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Guru and God - Johannes Aagaard

It is impossible to translate the word "guru". It corresponds to neither "priest", nor teacher", nor similar expressions. We must for this reason refrain from translating it, and instead interpret it, so that its meaning becomes clear. In what follows we take our starting point from the sense the word has in the movement called "Yoga Trust" - i.e. Swami Narayanananda's movement at Gylling, (in Jutland, Denmark). It would be equally valid to have used evidence from other guru-movements. On the whole their understanding of "guru" is the same, in that they regard their own leader as the real guru, while the other "gurus" are false and deceitful "pseudo-gurus".

Swami Narayanananda, the leader of Yoga Trust, the so-called Gylling-Guru, has written twelve full-length books as well as a number of shorter works. He has also organised a number of darshans or satsanghs, at which he has guided his disciples by means of conversation. 1)

This is the vow which all the monks and nuns at Gylling have to take: "I will observe life-long celibacy (Brahmacharya) and lead a pure and simple life. I will remain ever faithful unto God and Guru and try to spread his Message unto the whole world". (Oath of Sannyasa).

"God and Guru" describes the content of their faith, but what is the mutual relationship between God and Guru? Here there is no doubt. Among six points published by Swami Narayanananda on 16th March 1972 we read as follows:

1. There is only One God and That is the Ultimate Truth.

2. God, Guru, and the Ultimate Truth are one and the same.

This "dictum" (the guru's own word) must be recalled every morning on waking, and every evening on going to bed.

God and the guru and the ultimate truth are one and the same reality. There is no difference, no distinction. They are one.

At the Sannyasi-ordination in 1965 relationship to the guru was formulated in the words of the following vow:

"I dedicate my life to God, the Guru and his Message.
I will remain ever faithful to God and Guru.
I shall keep celibacy (Brahmacharya) all my life
and continue my Sadhana (discipleship)".

But the disciples' understanding of "God and guru" is only one side of the question: how has the master himself under-stood this relationship? This is clear from his books and other writings. He takes up the subject first in "the Primal Power in Man or The Kundalini Shakti" from 1950 (this extract is from the 1960 edition, p. 116):"A Guru is a perfect man. One who is a master of his mind and the senses: and one who has realised the Truth or attained Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Such persons always live in God".

In 1951 he described the significance of the guru thus: The place of the Guru is a very exalted one. Everyone cannot become a Guru. A real Guru is considered to be Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Sustainer), and Maheswara (the Destroyer). 2) A real Guru is one who has realised God: become God. Hence there is no difference between the grace of God and the grace of the Guru". 3)

The same year he wrote in "the Ideal Life and Moksha" that the guru is "mediator between God and the aspirant". As such, the guru is necessary for nearly everyone. Only "some great souls, who are born perfect..." can do without the guru's help. For all others, the guru is responsible for mental and spiritual growth. The guru chooses which Ishta Devata the disciple must concentrate on (the chosen deity), and the guru provides the mantra which is the subject of the disciple's meditation. For this reason the disciple is to regard the guru as "the very embodiment of God". 4)

Worship of Ishta Devata is performed according to a ritual called Upachara. This often consists of 16 stages, and there are different forms of upachara in the different guru-schools, though basically they are the same. 5)

The guru's perfection, then, is a result of his being God. "When he uses the word "I" he always means Athman or Brahman". 6)

But this statement does not only apply to the guru: becoming God is a possibility open to all people. Anyone can end up by answering the question "Who am I" with the words "I am Brahma and his Shakti, Vishnu and his Shakti, Shiva and his Shakti". "I am the God of gods, the Lord of lords, the Light of lights, the Power of powers, and the Life of lives. I am that Sat-Chit-Ananda Brahman, the One without a second." 7)

For this reason the guru binds his disciples to himself totally. He becomes their world. He is their father and their mother. At the initiation ceremony he gives his disciples a new body 8), and therefore the initiation is a new birth, at which the guru is both parents. The guru "takes care of the Latter (disciple) like a father and the same time he loves the disciple like a mother "also". 9)

Relationship to the guru, then, involves absolute obedience. When he has chosen himself a guru, the disciple must have "infinite and implicit faith in him and his power and wisdom and carry out his instructions to letter." 10).

The disciple must treat the guru as God. The guru's word must be law for him. His command must be obeyed "even at the risk of life. He must never say no to him even if he asks him (the disciple) to jump from a housetop." 11)

Everything must be sacrificed to the guru - mind, body, values, everything. Nothing may be kept secret, for the guru is "the very Athman of the disciple", in the same way as God and guru "are the same". 12)

Doubt is a deadly sin. This statement comes again and again in Narayanananda's books: "It is better to have a bullet through the heart than to allow doubt to arise in the mind", and by doubt he means doubt in the guru.

The disciple can pray to the guru to rid him of all his sins 13), for the guru "must take upon himself the sins of the disciple" 14). The guru can do this, if he is "a man of Enlightenment". Thus he can "wash away these sins by his supernatural powers". But if he is not a genuine guru, then his disciple's sins will cause him to sink, and to suffer from incurable diseases 15)

But a genuine guru is without sin. "One can never do any sinful acts after attaining Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Whatever such a man does is for the benefit of others 16). Indeed the guru is even "master" of "decay and death" 17) - all the while he - like God - is "omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent" 18).

There are no limits to this power: in his mind he can see everything in the past, the present, and the future. Everything is revealed to him, and he does not need to seek knowledge as other men do. Experience has shown Narayanananda, however, that "even the true Gurus sometimes suffer physically when initiating disciples because of the sins of the latter", but even if they suffer because of this they can "destroy the sins of their disciples". 19)

Anyone who regards his guru as "a mere mortal" can never make spiritual progress, for he lacks faith in the guru's words. 20)

The guru is then perfect, divine, in fact God himself. But the picture is not without its contradictions. How can such a sinless divine character pray in this way: "Lead me, 0 Lord, in Thy righteousness, Make Thy way straight for me. Cleanse Thou my heart from all hidden faults and frailties. Keep Thy servant away from presumptuous sins. Remove from my mind all delusions, doubts, and ignorance and let them not have sway over me any more. Lord! Wash out iniquity from me and cleanse. me in and out". 21)

This is the "ideological" understanding of the guru. But how is relationships to the guru worked out in practice? By making use of techniques which have all the appearance of possession! The disciple consciously seeks to let the guru possess his mind, for in this way it is presumed that God himself takes over the mind.

This happens especially through the meditation which Swami Narayanananda has developed, and which he describes in this way: "Worship the Guru (Spiritual Teacher) in the Sahasrara (Crown of Head). Imagine that the Guru is sitting on a thousand-petalled Lotus with a radiant face and body, and blessing you. Worship the Guru mentally with flowers, garlands, sandal-paste, etc." 22)

Then merge the form of the Guru in the form of Ishta Devata in the heart (Ishta Devata is the deity one is most attached to) ... Then worship the Mother Kundalini Shakti in the Muladhara Chakra (the lowest central point between the sexual organs and the anus) mentally. After worshipping Her, wake up the Mother Shakti with the words: Wake up Mother!" And reach the Goal this very moment .." 23)

The Guru has taken over the position normally held by Shiva in the tantric form of meditation, that is at the highest point in Sahasrara. The Mother-deity, who must be awakened and lifted up to Sahasrara, is thus united with the guru!

This same idea is repeated - in a little more detail - in "The Secrets of Mind Control" 24). Here it is stated clearly: "One should then merge the Guru-form in the form of the Ishta-Devata thinking all the time that the Guru has become one with the Ishta-Devata and begin worshipping Him mentally with flowers, garlands, sandal-paste etc. One should pray to him sincerely to remove all one's past sins, to save one from all harm, pit-falls, and dangers, to lead one on the right path and to grant peace and strength of mind, character, wisdom, and Enlightenment".

The guru is thus God and saviour. No guru, no salvation. This exclusiveness is quite clear. If the gurus are apparently extremely tolerant towards other religions and can contain them all, the reason is simple - there is no salvation in any of them. Ordinary human beings cannot be saved without a guru, no matter what their religious affiliation may be. On the other hand it is emphasised often that true gurus are few, so that salvation is in practice confined to very few people.



1. His works - consisting of both written and oral material - are in the archives of the Institute for the Theology of Mission and Ecumenical Theology in Århus, Denmark, and are at present undergoing analysis and interpretation.

2. Maheshwara is another name for Shiva.

3. "Revelation" 1951, 1968 edition p. 15f. The same statement is found in "A Practical Guide to Samadhi" 1957, 1966 ed. pp 86 and 205.

4. "The Ideal Life and Moksha (Freedom)" 1951, 1965 edn. pp. 105 ff., also p. 107. See also "The Secrets of Mind-Control 1954, 1959 edn. p. 99: Only a man of God-realisation, i.e. one who has attained Samadhi, can know what the Ishta-Mantra of a disciple should be and it is only he who can give him initiation. The same book points out (p.160) that for this reason one must not choose one's guru lightly, and one must not change either mantra or Ishta Devata. "Stick to one Guru, one Mantra, and one Ishta Devata" (p. 205)

5. "The Ideal Life and Moksha" 1965, p. 111. Transcendental Meditation's ordination ritual is a form of Upachara.

6. "The Secrets of Mind-Control" 1954, 1959 edn p. 239.

7. "The Ideal Life and Moksha" 1965 p.153f.

8. "A practical Guide to Samadhi" 1957, 1966 edn. p. 92.

9. "Revelation" 1951, 1968 edn. P. 193.

10. "The Secrets of Mind Control" 1954, 1959 edn. p. 205

11. "A practical Guide to Samadhi" 1957, 1966 edn. p.95.

12. Ibid. p.95f.

13. "The Secrets of Mind-Control" 1954, 1959 edn. p. 83

14. Ibid. p. 211. See also "A Practical Guide to Samadhi" 1957. 1966 edn. p. 92f. and "The Ideal Life of (sic ADB) Moksha" 1951, 1965 edn. p.109.

15. Ibid. p. 211.

16. Ibid. p. 240.

17. "A practical Guide to Samadhi" 1957, 1966 edn. p. 149 Here is to be found the most comprehensive account of "Guru and his necessity".

18. "A practical Guide to Samadhi" 1957, 1966 edn. p. 149.

19. Ibid. p. 93.

20. Ibid. p. 205f.

21. "Revelation" 1951, 1968 edn p. 237f. The prayer comes from a kind of diary written 16th August 1944.

22. It is this worship which in Transcendental Meditation is given to Guru Dev at the initiation ceremony.

23. "The primal power" 1950, 1960 edn p. 132.

24. 1954, 1959 edn. p. 82f.