Traditions of the Guru

The guru tradition is common to all religious systems throughout the world. The founders and figureheads of all major religions are gurus: Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, Zarathustra and many more. These gums have millions of disciples, even though they are no longer in human form to guide their followers; instead other gurus have taken over the role of transmitting their teachings. In the present day the Pope can be regarded as the guru for Roman Catholics and the Dalai Lama for Tibetans. In Hinduism there are four jagat gurus (universal gurus) in four centres throughout India who act as spiritual leaders for millions of Hindus. On a more personal level, each priest, parson, mullah, rabbi, etc. can be considered as a guru for the group of people that he spiritually instructs. Even the cults of antiquity had gurus. The Druids were spiritual teachers who helped their disciples to higher levels of awareness; in ancient Egypt, Greece, etc., many of the well-known philoso-phers were gurus: Hermes Trismegistus, Plato, Socrates, Archimedes and others – all had many disciples. Lao Tse, Shankaracharya, Kabir, Guru Nanak, St. Augustine, St. Teresa, the Jewish prophets, the Sufi saints and others too numerous to mention were all gurus. These teachers guided and inspired people on their spiritual path. Their words are perhaps different but their aim is the same: truth, consciousness and bliss.

The guru is an essential part of life. His role is the essence of all mystical systems. As soon as a mystical system discards or loses the guru tradition, then it no longer remains mystical. It does not bring results. It retains all the laws, rules, formalities and rites; it retains the structure or the shell. But it loses the essence or the moving spirit behind it. This essence is the light of the guru. It is he who opens the disciple’s eyes to the impossible.

There is a special day in India, the day of the full moon in the month of Ashadha (July), which is traditionally called Guru Poornima. On this day disciples pay homage to the guru, whether mentally from a distance or by their physical presence. At the same time the guru remembers his own guru.

Actually everyone we meet in life can be regarded as our guru because each person can teach us something. Even our enemies can be our best teachers, for they clearly highlight and show us our greatest problems, the obstacles to higher awareness. When we know our mental complexes, the deeper ones of which we are not normally aware, then we can take steps to remove them.

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