There comes a critical point in everyones journey where the question arises whether or not external guidance is required on this pathless path. In the new age spiritual communities the widespread opinion is that an external teacher is unnecesary, because the “inner guru” is the only required guiding light.

Yet traditional systems stress on the premise that a physical Guru is necessary in order to complete our Self-realization.

Both the perspectives are half true from different standpoints yet incomplete if taken to be absolutes.

The sanskrit term Guru, denotes a field of awareness capable of dispelling limitations obscuring consciousness. It is a cosmic principle of resonance which enables a shift in structured perspective, through attunement and expansion to a limitless, non localized perception which is our natural state.

That which is taken to be the external physical guru is thus the embodiment of this essential eternal principle, tattwa, an inherent quality of all beings.

“The Guru is the grace-bestowing power of God.”
-Shiva Sutra

Essence embodied

The embodied figure of the guru, shaykh, roshi, lama, shaman provide a structured framework to undergo unfolding in this indefinite transformation process.

The spiritual adept’s function is to conduct the seeker from the unreal to the real, from the non-self to the Self, from neurotic self-division to non-duality.

The misconception that often accompanies this dynamic is that Guru will bring about Self Realization and deliver you to freedom. The truth is, they merely remove all the obstacles within the mind, they are pointers to the absolute.

The Self is always realized, you are already the absolute. No one can grant you what you already are.

“The Guru is none other than the Self. As the seeker’s mind is bent outward, the Self takes a human shape as a Guru, to help drive it inward.”
-Ramana Maharishi

The term, guru, has been acutely misrepresented and ubiquitously marketed in recent times, most often taken to be an expert in a field, A wise person, Someone who is charismatic or has lots of followers.

In fact even many of the spiritual teachers are not gurus, maybe trans-personal psychologists more appropriately.

And finally, those who self-appoint themselves as such are definitely not gurus.

“Seek the company of those who seek enlightenment, but run from those who claim to have found it.”

Guru is within you

It is equally true that the guru is within, the Guru tattwa is an intrinsic attribute of all beings although dormant in most. In fact, it is impossible to recognize the external projection in the role of the teacher, unless that inner tattwa is realized to an extent.

It is those who are already developed to a certain degree, that are able to value the outer world reflection.

To those whom this innate truth has not yet been revealed, would simply dismiss and deny its need, since its not a practical but experiential aspect.

Vice versa, an authentic Guru will never want disciples as they would never ever be intimately understood by a follower, instead they would aim to raise the other to their level of self mastery and sovereignty.

Restricting oneself only to the abstract aspect of ‘inner guide’, is often a manipulation by the agendas of egocentricity. The non self, ego structure, subconsciously is afraid of its annihilation, and thus prolongs its illusory existence.

It knows that the external, in flesh guru will spot it and mercilessly reflect it, thus rapidly accelerating its dissolution. Many times it conveniently choses to seek guidance of a deceased Guru knowing that the mirroring wisdom will never be reflected, the ego remains unchallenged, intact in its comfort zone.

The inner guide, thus remains masked.

The aversion to an external input is a result of secular cultural programming which places a high value in the individual, its freedom and expression. We are terrified to surrender our free will, which actually is an illusion, and we lack the true understanding of what freedom essentially is.

There is a legitimate fear of letting go, of the known structure coming to an end, even if we chose to follow inner guidance honestly, being ruthless with the ego and its tactics, we are still scared of the unknown that will unfold.

This fear only gets amplified in relation with a teacher and the ego revolts, until we let go off the false sense of control to attain absolute freedom.

Gifts of guru

There are many spiritual practices that one can perform independently, including maintaining subjective awareness, mantra repetition, meditation, chanting, and living the teachings.

Yet in the presence of a self realized being, the subtle body is injected with a super charged life force energy (prana), this transmitted energy then ignites the inherent prana of the of the receiver, which then works freely, generating the various yogic processes – asanas, mudras, pranayamas, etc.

This is known as Shaktipat (descent of Grace).

There is no conscious effort or sense of doer-ship involved in these spontaneous yogic processes which apprehends the ego from taking ownership of the practice and thus geting inflated.

One watches as a witness, and is guided by the workings of this energy dissolving Karma (the Self-limiting impressions of past actions stored in the mind-body) and converting them into Kriyas (movements).

With this, the binding tendencies that limit one’s consciousness are lifted. This involuntary inner yoga automates the process uniquely for every individual, one enters deep meditation and ultimately, Union with all that IS.

Apart from the acclimation, the higher field of awareness also provides a stabilizing influence post the purification process. The one in the role of external teacher mirrors ones own process through projection and reflection of what needs to be highlighted.

They help identify psychological limitations and reorient the seer intellectually to advance and evolve to a non dual state. This relationship is a significant catalyst that accelerates ones growth, saving one from unavoidable pitfalls and delusions which are integral part of this journey.

‘Whoever enters the Way without a guide will take a hundred years to travel a two-day journey.’

Dark-side of dependence

The relationship becomes a bondage instead of a tool for liberation if the one in role of the teacher is acting from an unconscious space.

The unhealed part of this teacher often gets manifested as an agenda and to fulfill this the role-player often resorts to manipulation and even abuse, whether emotional mental or physical.

The one in power often tends to create a cult like system. They may even have tasted higher states of consciousness and start to play god. A loosely bound intellect may even have bowed down to the tactics of their own egoic delusion.

Rarely is firmly rooted in the self, beyond the phenomenology of the seer, seen and seeing. The authentic teachings are often just regurgitations intermixed with subliminal messaging which preys on fears of the duped followers.

The indispensability of the guru figure is stressed upon and vulnerability is taken advantage of ,people are kept enslaved to the system and its ideology till they willingly become obsequious.

“There are people who, though immersed in ignorance, yet, in the pride of their hearts, fancy they know everything.”
-Swami Vivekananda

This dynamic is a result of rampant spiritual consumerism by the eternal seeker not taking responsibility for their actions, thinking IT all can be bought for a price, or surrendering sovereignty and capability to discern just because it is convenient to not be accountable.

The guru figure is idolized and put up on a godly pedestal instead of striving to become alike.

As much as the charlatan role-player is at fault for misleading the masses, the seeker is too for succumbing to the farse. Yet even this is an opportunity for growth.