Upasana of the Guru is not a mere servile atten¬dance upon him in an attitude of growing dis¬gust, or in a mood of mel¬ancholy dis¬satisfaction. The disci¬ple, out of sheer love and rever¬ence for the Master, for¬gets himself and serves him at all times and in all possible ways; thereby the student is made to remember, constantly, the glories and the noble qualities of the Master. The constant mental awareness of the Ideal through the person of the Guru slowly and steadily raises the moral tempo and ethical goodness in the neophyte who finds himself well-established in his inner purity which would otherwise have taken him painfully long years to develop.
Again, this sort of “love-making” with the Guru, not through the heart and its sentiments, but through the intellect and its idealization, makes the disciple efficient to set himself in unison with the Master which is essential for the student if he is to really benefit by the Master’s original ideas, minted in the seer’s own inner experien¬ces. When suggestive words of deep import are given out by a Teacher in his moments of inspiration, the student at once understands the Teacher. It is for this reason that Sankara is compelled to declare that as a result of Guru upasana, the disciple becomes capable of liberating himself from his limitations.
“He, who is well-versed in the scriptures, sinless, unaffiliated by desires, a full knower of the Sup¬reme, who has retired into the Supreme, who is as calm as the fire that has burnt up its fuel, who is a boundless ocean of mercy that needs no cause for its expression and who is an intimate friend of those who have surrendered unto him.”
Sankara exhausts his list of adjectives in enumerating the qualities of the true Guru to supplement his declara¬tion that the Master should be well-established in the supreme Consciousness. Certain qualities which, on a closer observation, reveal that every man of realization and wisdom cannot aspire to and become an efficient Teacher of spirituality. To guide and instruct a deluded soul and help him to unwind himself and unravel the knotty traits in him, one must have something more than a perfect experience. The Teacher must, no doubt have full realization but he must also have a complete grasp of the great scriptures. Without the study of the scrip¬tures even the Self-realized Master will not have the language or the technique of expression to convey his profound knowledge to his disciples.
Apart from spiritual knowledge and erudition, the Guru must also have great self-control and the immense riches of a well-developed heart. He must have an irresistible flow of mercy which demands no special cause for its manifestation, especially when it descends upon those who have surrendered themselves to him, having reached his feet as spiritual refugees.
It is well-known that in all constitutions, laws are prescribed both for the governors and the governed. Sankara is as vehement in prescribing specifications for a true and honest Teacher as he is in describing the prerequisites for a spiritual aspirant.
“Worshipping that Guru with deep devotion, when he is pleased with your surrender, humility and service approach him and ask him to explain what you must know.”
Therefore, Sankara explains how a seeker should approach the Teacher and learn, first of all, to love him, trust him and later on, through love-inspired acts of service, become receptive and establish an intimate rapport filled with reverence. Such a relationship alone will yield results. Therefore, Vedanta is almost overemphasizing the method of approaching the Teacher. These days, unfortunately, we find seekers who think nothing about calling over the phone to enquire from the Teacher at the other end of the city about the goal of life, the path, and the means and so on. Such a telephone-tuition is not possible in spirituality and the seeker of a spiritual life and religious truths is asked to approach the Master in an attitude of reverence and surrender. Then alone can the Teacher acquaint the disciple with the knowledge of the Self.
Seekers should not misuse the Teacher and discuss with him secular questions or domestic problems. It is almost prohibited. He should be asked only about the special knowledge of the Self in which he is perfect.
“O Master, O friend of those who reverentially surrender to thee, thou ocean of mercy, I salute thee; save me, fallen, as I am into this sea of change, with a direct glance from thy eyes which rain nectarine Grace supreme.”
Any discordant notes arising in the bosom of the disciple create disturbances which molest rape and disturb the true significance of the scriptural words used by the Master during his discourses. In order that we ourselves may not create any discordant notes and destroy the harmony, we as students are asked to serve and surrender, to pray and worship at the Master’s feet.
It is only when an individual develops his sensibility, subtle enough to recognize these weaknesses in life that he comes to feel such a pressing urgency for liberation. When he experiences this, he comes to demand of the Guru, safety and shelter from the threatening cries of death with their poisoning evil experiences in life. We should not construe death to mean only the experience of dying which is the lot of all beings, but it is to be understood in its broadest sense as the poison of finitude. Every moment there is death, as each experience dies away, and out of its ashes springs the next circumstance to be experienced. The disciple asks for guidance to the realms beyond death—a state of living in which the experience of life is the continuous, homogeneous, Bliss Absolute.
A man of full realization instinctively becomes a lover of the whole universe. Like spring, his is a love which demands no cause to flower into a wealth of blossoms. He who has discovered that the Self within himself is none other than the All-pervading Consciousness which is non-dual, he instantaneously discovers It to be in the core of all pluralistic forms around him.
Living as he does in this intimate understanding of One¬ness, he cannot but love others as his very own Self. In his case, universal love is not an art to be practiced, not a formality to be followed, nor a goal to be reached; it is his very life breath. This can be brought within the understanding of the laity through a comparison.
There can be no occasion for you to feel a constant hatred for any part of your own body. Even if your hand or your leg gives you a dose of pain, your anger towards them cools down when you realize that they are but your own hand or leg. For instance, if the finger of your right hand accidentally pokes your right eye, it is a case of one part of your body giving pain to another part of it. These can be moments of terrible protest of anger mixed with pain. But almost immediately you realize that it is your own forefinger that is the culprit and you cool down to a spirit of mercy and tolerance and paternally ignore both the offender and the offended. It would be foolish to punish the finger for; the pain to it would be more pain to yourself only. Similarly, when one has realized that the Reality within him is the pith and substance that constitutes all others in the universe, love and kindness are natural and continuous in his bosom for all in the world.
On understanding the essence of Truth in ourselves, we gain a freedom from the sense of finitude which was ours so long as we identified ourselves with the body, mind and intellect.
Since these disturbances can no longer affect a man of Perfection, it is one of the surest symptoms of knowledge and saintliness if we can observe an individual who is, under all provocative circumstances, infinitely at peace with himself and with the world. Therefore a Sant is a man of true broad-mindedness which is the natural outcome of kindness, tolerance etc. This is the Flag of Realization.
To say that a Mahapurusha after Realization, casting off his desires, will retire, totally, to a dark cave in the Himalayas, to count his days of forced existence in this corporeal form is fallacious. He may dwell in the cave or may walk about in the market-place; where he lives is a matter of no concern to him. Wherever he be, whether in a jail among criminals or among devotees in a temple, irresistibly, instinctively, he will spread around him an aura of knowledge, light, cheer, joy and peace. It is his very nature. Just as heat is the nature of fire and we cannot say that fire creates or generates heat.
Sankara gives us an inimitable example when he com¬pares the Mahatmas and the touch of joy they lend to the world with the spring season When spring comes, it does not court every tree to bring forth its flowers, nor does it reach the world and canvass the moon to be brighter, the sky to be clearer and cleaner, the grass to be thicker and every heart to be more joyous, The presence of spring and the concomitant conditions are complementary. The one cannot be without the other.
Similarly, it is for the Mahatma to spread knowledge and cheer around him and whenever true seekers reach him, they are irresistibly drawn into his orbit to bask in the warmth of his personality.
The poetic suggestion is that he, reveling in his own experience, is one who, unasked, helps others to cross the shores of delusion and sorrow. Therefore, to sur¬render to such a one, requesting him to save us from our misunderstandings is to assure for ourselves a true liberation—almost a luxury liner to Truth!