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..:: Enlightenment XIII / The Guru ::..


Alan Schneider


              Only rarely in this world of difficulty and challenges does a genuinely unique and spiritually gifted person appear to fully illuminate the darkness of the physical condition and heal human suffering in the process.   This Being is The Guru, and this essay is devoted to all such courageous and selfless spirits who transcended the limitations of fleshly existence to live in the Light of Self Awareness throughout human history.   The Guru represents the functional conclusion of the Enlightenment process attainable by human spirits while working in living flesh, demonstrating only the attendant sensory perception and sufficient traces of residual ego manifestation required to support human social interaction as teachers and guides for their fellow creatures.   And it must be said at the outset that the Guru no longer exists as ego – this individual exists as the living embodiment of the Self.   There is no higher state of being… 

            Sri Aurobindo, himself a Guru, has described a system of classification of the levels and stages of attainment – and at least some of the Initiations associated with – the progress along the spiritual Path toward the achievement of that level of detachment from worldly objectives which typifies the Guru’s state of mind.   Although this theme is itself the subject of many volumes by many spiritual teachers apart from Aurobindo, and the subject of much controversy, I will attempt to outline the essential steps of which I am confident here for the reader.   

            Perhaps the best way to begin this discussion is by referencing the Buddha’s famous remark “I am Awake.”    This observation did not occur in a social vacuum – the Buddha was, above all, supremely concerned with his fellow human beings and the alleviation of their suffering – but rather was made to contrast the Enlightened condition with typical human awareness, i.e. mired in ongoing frustration with the transitory nature of material gratification.   This is the hypnotic trance of physical and social conditioning that most of us continually function in, frequently without our conscious knowledge.   When the Buddha said he was Awake, he meant that he had completely emerged from this somnambulistic torpor into the fully conscious awareness of the Self that did not depend in any way on material objects or processes for its existence – a state of absolutely free awareness.   What most people do not realize about their material goal orientation is that they are enslaved to it, whether they achieve their goals or not.   They are essentially addicts of their senses, and have the ego as their social “drug lord” – always pushing them to seek more sense objects for another “fix”!   The Buddha advocated the ultimate freedom for the human spirit – freedom from the carnal human condition itself while still incarnate.   

            In the human scenario, the baseline condition of awareness is addiction – i.e. no awareness.   Yet, the Self continuously generates spiritual epiphanies in the collective consciousness of humanity, some of which are consciously noted by their individual human recipients.   Jung called these events synchronicities, and they mark the beginning of awakening for many people who subsequently enter the spiritual Path as novice curiosity seekers.   It makes no matter – once the awakening process has begun the individual can never really fall comfortably back into sleep again.    They have heard the Call of the inner Guru…   

            The Path of Enlightenment is one of progressive spiritual Ascension out of and away from the material condition and the associated Mind Trap of the ego and its many control oriented manipulations.   The spiritual Seeker will encounter a great many personal and social obstacles to spiritual attainment as progress is made along this Path, frequently passing among the multitude of traditions history has spawned in real and alleged support of Ascension.    The individual who persists in the quest will, with good fortune and under Karma, eventually attain a measure of the spiritual radiance emanating from the Self as the source of all Radiance.    Paradoxically, this can be problematic for such an individual, whom Aurobindo referred to “partially Ascended” at this stage of development.    For the largely blind and naïve supporters who tend to be attracted to these admittedly charismatic people, the Light they emit is very captivating and seductive – and ultimately addictive – for the minds of these followers are still very much functioning in the mode of addiction to sense objects and processes noted in previous paragraphs, and are just beginning to awaken in the spirit.   The world is filled with such partially Ascended, incomplete “Gurus”, all of whom are leading humanity astray to one extent or another, and this usually for the sake of material profit!   

            The partially Ascended Guru has customarily been a Seeker on the Path for this, and possibly other, lifetimes, but remains distracted by material considerations – money, fame, personal gratification (including food, luxury, and sex), and social power over the weaker minds and actions of both devotees and the general public at large.    This individual may have a significant legitimate Call to spiritual consciousness, and may also have attained Samadhi to one extent or another.   Aurobindo and others have determined many varieties of Samadhi (Sanskrit for “blending”, i.e. with the Self).   Once again, there is much controversy among them regarding which are valid or important, and their sequence of occurrence, but I will describe the three types that most agree upon (as discussed in the available literature on the subject) as one valuable and important measure of the Guru’s level of spiritual Ascension.   

            The first, and most superficial, Samadhi is Sivakalpa Samadhi – a brief experience of the Self in trance of some variety, customarily in the personification of the Divine Light of Siva (a variant spelling of Shiva) that, while making some impression on the personal consciousness of the Seeker, does not make a genuinely lasting one.    The Seeker may attain this level of Samadhi many times, but the residual ego vibration in personal consciousness will prevent further progress to the higher, deeper stages to follow.    Many partially Ascended Gurus function at this level.   The next stage of Samadhi is Nirvakalpa Samadhi, a significantly more intense experience customarily occurring in Yoga or Meditation trance in which the residual ego present in personal consciousness has been nullified sufficiently enough to permit full contact with the Self as the Divine Light, Love, and Presence (corresponding to Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma) for a significant period of time – at least several minutes.   This Samadhi produces lasting reconfiguration of the personal consciousness, although this may take several years to manifest on the material Plane.   The Seeker at this stage of development has probably passed beyond the fixation or obsession with material processes and achievement through the practice of the Yoga lifestyle and the attendant austerities.    If the Seeker is persistent in following appropriate spiritual practices, Sivakalpa Samadhi can eventually metamorphose into Nirvakalpa Samadhi, bringing the individual much further along the Path to the genuine Guru’s consciousness as the Self.  

            The final stage of Samadhi is Sahaja Samadhi – full involvement and participation in the collective Soul and the Self while still incarnate.    This is the true state of the fully Ascended Guru – living in the Divine Presence continuously and permanently without regard for the body or material matters.   A good example of this type of person is Ramana Maharshi, who entered Sahaja Samadhi upon the death of his father while still a teenager, and remained there ever after.   Paradoxically, and perhaps in view of the lingering presence of the body, there is still a spiritual choice to be made, even at this level – the choice to become a Hermit living in isolation, or become a Bodhisattva (Pali term for “Servant of Wisdom”) and remain among people as a spiritual teacher and guide until physical death occurs.   Interestingly, the death of a Guru or Ascended Master is referred to in Sanskrit as Maha Samadhi – Great Samadhi – freeing the spirit once and for all to return to the Self as the source of all Being!  

            Thus, depending on the level of spiritual involvement and lifestyle commitment, there are many possible stages of Enlightenment, including all of the pre-Samadhi stages of sincere interest without deep participation (e.g. ashram or temple residence with or near the Guru).   Although there remains much controversy on this subject, it is possible that the presence of even the partially Ascended Guru is a step in the overall right direction for the Seeker, although certainly not the final destination.   The spiritual Path of Enlightenment is long, and the stages along the Way many…  

   Beyond even the consideration of Samadhi as a spiritual attainment is the question of the propriety of this type of experience as a legitimate spiritual phenomenon.   The Buddha felt that even the attainment of Samadhi was of lesser value than the attainment of  Satori – the fully non-dual experience of all existence and non-existence as a single state of experience beyond verbal description or cognitive classification, realized through austerity, right living, and meditation.   In this state of Being-in-not-Being-and-not-Being-in-Being the body becomes the empty vessel of the empty consciousness of the Seeker, a seeming nullity, but actually a state of complete perceptual freedom from all psychological and cultural bondage and suffering in absolute inner peace.   In this state of Being, the Seeker is functionally beyond even the considerations of the Bodhisattva, simply present humbly in the eternal moment beyond time, conducting the basic actions of austere living – “Chop Wood and Carry Water” – and teaching by example to the others who should be fortunate enough to notice and wise enough to understand what is there before them.    

            The Buddha constructed his philosophy at a time, and under conditions, where the predominant schools of Hinduism had become notably corrupt and self-serving (note the use of the lower case “s”), as opposed to Self serving.   Samadhi had become a euphemism for spiritual charlatanry and manipulation by the Brahmans and Ksatrias – the upper Hindu castes.   This undoubtedly had much to do with his dislike and distain for the term and its social implications.    And although this does not necessarily invalidate the concept entirely from a spiritual point of view, along with Aurobindo’s observations it does serve as a precautionary statement about a condition that is at least subject to much misunderstanding and potential abuse.    Thus should the Seeker be warned…  

            The genuinely Ascended Guru is a part of a much larger classification of sincere spiritual teachers of all traditions throughout history who have selflessly shown humanity a better way to live beyond personal indulgence and physical gluttony.   These include the Christ (Jesus of Nazareth and other Divine figures, living and dead), the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama and other Ascended Masters, living and dead), the Saints and Seers of all traditions (living and dead), and all positive individuals working in, with, and of the Divine Light and Truth of Consciousness – again living and dead.    The Self does not distinguish between life and death as does the ego, but rather between the Light and Darkness present within the personal and collective Souls as its immortal reflections.   The Light is personified by Compassion, while the Darkness is personified by ignorance, hence,  the more compassionate we become, the more Enlightened we are.   This is why both the Christ and the Buddha stressed compassion in all its forms as the noblest human virtue.   Indeed, “Tis more blessed to give than to receive” is one of, if not the, highest expression of the Truth.    

            It can be said that the Guru is where the ego is not.   The human organism has evolved to be a gratification seeking survival machine, and the ego stands at the top of this heap of ignorant consciousness we so often call an existence.    In this sense, the Guru is really a state of mind relatively free of the material obsessions of the ego, one that may or may not be present in a particular human being or human life, and may fluctuate in its level of manifestation across time as well, waxing and waning as cultural conditions and spiritual epiphanies impact existence and consciousness.    Under ideal conditions, this phenomenon may manifest in the form of a living human example, but it is always present internally as the Self, radiating forth through the Soul into our physical lives if we will permit this.   The permission required is no minor consideration – the expression of the Guru’s state of Grace requires the sacrifice of all other forms of existence, including hate, fear, greed, loneliness, despair, disgust, contempt, selfish love, lust, ignorance, apathy, and sloth, to name a few.    Yet, this is what we are called to as the ultimate goal that all conscious seeks, knowingly or not.   Know this: only the Self is real, and anything else is a fragmented, illusory interpretation.   

            The Guru is essentially the personal vibration of the Self, emerging into expression after the generation of the more primary Soul vibration, which is always being directly released from the Self as an act of Divine Love.   Whether on an internal or external level, the Guru is our connection to the Self through the Soul – our promise of the Salvation of the spirit as it passes through the darkness, turmoil, and confusion of this transitory physical existence in the body.   As an archetype, the Guru is our personal internal source of guidance for all of life’s conflicts and difficulties – the voice of the conscience that always knows the right way and has moral solutions to every dilemma.    It is wise to always remember that this physical existence is the result and expression of Karma – our sequence of Soul lessons to be learned while under the constraint of the flesh – and that this Karma is the gift of the Self to the Soul, not the curse that it so often seems to be to the subjective ego, blinded as it is by the physical senses and instinctual desires of the body.  While even those senses and desires are often more relatively pleasant aspects of our Karma, and are legitimate in that context, it remains the Truth that life is the classroom, not the playground, in the School of Karma!  


                                                                          - With Love, Alan -

                                                         (Copyright 2010, by Alan Schneider)


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