We celebrate a lot of occasions in our lives. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, national holidays, international days, and much more. There is one annual celebration that is perhaps unique to Indian (vedic) tradition – it is the celebration of our spiritual guide(s) and the guidance that they provide to us. As it is with most Indian spiritual traditions, this celebration is also connected to the lunar calendar.
This year, the celebration of our guide(s), referred to as “Guru” in India, is marked for July 9th 2017. In modern times, the term “Guru” has expanded much beyond its original usage to refer to an ‘influential teacher’ or ‘subject matter expert’. The original use of the term referred to a highly revered ‘spiritual teacher’ who was trusted by royalty to provide advice, and to impart guidance to those who ‘qualified’ to be guided. And what made one ‘qualified’ to be taught or guided? Consider this:
“To him (or her) who has thus approached reverently, whose heart is tranquil, and whose senses are under control, let the wise Guru teach the real knowledge, by which the true and immortal Being is known” – Mundaka Upanishad
The Upanishad(s) are a series of wisdom “books” that distilled the essence of the ancient Vedas, which themselves contained the wisdom and traditions of ancient India. The word Upanishad literally means, “to sit near the sphere of influence of” (the radiance of the guide or Guru). There are many stories and parables about how the guide would test the student, before agreeing to accept them as a student. Think of it as an entrance examination or a college application – one had to be accepted in order to enter the “sphere of the guide”!
But, I digress a bit. Let me briefly return to the three qualifications of a student as referred to in the quote. First, “one who has approached reverently”. This implies a sense of humility, a willingness to learn, and an “emptying of the vessel” by the student. Second, “whose heart is tranquil”. This suggests a state of harmony within the student’s heart. We stand to learn and absorb much more (in any environment) if our heart is at peace – don’t you think? Third, “whose senses are under control”. To me, this refers to the state of our mind, our power of discernment, and how well we have control of the same.
It may seem like all the qualities that ‘qualify’ us to be taught by a ‘spiritual guide’ are the very qualities that we are seeking help for from our guide in the first place! If we already had these three qualities developed within, why would we need the guide or Guru anyway? What more could the guide teach us? The answer is perhaps in the last part of the quote – “let the wise teach the real knowledge by which the true and immortal is known”.
We arrive with reverence, harmony and good discernment. We receive guidance towards truth and immortality. That is worthy of celebration, don’t you think?
P.S. Join us on twitter for our weekly #SpiritChat conversation on Sunday, July 9th 2017 at 9amET (USA) / 1pm UTC / 630pm (India). We will celebrate our guides and share guidance over tea, cookies, and a guided, online meditation to follow at 8pmET (contact me directly for details on this). Namaste.
Celebrating Guides and Guidance that arrives through many mediums, from many directions…
Update: Storify Summary of Chat – https://storify.com/ajmanik/on-guides-and-guidance