By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati
I didn’t know. I’d never met an enlightened being before. How was I supposed to tell? And even if I could tell, what was I supposed to do with him?
As I took my seat on the floor in front of Baba, along with 250 others of us who’d just arrived in India, I wondered all these things. Except that I wasn’t thinking coherently, so I didn’t really have the words I’m using now. I was feeling joy and deep peace, mixed with gratitude and unexplainable love. It was very confusing, especially since I’d never actually met him before.
We Westerners lack the basic training. Growing up in India, you imbibe basic information from childhood about realized beings and the human capacity to know Consciousness. Fortunately, my Baba explained about Self-Realization, both so we could see it in him as well as find it in ourselves. One of the Sanskrit texts we chanted daily says:
“sruti.h pratyak.sam aitihyam
yasya caatmatapo veda
de”sika.m ca sadaa smaret.”—Srii Guru Gita 65
You must decide the Guru’s worth
by the four sources of knowledge:
the Vedas, sacred histories,
your inspection and inference.
That morning, as I sat in the courtyard under the mango trees with the sun rising, I was using inspection and inference. But I didn’t know the Vedas or sacred histories. I had no yardstick to measure him against. Yet something was happening to me, something I liked, something I had longed for all my life — or longer. As I sat there, my inner pain was lessening, ebbing away.
Peace arose within me, even bliss, every time I sat under the mango trees with him. I went back every day after that first time. I understood it only when he explained, “You measure the value of the Guru by the change in you.” Duh! That change was obvious to me.
Yoga’s ancient writings describe the characteristics of a Guru clearly and carefully:
A qualified Guru is knowledgeable in the texts,
a devotee of God, free from jealousy,
an expert in yoga, does yoga practices,
is always in a pure yogic state.
He is devoted to his own Guru
and is a knower of the Self.
Only one with these qualifications may properly serve as Guru.
— Advaya Taraka Upanishad 14-15
(rendered by Swami Nirmalananda)
An impressive list of qualifications — this is what makes a Guru worth meeting or spending time and studying with. Their teachings must be consistent with the ancient sources, yet they teach from their own experience as well as intellectual knowledge. Thus, they are not teaching mere theory, nor are they making it up. Also, the Guru is devoted to his own Guru, which means he had a Guru — no self-appointed teachers. His inner state must be steady, the attainment promised by all the yogic texts.
My Baba hit the mark on every count. After years with him, I had the yardstick and could evaluate the Gurus I later met, so many of them available in America. But while Muktananda was alive, there was nowhere else I wanted to go. There was nothing else I needed.
His fullness overflowed into me. His inner perfection triggered mine to arise within me. I followed him, not because of him, but because of what happened inside me. That’s the only true test, one validated by the root text of Kashmiri Shaivism:
yo’ vipastho j~naahetu.sca — Shiva Sutras 3.29
Only one with mastery over Kundalini is competent to enlighten others.
(rendered by Swami Nirmalananda)
How can you tell if a Guru is worth their salt? In our tradition, the pivotal point is whether or not he can give Shaktipat. This inner awakening is the beginning of your Self-Realization. Once awakened, Kundalini is the fuel that carries your rocket ship all the way to God. Only a Guru who can awaken Kundalini is fully qualified. I studied with such a Guru and am privileged to bring His blessings to you.
Happy Guru Purnima!
On this full moon, dedicated to the Guru, again and again I bow.
OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo nama.h