The Need for the Guidance of the Guru

The snares of the desire-soul of the vital nature are often subtle and can easily overpower the mind. Thus, motivations that represent the gratification of the ego are frequently justified by the mental processes and thus, can continue even when the seeker believes that he is carrying out the Divine Will and Action. The history of close-minded bigotry, and the wars that have been fought, and the tortures that have been undertaken in the name of God provide vivid examples of the ways that the vital desire-soul gains support and justification in the mind. It is not just these overt situations, however. The subtle workings of desire, greed, hunger for power, lust, as well as expressions of vanity and vainglory are just a few of the types of inner reactions that can continue under the color of some type of mental justification. As the sadhana progresses, and more powers manifest in the individual, the temptations and expressions of these vital drives that result can become even more active and pervasive, and thus, the seeker finds himself in a place of danger without, possibly, the ability to clearly interpret and distinguish these drives from the higher impetus.

The techniques of the separation of Purusha from Prakriti, as well as the mental practice of recognition that the seeker is not the body, not the life and not the mind that he experiences, can aid in keeping the seeker clear of these obstacles and deflected energies, but for most, this is simply not sufficient to navigate successfully through the minefield of the inner psychological experience. For this reason, the role of the Guru becomes important.

In his book The Synthesis of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo describes the role, the nature and the importance of the Guru for the spiritual seeker. The Guru can aid the seeker in cutting through the confusion and subtle webs woven by the vital desire-soul and thereby help the seeker carry out the rejection of the undivine movements and avoid coming under the influence of forces that are actively hostile or inimical to the divine action in the world. If the seeking is sincere and deep, the teacher or Guru will eventually come into one’s life and thus help the sadhana to overcome the difficulties. Sri Aurobindo discusses the nature, qualities and role of the Guru in the chapter titled ‘The Four Aids’.

Sri Aurobindo writes, in the current volume: “One thing more. In this process of the descent from above and the working it is most important not to rely entirely on oneself, but to rely on the guidance of the Guru and to refer all that his judgment and arbitration and decision. For it often happens that the forces of the lower nature are stimulated and excited by the descent and want to mix with it and turn it to their profit. It often happens too that some Power or Powers undivine in their nature present themselves as the Supreme Lord or as the Divine Mother and claim the being’s service and surrender. If these things are accepted, there will be an extremely disastrous consequence. If indeed there is the assent of the sadhak to the Divine working alone and the submission or surrender to that guidance, then all can go smoothly. This assent and a rejection of all egoistic force or forces that appeal to the ego are the safeguard throughout the sadhana. But the ways of nature are full of snares, the disguises of the ego are innumerable, the illusions of the Powers of Darkness, Rakshasi Maya, are extraordinarily skilful; the reason is an insufficient guide and often turns traitor; vital desire is always with us tempting to follow any alluring call. This is the reason why in this yoga we insist so much on what we call Samarpana — rather inadequately rendered by the English word surrender. If the heart centre is fully opened and the psychic is always in control, then there is no question; all is safe. But the psychic can at any moment be veiled by a lower upsurge. It is only a few who are exempt from these dangers and it is precisely those to whom surrender is easily possible. The guidance of one who himself is by identity or represents the Divine is in this difficult endeavour imperative and indispensable.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 8, The Triple Transformation: Psychic, Spiritual and Supramental, The Spiritual Transformation, pp. 209-229

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