Rays of the One Light
Weekly commentaries on the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita
by Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters)
Truth is one and eternal. Realize oneness with it in your deathless Self, within. The following commentary is based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda.
Week 30: Do You Need a Guru?
Many people scoff at the idea of having a guru. True to human nature generally, they make a virtue of their scoffing. “I am responsible for what I do,” they announce, “responsible for my mistakes as well as for my victories. What would I ever learn if I handed over my development to someone else? To depend on another for guidance would be an act of spiritual cowardice.”
It would be understandable for someone gifted with some trivial ability, for instance with words, to insist on doing his crossword puzzle himself without letting anyone else help him. But supposing, even in such trivial matters, he had no such gift? What virtue would there be in refusing to learn? For that matter, where would the gift itself come from? That which is a gift is not a native ability. Still, crossword puzzles are hardly an important challenge. What if a person wanted to do something daring: to climb a cliff, for instance, but refused to study the art of mountain climbing? He would climb at the risk of his life.
And how much more is risked than physical life in the great adventure of the divine search, where the risk is to salvation itself! Where is the sacrifice in seeking guidance? Even a mountain guide wouldn't presume to do one's climbing for one; his purpose would be only to help the neophyte to climb safely. To have a wise guru is not a sign of weakness, but of plain common sense.
All the saints, aware as they are of the hazards of the adventure, agree on the importance of having a guide, or guru. And these are the heroes speaking, not cowards or spiritual weaklings.
Jesus emphasized the importance of having a teacher by asking John to baptize him. In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 3, we read of his coming to John. “Thus,” Jesus said to John, “it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.”
In the Bhagavad Gita, the fourth Chapter, Sri Krishna says:
Open thyself to those who have attained wisdom. They will be thy teachers. Ask questions of them [both verbally and mentally]. Serve them faithfully, and with devotion.
How is the devotee to recognize one who has attained wisdom? The Bhagavad Gita gives us this inspiring description of the sage:
By this sign is he known,
Being of equal grace to comrades, friends,
Chance-comers, strangers, lovers, enemies,
Aliens and kinsmen; loving all alike,
Evil or good.
Thus, through holy scripture, God has spoken to mankind.