Acharya Prashant: The text says that the Guru is the one who gives freedom from coming and going. ‘Gu’ indicates the whole process, the whole cycle, the whole game of coming and going and ‘ru’ indicates the cessation of that game.
Let us talk about this coming and going. What is it? What is meant by coming and going?
L1: Here (in the text) it is written life and death, but what does it mean?
AP: So, you say coming and going means life and death. Can you put it in more daily terms?
AP: Hmm (Yes).
Coming and going in a more immediate way, in a more practical way, relates to all that which rises and falls, all that which moves, all that which changes. All change indicates coming and going. All change indicates movement; something that takes a peak and then dips, right? Before we say that Guru is the one who gives freedom from this rise and fall, you must understand why any freedom from this is required at all? Why freedom from this is required?
L1: Because that may not be Truth.
AP: So what? Why must you seek that freedom? How does it matter to you?
L1: It may cause great suffering to me; consciously or unconsciously.
AP: This cycle of duality, all this rise and fall, appearance and disappearance – all this is what is, human suffering. The arrival of something is because of desire; desire which is another name for a sense of incompletion and the disappearance of something is marked by grief, associated with attachment to that thing. Something comes only on the vehicle of grief and when it leaves, it leaves more grief behind.
When something arrives, we call it a happy event; especially what is arising is pleasure. The moment you call something as happiness, you become interested in prolonging that happiness, in securing it. Which means that happiness is marked by a fear of its disappearance. Do you see how we consume happiness? When happiness, when pleasure comes, we want to make the most of it, quickly. That only tells that we are afraid that it may not last long, it may vanish.
So, in happiness, is contained insecurity; in happiness, is contained repetition. And in sadness there is an obvious grief. So, whether it is the arrival or the departure, the rise or the fall, the appearance or the disappearance, man is condemned to live in suffering. It is only when somebody realizes ‘this’, that he becomes eligible to receive instructions from the Guru — otherwise he remains mired in the dualistic game — seeks redemption within the game, seeks refuge within the cycle, sees no reality outside of his self created world.
Only when somebody comes to, or is brought to a point where he sees that the world that he has raised for himself is a false world, then there is a possibility of redemption. Remember the whole process of redemption starts with ‘Gu’. Guru begins with ‘Gu’. So
The whole thing about liberation is that it begins in an acknowledgement of one’s suffering. Unless one is sensitive to what is happening in one’s life, one is not going to be available to be liberated from what is happening in one’s life; one will remain stuck in it.
Now, if Guru indicates the one who gives freedom from coming and going, we must figure out how this coming and going remain hidden and are never acknowledged as suffering by most of us in most situations because the acknowledgment is more than half the work done. The moment you acknowledge that you are stuck, the moment you acknowledge that the castle you have build around yourself is a sand castle and it can collapse right upon your head any moment then you are already not so much in danger. Now something will happen, now something will be done ‘by’ you or something will be done ‘through’ you that will give you some immunity from the castle. Do you get this?
Look at this. Do you see how all that waxes and wanes is just suffering? Do you see how liberation cannot therefore be a new happening because all that which appears like a new happening is just a part of the phenomenal game of arrival and departure?
All that arrives is bound to depart. If liberation arrives in your life then liberation too is bound to depart.
But we search for liberation as something new. We search for it as something that will happen to us. We search for it as a beginning. It is not a beginning.
Liberation will not begin for you. You are the one who ‘begin’ and ‘end’ in liberation. Whether you begin or whether you end, you are always in liberation.
When we say, “I want liberation,” that is similar to saying “I want a biscuit.” A thing, a form, a shape, something that can be consumed, something that is pleasure-some. All things rise and fall, all forms rise and fall, all shapes become and unbecome; no pleasure endures. Liberation cannot be a biscuit; liberation cannot not even be a brand new type of biscuit. Liberation is not something that you can arrive to. Hence, a Guru cannot be a happening. Hence a Guru, rather ‛The Guru’ cannot be something or someone you come to.
What then is the Guru?
Guru is the realisation that, all that which is denoted by ‘Gu’ need not take control or possession of me, that, ‘ru’ is possible to co-exist along with ‘Gu’; ‘ru’ means standing still, ‘Gu’ means all the movements that you see. Guru means a great paradox where ‘Gu’ and ‘ru’ co-exist, where the periphery and the center dance with each other, where the sky and stars are one with each other. The sky has no form, no shape, doesn’t come, doesn’t go. The stars were born, the stars will go, and yet they are so one with each other – that is Guru.
And hence, the Guru is the only reality; not a shape, not a form, not a person, not a concept. The Guru is all that there is. And when you see this, remember you do not come to the Guru, you just see ‘this’. Is this seeing something new? No, it is not something new because this seeing is all about unseeing that you have been considering tremendously important till now.
What does it mean to ‘see’ in normal terms? In normal terms, to ‘see’ means to give something importance, to carry it as an image in one’s mind. Seeing the Guru is impossible because the Guru is not an object.
How will you ‘see’ the Guru?
The Guru is the one that powers the seeing, the Guru is the seer and the Guru is the seen.
You limit the Guru to the seen, and you are trying a piece of the sky; you will fail. Hence, one must forget all these notions of searching the Guru, coming to the Guru, learning from the Guru, and all such stuff. The Guru is the Truth and that is why the scriptures repeatedly say that the “Guru is Brahm itself,” the absolute reality.
The Guru is not the object in your universe, the Guru is the foundation of the universe.
The root and the tree both, together. The totality of the Tree; the root, the shoot, the fruit, everything; ‘Gu’ and ‘ru’ together.
Remember you do not even need to say that it is a movement from ‘Gu’ to ‘ru’ because all the movement is only in ‘Gu’. It is just a harmonious co-existence. It is like Shiv and Shakti, together and obviously when they are together, we know that the ‘ru’ is the foundation of the ‘Gu’. We know that Shiv is the source of Shakti, yet Shakti separates from Shiv, at least apparently. What is their relationship? Are they one? Yes. Are they separate? Yes. Is ‘Gu’ one with ‘ru’? Of course. If you want to be emphatically rigorous, then you will say don’t even say Guru, just say ‘ru.’ But there is not much fun in that just as there is not much fun in looking at Shiv without Shakti.
The game proceeds when both are together. Otherwise, there is no game. Now that does not mean that without the game, the Truth is reduced. No. without the game, the Truth still stands; with the game, without the game, the Truth is the Truth – total, absolute. It is for us that we must say ‘Guru.’ For the Truth, whatever you say doesn’t matter. You just say ‘ru’, you are perfectly fine. You don’t say anything, even then it is okay.
But for you, it is very important that you say, ‘Guru’ because we are beings of movement. We are beings identified with body and mind and both come and go, rise and fall, take birth and die. And hence, we must talk of ‘Guru’ so that we know that within this universe of movement, within this universe which is called as ‘mrityu lok’ there is also something that neither comes, nor goes, is absolutely immortal.
Guru hence is freedom from the great fear of death. With ‘Gu’ there is only death. With ‘ru’ there is neither birth, nor death. In ‘Guru’ there is immortality in the middle of death.
Do you get this? Will it happen that if you open yourselves to the Guru, surrender to the Guru, you will never die? No, that wouldn’t happen. Of course, you, as you are, you as you think yourself to be, you would die. But there would be immortality in the middle of all death. And there would be no appearance, no birth, no coming, no becoming in the middle of all births.
It would appear that you are born; it would appear that something has started, yet nothing would have started. It would appear that something has gone, yet nothing would have gone.
Guru hence is the game greater than the game which is being played only in the ‘Gu.’ In ‘Gu’, the game that is being played is such a boring and a repetitive game. You know its nuts and bolts, you know that if it is beginning, it will end. You know that all of it is subject to the vagaries of time. You can predict that if it exists, it will dissolve into non-existence, sooner than later. It is so stale. It is a game but a very conditioned game; a very mechanical game. But when to this conditioned game, comes the blessing of ‘Ru’ and that which was suffering as ‘Gu’ becomes Guru, then this game becomes a divine game.
Now it is not predictable; now it is mystical. Now it has a quality that the mind cannot comprehend. Now something of the beyond is happening. You are conditioned and yet are not conditioned, you are talking birth and you are yet not taking birth, you are attached and yet not attached, you are in the world and yet not in the world. Now this game is real fun. Now it’s worth playing it. Would you want to play with someone if the game is fixed? What fun is there in the fixed game?
‘Gu’ indicates a match that is fixed, predetermined, pre-scripted. You already know what is going to happen next. Baby is born; baby will die; so predictable. Man needs women, physical attraction. Give me something else! So it is no game at all. It’s a sad and stale story. Drape! Insipid! When ‘Gu’ surrenders to the ‘ru’, comes close to ‘ru’, falls on the feet of ‘ru’, embraces ‘ru’ then the game really is on. Now you don’t know what is going to happen next. Now nothing is predictable. Now no algorithm works because the game is beyond logic. The game is now full of contradictions. The game is so paradoxical now.
The fellow seems to be moving and is yet immobile. The fellow seems to be deeply involved in action and yet is not the actor. The fellow is crying and streams of tears are rolling down his cheeks and yet who can say that he is suffering? He is laughing and yet who can say he is excited? And he is in physical union, yet who can say he is aroused? Now the game is really on!
Guru is the name of the great game. A game in which there is neither victory, nor loss, just fun. When fun is divine, you call it as Joy.
Do you see this?
To know the Guru, is to know the Truth. To know the Guru, is no different than knowing the Atman, the Brahm absolutely.
And hence, never conflate the Guru with an image, a concept, a thought, a person, anything that you can think of.
Do you ever say, the Brahm is a person? Do you ever say that the Truth is an idea? Then why do you say such things about the Guru?
The great game is in the Truth and is of the Truth. It is owned and operated by the Truth. The Truth plays on both sides. The Truth is the goal and the Truth is the goal keeper; and the Truth is the referee; and the Truth is all the players. And hence in this game, the Truth keeps showing up in all ways possible.
The great game is ‘of the Truth’, ‘in the Truth’ and is nothing but the Truth. And hence in this great game, the Truth keeps showing up in all possible ways; nothing else but the Truth shows up.
The Truth shows up in all possible ways but depending on your conditioning, sometimes you see the Truth only in the form of a particular person or an idea or a book. To you, that person or the idea can become a symbol of the Guru, a representation, a manifestation of the Guru; a representative of the Truth.
Do you get this?
That doesn’t mean that, ‘that’ particular person is the Guru. No! The Guru is everywhere and nowhere. The Guru is all that there is. But because you are limited and conditioned, because you are body-identified, hence to you the Truth appears in front of you as a person. Had you not been body-identified; you would have seen the Truth in various other shapes and forms and in no shape and form.
Because you think you are a body, hence to you, the Guru will come as a body. Do you see? Because you believe that you are identity is an idea and all ideas are languages and words and hence to you, the Guru will talk in language and words. If you were not so serious about words, the Guru would find no need to use language. If you would not be taking yourself as a body, the Guru would never be a person for you. But as long as you are, what you are, the Guru would show up exactly as what you are, in your own mind, in your own perception, in your own self definition, self concept; that is only specific to you, that is only relevant to you.
Do not, I repeat, limit the Guru to anything that you can think of or talk of. Utter the word ‘Guru’ with the same reverence that you associate with Brahm.
L4: Everything and even nothing.
AP: Everything and nothing. As ‘Gu’-everything, as ‘ru’-nothing; alternately, as ‘Gu’-nothing and as ‘ru’-everything.
This coming together, this co-existence, this strange happening which is essentially a non-happening, in which everything is arising from nothing and in which ‘that’ which is everything is giving rise to a huge universe of nothingness. You can put it either way –
If you take Truth as fullness, then you could say, “The full Truth give rise to an empty universe.” Wow! Wonderful! If you take the Truth as nothingness, then you say, “That’ which is nothing give rise to that which appears as everything. This strange co-existence, this beautiful love affair, this co-habitation of Shiva and Shakti together, is the Guru.
Yes! Let’s proceed through your questions.
L5: Sir, we can connect this to breath also. The coming and going of breath, and..
AP: Why not!
L6: Sir, this one is not specifically related to the Guru, but to all the existential words that we have, ‘Guru’, ‘Love’, ‘Silence’. So it can be actually said that the substratum of all these words is Silence.
L6: This is understood but at the same time, there is difference. One cannot deny that. So, this is more of an intellectual question? I want to understand intellectually that how do they differ actually? How is ‘Love’ different from ‘Silence’, or ‘Silence’ different from ‘Guru, or ‘Guru’ different from ‘Prayer’, or ‘Prayer’ different from ‘Joy’?
AP: They are different because your moods are different. They are different because you keep walking in differences. You know there might be empty space and there is a drunkard. The space is absolutely empty and the drunkard keeps seeing different images in the sky and he keeps giving them different names. That does not mean that there exist different things; it is just that we live in a world of differences. We are limited beings and where there is limitation, there is difference. Where there are boundaries, there are differences.
Love, for example, when you are somebody who is being pulled towards nobody-ness, that pull is called as love. When you are noise, that is tired of itself and is being attracted to Silence, that attraction is Love. Only Silence is, but is there Silence for ‘you’? For you, there is a lot of noise; noise that bothers, noise that seeks Silence and in seeking Silence, creates more noise. Nevertheless, it seeks, nevertheless it seeks because the silence beacons. This beaconing is Love. And Silence and Truth are one. And the co-existence of the True and the false is the Guru.
The realization that the false has no recourse but to submit to the Truth, is the Guru. The realization that even the false is Truth, is the Guru.
Had the false not been true, how would it have stood next to the Truth? The Truth exists in the dimension of the Truth. There is nothing, but Truth exist. How are you placing ‘Gu’ next to ‘ru’? Obviously, they have to be in the same dimension.
Guru is the realization that even the maya is Brahm.
Guru is the one who unshackles the knots of maya, not by killing maya but by revealing to you that the substratum of even the maya is Brahm; and that only Brahm can do. This realization can be brought to maya only by Brahm because only the Brahm is originator of maya. So Guru is Brahm and Guru is Brahm and maya together; and that is no difference because the maya is nothing but Brahm itself.
It depends on your mood. It depends on the condition you are in. It depends on what you take yourself to be. Call the Guru as Brham, and you are right. Call the Guru as maya and Brham; you are still right. Call the Guru as the realization that maya is not to be feared, or despised, but realized, and that is the Guru. It depends on where you stand.
L7: Regarding Truth, false and images the specific question that just now occurred- We use the image of Lord Shiva in many Satsangs. So it seems that reality doesn’t have an image. So, why is one image a true image? Is it a mythology? Why is one image more suitable than other image?
AP: It is only as true as the person asking the question and the person replying. When we say, “Is it true?,” the question is completed by asking, “Is it true for me?” When you say, “Is it true?” then I would ask, “For whom?” This image does not exist like this for the pillar or for this space. This image exists in this way; this has meaning and significance only to a human being and because you and me are human beings in a particular form, here is the Guru in a form appropriate for human beings. Do you remember we said that the Guru is all that there is. But because you are limited, so he appears in front of you in a form that you can relate to.
L7: So it requires a cultural context and is probably not universal.
AP: Yes! not universal.
L7: May be because of the cultural context he would not be able to relate……
AP: He wouldn’t be able to relate to it. That’s true.
In fact, that is the reason why that when we say ‘Shiva’, we equally say, immediately say that Shiva means nothing. It is just an emptiness. Yesterday, our friend was singing the Nirvana Shatakam and it says, ‘I am not this, I am not this, I am not this, I am not this, I am not this, and then it says I am Shiva. So, Shiva-hood essentially means that I am….
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: What is the meaning of Guru?
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