One day while sitting on the floor at the feet of my Guruji – whom everybody called Pitaji –  I told him that my friends often ask me “where have you disappeared these days? Where do you live? What are you doing?” I tell them that I live with my Guru in Faridabad. Guru? They ask in innocence, “Who Guru? What Guru? Why Guru?” And then I tell them that to put their questions in perspective, let me first tell what do I mean when I say “Guru”.

“Guru” is a Word. The difference between “Sound” and “Word” is that the latter definitely has a meaning while the former may or may not have one. So there can be no word without meaning. However, there is one word – Guru – that has no meaning. This exception is because the understanding of the word Guru is so enormous that it defies definition. One cannot ‘define’ Guru. One can only sing His praise. And it takes 1,430 pages in Granth Sahib to begin to describe his magnitude or “efgek mahima” in Hindi! So where does one begin?

I told my friends that I am not attempting to define Guru but here are the three most defining attributes of what the word entails:

First, Guru is He who gives you the understanding that “I” does not exist. Nobody in right mind can say “I” don’t exit. One can only say “I don’t exist” when that understanding is given by the Guru – almost in the palm of the hand! Like a real possession. There is another understanding the Guru gives, also in the palm of the hand: “God doesn’t exist”. So this twin understanding that “I don’t exist and God doesn’t exist” is something Guru alone can give. Nobody else can impart this profound understanding. If “I” and “God” still exist, then the Guru says that they are just words.

So Second, Guru is He who tells you what is the “Word” – after all as the Bible says “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God.” It is Guru who tells you who made all these languages in the world with the complexity of their grammars? Where are the words stored in our body? From where do the words arise and how they come to the vocal cords? How does the mouth help form words in sounds that are then carried by the wind to the ear of the listener? And where does the listener store these words? How is it that one is able to recall what happened twenty years ago yet forget what transpired the day before! Guru is He who tells you Who is Speaking, Who is Listening and What is this Process of Speaking and Listening. This is another understanding Guru alone can give.

Third, Guru is He who makes you understand your different states of consciousness. Guru makes you aware whether you are “Awake” or perhaps you are “Dreaming”. The two states are alike because in both there is a sense of “I” and awareness of time and space. Plus, the Five Senses operate in both. The only difference between “Wakefulness and Dreaming” i.e. “Jagrat and Swapan” is Continuity. Dreams are disjointed, unconnected while we always wake up where we had slept. Unlike dreams, in wakefulness there are no jump cuts in actions and reality unfolds in continuous flow of space-time.

But what happens when we go into deep sleep? How is it that “I” disappears completely? Along with the “I”, time and space and the five senses also are in abeyance. No wonder when one is in deep sleep one does not hear the alarm go off or the door bell ring. You could scream and shout and wake up the whole neighborhood when you return home in the night to find your man servant in deep sleep behind closed doors! So what is this mystery of the Deep Sleep or “Sushupt” as it is called in Sanskrit?

The Guru tells you that there is the fourth state of consciousness called “Turia” where Jagrat, Swapan and Sushupt all come together. In this state, an individual can choose to experience reality as if Awake or as a Dream or even become impervious to it as if in Deep Sleep. In Turia, an individual can move between the three states of consciousness to suit oneself.

The Guru tells that because we experience Jagrat, Swapan and Sushupt we are able to make estimations about what Turia is. But there is yet another state of consciousness beyond Turia called “Turia Ateet” which cannot be imagined. And it is in this state of consciousness – Turia Ateet – that Gurus find themselves in.

So, a quick sum up: Although one cannot define the word, Guru is He who gives you that understanding that both “I” and “God” do not exit and if they do, then they are merely words. Second, Guru is He who tells what is the Word, Who is Speaking who is Listening and what is this process of Speaking & Listening. And thirdly, Guru is He who explains that there are 4 states of consciousness that can be understood but He is beyond the fourth – Turia Ateet – that nobody can ever fathom.

Pitaji listened to the three points I made trying to ‘define’ Guru. Then as if endorsing them He told me to add yet another definition: Guru is He who will answer the shishya’s query that “I know you will set me free – mukt – but tell me where will you take me after my moksha?” So Guru is He who not only delivers you to your Salvation but will also tell you where He will take you after Salvation! In other words, what is Salvation is something Guru alone can tell.


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