In the perennial wisdom tradition of India, Guru holds a sacred place unmatched even by God Himself. For the one who forges the path is to be revered more than the destination itself!
If all the gods are wroth, and yet thou are satisfied with me, I am safe in the fortress of thy pleasure.
And if all the gods protect me by the parapets of their blessings, and yet I receive not thy benediction, I am an orphan, left to pine spiritually in the ruins of thy displeasure.
These soulful words emanated from Paramahansa Yogananda for his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri.
Paramahansa Yogananda, who belongs to the pantheon of God-realized souls that Mother India keeps begetting in every era, was born in Gorakhpur on January 5, 1893. Known the world over as the author of the best-selling spiritual classic, “Autobiography of a Yogi”, he is also revered as the “father of Yoga in the West” for his pioneering work in spreading India’s ancient wisdom in the western world.
We are all familiar with the couplet attributed to Sant Kabir wherein he says if his guru and God were standing in front of him, he would first bow down to his spiritual Master for:
It is only by the Guru’s grace, that I have been able to meet my Divine Beloved.
The protective grace of a realized Master is not confined to one lifetime, but continues through incarnations until the disciple reaches emancipation. This deathless love is sublimely expressed by the ever-living Master, Mahavatar Babaji when he meets his disciple Lahri Mahasaya in the Himalayan wilderness. Yoganandji eloquently translates his words in Autobiography of a Yogi:
You slipped away and disappeared into the tumultuous waves of the life beyond death…Though you lost sight of me, never did I lose sight of you…Through gloom, storm, upheaval, and light I followed you like a mother bird guarding her young…
The guru who takes on this tremendous responsibility of training a disciple does not temper it with leniency. A coddled and cosseted disciple will never ever be free of his many psychological kinks acquired as the soul journeysover many incarnations. But such discipline is hard to take. It is a fire rite in which the crude ore of the disciple’s worldly consciousness is mercilessly purified of all dross, until the soul-gold blazes forth with the light of God’s wisdom. As Yoganandaji confesses: As he (my guru) laboured at this titanic transformation, I shook many times under the weight of his disciplinary hammer.
Through the guru’s unselfish motives the grateful disciple gets a glimpse of divine love; unconditional, limitless, eternal, even if at times seemingly harsh. The disciple eventually understands that the guru was metaphorically discovering and uprooting every diseased tooth in his jaw, to make him an unobstructed channel for the Divine. The Guru sees the beautiful angel-soul hidden in the crude block of ego-stone of the disciple, and deems it his duty to chisel the stone until the angel comes forth.
The Guru-disciple relationship is a friendship purified in the fires of unswerving loyalty, faith, and surrender. It is a friendship that remains unfazed by errors on the part of the disciple, for it is then that the guru’s help is most needed. Adi Shankaracharya declares the guru as peerless, nay transcendental, for even a philosophers’ stone could only turn iron into gold, not into another philosopher’s stone. The venerated teacher, on the other hand, creates equality with himself in the disciple who takes refuge at his feet.
The guru holds nothing back in this colossal metamorphosis, until the disciple realizes that it was God Himself who manifested as the Guru to lead him to salvation. Yoganandaji concludes his ode to his Guru with these words:
Guru, thou didst lift me out of the land of bewilderment into the paradise of peace.My slumber of sorrow is ended, and I am awake in joy.
Dissolving forever our finitude, together we shall merge in the Infinite Life.
Immortal Teacher, I bow to thee as the speaking voice of silent God. I bow to thee as the divine door leading to the temple of salvation.
The love and reverence he had for his Guru, transformed Yogananda into a Jagadguru, with countless followers all over the world who feel the presence of a living manifestation of God in him. The weight of his divinity automatically bows their heads before him. Today is the 128th Birth Anniversary of Paramahansa Yogananda.