In Indonesia the word “guru” is overly used – it is used to call regular teacher, like the school teacher, the swimming lesson teacher, the language teacher, and so on. So its meaning gets diluted. Very much.
The real meaning of guru is much more than just someone who is more knowledgeable than you and can impart some knowledge to you. Guru is the one who “dispels the darkness of ignorance”. A spiritual guru is the one who knows the truth; and he can guide spiritual aspirants towards the truth.
The syllable gu means shadows
The syllable ru, he who disperses them,
Because of the power to disperse darkness
the guru is thus named.
— Advayataraka Upanishad 14—18, verse 5
During my study at the Satyananda Yoga Academy, a very guru-centric institution, the guru-discipleship feeling is very strong, almost palpable. Most of the Swamis there have either Swami Satyananda or Swami Niranjan as their guru. I tried thinking of them as my guru, but I just didn’t feel the connection. I thought there must be something wrong with me. I asked my teachers there – why I don’t feel like they’re my guru? Who is my guru?
They all answered, each in their own words but the meaning is approximately this: “Don’t you worry about guru. There’s a Guru inside you. When you’re ready, there may be an external guru. It may not be from this tradition, and it’s okay. Just keep studying, practicing, purifying.”
And so I graduated from the academy. I tried to think positively that there will be a guru in human form crossed path with me someday. Time passed, and not being connected to a sangha, I felt my sadhana deteriorate – but this deserves its own post later on. And the prospect of meeting a guru gets dimmer and dimmer. I thought okay maybe I won’t meet a guru in this lifetime. Oh well.
And it so happens during my online browsing on the subject of yoga philosophy, I stumbled upon a website by a Swami (I choose not to reveal it here for now). His words ring very true to me. I read his writings voraciously. I listened to his lectures. I found them easy to understand. This Swami is based in India but travels around from time to time. And on his website he posted his schedule. I saw he’ll be in Singapore in October (this happened back in July). I thought “Well Singapore is pretty close, maybe I can fly in to listen to him in person.” Then my rationale mind says “Are you sure? You’re flying somewhere to listen to a stranger? Isn’t that a bit too much?” And the internal debate continued for sometime.
I thought there’s no harm in asking for more information so I filled in the contact form in his website. I asked if I can get more information about his Singapore visit and wrote I’d like to come if I can. A few days later I got a reply from Swamiji connecting me to his student who will be travelling with him and told me that he can schedule a short private audience with him if I needed it.
I was in doubt. Should I go? Should I not go? It seemed abnormal – wanting to meet someone I only knew from website. Plus on the same date I have a lot of things going on at work. I began corresponding with his student about the details e.g when to arrive, etc. But I still wasn’t sure if I’m gonna go or not. I tried to ask some of my closer friends for opinion – but its very difficult to explain, why I’m drawn to this Swami. 2 weeks before the date, I still wasn’t sure. And my rationale mind was winning. “You got a lot of work to do here in Jakarta – you shouldn’t be going about, to meet a stranger some more! It’s too weird!”. I even started typing a draft email to Swamiji’s student saying I won’t make it. Somehow, as I typed the email, a thought came to my mind… I should ask my colleague for her opinion. She is sensitive in nature even sometime a bit clairvoyant-ish so maybe the universe will give me an answer through her.
And so I asked her. I told her about my confusion, why I want to go, and why I thought I have to stay. And she said “Just go. We can manage here.”
With that I made up my mind, purchased the flight ticket, and then I felt strangely contented.
And then came the time for me to go. Arrived friday evening, had a quick dinner meet up with a friend. Gave a call to Swamiji’s student. Originally I was to meet Swamiji the next day in the afternoon, but I asked if perhaps I can meet before lunch? (Because, egoistically, I have a plan already the next day. Looking back I realized how improper I was! I should’ve cleared the whole day and only plan after I got Swami’s schedule). Swamiji’s student told me he’ll ask Swamiji tomorrow morning at breakfast. The next day I got good news – “yes Swamiji says you can come at 11”. And so I went. I waited at the student’s room first before he brought me to Swamiji’s room at exactly 11.
And there he was sitting near the window in his orange robe. He was working on the computer but put it away the moment I stepped in. I approached him, he gestured me to sit on the chair – I chose to sit at the floor. I gave him my offering – flowers I bought near the hotel. He graciously accepted it. He kindly asked “How are you? Do you need to drink?” I said I’m okay. I don’t exactly remember if he asked “How can I help you” or “What brings you here”. I said I don’t have any agenda actually. He digged in “How are things in your live?” Then I told him my situation about guru. And then he said “It is true that there is a Guru with capital G inside all of us.” He continues “I’m going to bless you now. I’m going to touch your head with my hands. You just sit still.” And so I sit in vajrasana there, closed my eyes, and felt his hands on my head & the eyebrow center. Now this part is a bit blurry, I’m not sure if this is before, during or after he blessed me. He said something like this “From now on, your burden, your problems, are mine. You just live freely. There will be no harm coming your way.” I was still trying to digest that statement, when he said “Now I will move my energy field closer to your energy field.” He ask me to sit facing to the sideways, I automatically closed my eyes. I thought his finger is touching my eyebrow center; I can feel something there and then in the center of the head. When the feeling subsided, I opened my eyes. He asked “How do you feel?” I said “I definitely felt something. What was that?” He told me that he didn’t touch me, he only move his fingers close, that was why he asked me to sit sideways so he can be sure he didn’t touch me. He told me he gave me a seed of transformation. I asked “If its a seed, how do I take care of it so it’ll sprout?” He appreciatively said “That is a very good question.” Then he prescribed me a simple 5 minutes meditation that I should do everyday. I asked if it’s okay to practice it along my existing practice? He asked what do you practice? I told him I do some mantra chanting and yoga nidra. He asked what mantra do you chant? I told him mahamrityunjaya, gayatri, and 32 names of Durga. He laughed “You chant a lot!” His laughter was so contagious I went laughing too.
We talked about some other things. About how to let my yoga asana students know that yoga means union with God. About the importance of just being yourself. About the important of balance between following the inner calling & the responsibilities of life. And take baby steps towards self realization. About of all the thousands of people he know, it’s me that is there now – so the universe meant me to be there. I asked “How can I see you again?” He said I can come to the ashram, or join his meditation retreat, or catch him during his travels. And then he gave me an apple.
And time was up, Swamiji’s student came to the room to let us know it’s already 30 minutes and it’s time for me to go. With that I said goodbye to Swamiji. And I went about my day as normal – meeting friends etc. But I keep thinking about the meeting with Swamiji. And it wasn’t until the next day, after I saw him again at the discourse, after googling up and reading many articles about guru, that slowly it dawned on me that Swamiji is my guru. I got a living guru!
When I realized that I met my guru tears of joy came to my eyes. I’m so blessed to receive guru’s grace. The feeling is like falling in love but different – it’s difficult to explain.
I will carefully tend the seed of transformation he planted in me so it will sprout one day.
Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnu Gururdevo Maheswaraha
Gurur Sakshat Param Brahma Tasmaii Shri Gurave Namaha
Post script – 15 Dec 2014
I followed my heart and went to his ashram in November, and everything transformed for the better. I’m now comfortable to put a link to my guru’s website: www.omswami.com. Go on click and have a read, purchase his memoir, and check out his youtube discourses.