As I was going through the comments to the ‘Power to Enlighten’ post I noticed a tendency amongst a minority of contributors to minimise the role and importance of the Guru, particularly his transmitting power. Today, as a rejoinder, I am posting a section from Guru Vachaka Kovai on ‘The Greatness of the Guru’. The extract is from the new edition of the book that has been prepared by T. V. Venkatasubramanian, Robert Butler and myself. The book should be available early next month.
First, a word about the formatting:
The original chapter headings (in this case ‘57 The Greatness of the Guru’ ) are centered in bold type.
Verse numbers are centered in bold type.
Muruganar’s comments on the verses are flush with the margins and printed in roman.
Comments by the editors are in italics and are flush with both margins.
Additional quotations added by the editors to illustrate points made in the verses are indented and in italics. The indented quote in verse 326 is in roman because it is part of Muruganar’s own explanation. Verse 326, in which Bhagavan states that the jnani’s Self-abidance is the weapon that destroys the chit-jada knot, is highly relevant to the ‘Power to enlighten’ discussion that has been going on. This idea is similar to a comment Papaji made, which I included in the ‘Power to Enlighten’ post:
If you want freedom, find a man like this [Bhagavan] who has absolutely no desire, someone who sits unmoving like a mountain. Sit in his presence and see what happens.You want to know who or what is doing the work when someone gets enlightened in the Guru’s presence. Nobody is doing the work. Enlightenment happens in these circumstances merely because the Guru is abiding in a state of absolute desirelessness.
At the end of the section I have added chapter 59, ‘The Greatness of Devotees’ since it complements the material in the ‘Greatness of the Guru’ verses.
57 The Greatness of the Guru
You may have acquired all the virtues and renounced all the vices; you may have renounced totally all your relationships and have no attachment; you may have completely performed all the many penances enjoined upon the virtuous by the scriptures; but however great you may be by virtue of your intellect and accomplishments, will you attain the experience, the state of kaivalyam [oneness] that is wholly bliss, until you obtain, as a result of meritorious karma, the good fortune of seeing the jnana-Guru?
Unless we first obtain the divine grace of a Guru, a jivanmukta in whose perspective the triputi-differences have ended and who shines as the undivided and single essence, it will be impossible to obtain the life of liberation and live illustriously under the shade of God’s twin feet, [a life] that is all bliss and the highest of all benefits.
Question: Is a Master necessary for realisation?
Bhagavan: The realisation 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. (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 13)
Muruganar: As it is difficult for ordinary jivas to get redeemed by directly knowing the limitation-free swarupa of the Supreme that shines unceasingly as ‘I-I’ in everyone’s Heart as their own Self, they should first worship the Guru’s form, destroy their delusion and attain redemption. This is the implication. Though the Guru appears to be like a human being in the perspective of ordinary people, through his experience he is indeed the supreme swarupa. Therefore, to imagine differences between him and swarupa is ignorance.
Question: Is it possible to gain knowledge without the blessings of a Guru? Even Rama, who was like a dullard in his early life became a realised soul only with the help of his Guru.
Bhagavan: Yes, how can there be any doubts? The grace of the Guru is absolutely necessary. That is why Thayumanavar praised his Guru in his hymns, and another said, ‘O Gurudeva, your look falling upon it, a tiger becomes gentle like a goat, a snake like a squirrel, and a bad man becomes a good man. And what else may not happen? With your gracious look everything becomes good. How can I describe your greatness?’ The Guru’s grace is extraordinary. (Letters from and Recollections of Sri Ramanasramam, p. 26)
Question: What is Guru-kripa? [Guru’s grace] How does it lead to Self-realisation?
Bhagavan: Guru is the Self.... Sometimes in his life a man becomes dissatisfied with it, and, not content with what he has, he seeks the satisfaction of his desires, through prayer to God, etc. His mind is gradually purified until he longs to know God, more to obtain his grace than to satisfy his worldly desires. Then, God’s grace begins to manifest. God takes the form of a Guru and appears to the devotee, teaches him the truth and, moreover, purifies his mind by association. The devotee’s mind gains strength and is then able to turn inward. By meditation it is further purified and it remains still without the least ripple. That calm expanse is the Self.
The Guru is both ‘external’ and ‘internal’. From the ‘exterior’ he gives a push to the mind to turn inward; from the ‘interior’ he pulls the mind towards the Self and helps in the quieting of the mind. That is guru-kripa. There is no difference between God, Guru and the Self. (Maharshi’s Gospel, p. 33)
As the inner and the outer, as ‘I’ and ‘this’, as this world and the next, pervading all as the boundless radiance of consciousness, the Guru is the unmoving support, the jewel-like lamp that shines effortlessly and continuously in the Hearts of true devotees.
‘The jewel-like lamp that shines effortlessly and continuously’ is a translation of a term that denotes a lamp that is self-kindling and which maintains its light without any outside assistance.
Those who, through rare, intense and surging devotion, exist by trusting solely in the Guru’s piercing glance of grace will live in this world like Indra [the king of the gods]. There will be no suffering for them.
Generally, ‘live in this world like Indra’ would imply ‘enjoying the maximum amount of pleasure’, but Muruganar has appended a brief note to this verse that says, ‘They will live like Indra, rejoicing in the spiritual life’.
The manner in which the Guru sits majestically in state on the Heart-throne of his devotees whom he has taken up, destroying their egos, is lofty like a mountain, splendid and glorious. Those who have experienced this do not talk about it. Those who talk about it have not experienced it. The abundant utterances of devotees [jnanis], which are sacred like the Vedas, bear witness to this.
The excellent sahaja nishtai – the natural abidance as Atma-swarupa – of the jnana-Guru who is freed of the ego impurity [anava mala] is the weapon that has the power to rapidly home in on, uproot and throw away the chit-jada knot of disciples who have, with rapturous delight, taken refuge in his feet.
Saiva Siddhanta teaches that there are three impurities, known as malas, that prevent one from experiencing Sivam: anava, which is the ego, karma and maya.
Muruganar: As the other two malas, karma and maya, exist by depending on the anava mala, the implication is that the Guru is freed from all the three impurities.
In Ulladu Narpadu, verse twenty-four, we learn about the characteristics and synonyms of the ego:
Bhagavan: The physical body does not say ‘I’. Being-consciousness does not arise [or disappear]. But in between the two something arises, the ‘I’, which is limited to the body. Understand that this is known as the ‘knot between consciousness and the insentient’ [chit-jada-granthi], as bondage, as the individual soul, as the subtle body, as the ego, as this worldly condition of existence, and as the mind.
This [Guru Vachaka Kovai] verse explains the power of natural Self-abidance. Because outwardly the Guru appears to be doing nothing, let no one think that he is not bestowing his grace. The very nature of his Self-abidance is grace. This truth will become clear to those who sit in his presence with a still mind, attained through inward attention.
Question: While sitting near you, what sort of mental state should we have so as to receive the transmission from your Self?
Bhagavan: Keep your mind still. That is enough. You will get spiritual help sitting in this hall if you keep yourself still. The aim of all practices is to give up all practices. When the mind becomes still, the power of the Self will be experienced. The waves of the Self are pervading everywhere. If the mind is in peace, one begins to experience them. (The Power of the Presence, part one, p. 230)
Know that the Heart-directed conduct in which one steadfastly holds onto jnana in the way one has been taught, and abides there firmly as being-consciousness, without letting the mind stray towards the ignoble sense objects, is alone the true teaching [of the Guru].
This verse may also give the meaning that when the Guru abides in the state of jnana, without being distracted, this itself is the teaching.
59 The Greatness of Devotees
Beyond the reach of both mind and speech is the glory of those who have the good fortune, earned through past tapas, of becoming the target of the grace-bestowing glance of the Guru, he who has ripened into the para-swarupa [the supreme or ultimate swarupa] through the excellence of the matchless experience of Self-knowledge.
Muruganar: The sole and excellent benefit of tapas is to become the target of the Guru’s glance of grace. As, from that very moment, they have entered the path of redemption, and as their ego-consciousness also gets destroyed, it is said that their greatness is beyond mind and speech.
Lord Siva, who loves to move intimately with his clear-minded devotees, conceals his real form, assumes another form [as a human being], enters the holy throng of those who have firm devotion, sports with them and rejoices in their great love.
Muruganar: This verse indicates that he who has assumed the form of the Sadguru is Lord Siva himself.
It is impossible to determine the greatness of devotees. Devotees are greater than even Siva and Vishnu since they [these gods] employ themselves as the servants of devotees. The greatness of devotees is that which the Vedas extol.
Bhagavan mentioned the following verses to Devaraja Mudaliar. The first is from Brahma Gita, and the second from Kurunthirattu.
To stay where a jnani, who is none else but the Supreme Self, stays, is mukti. He who serves a jnani is so great that I permanently bear on my head his feet. None can equal the spotless and supreme jnani, neither Siva, Vishnu nor I, Brahma. Who else then can equal him?
Vishnu will carry on his head all that a real jnani wants. Siva will follow him everywhere. While virtuous kings and all the devas do obeisance to the dust of such [a] jnani's feet, Brahma will beg that those feet may be placed on his head. (My Recollections of Bhagavan Sri Ramana, p. 32)