Why is the Guru Necessary for Spiritual Practice?
from Divine Distraction: A Guide to the Guru-Devotee Relationship
by James Steinberg
Avatar Adi Da, 1992
I Am Present in the world in order (now, and forever hereafter) to Offer a (most ultimately) Divinely Liberating relationship to all those who are willing to assume such a relationship with Me...
—Avatar Adi Da Samraj
The Spiritual Way is based on a simple understanding, “You become what you meditate on”. In other words, you take on the qualities of whatever or whoever you give your attention to. This principle is seen at work in every aspect of life. Whatever one is most intimately associated with, or one surrenders to most fully, determines the quality of consciousness. If one meditates on any ordinary thing, then one takes on its qualities. If we are obsessed with buying things we become “shopping minded”. If we allow television to be the focus of our attention, we become “TV minded”. Consciousness follows attention.
Thus, to grant your attention to the Guru is to receive the Guru's Grace and to Realize the Guru's Condition. This simple principle allows the devotee to feel, receive, and be transformed by the Transmission of the Guru. This is a secret that has been understood since the ancient days and verified by Spiritual practitioners of Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, Sufism, Judaism, Sikhism, and esoteric Christianity. Real-God-Realization is only possible through the Appearance and Grace of the Sat-Guru. It is not possible to Realize Identification with the Divine simply on the basis of one's own willful self-effort.
The principle of Satsang with Avatar Adi Da Samraj, or living in direct heart-Communion with Him, is the supreme “method” of the Way of Adidam. Through a process of sympathetic resonance, devotees begin to duplicate the Guru's awakened condition. Traditionally, in a genuine Spiritual culture, it was understood that the Gurus were the greatest wealth, the most valuable Treasures of the realm, to be protected and honored above all. The Realizers were acknowledged as the Source of true Wisdom and of the Transmission of the Living Force of the Divine. In these settings, the need for the Sat-Guru himself was not in doubt.
A basic principle of all life is that we all communicate or “transmit” to others who come into our company the present state of our consciousness. If we are happy, others feel that happiness, no matter what we are doing. Likewise, if we are disturbed, others feel that anxiety. The communication of our state is instant and immediate. Just so, and to a magnified degree, in the case of the Real-God-Realized Guru. When we come into the Company of such a Being, we immediately, and to whatever degree we are open to it, feel his or her Transmission of the Divine, naturally and spontaneously. This is the process of Spiritual Transmission described in many traditions. It is the great Gift of the Guru to the devotee.
Since ancient times, it has been recognized by esoteric Spiritual practitioners that it is the Guru’s Spiritual Transmission that awakens the devotee—not mere thinking, philosophy or techniques. Guru-devotion is most potent in relation to a Siddha-Guru—a Guru who not only Teaches a Way of Liberation but actually Transmits his or her own State of Liberation to devotees. By means of true devotion to a Siddha-Guru, a rightly prepared devotee is able to receive the Gift of that Transmission and (thereby) undergo a Graceful process of purification, transformation, and (ultimately) Realization.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: “Everyone transmits. All of you are transmitters. Each one of you emits invisible forces. These forces are locked up in your limited messages, and they reinforce the same limitations in others . . . Realizers of one or another degree of Spiritual development likewise by nature spontaneously Transmit what they are. . . . Those less evolved Transmit their Realization, and those more evolved Transmit their Realization. Everything transmits. The stones transmit, the sky does, the TV does. Since everything and everyone transmits states of existence, since life, or existence itself, is participation in transmissions of all kinds, the best thing you can do is to associate with the greatest possible Transmission. . . .You become what you meditate on.”
Although it is continuous with the esoteric essence of the entire Great Tradition of religious and Spiritual endeavor, the practice of Guru-devotion in Adidam is unique, because the tangible Spiritual Transmission of the “Bright” is a unique gift given by Avatar Adi Da’s Divine Grace.
Divine Distraction, or devotional love of the Guru, is the vehicle through which the devotee forgets his or her egoic self and opens up to Divine Grace. It is the heart of the Guru-devotee relationship and the esoteric Spiritual Process. Such ecstatic Love is the essence of all that Avatar Adi Da Samraj Reveals to His devotees. Through His Grace, His devotees Realize that there is Only Real God. Avatar Adi Da Samraj exists to Offer the Transmission of this Love, the Transmission of the Infinite Feeling that is Real God. This is His only purpose. He does not see humanity as a collection of "poor other people" who need to be Helped by Him from His superior position as the Guru. He sees that ordinary beings are not experiencing or enjoying Who they Are, their own Divine Nature. He Transmits to them the Real Love. It is not something that He tries to do. He Is that Love and It flows out of Him naturally.
The primary "method" of Liberation used by the Avatar Adi Da Samraj (as well as by the Great Siddhas who have come before Him) is His sheer Attractiveness. He is the Divine Form, and His Love is His Attractive Power. For His true devotees, Avatar Adi Da is the most Radiant, Most Distracting Object in the universe. To truly see Him is to see no mere body or personality, but to see and feel the Divine, the Self-Radiant and Self-Existing Consciousness, which ultimately Outshines even the His own body-mind.
Traditional literature describes Krishna as lustrous blue, and the Buddha and Christ with halos around them. How can a devotee describe what Beloved Sri Adi Da Samraj looks like, or what it feels like to be in His Company? The Divine Quality has been metaphorically described—more lustrous than a thousand moons, more dazzling than lightning in a darkened sky, more intimate than a lover's arms. But nothing can match the Divine Vision Itself—this is the only thing that the Sat-Guru brings. And if the devotee’s heart is too hardened to receive it, then the Sat-Guru is helpless. He has no trickery, no easy do-it-yourself techniques or gimmicks to offer. He can only try to find ways to open the eyes and hearts of devotees so that they can see and feel What is before them.
When the Sat-Guru is truly recognized at heart, then His devotees fall in love. Devotees naturally turn their attention to What is Attractive and their love for their Guru naturally draws them beyond the things of the world. This divinely distracting love is greater than anything else. The rest of the world dims by comparison. Who cares for anything else once one has tasted that sweetness, that immortal and unimagined Grace? Devotees do not love the Sat-Guru on the basis of great effort—they simply respond naturally. Only such Divine Love and Attraction, and no self-based motive, can keep devotees’ attention on the Sat-Guru.
Thus in love, egoic tendencies in the body-mind of the devotee naturally unwind. It may take months or years, or
These days it is common for people to take up the practice of yoga, breathing exercises, or various meditation techniques for good health and inner peace. Often, people presume that because they do these techniques, they are engaged in “spiritual” practice and do not require a Guru. However, true spiritual practice requires much more than mere techniques. For the practitioner engaged in the esoteric Spiritual process, it is the devotional relationship to the Guru that makes real Spiritual growth possible. The esoteric Spiritual process also requires the practice of various disciplines, forms of meditation, and so on—but no regime of disciplines and techniques is sufficient to lead to Realization. The force of the ego takes time and great Counter-Force to transcend, and cannot be undone solely by an occasional vision or experience of the Divine now and then. The ego will inevitably use any and every discipline and technique as a means of reinforcing its own entrenched position—even in the midst of the most sincere efforts to surrender egoity. No matter how well equipped with disciplines and techniques, the ego, on its own cannot Realize the Truth. Only the Guru can Grant Realization, as a Gift of Grace.
countless lifetimes, but it does not matter anymore. The devotee is "in love"—not simply loving, but "in love", a state beyond memory or conception. It is Joy, "Even Beyond Every Reason For It". Avatar Adi Da Samraj is the Giver of Love-Bliss, Who comes only to Love all beings and Who Transforms all beings if they will only receive Him and devote their lives to reception of His Love. As the eye naturally turns to what is lustrous, and the fingers gravitate to what is soft, so the heart of every man and woman is spontaneously drawn to the Supremely attractive Avatar. One surrenders oneself naturally and easily to regard that Beauty, for the Avatar is "Bright" with a Shine that only the Divine Emanates. Once His Love has been received deeply in one's heart, it can never be forgotten. Then, spontaneously, naturally, and more and more perfectly, one is diverted from all suffering, all problems, and the usual mortal life. One becomes absorbed and occupied in Remembrance and Regard of that Divine Lord. His Love-Filled Glance never leaves one's memory. To hear His Joyous Laughter cuts through all despair and bewilderment. To listen to the Leelas of His Divine Play with all beings gladdens the heart.
Just as one thinks often of one's closest family, even more so does one's attention remain with the Supreme Sat-Guru Who is Love Incarnate. In the ecstasy of regarding Him, more and more the Guru possesses one's attention, granting an enjoyment that cannot be matched by any worldly pleasure. More and more one is occupied with thoughts of That One. Tears naturally well up in the eyes. When there is such Grace, what need is there for fame, wealth, or conventional pursuits? It is such Distraction that makes it possible for the devotee to undergo the sacred ordeal of full transformation required in genuine Spiritual practice. It is such Attraction to the God-Man that is the foundation of love, a love which gives the devotee the capability to endure all the trials that are encountered in the course of sadhana.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: “I am not present here merely in order to "rap out" a philosophy or to distribute techniques that you may apply to yourself, depending on your intelligence. I Am Present in the world in order (now, and forever hereafter) to Offer a (most ultimately) Divinely Liberating relationship to all those who are willing to assume such a relationship with Me, to all those who have the capability to be Distracted by Me (in an absolute love-relationship that is more and more Distracting). But, if that love-desire-Distraction is not present in an individual's life, then this sadhana of the heart-relationship to Me cannot begin.”
[Ruchira Avatara Gita]
What about the argument that a Guru is not necessary?
With the modern ideal of the "self-made" man, these days people believe that just as they might achieve economic success independently through hard work and effort, so also Spiritual Realization can be a self-guided enterprise. The modern man or woman regards the Spiritual Process not as a matter of surrender to the Divine Reality, but as the acquisition of techniques, powers, or knowledge, which, when combined with the cleverness of the individual, will yield the desired results. Thus has arisen the opinion that the Spiritual Process can be Realized without the ordeal of real practice or the Graceful Transmission of the Divine from a Guru. It is believed that one can talk about Spiritual matters and perform exercises in the mind or body (yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, visualizations, mantras, etc.), and that these in themselves will lead to Enlightenment. One well-known authority on Spiritual matters, when asked about what type of meditation he practiced, replied, "Reading." Avatar Adi Da Samraj has described those involved in such illusions as being in the "talking" school instead of the “practicing” school.
In the genuine esoteric Spiritual traditions, such approaches are considered fanciful, deluded, and always fruitless. The real Spiritual Process is necessarily full of great Grace, and the human submission required in such a profound process is undeniably difficult for all egos—whether they are full of accomplishment or very simple and ordinary. The Spiritual traditions are full of stories of stubborn aspirants who resist the demand of the Sat-Guru and who attempt unsuccessfully to "guru" themselves. Avatar Adi Da Samraj calls such approaches "self-guruing”.
Today, many individuals set themselves up as great authorities relative to Spiritual matters, writing books or delivering lectures, and claiming that in this day and age the Sat-Guru is no longer necessary, or that the Guru-devotee relationship does not quite work. They may speak intelligently about Spiritual matters or appear to be involved in great ascetical practice. They attempt to establish their authority through great scholarly knowledge about Spiritual matters and may report some degree of Spiritual accomplishment or experience. They may speak about their great insights or describe long hours of various Spiritual practices. But they remain in the grip of the ego, precisely because they are not touching the root of what can only be transcended by the Grace of the Guru—the ego itself.
Many such individuals who struggle or write most earnestly about the non-necessity of the Guru-devotee relationship, or the difficulties inherent in it for the modern era, may themselves have come into contact with the genuine Spiritual Process and a true Guru. However, their own fear of submission to that Process has struck them deeply, for they sense how it interferes with the plans of the ego. Their popularly expressed criticism of the Guru-devotee relationship stems from their own difficulty with the surrender of the ego that genuine Spiritual practice requires. Such surrender is anathema to the ego's need to be praised and glamorized.
Even Ramana Maharshi, when asked about the fact that he never had a Guru, would answer, "How do you know?" He acknowledged that a Sat-Guru was an absolute necessity (virtually without exception). The very fact that he was asked this question so many times shows the extent to which Western influence had taken hold in India, even in Ramana Maharshi's lifetime. In Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, a seeker asks the Maharshi, "Is a Master necessary for realization?" He replies, “Realization is the result of the Master's Grace more than teachings, lectures, meditation, etc. They are only secondary aids, whereas the former is the primary and the essential cause.”