REMOVER OF DARKNESS
There is a story of a man who had done many years of scriptural study but he hadn’t attained the height of spiritual progress which he was craving. He had heard that there was an enlightened master who lived on a mountain in the Himalayas. So, he traveled the great distance to find this master.
When he finally reached to the Guru’s cave in the mountains, he was filled with excitement at being so close to attaining what he had always wanted. When he beheld the Master, he bowed at the Master’s feet and started to tell the Master everything he had studied, practiced and learned. He explained where he felt that he was stuck on his spiritual path, and all of the obstacles he faced. The Master was quiet. When the man finished talking, the Master calmly said, “Let us have a cup of tea.”
“Tea???” The seeker exclaimed. “But Gurudev I have travelled weeks on foot to find you. I have spent years and years in the quest for enlightenment. I am now at your holy feet waiting for you to bestow your great wisdom upon me. I don`t want tea! Just bless me with Divine Liberation.”
“First we will have tea,” the Master said calmly, and laid out two cups for tea. The Guru then began to pour tea, from a kettle into each cup. As he filled the seeker’s cup, the man watched as the Guru poured and poured even though the tea reached to the rim of the cup. Then, still, as the cup overflowed and tea spilled onto the floor, the Guru kept pouring.
“Gurudev,” the man said. “Stop. It is enough. Can you not see that the tea is now spilling out on the floor. There is no more room in the cup.”
The Guru smiled and stopped pouring. “You are like this cup, my child. Just as the cup is so full that it can hold no more tea, so you are so full of your own ego, your own learning, your own stories, your own explanations, that there is no room for anything else. You cannot hold what I can teach you. Until you empty yourself of your ego, your preconceived ideas, your own book knowledge and your own explanations of how everything is there will be no point in me teaching you at all. You cannot hold anything right now. There is no room.
Similarly, if we really want the grace of the Guru to flow into us and transform our lives, we must become empty vessels. Only when we are empty of ego can He fill us with His divine light.
There is a beautiful story told about a man who wanted to walk on water. He begged his guru to give him a secret mantra or a special boon so he could complete this remarkable feat. The man was extremely pious and devoted, and he had been in his guru’s service for many years. Therefore, the guru gave him a leaf, folded many times until it was very small. He told his disciple, “Within this leaf is a secret formula which will enable you to walk on water. However, you must not open it because the formula inside is a secret.”
So the man agreed, and he took the folded leaf carefully in his hands and began his journey across the river. He was walking successfully on the water when suddenly he was overcome by curiosity and doubt. What could be this secret formula? Is there really a secret inside? Is it a powder or a stone or some holy mantra printed? Where did his guru get it? His doubts got the best of him and he began slowly to open the leaf as he walked, careful lest any of the secret formula should spill out into the water. As soon as he unfolded the last piece to unveil the secret, he suddenly sank into the water and drowned. Inside the leaf was written the simple word, “faith.”
The Guru Gita says that the Guru is Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Verily, the Guru is the Supreme Brahman itself.
But what is a guru in practical terms? While in the West, the term has taken on myriad, frequently derogatory connotations, the true meaning is pure and simple. In Sanskrit, gu means darkness, and ru means one who removes. So, a guru is one who removes our darkness. It is one whose mere presence emanates so much light, so much love and so much divinity that every darkness within us is alchemically changed into light. And there is no darkness too dark for a guru. Their light can shine through and transform even the darkest darkness. Even the darkness of midnight would last but a second if the sun decided to rise 6 hours early. Similarly, no darkness can last in the Divine presence of a true guru.
Unlike a preacher or minister or rabbi, a guru does not necessarily have to be a religious figure, nor does it have to be a person of a specific religion, gender, age or ethnicity. It is simply someone who holds the light for you if your path becomes shrouded in darkness; it is someone who will carry you if you get tired; it is someone who — after you have been in his/her presence — you are not the same. You are lighter, freer, more filled with joy. It is someone in whose light you want to bask forever.
In the West, guru is frequently defined as teacher. Yet, the crucial diference between a teacher and a guru is that while teachers can explain concepts and give you verbal information, they cannot actually take you to the realms of which they teach. An astronomy teacher can tell you about other planets, but cannot take you there. A science teacher can explain life on the bottom of the ocean, but cannot take you there. A geology teacher can explain the properties of diamonds to you, but he cannot fill your hands with the precious gems. In contrast, a guru not only teaches you about God, but rather, he takes you to God. He not only teaches about peace, he also gives you peace.
As I mentioned, in Sanskrit, the word guru means one who removes our darkness. Yet it is not merely the darkness of ignorance. It is not simply that we go to our guru with a question, ask him, he answers it and then our confusion is cleared. Rather, the mere presence of the guru in our life removes all darkness – all anger, all pain, all confusion.