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures of Hinduism.

Abdul, the Muslim disciple of Sai Baba too came to Sai Baba through his calling. Abdul was earlier a servitor of Amiruddin fakir of Nanded. It was through Abdul that the world came to know of the extensive knowledge Sai Baba had on Islam, the Koran, Sira— the life of Mohammad, Sunna (code of conduct) , hadith (traditions), sharia (laws) and so on.

Common people started coming to Sai Baba in large numbers for curing them of their ailments and seeking solutions to their worldly worries. During his early days, Sai Baba prepared some indigenous medicines and gave to them. People got cured miraculously and they spread words; more and more people came to him for the purpose.

The Dhuni and Udi as prasad

At Dwaraka mai, Sai Baba started a Dhuni — a fire place where he arranged to keep a sacred fire burning perpetually. Baba stopped preparing and giving medicines;  instead, he started giving the ash (Udi) from the Dhuni as his prasad.  Sai Baba’s udi prasad soon became a ‘cure all’ medicine for many people, including people having mental problems. Through the udi, what they really received was the unconditional love and divine blessings from Sai Baba.

As Baba’s popularity grew, people started bringing food for him to the Masjid and gradually, the need for him to go around the village for seeking alms came down.

Sai Baba as a Saint and Sadguru

Baba radiated divine love; his compassion flowed unconditionally towards all those who came to him with faith and trust hoping their problems to get solved. Spiritually inclined seekers who came to him, grasped his divine nature and surrendered to his feet considering him to be their Sadguru.

Baba remained a unique blend of all religious faiths and he did not discriminate people based on religion, sect, caste, race, sex or language. He strengthened the faiths of devotees to their respective religions and guided them individually on spiritual practices suited to each one’s capacity, calibre and taste.

He taught his devotees self-restraint, detachment, faith in God and faith in guru.Without being preachy, he taught philosophy, devotion, spiritual discipline, morality, right conduct for daily life and fellow-feeling towards all living beings.

He encouraged sadaks whose worldly duties were over, to live with him and concentrate on sadhana for spiritual enlightenment.  He discouraged youngsters from relinquishing worldly life out of over-enthusiasm without the necessary mental strength for renunciation.

Many devotees of Lord Dattatreya who came to him considered him to be an avatar of Dattatreya. Akkalkot Swami (Shri Swami Samarth)  was a highly revered and a contemporary saint of Sai Baba who was considered  an Avatar of Dattatreya. Many of his devotees held Sai Baba in very high regard. It is said that Akkalkot Swami directed some of his disciples to go to Sai Baba for guidance after his departure.

Likewise devotees of other God forms (Lord Ganesha, Hanuman and so on) too considered Saibaba as the divine Avatar of their personal Gods.  Some such devotees, who had taken vows to make certain money offerings to their deities in times hardships faced in their lives,  conveniently forgot to make the offerings to their deities once they came out of the difficulties. When they came to Saibaba, there were several instances where Baba asked for and collected such money from them!

Sai Baba strongly condemned religious conversions. Once a person who had  converted to Islam from being a Hindu came to Sai Baba for his darshan, Sai Baba slapped him on his face saying, “Are you not ashamed of changing your father?”

Baba’s daily Life – Simplicity personified

Saibaba always donned a Kafni (long full sleeved kurta), wore a langot (waist band) and covered His head with a piece of cloth. He sat on a piece of sackcloth, and his bed too was a sackcloth. He wore his dress till they were torn and turn to become rags. He always said “Poverty is better than Kingship, far better than Lordship. The Lord is always brother of the poor.”

During his early years, Saibaba went out for begging his food; whatever solid and liquid food items he was given, he collected them separately, brought them to the Masjid, kept them in open pots and ate from them. Those who came to him and those who did service to him (like cleaning the masjid premises) could also partake the food from the pots. Dogs too came to him and had their share from the collection.

In later periods, as the number of close devotees increased, devotees brought food for him from their homes to the masjid and the need for going out for daily alms stopped. Using the provisions that people brought, Saibaba sometimes cooked the food and offered it as prasad to the devotees. The prasad he made at times contained meat too that non-vegetarians devotees partook from him.

Baba’s close devotees always worshiped him and revered him as God. As part of the daily routine in Dwarakamai, an aarati (formal worship with lighted lamp) in the noon and one aarati at night was performed to Sai Baba by close devotees (like Mhalsapati) amidst chanting of hymns. Of course, this practice was not to the liking of some people of the Muslim community in and around Shirdi.

Baba had no personal wants or needs. For so many years, Baba never had any need for money. During his later years in life, Sai Baba accepted dakshina (offering of money) from his devotees. Whatever Sababa received — be food, provisions or cash, he distributed amidst the visiting needy devotees and also to his close associates who served him and had families to take care of. Many devotees observed that the money Sai Baba distributed daily to others appeared to be more than what he used to receive as dakshina!

When Sai Baba attained Samadhi, a Policeman present on duty at Dwarakamai at that time officially took charge of Sai Baba’s possessions and according to the report, Sai Baba had just 16 rupees with him in his possession!

Baba and miracles

Baba in numerous miraculous ways played the role of God, a mentor, a Guru, a guide and a savior in the lives of devotees who surrendered to him with unflinching faith. Practically all devotees of Baba had some miraculous experience or other in their lives  to come out of worldly worries and calamities. Such experiences redoubled their faith on His divinity and helped them to tread the path of dharma and spirituality.

Baba’s devotees experienced that He knew every detail of their lives without the need of telling him; Baba read their good and bad thoughts and constantly warned them from going astray.  When caught up in deep troubles, Baba heard their prayers and came to their rescue in some way or other, in some human form or other wherever they were. Sai Baba willingly took up the bad prarabdhas (effects of bad karmas of the past) of some of his devotees on himself in order to reduce their suffering and burden.

There were many instances when Sai Baba blessed progeny to childless couples, saved devotees from accidents and life threatening diseases, protected them from financial disasters, helped them in getting the right match in marriages and so on.  Reviving the dead to life was also performed by Sai on one or two rare occasions.

Very occasionally, Baba also openly displayed a few miracles. Here are a few of them:

  • Baba in deep Samadhi bordering on death for 3 days. This happened in the year 1885. Sai Baba had a severe bout of asthma; he called Mhalsapati and said, “I am going into samadhi; please take care of my body for 3 days”. Mhalsapati stayed day and night with the motionless body of Sai that looked almost dead. Some people in Shirdi believed that Sai Baba was dead and wanted to cremate his body. But Mhalsapati stood very firm. Baba regained outer consciousness after three days.
  • Stirring boiling food with bare hands. Devotees had witnessed  Sai Baba sometimes cooking Prasad for feeding the gathering in a large pot. He would simply use his hands instead of a ladle to stir the boiling contents in the pot.
  • Arresting spread of Cholera. During 1910, Shirdi was affected by Cholera. A few people died. One day Sai Baba was seen single handedly grinding a sack of wheat in a hand grinding stone. Local ladies came to assist him and when the work was over, they attempted to take the flour with them to their houses. Sai Baba scolded them severely and asked them to collect the flour and spread it along the borders of the village. Wondering why, they obeyed his words. Sai Baba clarified later that by this weird gesture, he had prevented spreading of Cholera in Shirdi.  After this incidence,  no death occurred on account of Cholera in Shirdi.
  • Preventing Plague deaths. In 1911, plague epidemic broke out and it started affecting Shirdi too. At that time, seven or eight buboes appeared in Baba’s body and he got fever. His devotees got scared. Baba used his own medicine (ghee) for applying over buboes which he recommended to others too. Baba assured them that neither He nor anyone in Shirdi would die on account of plague and he had taken up the calamity on himself to ward off the epidemic. It was proved true.
  • Bringing holy waters. Once, Das Ganu thought that he should go to Prayag for a bath, and came to Baba to get His permission for doing so. Baba replied to him – “It is not necessary to go so long. Our Prayag is here, believe me.” When Das Ganu placed his head on Baba’s Feet, out came or flowed streams of water — of Ganga and Yamuna, from both the toes of Baba.

Baba’s two Biographers who were direct devotees

Shri Govind R Dabholkar was a Brahmin by birth and he was a 1st class Resident Magistrate in Borsad before he retired. Nana Saheb Chandorkar was his friend and due to the later’s insistence, he came and met Sai Baba initially with some reluctance in the year 1910. He was bowled by Sai Baba’s radiating divinity and his thirst to have a guru came to an end. He started visiting Baba regularly. in 1916, a year before Sai Baba’s departure, Shama, a friend of Dabholkar and an ardent devotee of Baba convinced Baba for the need of having an authentic biography of Him written and Baba gave his blessings to Dabholkar for writing it.

With the help of all close Sai devotees, Dabholkar collected information about Sai Baba’s sayings, leelas and miracles from the real life experiences of many devotees for 13 years from 1917 to 1929. He wrote Shri Sai Satcharitra in Marathi in the form of verses and they first got serialized in Sri Sai Leela magazine from 1923 (6 years after Sai Baba’s Maha Samadhi). Shri Sai Satcharitra complete in book form came out 1929. Sri Dabholkar passed away in the same year.

After his retirement, Dabholkar served Sai Baba very sincerely till Baba’s Mahasamadhi and afterwards managed very skillfully and efficiently Sai Baba’s Shirdi Sansthan till his death in 1929.

Shri Sai Satcharitra was the first authentic source book on the Avatar and leela of Shirdi Sai, and it was written not as a biography in chronological order, but in the form of a Pothi, a religious book. It contained 53 chapters and 9308 verses. This book, in later years, got translated into English and  other Indian languages.

Sri Vaman Prangovind Patel (Later Swami Sai Sharan Anand) was one of the most faithful and true disciples of Sai Baba. He was  a Gujarati Brahmin by birth, studied B.A., L.L.B and worked as a solicitor at Mumbai. When Vaman was five, Sai Baba (identified by his mother as an unknown person who appeared before her as a Fakir) saved his live from acute diarrhoea by giving sacred udi. Vaman as a youth longed for getting a Guru who can assure him of getting direct perception of God; he first met Sai Baba at Shirdi when he was 22 years old, in the year 1911.

He visited Sai Baba again in 1913 and was was retained by Baba to be with him for 11 months. Baba engaged Vaman in reading scriptures like Jnaneshwari under his guidance, made him do Gayathri Purascharan and seek alms from the local households.

Again in 1916, Vaman stayed with Baba for 3 weeks when he was blessed with valuable spiritual experiences. In 1946 (some 28 years after Sai Baba’s maha samadhi) Vaman wrote two books in Gujarati on the life of Baba — Sai Leelakhyan and Shri Sai Baba. After his wife and daughter passed away, Vaman  took up Sanyas (with the monaistic name Swami Sai Sharan Anand) at the age of 64. He lived to ripe old age (93 years) and passed away in 1982.  3 more books of him  Sainathne Sharane, Brahma Parimal and Siddhamrit got published posthumously.

His books exemplify his great devotion to Sai Baba and they remain one of the best sources of information on Shirdi Sai.

Sathe Wada – The first dormitory for visiting devotees

Over years, as Sai Baba’s residence in the Dwaraka Mai Masjid became permanent and devotees from outstation started coming in large numbers, Baba’s devotee Hari Vinayak Sathe bought the land covering the sacred neem tree, Gurusthan and adjacent areas. In 1908, he constructed a wada (traditional mansion) there which was called Sathe Wada. The wada served as the sole resting place for visiting devotees, till the time Dixit Wada too came up.

Dixit Wada – the second dormitory for visiting devotees

Kaka Saheb Dixit, a rich solicitor from Mumbai first met Sai Baba in the year 1909. He became an ardent devotee of Sai Baba and decided to settle in Shirdi to live the rest of his life in the holy company of Baba. He bought land adjacent to Gurusthan and constructed Dixit Wada,   to be his residence as well as a resting place for people visiting Sai Baba from distant places. The Wada was constructed and inaugurated on the day of Ram Navami in the year 1911.

Sai Baba and Muslims

Devoted Muslims

As we saw already, Sai Baba had two earnest devotees who stayed with him were Muslims – Abdul and Bade Baba (Fakir Baba).

Sai Baba had many other Muslim devotees who considered him as a Pir (A Sufi Saint) or Awliya (An Islamic guardian/ protector).

From 1911, when Ram Navami celebrations (with a procession ending at  Dwaraka mai masjid) became an annual festival celebrated with fanfare at Shirdi as per suggestion of Sai Baba, some Muslim devotees headed by one Amir Shakkar too pitched in with a Sandal Procession (Urus festival) on the same day; Hindus and Muslims participated in both processions, thereby building a good interfaith comradery.

Discordant Muslims

In 1894, some intolerant Muslims with the support of Kazi of Sangamner assembled with lathis in order to attack the devotees who worshiped Sai Baba as God inside the masjid. Mhalsapati, who used to do the  daily aarati was in a fix and he did not know what to do. However, Sai Baba summoned him inside and asked him to proceed with his daily worship. The militant assembly of armed Muslims stood there transfixed, unable to move their limbs! They got scared of Sai Baba’s divine power and retreated never to attempt any such move there after.

Some 20 years after this incidence, a fundamentalist Pathan was dead against Hindus worshiping Sai Baba and he sought Sai’s permission to massacre all the Hindus sleeping at the Chavdi. Sai Baba told him to cut His throat first before attempting to do any harm to Hindus. A few days later, with hatred brimming on Baba, the Pathan came to attack Sai Baba with a large stick. Sai Baba simply caught him by his wrist and the pathan fell to ground losing all his power.

Muslims also created trouble when Sai Baba attained Maha Samadhi. (This is covered later in the article).

Construction of Buti Wada – and the end of Sai Baba’s avatar

Gopalrao (Bapusaheb) Buti, The man who built Buti Wada where Sai Baba’s samadhi exists.

Gopalrao Buti was an extremely rich devotee of Sai Baba who hailed from Nagpur met Baba in 1907.  From 1910, he shifted to Shirdi permanently to live with Sai Baba and was contemplating to build a house for him there. One night, Baba appeared in Buti’s dream and asked him to construct a Wada (Mansion) with a temple in it.  Very surprisingly, in the same night, Baba appeared in Madhavrao Deshpande’s dream and said “Let there be a wada with temple so that I can satisfy the desires of all”. Both were sleeping in Dixit Wada when this happened.

When they shared the experience with each other, Buti decided to build a grand mansion with black stones. With Sai Baba’s blessing and also approval of the building plan, the construction started in 1915. Buti wanted to install, in the sanctum sanctorum, Lord Muralidhar (Krishna playing flute) there.

Madhavrao supervised the construction of the ground floor. Sai Baba visited the site while construction was in progress and offered some suggestions too. Sai Baba once said “When the temple is built, we shall inhabit it and ever live in joy there!”

While the construction was nearing the end, Sai Baba fell sick and his condition started deteriorating. Gopalrao Buti became restless. He wondered whether Baba would live to see the temple, let alone come and stay there as promised by him. “If Baba is not going to live there, what is the point in constructing this wada and temple?” he thought.

Baba’s close devotees nursed him with all love and care, but there was so sign of recovery. Baba’s last words were: “Take me to the wada. I would feel better there”.   But before his devotees could shift him, He breathed his last at 2:35PM on 15th October 1918 at the Masjid. News spread quickly and all close devotees of Sai Baba thronged at the Masjid.

Unfortunately, there were discordant opinions in conducting the last rites for Baba’ body  between Sai’s Hindu devotees (who were in majority) and the Muslims.  The Muslim devotees headed by Bade Baba did not want Hindus to touch Sai Baba’s body and they wanted to take the body to kabari-sthan as per Islamic rites. Against Muslims’ stiff resistance, Sai’s devotee Laxman Bhat performed puja to Sai’s body as per Hindu traditions and applied tilak at Sai’s forehead. Hindus planned to shift Sai’s body to Buti Wada and place it in a samadhi and started necessary digging work work there.

Mamledar (Revenue administrative officer) of Kopargaon mediated between Hindus and Muslims and a compromise was arrived. Muslims finally yielded and allowed the Hindu devotees to proceed with their Samadhi plan at Buti Wada on the condition that Muslims would be given continued access to Masjid and also to Sai Baba’s samadhi, to which Hindus gladly agreed.

On 16th October evening, Sai Baba’s body was taken ceremoniously in procession to Buti Wada and placed in the sanctum sanctorum where originally an idol of Lord Muralidhar had been planned to be installed. Saibaba’s body was laid and a samadhi was built there.

Sai Baba had said earlier:

  • “I never forsake anyone who relies on me.    If you cast your burden on me, I will bear it.   My eye is ever on those who love me.”
  • “Remember my words even when I am no more. My bones will assure you from my samadhi. It will communicate with you, it will respond to him who surrenders to it.”
  • Here, in Shirdi, my men will come like ants“.

It is indeed true — even after passage of a century!

Related reading:

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How does a seeker get his right guru? How to seek him? How to approach him? How will you know that he is the right guru?

For some people, Guru comes on his own in their life. They are blessed. They have done their homework in their previous births!

Others tend to search for a Guru. They may finally find a Guru of their liking, but only time can tell whether they have ended at the right place, or it is only a temporary shelter till they find the permanent one. The reality is that when the search is earnest, the right Guru actually finds them, sooner or later, in first attempt or later attempts!

A serious seeker, intentionally and consciously searching for a Guru should sincerely answer many queries.

Each of us have different tastes, temperaments, capacity of intake w.r.t. religion and spirituality.

  • How much of spirituality do you want?
  • How much of worldly life do you still want to enjoy?
  • Is your search of a guru or a saint simply for finding solutions to your current worldly problems and to get His blessings to escape from them?
  • Or is it higher and more purposeful to understand the goal of life and just not materialistic?
  • If you want both, how much of balance between the two is acceptable to you?
  • How much of sacrifice are you prepared to do to acquire real spiritual knowledge?
  • What is your mental inclination towards Bhakti? What is our taste towards Jnyana? Are you attracted by yoga?
  • If you have bhakti, are you confined to a specific God form or sect only (like emotional bonding to Shiva/ Vishu/ Shakti and tend to think other Gods as lesser Gods?).
  • Would you be more comfortable and content to follow rituals, do formal worships, chant slokas and so on as a devotee rather than read scriptures and break your head with matters like soul, Atman, Brahman, Nirvikalpa Samadhi and so on?
  • Do you have a family Guru by tradition? Do you have liking and respect for him? Would you be contented to follow him or you want something better?
  • What is your exposure to spiritual books? How much of exposure do you have towards our scriptures in general? Have you read Ramayana and Mahabharata reasonably well?
  • Have you read Bhagavad Gita? Do you find its teachings making an impression in you or having an influence on you?
  • Have you got any idea about the Hindus ideologies like Advaita, Vishistadvaita and Dvaita?
  • Have you got exposed to any of the life and teachings of Avatara Purushas, Mahatmas and saints like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda, Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi, Kanchi Maha Periyaval, Shirdi Saibaba, Satya Saibaba, Ma Anandamayi, Swami Shivananda, Papa Ramadas, Swami Chinmayananda, Shringeri Shankaracharyas, Nisarga Datta Maharaj, Mata Amritanandamayi or any such saints of recent history?
  • Do you feel highly attracted or influenced by any of their lives and teachings? Do you feel like surrendering and seeking their guidance (even if they are no longer alive)?
  • Would you be happy to follow the living disciples of any of the above Gurus who are not alive now? Or do you wish for a living Sadguru’s guidance only?
  • Do you know the difference between a Guru, Acharya and a Sadguru?

If you earnestly get the answers to these queries from your heart, you will at least know where you stand and what you expect.

If you seek help and suggestions from people who already have gurus, you will invariably end up listening to a sales-promotion talk recommending their Guru for you too! It is exactly like people offering free medical advice when you tell them about some ailment you are having!

In olden days, people were less informed, had better humility, faith and sense of surrender. Spiritual knowledge or ideas were not freely available. Like arranged marriages, people easily accepted their traditional Gurus and got better. Only earnest Mumukshus (ardent seekers of Moksha – liberation) went around searching for Gurus. But times have changed now.

It is better to acquire some spiritual basis by reading books or listening to their talks/ videos unless you are blessed with a Guru who comes on his own in your life. Personally, I got my spiritual fundamentals firmed up by reading books. I was immensely influenced by reading Deivaththin Kural (Tamil, from Kanchi Paramacharya), The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Life and teachings of Ramana Maharshi, Swami Shivananda, Exposition of vedanta from Swami Chinmayananda and so on.

The more and more I read them, the more I got a clearer picture of my own mental leanings, tastes, strengths and weaknesses, idiosyncrasies and limitations. And I would say divine grace started working on me to guide me to seek my Guru. I found my life being lead from one step to another to lead me to my Sadguru.

I am just sharing what happened to me. Divine grace is the real thing and it acts differently in different people. I know that there are umpteen ways and inscrutable happenings through which so many others have come and landed at the feet of my Sadguru.

The same is true for those who have found their own living Gurus in the present and in the past.

Bhagwan Ramana with his western disciple Sadhu Arunachala

If you get a feeling that such-and-such person could be potentially your Guru, visit him and offer yourself there with humility. He may or may not be your final Guru. Sri Ramamaharshi gives one indication – If your mind finds total peace when you are at the sannadhi of the Guru, he is most likely to be your Guru.

If disturbances and doubts are there, perhaps he is not your Guru. May be his grace will guide you further to end up at your right Guru’s feet. May be he could still be your Guru, too but your time has not arrived!

 

 

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

You don’t have to break your head too much on the correctness of your judgment. The earnestness and humility are the vital needs. Sri Ramakrishna used to say “Suppose a person goes on a pilgrimage to Puri by walk from his village; he is not familiar with the directions and roads; somewhere he might have turned a wrong direction and missed his path. But as he inquires, somebody will always correct his mistake and redirect him to the right path. Quickly or belatedly he is sure to end up in Puri. Don’t worry”.

Search – earnestness – humility – surrender –grace . This is the working reality of getting the right guru.

What is the difference between a Guru, Sadguru and Acharya?

The word Guru means one who dispels darkness – a teacher.

The word Acharya means one who teaches the right conduct – again a teacher, basically.

But other than the straight meaning, in Hinduism both Guru as well as Acharya are associated with a master to whom a religious/ spiritual aspirant goes and seeks guidance in the matter of divine/ spiritual/ adyatma knowledge.

In certain sampradayas (traditions) (e.g. Vaishnava), the master is referred to as Acharya rather than Guru.

Again there are finer differences.

A GURU

Normal Gurus may or may not have the divine authority to teach spirituality to others, but they may act as guru based on appointment as a spiritual heirs of their gurus, or by the strength of whatever spiritual experience or workable knowledge they have gained through experience. Whatever they have gained or experienced through the path or technique they followed or received from the blessings of their Gurus, they will teach to their followers and it could be limited and narrow too (example: worshiping a specific God form only, instructing a specific mantra only, teaching a specific pranayama method only, instructing a particular meditative method only, vouching on a particular religious path and discipline only).

The normal Guru is likely to spread his knowledge as well as his ignorance to his followers (e.g. refusing to acknowledge or approve any other path, any other God forms, any other sadhana technique etc; he may even criticize and condemn others). (Please note: Not all Gurus may behave like this). A normal Guru may also be very possessive about his cult and followers and if any of them leave in search of anything better, they may condemn and criticize them. (Please note: Not all Gurus may behave like this).

In some cases, a guru may not be very learned in scriptures, but he may have personally experienced God. His experience could be anywhere from getting a glimpse of God/divinity, a sighting of light to the highest knowledge, to the highest state of ‘sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi‘ — remaining permanently immersed in the state of unity with God without any duality. A guru of the highest state of personal experience/ attainment is known as Sadguru. (Explained at the end).

AN ACHARYA

At the elite level, an Acharya is the one who, by deeply learning scriptures from competent Gurus and through dedicated self-study, analysis, understanding, tapas (practicing austerities), prayers, meditation and so on gets a very clear idea about a particular school of thought or philosophy that he feels extremely sure of. Then he goes about (by divine will) to teach his school of thought to ardent seekers and followers. He engages himself in intellectual arguments with pundits of different other schools and establishes supremacy of his ideas. (Ex: Sankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya).

On the other hand, on a normal practical level, an Acharya is invariably quite learned (intellectually) in scriptures and most probably with adequate Sanskrit knowledge. He might have gained quite some sound theoretical knowledge about a particular sect, school of philosophy, Worship of god-form, a specific scripture etc .

An acharya, may or may not have had any personal experience of God or divinity; yet, by virtue of certain sampradayas (traditions) an Acharya may get appointed as the chief of a Mutt by purely the strength of his scriptural knowledge and capacity to lecture. He may take up sanyas by leaving behind his erstrwhile grihasthasrama (house holder life) in order to don that post. (e.g. South Indian Vaishnava Mutts like Srimad Andavan Ashram or Jeeyar).

There may also be certain traditions where only a Brahmachari (unmarried) sanyasin will be appointed as the head/ future head i.e. Acharya of the mutt and not Grihasthas. (e.g. Sankara Mutt).

Acharyas of formal Mutts will strictly teach their sampradaya only to their followers. Depending on their spiritual attainment (if and when they get it) they may or may not acknowledge other paths and methods as valid or acceptable, but they will be strictly bound by their tradition and will not recommend or suggest or openly acknowledge any other method, practice or path as a valid one.

In certain mutts (example: Ramakrishna mutt), there may be several sanyasins, but only some will be authorized act as gurus and acharyas. Those who are recognized as Gurus alone will be authorized to give Mantra diksha to their disciples. Those who are recognized as acharyas will be the ones who have acquired good scriptural knowledge and they will be the ones to conduct scriptural classes, give discourses and lectures etc. Some acharyas may evolve into diksha Gurus too.

A SADGURU (Satguru)

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa — “As many faiths, so many paths”.

Sadguru indeed is the Guru of the highest order; he/she is the one who has experienced divinity in full and remain ever immersed in it. In the path of bhakti he/she will be the one who has attained prema bhakti and attained union with his personal God. In the path of Gnana, he/she  will be the knower of Self , the one who has personally experienced the state of Advaita. In the path of yoga, he/she is the one who is established in Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi. A satguru is one in whom the mind has been annihilated. He/she is the one who has totally eradicated ego; he/she is totally freed of vasanas. He/she is a jeevan mukta (liberated while being alive).

Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi — “When Palaniswami came and read out various scriptures brought from library, I was surprised: “How come whatever I have experienced are mentioned in these books?”

A satguru may even be unlettered or hardly be educated in primary school. But he/she would have the entire knowledge of scriptures contained in a nutshell in his personal experience. You will find learned pundits and Acharyas falling at his/her feet to get get clarifications and insight into scriptures that they have been learning life long.

A satguru has reached the peak and from the peak, he/she sees that all the paths are leading to just one end. He/she is not bound by any specific sampradaya through which he may have attained the highest state. He/she acknowledges and accepts all the valid paths, gurus, scriptures, techniques and his only interest is to guide people from any path, any sampradaya to follow their path with true understanding and attain God. He/she is not compartmentalized. He/she accepts one and all. He/she goes even beyond boundaries of religion and attracts people from all religions. Love for mankind flows unconditionally from their heart.

A satguru may not really appear in any Guru or Acharya Parampara. A Satguru in all probability will be a swayambu (self existing). A Satguru may be born in a remote village to simple and unassuming parents who have least to exposure to anything divine. A Satguru could be an avatara purusha. He/she arrives by divine will to teach the mankind. To show a new path. To cleanse a stagnant and dirtied religion or a religious sect. He/she is like a large steamer that can carry hundreds of ardent devotees and disciples across the sea of Samsara.

 

Sadguru Mata Amritanandamayi Devi

When a Sadguru or Avatara Purusha comes, their basic mission is to elevate humankind spiritually. Yet, they may also act in the worldly plane in providing means for common people to meet their essential worldly needs, and in undertaking large scale socially beneficial acts of philanthropy. They may engage themselves in activities like building educational institutions, hospitals, home for destitutes and so on. They may actively engage themselves in relief works after natural disasters. Further, they are also capable of using their extraordinary spiritual powers in helping individual devotees to overcome griefs and sufferings in their personal lives like severe diseases, extreme poverty, emotional problems, addictions, depression and so on. This way, they tend to elevate people’s focus from the mundane issues to more spiritually progressive way of life.

A satguru may come first and a Guru-Sishya Parampara may get established after him. The parampara of his/her main sishyas (future gurus) will spread his light to more and more people. The guru parampara may run for hundreds of years; it may or may not produce any more satgurus in this tradition. It may also get deteriorated and decimated over a period of time.

Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev

Then comes another avatara, another satguru at some other location, at some other context to re-establish dharma suited to the times. It keeps happening so in India from time immemorial. That is the greatness of Bharat and the Sanatana Dharma – Hinduism.

Understanding the role and purpose of Guru in Hinduism

The word “guru” in general means a teacher in Sanskrit. In the generic sense any teacher, whether the one who teaches worldly knowledge or the one who teaches spiritual wisdom, is a guru. But normally, from the point of Hindu religion, a guru is one who teaches you spiritual knowledge, who initiates you into a spiritual path or who guides you along the path of a spiritual quest. A highly learned Guru with deep knowledge of the scriptures is also called an Acharya.

Great spiritual masters of Hinduism are of the firm opinion that the human birth is rare and the purpose of the human birth is to attain God or realize one’s atman, which are one and the same, viewed from two different perspectives.

This is the ultimate goal to be attained and it is varyingly termed as God realization, self-realization, attaining the knowledge of Brahman, attaining birthlessness/deathlessness (“Moksha” “Mukthi” “samadhi” “nirvana” “sakshatkar,” etc. in Sanskrit).

Hinduism emphatically states that a guru is a must for learning and experiencing spirituals truths.

The following points will help you to understand the role of a guru in Hinduism.

“Satguru” – The guru of the highest order

Purely from the spiritual point of view, worldly knowledge is considered a lower level of knowledge and even such a “lower” knowledge requires teachers to make students comprehend the subjects clearly. Obviously, the ultimate spiritual knowledge, which is the very goal of life to be attained, requires qualified spiritual masters to teach and guide the earnest spiritual seekers.

Ideally, only a God-realized (or self-realized) soul, who is truly a knower by personal experience, could be the perfect guru. Such a guru is called a “Satguru.” A Satguru is none other than God himself descended in human form or a human who has attained the highest level of spiritual knowledge – who has “obtained” the divine authority to transmit his knowledge to the earnest seekers who surrender to him. According to Sri Ramakrishna, a great religious master, a Satguru is like a huge steamer that can safely carry a lot of people across a turbulent river.

Hinduism advocates the concept of “Avatar” – God descending to earth in human form from time to time to establish righteousness in the world, to satisfy the longing of earnest worshipers and to provide appropriate spiritual guidance to people in a way most suited to the period and circumstances of the descent.

The Avatar and his immediate and handpicked lieutenants who fully imbibe his teachings, who are empowered to carry forward his teachings function as Satgurus. However, it need not be interpreted to mean that Satgurus are always associated with the arrival of avatars.

Multiple gurus may also guide at different levels

But practically, not all spiritual seekers are really keen enough to reach the ultimate goal or fit enough to reach it. But spiritual attainment being the goal of human life, people at different levels of spiritual inclination have to be guided to the path at varying degrees of “capacity of intake” and “capacity of assimilation.”

Reincarnation (rebirth after death) is one of the fundamental concepts of faith in Hinduism. Accordingly, Hinduism recognizes that it may take several births for a seeker to attain the ultimate goal. Bhagavat Gita, one of the greatest books of essential Hindu spiritual knowledge recognizes this fact by stating that hardly one in a thousand strives to attain the highest and even among such earnest seekers, hardly a few are capable of reaching the goal.

It also leads to the fact that availability of Satgurus at all points of time and at all approachable geographic locations may not be practical. Naturally, people need to be guided by “less than perfect” masters who are quite good enough to guide the majority.

Hinduism is a very vast religion with scope for worshiping innumerable God-forms (who represent the ONE ultimate truth). There exist several major schools of philosophies, several sects and sub-sects that are suited to various tastes, traditions and preferences of religious followers. This naturally leads to a multifaceted system of availability of gurus.

The best starting point for seeking the guidance of a guru is to follow the culture and tradition of the family and in Hinduism, the traditional “family guru” serves this purpose. Generally, a “family guru” is a guru, most normally (but not too strictly) a “Sanyasi” (a monk who has relinquished worldly life) who comes in the Master-disciple lineage of a Satguru or a great spiritual master of yesteryears. These gurus are adept in the particular God they worship and the particular school of philosophy they profess. They initiate the seeker in the worship of the specific “personal God” of their sect and guide him in the fundamentals of religious disciplines to follow.

To avoid distraction and to ensure a better focus for an orderly religious progress, it is normally recommended that the seeker remains steadfast in his trust towards his guru, to the chosen personal God and to the school of philosophy he is instructed about.

But for a more curious and capable seeker, such guidelines are not too binding. Hinduism allows the freedom for one to choose his guru based on his temperament, taste and inclination. Hinduism also permits an earnest seeker to seek “higher guidance” from more than one guru based on his true progress. All the same, it is also emphasized that one should not be running behind one guru after another just because of one’s egotism that refuses to surrender to any form of discipline.

While it is important that one remains ever-devoted to his main guru, one can approach other gurus (called ‘upa gurus’ – i.e. supportive gurus) with due reverence and get specific guidance in some specific techniques of spiritual practice, to learn about alternative schools of philosophies or religious scriptures, to get doubts clarified and get advice on any hurdles faced in the path of progress.

At an exalted level, for the most avid seeker, even animals, birds and inanimate objects can teach a lesson or two in his spiritual quest (which he grasps by keen observation) and all of them are virtually his upa-gurus.

Faith and surrender to the guru are essential

Surrendering unquestioningly to one guru and attaining progress based on this very surrender and trust – this is on one side. Questioning and evaluating a guru and then surrendering to him and, at the same time, providing room for the guru to evaluate him so as to accept or reject him – this is on another side. Both are acceptable in Hinduism.

However, where the disciple is lucky enough (or destined) to end up or surrender at the feet of a Satguru, the Satguru, who transcends names, forms and schools of philosophies, will guide the disciple to the most appropriate “personal god” and school of philosophy best suited to him. What the disciple needs to do afterwards is to surrender his ego at the feet of his guru and remain steadfast in his faith, goal and commitment. It is also said that, in reality, it is the guru who seeks and gets the disciple. An earnest seeker may ultimately end up with a Satguru, though he may have had his initiation earlier from another guru.

Understanding initiation (“Diksha”) by a guru

Getting initiation (“Diksha”) from the guru is an essential element of the guru-disciple relationship. In general, “Diksha” is done by the guru by giving a mantra (a sacred phrase containing the name of a specific God beginning with “seed sounds” like “Om” and ending with “namah”). Gurus of a specific sect give a mantra suited to the specific sect.

For example, worshipers of Lord Shiva generally give a mantra associated with Lord Shiva. A worshiper of Vishnu will normally get initiated with Narayana mantra (or Krishna / Rama mantras).

Even though we are familiar with several mantras like Om Namah Shivaya or Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya etc, Mantras are normally communicated in secrecy by the Guru to the disciple. A disciple is expected to keep his mantra a secret and not to reveal it to any other person.

According to Satguru Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma), a sadguru while initiating a disciple with a mantra, transmits a little of his Prana shakti (vital force). It is like adding a little butter milk to milk to create curd. Chanting of mantra subsequently by the disciple is like churning the curd to obtain butter (realizing God).

A mantra is like a seed sown by the guru into the disciple. It is up to the disciple to nurture the seed to get the sapling, water it and protect it as it grows to a tree till it bears fruits. Likewise, it is the sacred duty of the disciple to repeat the mantra with devotion as many times as possible, follow the disciplines and practices specified by the guru, meditate on the God of the mantra and reap the spiritual benefits.

As for Satgurus, their way of initiation (by giving ‘diksha’ to someone) may take place in several forms. A Satguru is capable of gauging the spiritual capacity, taste and capability of a person and make an initiation best suited to the person. The initiation could be done by a Satguru by a mere touch of hand (“Hasta Diksha”); he may give the mantra in the disciple’s dreams (“Swapna Diksha”); he may initiate the disciple by a mere eye-to-eye contact (“Nayana Diksha”); he may initiate by an embrace (“Alingana Diksha”).

A Satguru is capable of judging which God form is best suited or best liked by the disciple and initiate him with the mantra of that God. He may initiate the disciple in worship of God with form or without form; he may simply initiate a capable follower in the path of self-inquiry.

A Satguru bears the burden of a disciple

Unlike a guru whose responsibility ends with initiating the disciple in the religious path, a Satguru bears the responsibility of the disciple who surrenders to him wholeheartedly. It is said that at the time of giving Diksha, a Satguru transmits a small portion of his vital energy (“Prana”) into the disciple. It is also said that the Satguru absorbs the accumulated karmas (good and bad effects of the disciples’ actions in the past) and makes him a “clean slate” to start his religious quest with full vigor. While the need for “self-effort” to be done by the disciple to attain the ultimate goal can’t be wished away, the Satguru makes the path much easier for the disciple to tread, by removing the obstacles coming out of his past deeds.

It is also said that a Satguru never forsakes his disciple, even if he tends to slacken his spiritual efforts or gets distracted away from his ideal; Satguru’s watchful eyes are always on him to goad him back to his track at the appropriate time.

The guidance from the “inner Guru”

Any religious discipline done by an earnest seeker is to realize God or Atman or Brahman who essentially dwells in the heart of every being. In the point of view of “Gyana marga” (path of Knowledge in Hinduism), everyone is essentially God and what the guru does is to remove the false coverings and sheaths that make one wrongly identify oneself with the body, mind intellect, etc. and ultimately to make one understand “you are that” (“Tatwamasi”).

It may not be practical for everyone to be physically with the guru always, take regular instructions from him and keep getting doubts cleared. It is said that an earnest disciple who lives away from a guru/Satguru, depending on his steadfastness and sincerity in his spiritual efforts, gets his guidance and course-correction right from his inner heart/sub-conscience. This inner voice or guidance is called the Inner Guru (“Anthra Guru”).

Sri Ramana Maharishi, the great sage of Tiruvennamalai used to say that the external guru pushes the disciple’s mental leanings (which tend to wander outwards) towards inside and the Indwelling Guru drags them inwards. It is ultimately the one and the same “Sachidananda” (Existence-knowledge-bliss i.e. Godliness) that works through both as the external guru and the internal guru.

What Swami Sivananda says about the need of a Guru

(Source: Autobiography of Swami Sivananda)

“The spiritual path is beset with many obstacles. The Guru will guide the aspirants safely and remove all sorts of difficulties they have to face. He will inspire the students and give them spiritual powers through his blessings. Guru, Isvara, Truth and Mantra are one. There is no other way of overcoming the vicious worldly Samskaras of the passionate nature of raw, worldly-minded persons than personal contact with and service to the Guru.

A personal Guru is necessary in the beginning. He alone can show you the path to attain God, who is the Guru of Gurus, and obviate the snares and pitfalls on your path. Guru’s Grace is needed by the disciple. This does not mean that the disciple should sit idle and expect a miracle from the Guru to push him directly into Samadhi. The Guru cannot do Sadhana for the student. It is foolish to expect spiritual attainments from a drop of Kamandalu water from the Guru. The Guru can guide the student, clear his doubts, pave the way, remove the snares, pitfalls and obstacles and throw light on the path. But it is the disciple himself who has to walk every step in the spiritual path.”

 

Why is Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa revered as a great saint?

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was not just a saint, but an Avatara Purusha. To his closest devotees, he had revealed that he was an avatar. There are so many aspects of him that make him great and we shall briefly see some of them here:

  • He was one of the great contributors to the revival of Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) , which was precariously eclipsed by Western (Christian) influence due to the British Raj prevalent during his time (1836–1886).
  • He was one standing example to prove that every facet of Hinduism — be the path of Bhakti (including worship of multiple God forms), the path of Gnyana (ending up in Advaita Philosophy), the path (Pathanchali) Yoga (practices in meditation ending in Nirvikalpa Samadhi), the path of Kundalini Yoga (from Tantra) etc are all valid and true, by undergoing intense spiritual practices and experiencing Ultimate Truth in every path.
  • During his period, the path of Tantra, which was highly secretive was being practiced by some people for wrong purposes. Tantra involved spiritual practices involving experimentation in intimate man-woman relationship as a means to attain union of Soul and God and many of its rituals looked rather very extreme, dirty and abhorrent. Sri Ramakrishna was bold enough to even tread this path (guided by a senior lady Guru Bhairavi Brahmani) and was successful experiencing the highest state, by undergoing all the rigorous practices.Based on this experience, he could declare that even Tantra was a valid path to attain God; but he did not recommend it as a practice to his disciples, warning that there are more chances of falling rather than rising in that path for most people.
  • By his basic mindset, he was a Shakta (worshiper of Divine Mother, Shakti – Kali). At his earliest sadhana periods, he did intense tapas to get a darshan of Bhavatarini Kali (at Dakshineswar Temple) and got Her darshan. Devi merged in Him. He practiced Vaishnavism and had visions of Sri Rama, Devi Sita, Lord Krishna, Radha, Hanuman and many such God forms. He realised that all these God forms are verily inside Him.
  • Having tasted experience in God through various paths of Hinduism, he tried Islam and Christianity too and practicing and meditating on these paths, he realized that those paths also lead to God.
  • With such a varied experience behind him, he declared “As many faiths, so many paths”. He was a Vaishnava amidst devotees of Vishnu; he was a Shakta amidst devotees of Devi; he was a Christian amidst worshipers of Jesus. He was a Gnyani amidst Advaitis. He was a Yogi amidst yogis. People from every walk of life and every sect of religion who were blessed to come across him felt he was their own. Amidst all the paths, he proposed the path of Bakthi to one’s own Ishta (personal God) as the easiest and best way to attain God suited for majority of people.
  • He declared that kamini and kanchana (sex and gold) are the two greatest impediments for any spiritual seeker to attain God. He was emphatic and forthright that without relinquishing both, no spiritual attainment is ever possible.
  • He had no education beyond some primary schooling. This unassuming Brahmin was a simpleton to the core. He only spoke rustic Bengali. He could not touch money with his hand. He could not carry anything with him for tomorrow’s use.
  • He married when he was 24 years old and Saradadevi was 5 years old at that time. When Saradadevi came to live with him at Dakshineshwar, he declared to her that she was no different from the Divine Mother at the temple. Their life was a wonderful example to the world that a husband-wife relationship of the highest caliber was indeed possible without sex between them.
  • He spoke about God and spirituality all the time. Whatever he spoke was of the simplest and most easily comprehensible knowledge of the Supreme. What Pundits and scholars could not understand by reading Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads, they could get clarification and clarity from this rustic Poojari who did not study Sanskrit.
  • After 12 years of intense sadhanas in so many paths, he was ready to teach the world. He cried to divine mother to send qualified and eager aspirants who are yearning for divine knowledge. And young and educated aspirants started coming. During his living time, hardly three dozen people knew that he was a Mahatma/ Avatara par excellence.
  • It was his divine scheme that all his teachings and all his spiritual wealth was meant to be distributed to the outer world after his death (that happened due to his throat cancer when he was 50).
  • Lead by Swami Vivekananda, 16 of his young disciples left worldly life and took up Sanyas and lead a life of intense austerities after his death. Sarada Devi gave them emotional and spiritual support. Initiated by Swami Vivekananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math came up much later after his death.
  • Selfless service was one of the activities of Sri Ramakrishna Math. The inspiration for this came to Swami Vivekananda from Sri Ramakrishna who declared that as every human being is verily a form of God, we can serve God by serving them.
  • All his precious teachings of spirituality in the simplest language was destined to be given to the world after his death by his house Holder devotee Sri Ma- (Mahendra Nath Gupta). His Bengali book Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamritam (later in English The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna) became a source book of Hinduism for every ordinary person to read, grasp and practice.