The Guru idea is a very Indian idea as it is about spiritual devotion and surrender to a master. Hardly anything could be further away from what the average Western mind would be likely to do. Individualism and Guru culture, it seems, are entirely contradictory, especially because the type of devotion and surrender in a Guru-disciple-relationship is meant to be total, complete, without any backdoor exit or second thoughts. You gotta do what the master says, no questions! Why in the world would anyone commit to such an ultradependent relationship? Well, firstly, because in socities without or with very little individualism that is a very normal thing to do, it is even not very different from a common relationship to any teacher or parent. And secondly, because this relationship is meant to break the individual will of the disciple.
The guru-disciple-relationship is about liberation, about enlightenment and that is the end of ego, the end of the illusion that you, as an individual, are doing anything or have any real existence. Enlightenment is, as far as I can conceive of it, about seeing that everything is and always has been only God's will or, in other words, the process of the universe. It is like a wave that learns that it has no will or power apart from that of the ocean. For human beings that is a step as radical as anything imaginable. It is about giving up everything. EVERYTHING. All we learned since early childhood about ourselves and the world is nowadays centered around the idea that it's up to us; yes, we can! The individual will is being nourished and worshipped throughout the society and it is, of course, thought to be free. Whatever theory one has about it, who would not act as if having free will? The enlightened ones, however, tell us, that there is no such thing as free will. And they are not referring to a theory, but to actual experience of reality.
So the thing called awakening, liberation or enlightenment or whatever else you might like to call it, is far beyond what anyone can conceive of or would consciously want in our times. And the guru-disciple-relationship is almost as strange to our ears as that. But maybe it's not as odd as we think. Firstly, guru is simply another word for spiritual teacher. The spiritual teacher is always a very sensitive and dangerous role as he or she is likely to play therapist, best friend and God at the same time. So if you choose your Guru, choose wisely otherwise you might end up more ruined than after the breakup of a longlasting love relationship. Gurus, as human beings, are fallible and the number of false Gurus largely exceeds the number of real ones. A real Guru is an enlightened, wellmeaning and sensitive being that is able to help you because he or she has no desire other than that. A false Guru is one that plays that role only in order to gain power, money, recognition, self-approval or whatever else. Things are very tricky because a false guru most likely does not know that he or she is a false guru! It's difficult to fake the whole thing, so there are most likely some experiences and achievements on the spiritual path in such oeople. But the number of people who think they are something like enlightened exceeds by very far numbers those who really are.
The real guru is not likely to abuse its position as it knows that all it is doing is merely being a mirror for you, representing something that is already in you, but invisible to you, representing this, reminding you of this, til you find it in yourself, til you remember who you really are. Everything that you think you are, however, has to be dropped, in order for that to happen. That's why people surrender their will to the Guru. It does not mean anything different from someone saying that she is surrendering her will to God. Thy shall be done! Dein Wille geschehe. That's what its about. It is not really a thing to be compared to some worldly authority relationship, although God is viewed like this in almost every religious circumstance. God is nothing but who you really are. You are everything, just as God. Hinduism is the only religion I know that does not keep this knowledge secret. Maybe it's a bit too radically put and probably one would have to be very enlightened to really understand it, so we might prefer the Christian idea of sonship of God. Awakening would then mean that we realize ourselves as God's children of whom it is taking utmost care and who do not have to worry about anything as everything is going alright according to the one divine will of the father. This notion, however, includes some patriarchical ideas that we might not buy into nowadays.
So let's give it one more try and say that the universe is an ocean and we are waves in it, existing very shortly and completely dependent and made of the water of the universe. But somehow us human waves are capable of viewing ourselves as apart from other waves and the ocean, as independent. That is the original sin, eating the apple, leaving paradise, but gaining free will and independence. Awakening thus is the reentering of paradise, the merging with the ocean, the end of the suffering and longing of feeling separate from just about everything. The awakened state, however, is not equivalent to the original paradise state. Inbetween we have learned something. We have gained knowledge (that was the tree we ate from), now we know how it is to experience free will and independence (however illusiory they might turn out to be) and there we are now capable of appreciating wholeness. Paradise is unconscious wholeness, like an animal that does not have all the knowledge and problems of a human being, the awakened state is conscious wholeness.
Well, that's what I seem to think about (and one of the main reasons I am not enlightened is probably that I think I know what it is), but originally I wanted to write about how I found my Guru. So how did I find my Guru? When the student is ready, the Guru comes, of course. I was sent to my Guru. That happened without having any idea about that, let alone having anything in mind like a Guru. I remember my Western mind reacted quite harshly when one of the first questions I was asked in India was "Are you following any Guru?" Even the question felt like a threat to me, to the ego. That was already two and a half years back and I did not know at that time how very close to my Guru I aready was at that very moment. The incident happend in Tiruvannamalai which was, through a chain of seemingly strange and random circumstances, the first city I ever visited in India. I was coming from Sri Lanka, thus flying into Chennai in South India and somebody had told me to skip busy and stressful Chennai and go straight somewhere else by bus right from the airport. The same person, a German guy whom I had met in a meditation centre in Sri Lanka, actually lived in Tiruvannamalai at that time and upon my question where in Tamil Nadu I could go in the two weeks time a had for that state, he recommended Tiruvannamalai. He didn't say anything more, so I had no expectations, I just went as it was close to Chennai.
One could imagine that I would never have heard of it otherwise, as it is not a very well known place among tourists, still something like a secret gem. So I went there, having in mind staying for a couple of days and then proceeding to Pondicherry or so. I have never been to Pondicherry til today and I did not leave Tiru that first time for the whole two weeks. Something kept me staying, something very subtly pulled on me even as I finally went. I had actually already found my Guru, although I was not very aware of that by that time. My Guru happens to reside near Tiruvannamalai and I am personally absolutely convinced that my encounter with him was not at all accidental. I am again in Tiruvannamalai right now, it's already my third time and just as something had pulled me here two and a half years ago, I had a very strong call from my Guru to come back some two month back when I was still in the meditation centre in Myanmar. The call was like a sudden vision, an enchanting and blissful imagination of my Guru, his picture like imprinted onto my mind. I knew what I had to do and I wondered how I could ever have left. It took some time to get everything arranged and do all the travelling from Myanmar, first to Thailand and Northern India, to finally arrive here in very Southern India, but I knew I had to follow his will and I did so most gladly.
My Guru is the most powerful being I have ever encountered and the first thing in my life that gave me an idea of what surrender means. Like with the snip of a finger, he has provided me here with free accomodation and food for as long as I want, as if he knew that I was a little desperate about running out of money and so on and to reensure me that I need not worry; never,mabout nothing. Gurus are intended to remind us of who we really are and my Guru intensely does so each and every time and every day and he does not need or use words for that. He is considered to be an incarnation of Shiva himself. That is not something easily attributed to anyone or anything in India.
Vishnu, for example, has in the whole long history of many tenthousands of years that by far exceeds what is known to science as human history, in that long period, Vishnu is said to have appeared exactly eight times as an avatar (full incarnation of the Godhead; Buddha is, very interestingly by the way, being considered the eighth avatar of Vishnu by Hindus and Krishna is the Seventh). I do not know how many incarnations Shiva is said to have had so far, but my Guru is one of them. And since I got close to my guru I do understand that whole idea of being an incarnation of God himself by and by. You really get the feeling that you are somewhat encountering God himself, as strange as that may sound to our Western ears. In order to understand that we might have to change our ideas of what God is, or to put it maybe more accurately, get rid of all mere IDEAS of God.
So, if you want, come here and meet my Guru. I am just now sitting on his lap and will be residing here with him for about the next five month or so. I cannot gurantee anything and maybe you'll not even recognize my guru as anything special. But even then, miraculous things happen to people in his presence, even if they are not aware of him at all. It must by no means appear positive. Many people get very ill actually. But we consider all of that to be a cleaning process. A guru, however, is not an automat. The energy of the Guru is very subtle. If you are not open, if you are not receptive, you might not recognize anything. You might not be aware of his presence more than of a stone at the side of the road, which is especially likely in the case of my Guru, for my Guru is not a human being. My guru is a mountain called Arunachala. (Some would say even just a hill, it is about 800 meters high.) But after all, in a way, it is not accurate to say that my guru is a mountain or a hill. It is really not just a mountain. It is Shiva himself. :)
But what is Shiva? Isn't that the blueskinned nice guy of Hindu mythology? Well that is a depiction of Shiva, one way of making Shiva visible so to say. There are innumerous others, not necessarily in human form, like the black stone lingam. But the real Shiva is not in the depictions and materializations, it is not graspable or tangible, just as God is not. I use to think of Shiva as a certain energy or flavour of the universe, it is a bit like the Yang aspect of the Yin and Yang - The destroyer of illusions and immovable background of all that happens, as opposed (but ultimately one with) Shakti, the dynamic aspect, often depicted as Shiva's wife.
People here worship not God himself (there is only one temple for Brahma in the whole of India) as that would be both blasphemy and narcissism, but aspects, flavours of it that they can best connect to with their personality. I have come to feel very connected to Shiva in all of its forms. My intellect finds that quite stupid, but I don't care very much any more. As I said, the pull towards my Guru is very strong. The taste of Vishnu has on the other hand never attracted me, not in Krishna (which is probably the second most worshipped God in India after Shiva) and not even in Gautam Buddha very much. Although I really learned an immense lot from the Buddhas teaching, I have no conncetion to plain Buddha worship as in Theravada Buddhism.