Guru-mukh, Guru-mantra and the Guru

26 Aug. Malke. Last Sunday of every month is awaited eagerly by all the aspirant who want to tread the path of Mahayog. This is the day when Swami Buddh Puri Ji Maharaj comes out of his cottage after a month to attend the monthly satsang at Malke ashram where he meets the devotees and answers their spiritual queries. If there are no questions, he will just listen to their bhajans (devotional songs) and prayers and then retire as he believes in feeding only those who are hungry. The last Sunday of August was exceptionally important as on this day he shared the spiritual secrets which were never discussed in such a great detail ever before. Here is our humble effort to transcribe his speech for all our spiritual friends:

Today, all the inquiries are related with sadhana (practical aspect of spirituality) to a great extent. Let us take the first query from Bhagat Ji who is saying that so far he couldn’t become a gurumukh (a true devout) and seeks solution for it. He is further adding that he still considers himself as the physical body only. So, let’s give some thought to it. Actually, there are more aspects to our being than the physical body. Body is one aspect and second aspect is that we live inside this body. Third and most important thing is to have the knowledge, “Who am I?”.

Essentially, we are a part of God or the Supreme Being, inseparable from him. All the spiritual systems incontestably depend on the physical body to make a beginning. As long, we don’t take support of this body made of flesh and bones, the consciousness wouldn’t rise above the body. Not only the body but also our consciousness would not be free from the external world that has its basis in this physical body. For being a true devout, we must be ensure that the physical body, we depend upon, should not bind us. We must make a distinction between the two things, living in the body and binding with it. Furthermore, we must also understand how to overcome this binding.

To get rid of this body-bound and to reveal our actual divine nature, we need not discard the body rather we must make use of its utility. The reason is simple that this body is created out of God’s wish. Therefore, we must not loathe this body or rebuke it. If we were to obtain milk from a cow, won’t we properly feed the cow and save her from heat, cold and other discomfort. Only after taking good care of the cow, we can obtain milk from it. Our body serves a similar purpose; we are to obtain the amrita (alchemical nectar) of God’s name through it. Therefore, it is obligatory to take proper care of this body. Any aspirant who takes good care of his/her body for the sake of spirituality, need not be ensnared by his/her body. If that aspirant cares for heat and cold that may affect his/her body or becomes aware of any disorder in the body, it should not be seen as an attachment or binding. Apparently, there is a difference.

Whom should we call attached to the body and trapped in it? A person who doesn’t take Lord’s name, doesn’t practice spirituality and doesn’t help others; A person who keeps body on the highest priority and focuses only on feeding and nourishing it, ignoring all the other duties and responsibilities. A person who disregards God, the ultimate goal of life and common welfare, the way to overcome selfishness, and takes no notice of the divine play all around is indeed an ignorant and a slave of his/her filthy mind and body, better known as manmukh. A person who wants to keep his/her body in proper shape at any cost and doesn’t care for others; A person who keeps away from serving others just for the sake of physical comfort is trapped in the body. A person who may even cause inconvenience to others for his/her personal comfort is attached to the body. A person who is dishonest, greedy, swindler and may even cheat others of their money or possessions just to obtain himself superior food, clothes, goods and physical comfort is a slave to the physical. Such a person cannot go within.

On the contrary, a person who feeds his/her body properly and takes care of other physical requirements while serving others with the body and performing spiritual practices is definitely not attached to the physical body. For instance, if we were sitting inside our small hut to avoid the storm outside then how could someone say that we were trapped inside the hut? The hut serves as a safeguard against the severe weather conditions. Similarly, the body saves us from the severity of the surroundings. If we will not look after this body and make it weak or ill due to negligence then how would we draw on its capability? And how would we ever go inside the body? Sadhana (spiritual progress) means going inside the body deep and deeper through all the senses and subsequently strengthen the connection with the divine energy within. However, if the body wasn’t well then it would obstruct the inner journey. It is particularly necessary to recognize the importance of this fact that with the help of body, we have to go first inside the body and then from within we will go beyond it to unite with the ultimate source of happiness and strength, God. Therefore, we should not disregard the physical body. Don’t think that we are entrapped as we are not. Those gurumukh (true devout) who are noble and committed to attain the purpose of life are always free in body, mind and soul. Even those who have slightest but honest inclination to tread the spiritual path may become gurumukh in due course of time.

A devotee who accepts God as his only master and believes that same God resides in his heart as well as in others’, and therefore serves everyone lovingly, is a gurumukh. It is true that God, the ultimate guru is inside us but we must also keep in mind – just closing eyes may not make anyone a gurumukh unless one is able to behave respectfully with everyone in every situation seeing God in them with eyes open. The body does not ensnare such a devotee and thus they must not worry. Instead, the body ensnares those who take pleasure in getting drunk, lose control of their body and mind, and create nuisance in family or otherwise; those who rob others of their money, deceive them, assault them or harm their repute; those who annoy, dismay, fright or insult others with their speech just to gratify their ego.

Therefore, those who selflessly serve others and always contemplate upon God to go deep and deeper inside are never trapped in body-snare. However, with regular practice as one advance on spiritual path, a time comes when consciousness enters so deep within that the devotee becomes detach from his body while still living in it. That is the state of meeting with God within. So, now the question arises, what sadhana is required for this meeting and what is required from us to successfully carry out that sadhna? The next jigyasa (inquiry) that asks whom or what should we meditate upon while chanting the guru-mantra, is somewhat analogous to this question.

Before we look into its answer, we should be aware that Punjab is the land of Gurus. Besides, lineage of ancient sages is also prevalent here making this land highly spiritual. Accordingly, guru-mantra or naam has always been an essential tool for any aspirant to connect with the guru inside. In fact, not just Punjab but all around India and in world, we find this mantra tradition in every religion – Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrian and every other faith. Apart from chants, practice of naam sometimes exists in form of devotional songs or prayers also. Lord’s name (naam) is indeed the essential platform for spiritual evolution. Although, in certain tradition, observing breath also forms the basis but this observance is not possible without the mind, which is actually a lower form of naam itself. Moreover, it’s well documented in scriptures that breathing has its own mantra, which is generally known as ham-sa or so-ham. However, these all are very abstract and our mind is usually more comfortable with form and figures. That’s why most of the aspirant have this question – “Whom shall we meditate upon while practicing naam?”

In most of the traditions, like ours, mantra is combined with breath as that fosters its penetration deep within. However, it is forbidden in all the traditions to tell your guru-mantra to anyone because that will turn the focus outwards and its penetrating power will vanish. Like a seed once buried under the ground, we must nourish it from outside and never expose it to atmosphere again, if we wanted it to grow into a plant. Therefore, we will take some common mantra here to discuss our case but you should relate that to your guru-mantra.

We may take ‘Om Namah Shivaaya’, ‘Om Namo Bhagawate Vasudevaaya’, ‘Waahe Guru Satnaam’, ‘Allah Hoo’ or any other mantra. It is ideal to chant the mantra combined with breathing-in and breathing-out by dividing it in two parts. Anyhow, the question is where or in whom shall we focus our mind for mediation. The whole idea of guru-naam is that the ultimate guru, Almighty God is sitting inside and naam is the means to communicate with him. Let’s take a worldly scenario to understand it more clearly where you want to communicate with a person. Suppose, you go to an officer, a teacher, or any other person for some work and tell them that you have come for such-and-such work. While talking to that person, where is the focus of our mind or what is it meditating upon? Obviously, a sane person cannot speak without thinking of something or someone. While speaking, we have a clear picture in our mind of the subject in addition to the object. This clarity is meditation. We always know what we are talking about that means we meditate upon the subject matter of our talk. For example, when We tell you the menu of langar (ceremonial dinner) today, which is kheer-maalpura, where is your focus and what you meditate. Obviously, you would meditate upon its look and its flavor if you have seen and tasted it in past. When we know the meaning of the words (mantra) in our heart or when the word and its meaning are integrated, it becomes meditation.

By naming the words kheer-maalpura, their image is created in your mind, as you are already familiar with it. However, when we chant ‘Om Namah Shivaya’, which means we surrender to the almighty Shiva, or ‘Satnaam’ which points to the eternal source of everything, it is just our tongue which is moving but our mind doesn’t perceive the Shiva or the Satnaam. Our mind doesn’t create any image as we don’t have any clear idea or any experience of them. Due to this lack of knowledge, when we chant some mantra or guru-naam, our mind goes astray most of the time. Even though we are chanting Lord’s name with our tongue but our mind is wandering in world. Even if we don’t think about it deliberately, still worldly thoughts and images float up in our mind. Tongue may be chanting mantra but mind runs from pillar to post in the world; sometimes it may observe the pain or strain in body joints, or it may recall some conversation, or it may recollect images of shop, houses, family and friends, or it may even get away to some remote place unexpectedly and unintentionally. It means our mind is not focused and obviously, it’s not mediating.

Hence, what should we do while chanting so that our mind also gets involved and we enter into meditation? Well, there is quite a bit of preparation we ought to do. First and foremost, we should firmly tell our mind that we are going to dedicate next one hour (or as much time you decide) in meditation. Clearly define how much time would be dedicated to Breathing and other exercises and then to guru-mantra. This resolution is most vital to meditation. Surely, it will not be possible with power of our tainted ego and we will need God’s grace to carry out this resolution. Thus, we should surrender and pray to God that I’ll honestly play my part to accomplish this resolution but you should give me the power and peace of mind to do that. Without this firm resolution, it will be very difficult to get started with meditation. Because, to execute any worldly business a physical goal is present before our eyes that may inspire us but meditation is a metaphysical activity. To eat food, we need not take any conscious resolution as the food is before us and hungry stomach is asking for it. Nevertheless, for meditation or naam-jap, you must make your mind up. To commence any journey, first you make a decisions about the destination and take an idea of travelling time to collect the necessary provisions. Meditation is a journey within, before its commencement you must declare this to your mind and decide the time for it so that the mind can arrange the provisions.

As suggested to initiates, before meditation they must bow down and make prayers for a couple of minutes to assure their minds that they have refuge of the almighty now, as the naam or guru-mantra essentially represents God. There may be different mantras given by different teachers but they all finally lead to same God, the ultimate guru and this is why their meaning is mostly same. Let’s define guru-mantra in general – The Almighty God who pervades the whole cosmos and also exists beyond it, who is the source of everything and in whom all the creation and its creatures take refuge, the same God is permeated in my body as well and I am connected to it.

We generally divide the mantra in two parts (in higher levels of mantra initiation) and combine it with breathing. So, while chanting the first part of the mantra with in-breath, we should have aforesaid meaning clearly established in our minds. Second part of the mantra is chanted while breathing out and it means that the all-pervading God is not separate from me rather I am just a part of him. Furthermore, the blissful Lord and also his holy name, which are essentially one, is full of bliss, power, joy and care that is removing all my obstacles to let me in. In all the traditions and lineages, consciously or even unknowingly, we follow the same import. Even though, there might be some different explanations given at initial levels, but as one advances on inner journey, this sense naturally surfaces in a purified mind.

We must absorb this gist of guru-mantra deep in our heart. Besides, we should be fully aware that the naam we are chanting with our tongue, observing with our mind, assimilating through our prana, is effectively the same as the true form of God. Obviously, God is infinite energy, which has no limits of any kind. Likewise, naam has no limits and one who contemplates upon it is also liberated from limits. In physical world, name is separate from the object as they all are limited but limitless God and his name are always connected. This understanding is important. In the beginning, we might not be able to experience this reality, as it would mean being one with God, full of bliss and power. Nevertheless, we should go on repeating it with every single breath and follow it with mind with full faith so that this affirmation would get stronger in our mind, in our heart to make it happen eventually.

The very reason why we are not able to experience it is that our hearts are full of wickedness and impurities accumulated during many previous lives. Whenever we sit in solitude and try to contemplate over Lord’s name, samskaras (impressions) of anger, greed, and attachment start to resurface. Let me share with you a very interesting and imperative fact – we believe that this anger, greed, lust etc. emerge from inside but NO. The fact that Almighty God is residing inside specifies that no impurity can ever exist there. Nevertheless, the impurities appear there because we have absorbed them from our atmosphere in this life and lives before by regularly thinking and working about them. Whatever we contemplate with intent or even otherwise, they really affect our mind and our heart. Yet, how great is the grace of God that even after accumulating so much filth all through our lives and defending them foolishly, when we shift our focus to God and chant his name, these tenacious filthy impressions disappear quickly. It is due to the divine grace that we need not spend that much time in meditation as much we spent in thinking about materialism to remove those impressions. Even if we spend ten percent of our time contemplating over Lord’s name, which means roughly three hours every day, all the previous impressions will vanish. The irony is that despite of wasting so many lives worrying about world and forgetting its creator and subsequently bringing misery upon ourselves, we have not yet learnt our lessons. We still spent all the time in materialistic activities only, deliberately and even otherwise in our dreams.

God, our beloved master is so kind that he forgives all our slipups and readily helps our spiritual growth by annulling all our materialistic samskaras from past as well as in present, if we spend a little time with him. Imagine, barely 3 hours of regular meditation may counter our worldly pursuit of 21 hours and tons of samskaras accumulated from previous lives. Obviously, some time we will have to devote for this purification, otherwise by doing nothing how can we expect anything? However, just a little earnest effort from our side may attract the God’s grace to do the rest. If three hours sound too much then we may start with even less, say one or two hours. Nevertheless, the optimum duration is two and a half hours because in a normal person breath flows through one nostril for one hour then shifts to other for the next hour and it may take about half hour in transition. Prevalence of breath in one nostril affects that side of the body and so by spending an hour in left (ida) and then in right (pingla) nostril we may activate both sides of our bodies and spread the vibrations of mantra throughout. Besides, by spending extra half hour or so for transition period we may try to gain access to the central channel (sushumna) as well because normally breath touches sushumna to some extent while shifting from one nostril to the other.

In case you cannot spend so much time for now, you must devote at least one hour in meditation and sanctify at least one-half of your body (Ida or Pingla) on any given day. Gradually, naam will sanctify your whole body and mind as the timing of Ida and Pingla keep on changing every now and then. (This science of breath is a great topic in itself, which can be discussed on some other time in detail) You must also take utmost care not to deliberately replenish your body and mind with rubbish yet again. However, you should not be anxious if it happens unknowingly.

Many people claim that they feel spiritually charged and elated by seeing some religious programs on television but in their life they willfully perform reprehensible acts. At the pretext of religiousness, they feel free to do anything their variable mind desires. They think that just by going to temple, gurudwara, mosque or church and offering prayers all their sins will be forgiven. If our desires are not fulfilled then what is the use of worshiping God, this is what they typically feel. In other words, by making some cursory prayers they feel that they have brought God on their side therefore they can do anything and everything. But in point of fact, this is a deceiving idea. This is not religion. Instead of cheating yourself with this idea, it’s better if you don’t follow religion.

Naturally, if an ingenuous person asks forgiveness, he will get remission but at the pretext of knowledge or devotion or in God’s name, if someone deliberately performs depraved deeds, he will not be forgiven. Hence, if we make sincere meditations every day for at least an hour while consciously avoiding all reprehensible acts, the inner path will open before us and mind will turn inwards to make meditations happen naturally. This means the meaning of naam will manifest before us.

Let’s summarize the whole process of meditation once more to make things easier:

  1. Primarily, make a strict resolution of doing meditation for a specific period.
  2. Perform some breathing exercises to turn the prana and the mind inwards.
  3. Now chant the guru-mantra while carefully listening to every bit of it.
  4. Lovingly visualize picture of your personal deity or spiritual guide.
  5. Most importantly, keep the eyes closed and body steady but relaxed throughout.

Most of the time, we do not listen to the mantra we are chanting so that the mind goes astray. Awareness of breath as well as that of mantra is extremely crucial to meditation. Besides, contemplation over the meaning of the mantra is also important for it to manifest fully in heart. Observing your breath and simultaneously listening to your mantra is a powerful meditation. In the beginning, it may be difficult to go deep in meditation because the hidden samskaras break the surface as you go in. By listening to each and every syllable you chant and combining it with breath, mind becomes more alert and successfully avoids these distractions. Furthermore, visualizing picture of your personal deity let that be Shiva, Krishna, Vishnu, Wahe-Guru or any other figure you be devoted to, makes meditation further easy. Remember, it is not about choosing the best of lot as all of the deities carry the same divine vibrations. By choosing anyone, we hold in the highest regard, our mind would focus easily. Obviously, we humans cannot perceive abstract forms so easily; we must form some picture in our mind to communicate with the world outside as well as inside.

Considering the power of mind that can perform a variety of activities at one time, these are only few things it will have to do. However, if we don’t bring different faculties of brain to focus on naam in the above mentioned way then it will be free to contemplate over thousands of worldly objects out of habit. By regularly meditating this way, mind gradually learns to consider godly objects and accordingly gets connected with them. We may initially have to force our mind to these beliefs as it is accustomed conversely. But haven’t we already been running after our mind for so many lives to gain only despair and death? So now, it’s time to change the roles. But be careful, although we must turn down the dominance of mind, we should not fight against it as that will only augment its slyness. Instead of being upset by tricks of deceiving mind, we should take a constructive approach and more earnestly tread the inner path.

A world of caution here, some people believe that in meditation you should just sit quietly observing your thoughts and not tamper with them. Just be witness of your thoughts then they will not affect you, but it is only partially true. You are still aware of heat, cold, mosquitoes, strain or pain in body, noise, and even react to them. You even fall into slumber at times. This is not real sakshi-bhav (being witness) as it is claimed to be. Being witness is a great achievement and comes with great efforts when the being is fully conscious inside yet aloof from any external stir. The approach of observing your thoughts is akin to primary school. In primary, children are admitted even if they are not familiar with reading or writing so that they will at least learn to sit in classroom. Children are free there to play and have fun while the teacher is casually sharing some lessons with them without bothering if they are learning anything. Gradually, being in that atmosphere, children develop interest and understanding towards study. Likewise, in the beginning stage of meditation, one must learn to sit with closed eyes ignoring mind’s mischief.

Besides, one must not augment monkey business of mind. That means we should continue chanting and observing guru-mantra along with breath ignoring the conflicting thoughts that may arise involuntarily. These thoughts gain strength by our conscious concern, which is reflected not only in being disturbed but also in fighting with them. We already have an inquiry related with this issue, which asserts that sometimes during meditation a disturbing thought arises out of nowhere and persists for long. The reason is obvious: alarmed by the presence of that unwanted thought we avert contemplating naam. Therefore, we should not chase them with fear or fury and should not even try to control such thoughts. All we need to do is fix our focus on naam repeatedly as it will eliminate all the other samskaras, slowly but surely. Our body-mind duo becomes purified and buoyant, allowing our consciousness to travels deep inside near the source of naam, the Shabda-Brahma’. The state where the name and its meaning get unified.

We have one more inquiry on the subject of ‘Shabda-Brahma’. Initially, the name of Lord doesn’t manifest his power as it is, because there is a gap between the name and its meaning. When this gap is filled, we reach Shabda-Brahma where the name and its object or the meaning is unified. This is the source of everything as well as the destiny. The omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God who is known as Para-Brahma, appears as Shabda-Brahma to create the universe. Essentially, there is no difference between the two other than the fact that one stays abstract and stationary while the other takes on action and give way to creation. It is like a great door opening inside as well as outside. Shabda-Brahma is also known as Om or Omkar, the eternal sound or the infinite energy wherefrom Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh and all the other creative forces emerge to make the universe happen. To attain our destiny that is Shabda-Brahma, we need to take help of naam, which helps turn our prana and mind inwards. Prana is the path and mind is the medium that will let naam to reach its source, once open and clear inwards. If our consciousness is focused on naam, naturally together it reaches there and unites with Shabda-Brahma.

It is a common notion that treading spiritual path is a herculean task; turning mind inward is the most difficult thing while slipups are natural and easy. Of course, it is very easy slipping down a mountain especially when you are intoxicated and someone pushes you while climbing up is extremely challenging even if you were fully prepared. However, the truth is that though you slide down effortlessly, your body is scratched and bruised even if you don’t realize it, being intoxicated. Finally, all you gain on descent is dirt, darkness, and despair. However simple it may seem to descend but that brings you to limit. Ascent, on the contrary, may seem difficult yet it takes you to new height and exposes you to limitless sky. No restrictions or obstructions, everything becomes clear and approachable. Consciousness expands beyond boundaries.

Similarly, spiritual path may seem difficult to us because our vision is blocked and blurred due to material glimmer. Moreover, we don’t have any idea what it means to be free, to be conscious, to be expanded, and to be one with God who is truth-consciousness-bliss personified. It may also seem easy to lower as the whole lot of world is doing the same and we are afraid of being odd one out.

However, look at the mercy of God that in spite of our ignorance and betrayal, he gives us chances again and again. But blinded by our ego we generally overlook his kindness and go on repeating the same mistakes of running outward. This race drains us of energy and life but even then, he doesn’t ignore us. When we become weak in body and rigid in mind, he allows us to make a fresh start in a new body and refreshed mind. He makes us forget our past so that we can have courage and enthusiasm to start over in the right direction. Ironically, we only abuse his compassion by again following those who disregard divine grace, consequently disconnect from the divinity within and also in the world. In this way it may be very difficult to tread the divine path but otherwise in reality there cannot be any path easier than this. How many times we have been born and died to achieve what?  If there is any peace and pleasure available in this world, it is only due to his grace. Otherwise, even all the worldly objects together cannot make us happy. It’s high time we realized this.

Let’s take a last example. There are two travelers lost in a dense forest and looking for a way out. One traveler is heading in the right direction by reading the map and learning from his mistakes while other is just rushing blindly in all the directions and making no progress. Obviously, they both will be tired but the one who is heading right would eventually reach his home and rest peacefully while the other will have to face the dangers and desolation of forest. Map is given to you, now you decide.

P.S. – It is a great surprise that even after observing the misery of life all around and accepting the God as the final destiny, hardly anyone allows his or her children to tread the spiritual path. They rather try every possibility to keep their children engaged in the deceiving world away from the true path. May God show them light.