Namo Namaha, Guruji-Guruji


I think a lot of people don’t know really what to look for in a guru. I think a lot of people aren’t looking for a guru, but of those who are there’s often confusion on which Master should be followed. Surely this factors into what Krishna meant when he told Arjuna that so few people seek Truth and of those few even fewer quickly reach elevated states.

I think it can be challenging, for sure, because everyone’s path is different and every Master brings a different approach to Reality. This also, I think, ties back into some of what Krishna was speaking of in a very round-about way. Certainly part of the reason so few people make any progress on a personal / spiritual level is because so few people are invested enough in their own development to even know which direction to head off in. If you don’t ever force yourself to crawl, then it’s unlikely you’re going to walk anytime soon and obviously without moving yourself you won’t go anywhere. And I think it’s not even until after all that is underway that someone is really going to benefit from having a guru. After all, it’s a rare person indeed who skips high school and goes instead from elementary to university. (Although it’s not unheard of.)

I have learned from a number of Masters in my life so far, and will continue to take learning and inspiration wherever and however it presents itself. My own sources of growth have been as varied as Mata Amrtanandamayi Ma (Amma, the Hugging Saint), Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Eckhart Tolle, and even a Hindu drag nun as well as many others. All of these sources of light have benefitted me in wonderful ways, but none in a way that I felt so strongly pulled toward that I couldn’t resist on some level or another. Some felt too distant. Some felt too worldly. Some felt too otherworldly.

My path, regardless of its direction, has virtually always been about balance. At times this has manifested better than at others, but balance has always been the underlying foundational goal. Through all my seeking, something that always gnawed at me within my heart is the question of, “How to accept another human being as a great person?” Mind you, the implication meant for the word “great” isn’t merely good or nice. It’s meant to imply more of what “guru” encompasses. A week or two ago while doing some reading, I found a passage that does well at starting to answer this question for me and I think it explains a little of why I’m drawn to the gurus of the Sahaj Marg – teachers who many do not feel pulled to. I planned to share some of what I read on this, but I think I’ll abstain from quoting so extensively for now.

The reading I mentioned pointed out that many people face the issue of how to accept a teacher when the teacher doesn’t seem much (if any) better than the student. Some might see this issue as pride, but in Sahaj Marg this is seen more of an issue of doubt. Pride dissolves relatively easily, but doubt is significantly dense. It basically comes down to me being a human and knowing my own weaknesses and assuming the same of a guru, who is also human.

It’s understood in Sahaj Marg that this is nothing new. Since the beginning of… well, everything, people have doubted that another human is really fit to be a Master. Krishna was asked this by Duryodhana and in a different manner was asked this by Arjuna. This kind of questioning happens because we’re judging the potential teacher on the basis of our own qualities. Naturally, we see the world according to our own outlook. (In Sahaj Marg, we keep this in mind and do our best not to find fault with anyone because each sees according to his own growth. Whether you think there’s God or Guru – or not – is fine because it’s simply a reflection of your own stage of progress.)

People unconscious of their own internal landscape might ask questions like, “How it is that that person gets angry even after reaching a high spiritual stage?” “Master has FIVE children?” And someone unable to give up smoking might also be found saying, “Even Master smokes hookah.” We magnify our shortcomings and then view the world and our teachers.

But a truly divine personality would have everything – good and so-called bad qualities. Everything. Are gurus only responsible for nourishing and uplifting you? What about the duty to reprimand, too? Chariji points out, “If we keep thinking that the Master should always love us, be compassionate always, should always keep giving but should never ask, we divide Reality and ask for only one half and we end up not getting anything. This is like asking for shade alone and not for sunshine. The greater the sunshine the more beautiful the shade. If there is no sunshine there is no shade either.”

With this in mind, it seems clear how important it is to find and recognize a guru that is realistic and practical for whatever stage you’re at, while also taking care that that same teacher is capable of helping you to progress beyond where you are. If you’re a warrior, find a perfected warrior teacher. If you’re a monk, find a guru appropriate for monks. And if you’re a householder, only a guru who has experienced and completely fulfilled that specific dharma will suffice.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti


The Differently Same Reality

So … by request, the plan for this post is meant to kind of illustrate the parallels between being Hindu and being Sufi. I’ve not really done this before, and going into it I feel a bit intimidated because, unlike Hinduism, I haven’t spent the last 10+ years studying and living Sufism.

In a recent post I brought the idea that I’ve usually thought of Sufism as a type of Islamic Hinduism. Chewing on that a bit more since that post, I think I’ve changed my perspective on that. I believe Sikhism to be a better fit for the idea of Islamic Hinduism. There are other religions, too, like the Baha’i faith that could also perhaps fall into a broader category of “Islamic Hinduism” – with each path, of course, having it’s own so-called specialty.

However, as I’ve been looking around online trying to learn more about these parallels I’m finding that Sufism is indeed much like Hinduism – but it’s really only like the parts of Hinduism that are truly beyond the mundane. Like those in Hinduism who reach the upper elevations of transcendence, Sufis – despite their own “rituals” – don’t really hold much place for the things that tend to preoccupy the bulk of humanity’s religious concentration. In mainstream Islam and definitely what could be called the bulk of Hinduism ritual prevails, but from what I’ve gathered Sufis seem entirely aware that their unique practices are definitely meant to be transcended as soon as one’s development permits.

From the Hindu side of this we’re familiar with having murtis, bathing them, dressing them, feeding them, waking them in the morning and putting them to bed at night. We perform japa ritually. We begin or don’t begin certain endeavors based on the movement of the heavens. And the more orthodox parts of Hinduism even dictate on things like clothing, food, profession, and marriage. Still, for all of this there are the rare exceptions within Hinduism wherein the believer isn’t held to these things and the emphasis is often on a more direct and experiential connection to the Source, one’s true Self.

This is where the parallels between “Hinduism” and Sufism begin to show. To narrow things down a bit here, the roots of Sahaj Marg that can be traced back to Sufism indicate a Naqshabandi Sufi lineage – which is actually unique among the Sufi paths as it is the only denomination that goes back to the Prophet of Islam through the first caliph instead of the prophet’s cousin, as all the others do (I think). Additionally, depending on which source you choose to reference, there are possible Shaivite Hindu roots (well, influence) to Sufism. I don’t know much about these and can’t really attest to the verity of those claims, but it definitely seems to fit on a few levels.

In the case of Sahaj Marg practices we see a definite blending of the two that highlights the parallels. The Master or guru is important. There is the heart-to-heart transmission, or pranahuti. As with Sufism, the Sahaj Marg tends to avoid murti worship, prefering instead to worship the Divine on a more subtle level. As with some sects of Hinduism, the Yamas and Niyamas are taken to be guidelines of exemplary living that develops spirituality and improves the earth life. Mind you, the Sahaj Marg also has what are called the Ten Maxims which are totally separate.

Certainly, Sufism has it’s own set of unique practices, which could be as limiting as the bulk of Hinduism’s rituals. But once you drop all the baggage of man-made religious expression what you’re left with is where these two paths collide – indeed, I think every path combines at that level. On that note, I’m finding that it’s actually more efficient to detail the differences between these two paths than it is to highlight the parallels – a task I really have no interest in going into very deeply. I can say, though, that you can’t compare Hinduism to Sufism because Sufism is pretty much entirely mystical while Hinduism isn’t necessarily. You can compare Hinduism to Islam, but to make a fair comparison between Hinduism and Sufism you would need to isolate some path of Hinduism that is, life Sufism, pretty much entirely mystical.

I’ve attached a video I found online that might offer better insight than I am able to, although it’s quite lengthy.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti