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The Spiritual Journey---Some pointers N K Srinivasan This is a deep,loaded subject and could fill several volumes.

Yet, I am writing only a short article.I was intrigued by the book "The Guru Question" by Camilia Caplan, with a foreword written by Prof. Robert Thurman. This book set me thinking on many things about gurus and spiritual journey which we all begin sometime or other. .Yes, there is no human being, unless mentally deranged or having some organic defect of the brain, who does not have some inkling for spiritual quest and begins it either directly or indirectly. Oftentimes, a chance remark by someone close to the person or some book or even pamphlet or some event in life sets a man in the spiritual path...Every journey begins with a single step... While writing this, let me add that I am not your formal guru or teacher who maintains an ashram here in the USA or in India, give satsanghs or retreats and I am not one

having a church or brand name of Yoga trade-marked. I am a fellow traveler and perhaps, a guide . While many had approached me for spiritual counseling and asked for clarifications of knotty problems and some directions, I have resisted their attempts to make a guru out of me. I must also add that I am writing this from the perspective of Hindu spiritualityand know very little about other systems. First let us ask this important question: Do you need a guru? The answer is a definite 'yes'.Some great ones with back-log of great karmas may do without a guru. But not many of the seekers in this circuit.Guru means "One who dispels darkness or ignorance " ---that is ignorance of spiritual knowledge. A guru in the Indian context [Hindu,Buddhist/Tibetan] is not a mere teacher or preacher or lecturer. He is the one who understands the disciple or chela and gives specific training since I

instruction or guidance--- not marketed,packaged learning kit. Oftentimes a guru makes a careful analysis of the chela [or cheli,the female disciple] by observation and with intuitive perception, to provide the instruction. A guru may make the disciple weep or cry or suffer indignities as a means of instilling humility and softness. A guru removes the kink in the mind of the disciple and irons out behavioral oddities. The process is a long one and may not be done in a few days or weeks....It may require months or years. Above all, a guru takes complete responsibility for the spiritual growth of a chela and his final attainments.A guru,if he thinks so, may send a disciple to another guru for certain training or hand him over for further attainments. A great guru would know about the future of the chela and accordingly direct him.A guru may simply reject a disciple as unworthy for instruction also.If a chela misbehaves, a guru may curse him and send him out with disasterous results.

A question frequently asked is this: How do you find a guru? This question is answered in Hindu perspective: A guru will come to you when you are ready. How does this happen? If you are sincere and keen, then the cosmic forces will indicate the Guru for you. You need not seek a guru, but a guru will search for you and find you. This is illustrated in the lives of many saints and gurus.! This does not mean that one should sit and wait for the guru. You may read, meditate and listen to the great masters, join in rituals or satsanghs. Prepare yourself for the arrival of the guru. In more advanced teachings, there is the aphorism: Guru,God and Self are the same. This means that in advaitic sense, the Self itself becomes your guru and manifests as a human guru...well, if this is not easy to comprehend or accept, don't worry! You need lot of training before you can grasp the full meaning of this

sentence---in advaitc terms. Spiritual Journey--Main questions I mentioned at the beginning that almost all of us are on a spiritual journey whether we know it or not.What we mean by that? There are two main questions that haunt us or trigger such a journey: 1 What is the meaning of life? Is it just eating ,sleeping,earning money and having sexual activity? [We all know that animals do just these things. Are we to lead a similar life and nothing beyond? 2 What is meaning of relationships we have within family or within society or in professional circles? { Do our relationships have any significance beyond transactional or commercial terms? I help another person because I get help from him or get money for the service...Is that all to human relationship? Does the

relationship between say a mother and her child extend beyond the transactional level or even beyond one's life? Why should I serve a person whom I don't know at all?] Spiritual journey begins when we ask these questions and attempt to find an answer. Firstly ,you must have faith that you can find the answer using our human mind/intellect and intuitive perception beyond intellect also. Secondly ,someone ---a guru or a teacher or a mentor could guide you to find the answer. If you can find the answer from a book or scripture or some strange message [from 'above'] that is alright, if you believe so. [If you seek a guru or teacher for this purpose, I have already told you about the role of a guru.If you hope to find the answer from a scripture [say the Bible or the Bhagavad Gita or the Talmud or others, you may dig into

them with or without a teacher.] Some Pointers Here I give some pointers which you can consider as

starting blocks for your sprint. We posed two questions. Read them again. Surprisingly the answer is the same for both the questions. The answer may appear intricate or simple or naive or shocking.But reflect on this ANSWER answer.

WE all belong to one source, call it God, or

supreme spirit or cosmic intelligence or universal consciousness or Brahman or whatever. We did not create our body or mind...It just came ot us..You may say it is just nature. A few cells uniting together created our foetus and bodies and mind...we did not design ,manufacture or assemble our heart, lungs, kidneys, hand and feet, eyes or ears or the tongue...this intricate body just GREW, getting a divine spark from the SOURCE. Therefore we all belong to the same source---whatever may

be our particular differences in terms of race,color or circumstances of our lives [rich or poor, strong or weak...], nationality or religion. Thus we are all ONE only...If you keep this in mind, you will understand the answer to the questions.There is only one answer---that we are all ONE and life is indeed sacred because of this oneness which connects us to the Universe. Note that this is true of all animals and birds and insects derived from One Source. It is true of inanimate matter too, though there is a qualitative difference with inanimate objects.] How do we proceed in this journey? What I have written here as the answer is only the ticket for your journey.You have to use it for getting into your aircraft or train to travel far. The modes of this journey are ,of course, abstract. These are the means in spiritual practice. Pick any one of these modes or several of them. Afterall when we make a physical journey, we may take

several modes: we reach the airport with a taxi ,then climb with escalator, then aircraft, then subway or tube and then walk and so on. The modes here for the spiritual journey are : chanting [japa] , meditation[dhyana],formal worship [pooja], fasting , scriptural study[ shravana], yoga and breath control,dancing and music and so on. Don't be dogmatic by any of the modes..all have their efficacy and special values for any of us...some are more suited to you than others. Constant and diligent practice will take you far rather than polemical or sectarian discussion of their values. Going back 'Home' A time comes when everyone of us , prince or pauper,strong or weak should shed this body and return to the original state and merge with the Source, which made this body in the first place. What happens to our mind? It is essentially wiped out like a computer hard disk or memory

device, except for some 'impressions' or 'vasanas" [residual smells from a pot used for a long time] which would be carried to the next birth---with a cryptic 'akashic' record of good/bad deeds stored somewhere and the ascribed karmic effects on them....the cycle starts again. The Source, like the Sun,carries on unperturbed by what happens here. The Path and the Goal In our normal experience, the path and the goal are distinct. In fact the path ,we would say without any doubt, leads us to the goal.We follow a path and that path may takes us to the goal. In advaitic terms, the path, the goal and the process of going towards the goal ,say walking, are one and the same--- because there is no distance between you and the goal...there is no distance at all. [You are the goal;the goal is within you.!As Rumi said : "God is the nearest of the near; He is at your

shoulders!."] In Hindu terms, Brahman pervades everything and is part of everything...then where is the goal,where is the path ,where is the notion of distance.? The normal concepts break down ,because we have been conditioned to think in terms of space and time; yes, sometime must elapse before we reach the goal because we have to travel along the path and reach the goal.What if instant reach is obtainable? Where is the path? The path is not there. Yet, in mundane terms, there is space and time for everything. The seeker has to do his or her home work.This homework consists of efforts to clean up our minds---of

impure thoughts in the first place. Yoga is considered as the path and the goal---the word means that.For a yogi the path is clear,say, to follow the eight steps of Patanjali's yoga sutras or 'Ashtanga yoga'. Yogi has to work hard, with a guru to help him on the way. But remember--- the steps are meant to clean up your mind,

purify the thoughts, make you focus on the Supreme with concentration and devotion,switching of noisy sense telephones.To take you within, to the inner chambers or Guha of the heart.

More on Gurus I return to this topic to clear some misconceptions. By the nature of training imparted as I have outlined, a guru can be a guru only for a small number of persons , say a dozen of chela/cheli at a time. Even great masters like Sri Ramakrishna had only about twenty disciples.THis group forms the inner circle .[This inner-circle

disciples would consider the master or guru as an incarnation of God, or avatars or prophets or messiahs and worship them as such. This we have seen in all guru ashrams, including that of recent ones like Ammachi or Mata Amritanandamayi ashrams.] A guru may have hundreds of devotees or followers over

many years.They consider the gurus only as teachers,preachers or guides .They may meet the master on a few occasions,read their books ,listen to their tapes or view their videos and take part in formal poojas and festivals. This middle circle followers do fund raising and build the ashram faciilties and speak glowingly about the masters. They may be often misguided or even manipulated for commercial purposes. Some may join the middle circle because they don't have regular jobs, or have lot of time [middle-aged or elderly], they wish to socialise in a safe environment, or learn a few methods of spiritual practice or get some solace. In Indian context many come for solving their family and financial problems with the grace of their masters---anything from getting a job for their sons or getting their daughters married or for special healing processes. This crowd of seekers join and leave or hop from one guru to another, as it suits them.Some sincere ones may move from middle circle to inner circle.[One problem with this crowd is that they

shield the masters and the inner circle from bad behavior or scandals [financial or sexual or other kinds]so that the ture facts are not revealed to the public at large.] Then there is the outer circle which consists of media persons---writers, journalists, interviwers ---and go-betweens who are close to money bags [industrialists or politicians]; this circle is the potentially powerful ones---they can let the guru grow to great heights in popularity and power, and then pull them down also.Many

great gurus have been ruined by them because the gurus were useful for these persons for some time.This has been the case for many great gurus since the last century, mainly because of media power.! Spiritual journey is not all walking over a bed of roses. One should careful tread this path which is sharp and narrow like a razor's edge.But the rewards are great whatever may be your initial religious orientation.You life's purpose may be revealed like a gooseberry held in

your palm! ------------------xxx-----------------xxx---------------------