“And when you have thus learned the truth, you will know that all living beings are but part of Me - and that they are in Me, and are Mine.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.35)Download this episode (right click and save)
yaj jñātvā na punar moham
evaṁ yāsyasi pāṇḍava
yena bhūtāny aśeṣāṇi
drakṣyasy ātmany atho mayi
Is there any person in this world who has figured out everything for themselves? Just one would suffice. That would be enough to satisfy the doubters. Just a single person meeting the qualification - no help from others.
In fact, it is impossible to find. At the very outset, when first exiting the womb, the individual is helpless. They can barely do anything on their own. Then they have to start learning. The parents, guardians, siblings and extended family of well-wishers teach the newborn new words. They say not to touch this thing, to not go to that place. The individual doesn’t prefer being restricted like this, but it is for their own good.
All this help, and only for living in the material world for upwards of one hundred years. What about the entire creation, then? What about the purpose to an existence? For answers to life’s toughest questions, there is the Divine mercy showered upon mankind through the association of the guru, or spiritual master.
1. They have seen the folly of sense gratification
The difficulty in having siblings who are much younger than you is that you have to watch them make mistakes you yourself made in the past. For example, let’s say they are heading to see a concert that is taking place out of state. They have decided that instead of spending the night in a hotel room after the show is over, they will simply drive back. You think the following to yourself:
“Oh boy, that is a bad idea. I did that when I was their age, and I almost fell asleep at the wheel. You’re young and you don’t know any better. What can I do?”
The guru has seen that sense gratification is not worth the time. Don’t worry so much about eating. Learn to tolerate the different desires that flow in like rivers rushing into an ocean. Have you ever eaten when you were hungry only to be left hungrier afterwards? Sense gratification is something like that, except that the hunger is never satisfied. From both personal experience and accepted wisdom the guru knows that there is more to life than sense gratification.
2. They have seen the futility of putting hopes in the temporary
“O Lord, if you come through for me this one time, I promise to never ask for anything ever again.” This prayer is common, and it comes from being carried away by the moment. Indeed, everything in life is temporary, so sooner or later another situation will arise that requires divine intervention.
The spiritual master has abandoned hope. They don’t sit around waiting for a better day to come in a life full of temporary things. They know there is something more important to be achieved.
3. They have seen the cycle of birth and death
A king named Yudhishthira a long time ago remarked that it was amazing how people see death occurring around them but act as if it will never happen to them. The guru has seen the cycle of birth and death, and they apply that knowledge to all living entities. The focus isn’t only on themselves or their family members. They are consciously aware of impending death for every living thing. A person who has this vision actually sees. They know there is something imperishable within, an energy that animates the otherwise dull and lifeless body.
4. They have seen the truth of the spiritual science
The guru is known as a tattva-darshi. They have seen the truth. Not that it necessarily appeared to them in a dream. They didn’t actually go somewhere where it was on display. They have seen the truth through following the words of their own guru. In the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna recommends exactly this process.
tad viddhi praṇipātena
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)
Approach a spiritual master. Inquire from them submissively. They have seen the truth, that which is Absolute. They know that which is beyond birth and death. Only by the mercy of the spiritual master can others be blessed with this most important vision.
5. They have seen the Supreme Lord, in every corner of the universe.
The guru sees God everywhere. They don’t need a magical display, either. They think that life and death itself is magic. They consider the forgetfulness of the living entity’s eternal constitutional position to be another aspect of the Divine. Only through His maya, or illusory energy, could something like that happen.
God is indeed everywhere. He rests within each heart as the Supersoul. He is the all-pervading witness, antaryami. The guru is like a travelling place of pilgrimage, carrying sacred knowledge with them, ready to be revealed to those who are sincere in their desire to advance. The guru carries the all-attractive one, Krishna, with them for the benefit of others.
Guru as tattva-darshi is known,
Since having Truth’s realization their own.
First from their own teacher coming,
Not out of blue enlightened becoming.
Folly of sense gratification having seen,
Conscious of impending death, cruel and mean.
The Supreme Lord, in every corner of universe seeing,
Only through their grace ignorance freeing.