|AHYMSIN newsletter, issue - July 2011|
A Contemplation on the GURU-Gita
by Swami Nityamuktananda
As it is Guru Purnima in July, herein follows a contemplation on “GURU – Gita” (Verses 32 and 67) as cited in the prayers of the Himalayan Yoga Tradition (edited excerpt from the book: GU-RU by Swami Nityamuktananda Saraswati, a journal of unfolding understanding of GURU)
The Guru is Brahma, recognised and described as ultimate reference-point. ‘Brahma’ - the Sanskrit root of the word is 'bra' which means: to swell or to increase. We can say that it was originally used to denote “the power of pervasive expansiveness". In time it became a prayer to activate that power by the priests. Priests directed their 'brahmans' (mantras) to objects and deities and through this practise became themselves known as 'Brahmins'.
Brahma is part of the trinity Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva to be distinguished from Brahman which according to the Atharvaveda (10.8.25) is "the universal thread of which the tapestry of existence is woven".
This is fascinating because it illuminates how the worship of deities evolved. First there is the insight, the direct experience; then it becomes ritualised, personalised and finally objectified - becoming an object to worship outside the worshipper. This is not of just intellectual interest to me, but it shows me a way back: transcending the object and its apparent practises, leads to understanding the ritual and spiritual practices, which then in turn might enable us to get in touch with the original insight.
The Guru here is identified first with the outer forms, recognisable by all as the Gods Brahmā, Vishnu and Śiva. Each form highlights a different aspect of the 'power of pervasive expansiveness' (or indeed describes the three types of energy we know in Sankhya philosophy as sattva, rajas and tamas; all three can be understood as forms of Prakriti/Mahaprakriti). These are in this sutra, and in many popular places describing GOD as creator, maintainer and as the one who dissolves all these concepts. Swami Muktananda writes," The Guru is Maheśvara (Śiva) when he destroys the world of concepts, stirring the disciple’s heart; the Guru is Brahmā when he purifies the disciple’s heart and sows in it the seed of highest truth. He is Vishnu when he sustains and protects this newly created wisdom of Yoga within the disciple." (Everything that exists is Śiva, p.97)
He is all those forms and in abstraction/beyond all form –he is Brahman. It is as though God in his compassion gives a choice. Those who can climb to abstract contemplation see him as nirguna - without form; others worship him as saguna - with a form.
Being a typical child of my time and culture - I have difficulties grasping the personal level of this concept. How can a physical person of any kind (my Guru) and a frequency of energy inconceivably pure occupy/be/exist in the same space, how can a body contain such vast power and energy; is the human existence not too frail and limited? Or could it be that both physical Being and ‘energy inconceivably pure’ be the same?
(When the author was writing this, she was…) “staying at a retreat centre in the foothills of the Himalayas and here witnessed Tibetan rituals involving many, many high Tibetan Lamas. The power unleashed in the rituals is enormous and installs fear in me. The highest Lama is a friend, a Healer, an incredible loving and compassionate man, yet there is fear in me. I feel myself holding on, of needing to focus on my own inner Guru, as protection, hold on to my inner light. Protection from what? I realise that the fear I experience is abstract, is awe of such greatness; there is a glimpse of the enormous 'power of pervasive expansiveness”.
(The author similarly was overwhelmed with the power that is behind each and every aspect of existence; when she…) first met Swami Chidvilasananda in Ganeshpuri. A time was set aside where people could go up to her chair and meet the Guru in person such “darshan” is an old Indian practice.
I stood in the courtyard, behind a tree, hoping She would not see me. For the entire session - I was too afraid to even join the queue! I was so filled with awe, even fear of the power of Her being, I could hardly move. Who is this me, which is so afraid?
The ‘pure I' cannot be afraid - for it would melt into that power, recognising itself for it knows 'I am it'; ‘I am That’. It must be the ‘ego-self’ which is afraid. Personally it feels as though, somehow through the many life-times and accumulated karma, there is fear of being exposed (found out). Found out for what? - Its own estrangement?
Where does this fear of ‘being found out’ come from? How far I have grown separate from who I really am? ... Am I frightened of my own powerlessness, or being "delivered"?
Or (if the Guru is a mirror, and Nelson Mandela is right, when he said in his inaugural speech, that we are afraid not of the darkness but of the light) — am I afraid of my own light, afraid to own my own power of divinity?
Only by recognising greatness, my own inner Self , my essence, the core of my being (which appears as the form I call “I”) can that be overcome, only by recognising my own divinity can I lose that fear. Only by fully realising that I am the 'power of pervasive expansiveness'; that I am 'the universal thread of which the tapestry of existence is woven.'- only by accepting fully that "I am THAT" I realise who I am, and with it I lose the fear of my own light.
Strangely enough, then “I” is actually not me! But “I” is the intelligent energy, the divine power of wisdom, the Guru inside me. Meaning, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva- GURU is inside me! I am that GU-RU
That ultimate Guru, to which even Śiva bows, (as the beginning of the Guru Gita indicates) … is Guru beyond the limitations of our mind, and thus beyond the limitations of our perceived world of movable and immovable objects, HE pervades everything including our mind. We invoke the presence within us, by which all divisions and delusion of our minds that lead to separation, that sees existence in separate parts and identifies with them - becomes whole again.
It's fascinating to realise that it is our mind which “breaks” the world into separate bits, we call it analysis! Via this tool the mind uses, the world appears as of manifold objects, thus it makes our subjective world (which collectively makes ‘our apparent world of diverse objects). Hence it is we ourselves who make the world as small or as big as our minds can think. Looking back through history, it is quiet fascinating that on the material, analytical level - the universe expanded with the expansion of science. Once our mind had perceived another galaxy, we could invent the instruments to see, to measure, to describe the newly discovered.
We have been able to discover more species of plants and animals than ever before- yet we live in a way that extinguishes these faster than ever before. We perceive through our senses ever more parts, but have lost awareness of the underlying whole, and furthermore of the millions and millions of interconnections! We have found some threads, and delightedly cut them into strings, not realize the synergy. The carpet is more than a few bits of thread.
We segregate and illuminate some aspects and with it lose the whole; we look at brush strokes and don’t see the picture. The reason is that we rely on our thinking mind, which governed by sense-input, sees only “bits”. Once we become aware that this is a limited mis-perception, we seek refuge in that power which pervades all, which now and forever reveals itself as holding all threads in a beautiful design (mandala). In the Mandala of existence there is no division it is one complete whole; creating and dissolving simultaneously - as one.
The Christian mystic, Meister Eckhardt said: From all eternity, God lies on a maternity bed giving birth. The essence of God is giving birth, (Med.p.88)
Giving birth, always simultaneously starts the process of decay; there is no division. However, it appears as life and death to our minds which separates; we do not see the whole! Inside is like outside, and outside like inside. To be aware of consciousness within ourselves is to find the Divine, the Guru and the whole universe within ourselves - as one beautiful Mandala: One.
The Guru resides as consciousness in us, in our extended mind, in our heart - HE is the noble and beautiful wisdom, knowledge from where to restore that wholeness. Once we see – once we discover that He is that wholeness there is no division. He is the one that reveals and at the same time is the One that is revealed; He is knower and the known; any further description would be a limitation.
Ultimate consciousness comes forth, awareness, knowledge arises - like a beautiful sound; if we allow that vibration of knowing, that beautiful ‘sound’ to arise ...and don’t interfere with our limited ego-minds – Brahman/Guru/Shiva arises in us.
"We allow"- is that not limiting mind again?
We can use the mind to undo the mind. Use the mind energy to control the mind, to silence the continuous chatter of the mind that attaches its energy to images our senses and our ego chooses. Focused silence might be rewarded with the intuitive awareness of that state which pervades the entire sphere of this universe- pure consciousness, pure universal mind, or to phrase it differently: it might be rewarded with Śiva himself. When Śiva, the Ultimate Guru reveals himself , a state of awareness is reached, that in the scripture is often simply described as That - for mind cannot fathom it.
It says in the sutra: ‘Tat padam’ – referring to Him, the Guru who has been showing me that level, that awareness which is Tat (That!); to Him I bow.
And yet he is no person, he is that vibration, that sound, that vibrating energy that “Spanda”, which pervades the entire universe, permanently creating and dissolving. This is, in the context of the Guru Gītā called Śiva, the ultimate Guru! Yet it equally can be called “that force, that interior sound which is the concentration of the vibration of all the mantras.” (Swami Veda Bharati)
To that Śrī Guru, we bow. We come across this mantra throughout the scripture:
With this line another door is opened, because that Gu-ru, (Gu - darkness, ru, remover) who removes darkness (light removes darkness) does that, via the presence of the force (manifesting energy) called Śrī. Śrī is an honorific female address; here it addresses the energy of Śiva (we also call HER Śakti). He himself is pure potential; however the very energy of sound and vibration is his active principle, his consort. And it stands for benevolence, for beauty and divinity; it is feminine power, it’s the Divine Mother’s beauty and SHE is radiant light!
Remember I said earlier, there are many stories told about the three forms of what we call ‘God’: Brahma, Vishnu, and Śiva; ultimately these three are said to exist in the heart of the Divine Mother; she sings them to sleep, she rocks them in the sky-cradle chanting the mantra Om that pervades as the original sound the universe etc. Śrī refers to Her, the Divine Mother.
Now looking at Oneness triggers yet another insight (don’t forget One has no parts, no angles) about our struggle to express insights (revelations) about a state beyond division, beyond description. In the Lalitashasranam (a scripture with thousand names for the Mother/Goddess) one of HER names is Śiva! SHE and HE are One. Now then, referring to the ONE, is referring to that indefinable womb from where all emerges; it’s before there is form...There SHE and HE are One!
We have to admit, that ultimately we have no words to describe THAT which is Brahma/Shiva/Vishnu or indeed the Great Mother/or Hiranyagarbha (the eternal womb/or golden egg). To that indescribable state, to That namaha (we bow, we surrender).
To surrender our entire existence towards this end I surrender, meaning form dissolves into formless. Śiva and Śakti are One, Śiva becomes aware of Śiva. There is only absolute indescribable potential, Śiva himself.
Hence he is ultimate GURU.