Imagine a typical household where the parents live with the married son and daughter-in-law. Early morning, the son and daughter-in-law (DIL) are preparing to go to work. The kids are set to leave for school. The elderly parents are waiting breakfast either in their room or right there at the breakfast-table. Your son – who stayed up late but didn’t do his homework -is screaming blue murder for you to help him. Your daughter’s uniform is not ironed and she is in a fit because of it. To top it all she refuses to eat anything other than pancakes for breakfast. In the middle of all this your MIL says “Today is Guru Purnima”, we should visit the temple. Isn’t that the absolute last straw?
But let’s stop and rewind for a moment the last few minutes of your life. Your son is now old enough to shoulder his responsibilities – at least as far as they concern him – so let him face the music at school. Your daughter can surely use the ironing board herself or help you fix the pancakes or both? And if your son seriously had a problem with his homework, why did he not say so last night and why can your husband not help him leaving you free to fix everyone’s favorite breakfast and get dressed before you head out to work yourself? You and your husband can drop your parents-in-law to the temple on the way to work and grab a few blessings for yourself on the way to work. They can always find a ride home – everyone from the neighborhood will be there after all.
This is the typical middle age crisis that every woman faces. Reverse everything and you can see it from a man’s perspective. It is at this stage in life that the kings of yore put the business of ruling the kingdom on the young shoulders of their oldest son and retired to the forest for some much need RnR in the form of meditation and prayer. That – literally – is Vanarprastha the third of the four ashramas mentioned in the Vedas. It is at this stage in life that the search for a Guru begins.
Who is a Guru?
A Guru is any person you consider to be your mentor and guide as you walk along the path of life. This person or inspiration – a Guru is not necessarily a living being – helps you resolve all those little problems that you cannot share with just anyone. He shows you what is right or wrong and urges you to walk on the path of wisdom, morality, and righteousness.
Your first Gurus in your life are your parents. They are the ones who teach you to walk and talk. They hold your hand as you take your first baby steps and pick you up when you fall. They are the ones who help you distinguish between right and wrong. They take you to religious places and introduce you to God. They take you on fun trips and introduce joy into your life. They walk with you through your academic journey and help you gain knowledge. They are the ones who shape your life and make it what it is. These thoughts bring to mind the couplet by Sant Kabir …
Guru Govind dou khade, ka ke lagoon pai?
Balihari us Guru ke jin Gobind diyo dikhaye!
Translated this means, both God and Guru stand before me. Who should I revere first? I will give my all to the Guru who helped me see God!
Makes sense, but this couplet was said almost a millennium ago! Does it still hold true? And who is this Guru to whom we give our all? We’ll see in a while.
Who Can Be My Guru?
In the days gone by, kings had several people in their courts to advise them and help them manage the affairs of the kingdom. These people – called ministers – have been likened to ministers of today who run the government of a country. Among these ministers of a king’s court, one was always a sage whom the king consulted with regard to religious matters. The sages advised the king about religious rites required to be performed, the education of the king’s children, the morals and ethics involved in political decisions, war, and much more. These sages gradually gave way to the Brahmins as kings and their kingdoms faded out. Brahmins performed religious rites and advised the public with regard to matters similar to those that the sages did to the kings. They ran Gurukuls where children went to learn. The advent of commercial schools and the structured educational system negated the need for advice with respect to education. The fading out of kingdoms and the advent of the government system erased the need for advice with respect to political affairs. Gradually the “Gurus” of the kingdom faded out and those that remained performed religious rites for a fee. As science progressed, man lost the fear of the unknown such as wind rain and sun. This precluded the need for reassurance with regard to these matters.
Thus gradually, the role of the sages and the Brahmins was reduced to simply performing religious rites when requested in exchange for a fee. As these changes took place man – the general public – began seeking a mentor who could guide them about right and wrong in their personal life. This gave voice to God men and they were followed with vigor and reverence.
The recent and not so recent fiascoes with some of these God men resulted in their downfall leaving the public confused and at the end of their religious rope. This caused some to give up religion altogether while others wallow in doubt and indecision. Yet others hooked up with other cults.
Who Should Be My Guru?
The concept of Guru has taken on a religious significance based on the early concept of Guru who advised the kings. While it’s true that Guru teaches religion, it is also true that a Guru guides you in your everyday life. So if you are lucky enough to have your parents around, they should be your first choice. They may be wearied and worn but then old is gold right?
If unfortunately your parents are no longer with you and you feel the need for a mentor, take a good look around you. Ask yourself who is it that you turn to in your time of need? Whom do you consult when taking decisions with regard to your children? Whom do you turn to when at a crossroads of life? A recent post on FB reads as follows…
Life is an incomparable Journey where Guru Leads U
from the Visible to the Invisible……
from the Material to the Divine…..
from the Ephemeral to the Eternal…..
Thanks Each one of U for being Guru
Happy Guru Poornima
And this is where we turn for guidance in these modern times. We just Google everything we want to know. We look for answers from our friends on FB and online forums. Are these then the Gurus of modern times? We turn to our neighbors, friends, and relatives. Should we then consider them our Guru?
Or are we as a generation competent enough to lead life without a mentor and guide? Are we competent enough to always take the right decisions? Are we pious enough to never be morally wrong? Are we always ethical?
These questions I am sure plague not just me but each one of you. And this is where a Guru can guide us. This Guru may be our own conscience or it may be a person we go to for advice. It may be a close friend or a sibling. It may be religious book like the Bible, Quran, or the Guru Granth Sahib. It may be our parents, uncles, aunts, or other elders. Or it may be the priest who manages the local temple, the Father at our church, or the Imam at a Masjid.
Whosoever it may be, when we accept someone as our Guru, we should go to them with an open heart and an open mind. After all you cannot put anything into a closed box can you? And once you have placed your faith in your Guru, never deter no matter if your chosen Guru is with you physically or not. Follow your chosen Guru’s advice – even if it may sometimes seem contradictory to your needs – with faith. Believe in an omnipresent God and let your Guru guide you through your life. Whether or not there is an after life, choose the hand that will guide you with open eyes. Then shut them and hold that hand as you traverse this difficult journey called life.
Your deep faith – that your mentor will guide you – will help you through all your difficult times. So have faith and stay happy.
Wish you God Speed and a very Happy Guru Purnima!