For many of us, spirituality starts from maybe listening to some lectures, reading some scriptures or chanting some shlokas. We go to various Acharyas, listen to various speakers. Whatever we like we accept; whatever we don’t like we reject. Although we are listening to the Mahatmas, the judgement in accepting or rejecting their words is made by our own intelligence. Does it not mean that we are giving our own intelligence the superior position than the Wise ones? As long as this phase continues, we are not wholesome seekers.
But, finally one day, we start feeling helpless that our intelligence is not able to find the Truth. The scriptures speak in so many contradictory statements, there are so many ways, so many pursuits; what am I to follow? How can I know what is the right path?
That is the time – if we have shraddhaa in the words of our Mahatmas and the shaastras, then – we remember that they speak about Guru or Acharya. They ask us to go to the Wise Acharya and enquire humbly. “Tad-viddhi pranipaatena pariprashnena sevayaa.. “ – the Bhagavadgeeta says (4.34). Humbly, because otherwise our ego will again take up the supreme position. We may go to an Acharya, prostrate before him, ask him certain questions, but again we may try to judge his reply (accept or reject his words) guided by our own constricted ideas.
Uttishthata jagrata prapya varan nibodhata …
– “Arise, awake, seeking the company of the excellent Teacher, realize the Truth well.”
Humility means, I accept that the Vara, the excellent Teacher, the realized Acharya, knows about me better than what I know about myself. He can tell me what I am supposed to do as saadhana, where lie my impurities and insufficiencies, where do I need corrections and improvements, and which way lies my auspicious growth. Unless the Guru is given this superior position, we will not be able to walk confidently on this unknown path.
Suppose we are walking in a desert and are thirsty. We don’t know where lies water. Nobody is there to tell us where we can find some water. Suddenly we find another person coming from the other direction and he looks quite satisfied and happy – not suffering from thirst. Then, will we not naturally think: “Being in the same desert he does not seem to be suffering from thirst! What is the mystery?” Should we not ask him: "Wherefrom did you get water?"
Like that, in the desert of our samsaara, we always see around us long faces, depressed faces. If we ever see anybody, who looks cheerful, peaceful and unaffected even in grave crisis, then should we not go and enquire where lies the key to his internal strength and happiness? Even when surrounded by death and calamity, that person does not seem to be affected by the world at all. When we are haunted by greed and competition, that person doesn’t seem to be attracted by the lucrative things of the world!
The person in the desert may assure us: “Yes, there is water! I cannot show you from here, but if you walk along this path you will see a palm tree standing far away. Go near the tree and look down – you will find a beautiful pond there. Go and quench your thirst. It is sweet water, I have drunk from there.”
Wherefrom will we have faith in his words? The first judgement has to be made by us: this man does not look thirsty; he must have got water. Once we have faith that this man seems to have got water, we have to follow his words. After going half the distance, cross thoughts should not disturb us: “Oh, may be that person is misleading me; there is no water there. I will become all the more tired walking this way. Let me rather go my own way.”
We have to seek the Vara with our own knowledge and discrimination. But once we have found the Vara, we have to trust his words, his guidance, until we reach the palm tree and look down and see the pond ourselves. We have to see the pond. The Guru cannot see the pond for us. He can show us the way. We have to walk following his direction. There lies humility.