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23 July, 2014

Why Do Muslim celebrate Ramadan?


       At the time of  Muhammad's birth in 570 CE, Mecca was both the religious and the commercial center of the vast Arabian peninsula.  The Arabs were mostly nomads, with herds of camels and they came to Mecca both to worship at its Grand Mosque, and to buy the few luxuries that they could afford.  Mecca had many wealthy merchants, who sent caravans northwards to buy and sell goods in such cosmopolitan cities as Jerusalem and Damascus; and it also had body of hereditary religious leaders who exercised power in both spiritual and civil affairs.

A folio from an early Quran, written in Kufic script - period 8th - 9th century.

       Muhammad's family was related to the religious leadership, and had the minor role of supplying water for pilgrims to the Grand Mosque.  His father died before he was born, and his mother died when he was aged eight, so an uncle raised him.  As a young man he caught the attention of a widow, Kadija, who was a wealthy merchant; and she employed him to lead a caravan to Jerusalem.  On this journey, he met many Christians and Jews, including a Christian monk, whose ideas made a deep impression on him.  

       After his return to Mecca he and Khadija married, and he continued to lead caravans for her.  But at the age of forty he abandoned this work, and spent much of his time thinking about religious matters.  Then, while he was alone for a month on a mountain outside Mecca, he had a vision of angel Gabriel, who gave him a series of messages from God, and ordered him to convey them to his people.  At first he dreaded the ridicule he would encounter; but eventually he felt compelled to start reciting the messages.


      The messages received by Muhammad on the mountain from the Quran.  Its central theme is that there is one God, and that everyone must submit to him.  Thus, true religion is called as Islam, which means 'submission' to God, and a person embracing Islam is a Muslim. Muhammad believed that God sends messages to every nation in every age, and he recognized the teachings of both Moses and Jesus as divine. He also believed that the traditional Arabian religion was divinely inspired, but had been corrupted by hypocrisy; so he saw himself as a reformer.

       The primary religious discipline, prescribed by Gabriel, is to pray five times a day; and Gabriel gave Muhammad the words that people should use in prayer.  In addition people should fast during Ramadan, the month that Muhammad spent on the mountain; they should neither eat nor drink during day light hours.  And they should make a pilgrimage as frequently as they can afford; and the main place of pilgrimage is the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

       The moral disciplines are equally simple and rigorous.  People should be as generous to the poor as their means allow.  They should care for their sick neighbors and welcome strangers into their homes.  They never speak harshly, and should readily praise the achievements of others.  They should be faithful and tender in marriage.  They should cherish all living beings as God's creatures.  And they should be indifferent to power and wealth for their own sake, but desire only to do God's will.


       Mecca was the commercial center of the Arabian peninsula.  Caravan arrived each day to sell their cargoes of precious goods.  One of the richest merchants in the city was a widow called Khadija; and she organized caravans to take goods to and from Jerusalem.

       She heard people speak well of the intelligence and honesty of a young man called Muhammad, and she invited him to lead one of her caravans; he accepted.  As the caravan was approaching Jerusalem, Muhammad saw a monk sitting in a cave near the road.  He stopped the caravan, and went to the cave.  The monk was Christian and Muhammad asked him many questions about his faith.  The monk's answers impressed Muhammad.  The monk then said to Muhammad:  'I can see that you are a messenger from God.'

       When he reached Jerusalem, Muhammad sold the good that he had brought from Arabia and purchased other goods.  and when he returned to Mecca, he handed these goods to Khadija, who sold them at twice the price he had paid.  On seeing him again Khadija found herself feeling great love for Muhammad and she asked him to marry her.  He accepted, and his uncle Abu Talib arranged the wedding.

      Muhammad thought deeply about the monk's words, wondering if they might be true; and after the wedding he related them to Khadija.  She then went to a cousin, a Christian who had studied deeply the teachings of Jesus Christ, and asked whether the monk's words might be true.  'I have long expected God to send a messenger to our people,' the cousin said,' and I believe that your husband is that person.'  (Source: Ibn Ishaq).


       For several years Muhammad continued to lead caravan for Khadija, and she had three sons by him, all of whom died in infancy, and four daughters.  But when he reached the age of 40 Muhammad grew weary of travelling to and from Jerusalem, and began to spend much of his time alone.  He frequently walked out of Mecca to remote hills and valleys; and he felt that every stone and tree was saying to him, 'Peace to you, messenger of God.'

       One day, as he was sitting under a tree, he heard a voice.  "Muhammad", the voice said, 'to each nation and to each generation I send a messenger, who speaks my words.  Will you be my messenger to this nation at this time?'  Muhammad know that the voice was God's and without hesitation he replied, "I will."

A depiction of Muhammad receiving his first revelation from the angel Gabriel.

       Some time later Muhammad decided to spend the month of Ramadan on Mount Hira.  When he was half way up, night fell, and he lay down to sleep.  At midnight an angel came, and shook him.  When he awoke the angel said: 'I am Gabriel.'  Then Gabriel unfolded a piece of cloth on which some words were written.  'Read!' Gabriel said.  'What shall I read?'.  Muhammad asked. 'Read the words that are written on this cloth.'  Gabriel said, Muhammad looked at the cloth, and could see the words:  'God created all living beings, and he is full of compassion.  He will write words that you are to remember, and then dictate to others, these words will conveys truths which the people have forgotten.'

      As soon as Muhammad had read these words, Gabriel departed.

19th year depiction titled "Muhammad Preaching" (1840-1850) by Russian Artist Grigory Gagrin.


       At first Muhammad was overjoyed at Gabriel's visit.  But then he reflected on its implications.  He had seen in Mecca several men who had declared themselves to be the messengers of God, and were in a permanent state of ecstasy.  Each one had spoken nonsense - and had been treated by most people with contempt.  "If I return to Mecca,' thought Muhammad ' and say that I am God's messenger, people will treat me with contempt.'  This prospect caused him such distress that he decided to go to the top of the mountain, and hurt himself off.

       He ran upwards, but when he was about the kill himself, he heard a voice from the sky.  'Muhammad,' the voice said, 'you must not betray God.'  He looked up and saw Gabriel, with his feet on either end of the horizon.  Muhammad gazed at him for several minutes.  Then he turned round; and in every direction he saw Gabriel, with his legs astride the horizon.  His heart filled with fear, and he begged God to forgive him.

       As he had intended, Muhammad remained on the mountain for a month.  Gabriel came many times, and each time fresh words were written on his cloth.  Muhammad memorized these words; and he repeated them constantly to himself, so he would not forget a single syllable.

       At the end of the month he went back to Mecca, and wrote down what he had heard.  He recited the words to Khadija, who knew at once that God was the author.  But despite her encouragement, he did not dare recite them to anyone else.  [Source: Ibn Ishaq]

The Muslim profession of faith, the Shahadah, illustrates the Muslim conception of the role of Muhammad: - There is no god except the God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.


       The following year Muhammad again spent the month of Ramadan on Mount Hira, expecting the angel Gabriel to him again.  For many days and nights the angel did not appear, and Muhammad wondered if God was angry with him for not having recited his message publicly.  Then on the final night of the month, Gabriel came and sat beside Muhammad. 'Do not be anxious, Muhammad,' Gabriel said, 'having once loved you, God will never turn against you.  On the contrary, year by year God will draw you closer to himself, so the future will always be better than the past.  Eventually God will enter your heart, and then you will have the courage to recite his words to the people.'

      For several minutes Gabriel sat in silence.  Then he said: 'Your father died before you were born, and your mother died when you were a small child, did they not?  'Yes,' Muhammad replied.  Your uncle Abu Talib raised you as if you were his own son, did he not?'  Gabriel asked.  'Yes', Muhammad replied.  Your wife provides you with every material comfort, does she not?'  Gabriel asked.  'Yes,' Muhammad replied.   "Remember', said Gabriel, 'that God arranged all these things, out of his love for you.

       For several minutes Gabriel sat in silence   Then he said: 'when you are recognized as God's messenger, do not become proud of your position.  Never be harsh to those weaker than yourself.  And always give thanks to God for his kindness to you.'

       Gabriel now disappeared Muhammad returned to Mecca, but still spoke to no one apart from Khadija about his encounters with Gabriel.  [Source: Ibn Ishaq]


       The following year Muhammad again spent the month of Ramadan on Mount Hira.  The angel Gabriel arrived on the mountain at dawn two days before the end of the month, and demonstrated to Muhammad how to pray.

Cave Hira in the mountain Jabal - al Nour where according to Muslim belief, Muhammad received his first revelation.

       First Gabriel taught Muhammad the words that should be used.  'In the name of God, who is compassionate and merciful.  All praise belongs to God, the lord of all being.  He is compassionate and merciful, and he is our judge.   We worship only you; in you alone we seek refuge.  Guide us along the straight path, the path of those whom you have blessed - not the path of those who have incurred your wrath, not the path of those who have gone astray.  Gabriel said each phrase, and Muhammad repeated it, until Muhammad knew it by heart.

       Then Gabriel told Muhammad that the prayer should be offered five times a day: at dawn, between the time when the sun begins to rise and it has fully risen; at noon, as the sun is beginning to decline; in the evening, when a person's shadow is equal in length to the person's height; at sunset, between the time when the sun starts to set and when it has fully set; and at night when a third of the night has passed.

       Gabriel showed Muhammad the posture for prayer; he had mat on the ground, and knelt down with his hands on the ground.

       For two days and nights Gabriel prayed alongside Muhammad.  Then he disappeared, and Muhammad returned to Mecca.   [Source: Ibn Ishaq] 

The last ayah from the sura An-Najm in the Quran: "So prostrate to Allah and worship (Him). "Muhammad's message of monotheism (one God) challenged the traditional order.


       These are the words that Muhammad recited:

       Your God is one God.  There is no god but him.  He is merciful and compassionate.

       There are many signs of God for men and women who open their eyes to them.  There is the creation of the earth and the sky.  There is the alternation of day and night.  There are the ships sailing the ocean with cargoes that bring pleasure.  There is the gift of sleep, by which God revives weary bodies and minds.  There is the rain that God sends down from the sky, by which he revives the barren earth and nourishes the creatures living on the earth.  And there are the changing winds, which drive the clouds through the atmosphere between earth and sky.

      Religion does not consist in whether you face east or west during worship.  True religion consists in this: trusting God and praying to him; obeying his commandments; sharing your wealth with your relatives, with orphans, and with the poor; caring for the sick; welcoming strangers into your homes; ransoming slaves; keeping your premises; and remaining steadfast in times of diseases and adversity.  By practicing true religion you honor God.

       True religion consists in upholding justice; always telling the truth, even if it puts you in a bad light; showing equal respect to the rich and poor; controlling your emotions; speaking gently, and never using harsh words; and forgiving those who have wronged you.  Remember, God knows all that you think and do. [Source: Quran].


       Devout people have always fasted, as a means of guarding themselves against evil; and you too must fast.  You should fast throughout the month of Ramdan, eating and drinking nothing from dawn and dusk. The month of Ramadan was the time when God revealed his messages to his messenger.  But if you are sick, or on a long journey, you may fast the same number of days later on; God does not want to make you ill or weak through fasting, but desires your health and comfort. Set aside the food that you save during the month of fasting and give it to the poor.  Fasting does you great good - but helping others does you even greater good.

       Devout people have always made pilgrimages, as a means of reminding themselves of the truth, and you too must be pilgrims.  Whatever you live, you should strive to make a pilgrimage each year; so you can meditate on God and his messages.  When you begin the pilgrimage, shave your head; and during the pilgrimage abstain from sexual intercourse, obscene language and quarreling   Provide well for the journey, so that you are not burden of those you pass; but the best provision is devotion to God.  If sickness or any other cause prevents you from making the pilgrimage, then give the fruits of a month's work to the poor.

       Devout people always pray at the times specified for prayer.  They stop whatever they are doing, kneel down, and say the prayer which God himself has taught.  And when they finished praying, they rise up and resume whatever they were doing. (Source: Quran)

The Al-Aqsa Mosque, part of the Al-Haram ash-Sherif Complex in Jerusalem, is believed to be "farthest mosque" to which Muhammad travelled in his night journey.  The al-Haram ash-Sharif is the third holiest place on earth for Muslims.


     If you use your wealth in the service of God and other people, you are like a grain of corn that sprouts seven ears, each of which bears a hundred grains.  God is abundantly generous to those who are generous; he knows all.

       If you use your wealth in the service of God and other people, do not mar your generosity with reproaches and rebukes.  The giver is not superior to the receiver, and so has no right to pass judgement on the receiver.  Do not mar your generosity with pride.  The giver of the size of the gift, and is eager for gratitude and admiration, is no better than a miser.  And do not mar your generosity with resentment   The resentment giver puts a burden of guilt on the receiver, while joyful giver makes the receiver joyful - and thus bestows a double gift.

       A kind of word of encouragement, or a selfless word of praise, or a gentle word of forgiveness, is worth far more than a material gift accompanied by insults.

       Be generous with your wealth and your words from a desire to please god and to please others - then you will like a orchard that yields abundant fruit.  Men and women who give generously with sincere hearts, and ask nothing in return, will be repaid double by God, they will enjoy perfect happiness for all eternity.

     Be wise and shrewd in your generosity, so the receivers enjoy the greatest benefit.  And do not be so generous that you reduce yourself to penury, and thus depend on the generosity of others - as that will cancel all the good you have done.  (Source: Quran).

                Mausoleum Muhammad


      It is God who created human beings from dust and divided them into men and women.  No woman conceives without his knowledge and approval.  No one grows old and dies, except in accordance with his decree.  How can you turn away from him?
Mausoleum Muhammad
       It is God who turns night into day, and day into night.  He kindles the light of dawn; and at dusk he extinguishes the light so that we can rest.  How can you turn away from him?

       It is God who put the stars in the sky at night, to give light and guidance to those who travel.  It is God who makes the moon wax and wane, so that we can count the months.  How can you turn away from him?

       It is God who causes the grain and the fruit stone to germinate.  It is God who sends rain from the sky, causing the grain to swell, the palm tree to yield dates, the vines to yield grapes, and the olive trees to bear olives.  How can you turn away from him?

       It is God who makes the rivers and lakes fresh and sweet, and the sea salty and bitter.  It is God who fills them with fish that you can catch and eat.  How can you turn away from him?

      It is God who told the bees to make their homes in the hives that you build, and to feed on every kind of blossom, so that they provide honey to nourish you and heal you from sickness.  How can you turn away from him?

       No mortal eye can see him, but he created all that you see.  (Source: Quran).

Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the Mosque of the Prophet) in Medina, Saudi Arabia, with the Green Dome built over Muhammad's tomb in the center.


       God sees all that happens, he hears all that is spoken, and he discern every thought.  If three people talk in secret, he is the fourth.  If people plot some evil deed, not a single detail is hidden from him.  If malice and hatred stir people's heart and inspire their actions, they cannot deceive him into believing that their motives are pure.  So only use words of which God approves; only make plans that accord with his commandments; and act only with the intention of doing good.

       When someone injures you or a member of your family, you may retaliate.  But it is far better to go to that person, ask for an apology, and offer forgiveness.  Then their guilt and grief will be so great that they will mend their ways.  Retaliation is a means of protecting yourself, but forgiveness ensures that no protection is needed.

       When you cause injury, whether deliberately or by accident, go immediately to your victim, and seek forgiveness; offer compensation in a spirit of humility and friendship, and strive to make amends.

      To endure suffering with fortitude, to forgive those who have wronged you, and to put right the wrongs which you have done - these are the marks of a true follower of God.

       To God belongs the earth and all the live on it, the ocean and all that swim in it, and the atmosphere and all that fly through it.  He creates whatever he wishes, and destroys whatever he wishes.  He bestows male offspring as he chooses, and female offspring as he chooses.  God is mighty, and controls all; he is wise, and understands all.  (Source: Quran).


       throughout Arabia people had been waiting for the outcome of Muhammad's conflicts and the religious leaders in Mecca, before making up their minds about Islam.  When they heard of his triumph, they concluded that his claim to God's messenger must be true; and leaders came from every part of Arabia to pledge their allegiance to Muhammad and the divine messages that he had revealed.

       Muhammad ruled in Mecca for two years.  Although all the people were now Muslim, they still had disputes and quarrels, and they asked Muhammad to resolve them.  Then at the age of sixty-two he began to suffer severe aches in his head.  One evening, as he lay on his bed, an angel came to him and said:  'God is giving you a choice.  You may survive into old age, and continue to bear the burden of ruling Arabia or you may die, and enter the realm of eternal peace and happiness immediately.  My task as God's messenger is complete, Muhammad replied, 'and I am weary of ruling.  so let me die now.'

       He called his wife Aisha.  'Would it distress you if you were to die before me, so that I might wrap you in a shroud, pray over you and bury you? he asked her.  she was perplexed by the question, but replied:  'If I were to die before you, then you would quickly find yourself a new wife and forget about me.  But if you were to die before me, then I should remember you and mourn for you until the day of my own death.

       Muhammad embraced her, and said:  'You are a truly good person, whereas I am merely someone who does God's will.  May you live until you are old and be inspiration to many.' (Source: Ibn Ishaq).

The tomb of Muhammad is located in the quarters of his third wife, Aisha. (Al-Masjid an-Nabwi, Medina.)


       Although his head was aching so badly that he could barely think, he went to the Grand Mosque to speak to the people for the last time.

'When I am dead,' Muhammad said, 'do not turn me into an object of worship.
Worship God alone; he will never die.
Give honor to god in all you do, praise god for all you see and hear,
and thank God for everything happens to you.
Remember that God created all living beings from dust, and he has ordained their destinies.
God is one;
God is eternal.
He gives birth to all, but no one gave birth to him.
He has no rivals.'

      With these words Muhammad felt silently.  He walked slowly from the Mosque, with Aisha supporting him.  When he lay on his bed, he said to Aisha: 'My soul is now to leave my body.' Then he lost consciousness.  She held his head in her arms, and a few moments later he died.  (Source: Ibn Ishaq)

The Kaab in Mecca long held a major economic and religious role for the area.  Seventeen months after Muhammad's arrival in Medina, it became the Muslim Quibla, or direction for prayer (salat).  The Kaaba has been rebuilt several times; the present strcuture, built in 1962, is reconstruction of an earlier building dating to 683.


       Muhammad convinced many people in Mecca that he was God's messenger; but the religious leaders were violently opposed to him, seeing him as a threat to their positions.  Muhammad and his fellow Muslims were eventually forced to flee to the city of Medina in northern Arabia, where he won many more followers. He now turned himself into a military leaders, and waged a war against the religious leaders of Mecca that lasted several years; and finally he marched into Mecca unopposed, and became ruler of Arabia.

       He died two years later in 632 CE.  Political and religious leadership now passed to a series of deputies (caliphs); and the Arabs, united by Islam, because one of the most powerful and energetic military forces that the world has seen.  Within a decade of Muhammad's death they had created an empire that controlled most of the Middle East from Palestine to Iran; and this soon extended westwards across north Africa into Spain, and eastwards into the Indian subcontinent.  Guided by the principles of the Quran, and the example of Muhammad, Muslim Political rule was generally benign and just, although often ruthless.  Many in the conquered lands converted to Islam, and those refusing to convert merely had to pay an additional tax.

       The caliphs that ruled from Baghdad, from the eighth to the thirteenth century, also encouraged scholarship and the arts.  They commissioned Christian, Jewish and Greek scholars to translate the great works of philosophy into Arabic and to engage in scientific research.  And they commissioned craftsmen to build mosques sublime beauty.

Source: Excerpts from the book "366 Readings from World Religions" by Robert Van De Weyer.

08 July, 2014

Why do we worship the GURU and bow to him with reverence?

Adi Shankara with his disciples

Guru: Your Gateway to Eternity

      The festivity of guru purnima hallows the tradition of the guru-disciple relationship.  According to the Vedas, Lord Vishnu - Narayana - imparted teachings to the sages in ancient times.  Beginning with Narayana, who taught Brahma, who in turn taught Sage Vyasa, who in turn taught Shuka, a succession of Gurus and disiciples has proceeded down through the ages through Shri Shankaracharya to the present.

Idea behind Guru purnima

       The idea behind guru purnima is that God is the Guru of Gurus; He is the inner prompter in every heart. But to develop an awareness of God's presence and His dynamic grace requires an artistic understanding -- a knowledge that is not academic; for one cannot learn in a university how to be aware of the Divine presence, how to explore the inner recesses of one's heart, how to climb the heights of wisdom and spiritual awareness, how to attain Liberation from the cycle of birth and death; how to discover the Treasure of treasures, the power of all powers, the Light of all lights, discovering which, one becomes supremely joyous.

       The answer to that "how" lies in the hands of one's guru or spiritual preceptor.  You must try to understand this concept rationally.  It is often difficult for Westerners to understand why gurus are accorded even more honor than traditional symbols of religion, such as temples, churches and pilgrimage ceers.  A guru in Vedic tradition is much more holier than a thousand temples or pilgrimage centers, "Why," many ask, "should such prominence be given to a mortal man?"

Vedic Culture

       In the Vedic culture, young students are always reminded of the following great teachings from the Upanisahds: 
[1] matr devo bhava"      - Let your mother be your God;
[2] "pitr devo bhava"      - Let your father be your God;
[3] "acarya devo bhava" - Let your guru be worshipped as your God.

       These served to propel the youths towards the loftly realization that the entire creation is God: sarvam Brahmamayam jagat".

       One begins to discover God in the person to whom your heart is most easily drawn: your own mother. You see her tenderness, warm and good feelings for you.  You marvel at her ability to forgive you inspite of your defects.  Then you begin to recognize God in your father.  Ordinarily, one's father is not as tender as one's mother, for his love expresses itself more firmly; it is usually up to him to do the disciplining.  But you love him all the same because he is your father, and thus you begin to recognize God in him, too.

       As you evolve further, you are directed towards an acharya or guru.  You discover that there is a vast dimension of the unknown that awaits your exploration, and guru becomes the key to your doing this.  Thus you begin to love your guru.  In that love for him you find a greater fulfilment of the love that you felt for your mother and father and other relatives.  Through guru, then you begin to love God, and in that act the entire world becomes God.
      The guru is God Himself manifesting in a personal form to guide the aspirant.  Grace of God takes the form of the Guru.  To see the Guru is to see God.  The guru is united with God.  He inspires devotion in others.  His presence purifies all.

       The guru is verily a link between the individual and the immortal.  He is being who has raised himself from this into That, and thus has free and unhampered access into both the realms.  He stands, as it were, upon the threshold of immortality; and, bending down he raises the struggling individuals with his one hand, and with the other lifts them up into the empyrean of everlasting joy and infinite Truth-Consciousness.

Maitreyi and Yagnavalkya

The Sadguru

      To be a Guru, one must have a command from God.  Mere study of books cannot make one a Guru. One who has studied the Vedas, and who has direct knowledge of the Atman (Self) through experience, can alone be enrolled as a Guru.  A liberated sage (jivanmukta)  is the real Guru or spiritual preceptor.  He is the Sadguru.  He is identical with Brahman or the Supreme Self.  He is a Knower of Brahman.

       A Sadguru is endowed with countless psychic powers (siddhi).  He possess all divine powers (aisvarya), all the   wealth of the Lord Possession of special powers, however, is not the test to declare the greatness of a sage or to prove that he has attained Self-realization.  Sadguru generally do not exhibit any miracles or psychic powers.  Sometimes, however, they may do so in order to convince the aspirants of the existence of super physical things, give them encouragement and instill faith in their hearts.

       The Sadguru is Brahman Himself.  He is an ocean of bliss, knowledge and mercy.  He is the captain of your soul.  He is the foundation of joy.  He removes all your troubles, sorrows and obstacles.  He shows you the right divine path.

       He tears apart your veil if ignorance.  He makes you immortal and divine.  He transmutes your lower, diabolical nature.  He gives you the rope of knowledge  and takes you up when you are drowning in this ocean of samsara (cycle of birth and death).  Do not consider him to be only a man.  Worship your Guru and bow to him with reverence.  

       Guru is God.  A word from him is a word from God.  He need not teach anything.  Even his presence or company is elevating, inspiring and stirring.  His very company is self-illumination.  Living in his company is spiritual education.  Read the holy scripture of  the Sikh religion (the Granth Sahib).  You will come to know the greatness of the Guru.

       Man can learn only from man and hence God teaches through human body.  In your Guru, you have your human ideal of perfection.  He is the pattern into which you wish to mould yourself.  Your mind will readily be convinced that such a great soul, is fit to be worshipped and revered.

       Guru is the door to liberation.  He is the gateway to the transcendental Truth Consciousness.  But, it is the aspirant who has to enter through it.  The Guru is a help but the actual task of spiritual practice falls on the aspirant himself.

The Need for a Guru

      For a beginner in the spiritual path, a Guru is necessary.  To light a candle, you need a burning candle.  An illumined soul alone can enlighten another soul.

       Some do meditation for some years independently.  Later on, they actually feel the necessity of a Guru.  They come across some obstacles to the way.  They are unable to know how to obviate these impediments or stumbling blocks.  Then they begin to search for a Master.

       Only the man who has already been to Badrinath will be able to tell you the road.  In the case of spiritual path, it is still more difficult to find your way.  The mind may mislead you very often.  The Guru will be able to remove pitfalls and obstacles, and lead you along the right path.  He will tell you: "This road leads you to liberation; this one leads to bondage:"  Without this guidance, you might want to go to Badrinath, but find yourself in Delhi.!

      The scriptures are like a forest.  There are ambiguous passages.  There are passages that are apparently contradictory.  There are passages that have esoteric meanings, diverse significance, and hidden explanations.  There are cross-references.  You are in need of a Guru or a preceptor who will explain to you the right meaning, who will remove doubts and ambiguities, who will place before you the essence of the teachings.

       A Guru is absolutely necessary for every aspirant in the spiritual path.  It is only the Guru who will find your defects.  The nature of egoism is such that you will not be able to find out your own defects.  Just as a man cannot see his back, so also he cannot see his own errors.  He must live under a Guru for the eradication of his evil qualities and defects.

Naciketan and his guru Yama

       The aspirant who is under the guidance of a Master or Guru is safe from being led astray.  Satsang or association with the Guru is an armor and fortress to guard you against all temptations and unfavourable forces of the material world.

       Cases of those who had attained perfection without study under any Guru should not be cited as authority against the necessity of a Guru; for such great men are the anomalies of spiritual life, and not the common normality.  They come into existence as a spiritual masters as a result of the intense service, study and meditation practiced in previous births.  They had already studied under the Guru.  The present birth is only its continuative spiritual effect.  Hence, the importance of Guru is not lessened thereby.

Narada and Sanatkumara

       All great ones had their teachers.  All the sages, saints, prophets, world-teachers, incarnations, great men, have had their own Gurus, however great they might have been.   Shvetaketu learnt the nature of Truth from Uddalaka, Maitreyi from Yagnavalkya, Bhirgu from Varuna, Narada from Sanatkumara, Nachiketas from Yama, Indra from Prapajati; and several others humbly went to wise ones, observed strict brahmacharya, practiced rigorous discipline and learnt the science of God (Brahma vidya) from them.

       Lord Krishna sat at the feet of His Guru Sandeepani.  Lord Rama had Guru Vasishtha who gave Him Upadeesa (spiritual advice).  Lord Jesus sought John to be baptized by him on the banks of the river Jordan.  Even Devas (celestial beings) have Brihaspati as their Guru.  Even the greatest among the divine beings sat at the feet of Guru Dakshinamurti.

Guru Sandeepana and Lord Krishna

       A neophyte must have a personal Guru first.  He cannot have a God as Guru to begin with.  He must have a pure mind.  He must have ethical perfection.  He must be intensely virtuous.  He must be abode body-consciousness.  Then alone can he have God as Guru.

Sri Dakshinamurthy 

How to choose your Guru?

       If you find peace in the presence of a great soul, if you are inspired by his speeches, if he is able to clear your doubts, if he is free, from greed, anger, and list, if he is selfless, loving and I-less, you can take him as your Guru.  He who is able to clear your doubts, he who is sympathetic in your spiritual practice, he who does not disturb your beliefs but helps you on from where you are, he in whose presence you feel spiritually elevated -- he is your Guru.  Once you choose your Guru, implicitly follow him.  God will guide you through the Guru.

       Do not use your reason too much in the selection of your Guru.  You will fail if you do so.  Try to follow the instruction of a spiritual person who has been treading the path for some years, who has purity and other virtuous qualities, and who has some knowledge of the scriptures.

       If you are not able to find any spiritual guide you can follow the teachings contained in the books written by realized saints like Shri Shankara, Dattatreya and others.  You can keep a photo of such a realized Guru, if available, and worship the same with faith and devotion.  Gradually you will get inspiration, and the Guru may appear in a dream and initiate and inspire you at the proper time.  For a sincere aspirant, help comes in a mysterious manner.  When the time ripe, the Guru and the disciples are brought together by the Lord in a mysterious way.

Siksa and Diksa Guru

       Man has twofold duty here on earth--to preserve his life, and to realize his Self.  To preserve his life, he has to learn to work for his daily bread.  To realize his Self, he has to serve, love and meditate.  The Guru who teaches him the knowledge of worldly arts is the siksha Guru.

       The Guru who shows him the path of Realization is the diksha Guru.  Siksa Guru can be many - as many as the things he wishes to learn.  The diksha Guru can be only one -- the one who leads him to liberation (moksa).

Stick to one Guru

       Do not dig shallow pits here and there for getting water.  The pits will dry up soon.  Dig a very deep pit in one place.  Centralize all your efforts here.  You will get good water that can supply you throughout the year.  Even so, try to imbibe thoroughly the spiritual teachings from one preceptor alone.  Drink deep from one man.  Sit at his feet for some years.  There is no use of wandering from one man to another man, out of curiosity, losing faith in a short time.  Follow the spiritual instructions of one man only.  If you go to several people and follow the instructions of many persons, you will be bewildered.  You will be in a dilemma.

       From a doctor, you get a prescription.  From two doctors, you get a consultation.  From three doctors, you get your own cremation.  Even so, if you have many Gurus, you will be bewildered.  You will be at a loss to know what to do.  One guru will tell you: "Do Soham Japa."  Another will tell you: "Do Japa of Shri Ram."  A third Guru will tell you: "Hear mystic sounds."  You will be puzzled.  Stick to one Guru and follow his instructions.

       Listen to all, but follow one.  Respect all, but adore one.  Gather knowledge from all, but adopt the teachings of one Master.  Then you will have rapid spiritual progress.

Grace and Self-effort

       Realization cannot come to you as a miracle done by your Guru.  Lord Buddha, Lord Jesus, Rama Tirtha have all done spiritual practice.  Lord Krishna asks Arjuna to develop dispassion (vairagya) and practice (abhyasa).  He did not say to him, "I will give you liberation now."  Therefore, abandon the wrong notion that your Guru will give you liberation.  Strive, purify, meditation and realize.

       Grace of a Guru is very necessary.  That does not mean that the disciple should sit idle.  He must do rigid spiritual practices and the entire work must be done by the student.  Now a days, people want a drop of water from the water pot of a renunciate and desire to enter into deep meditation immediately.  They are not prepared to undergo any spiritual practice for purification and Self-realization.  They want a magic pill to push them into the ultimate meditative state.  If you have such delusion, give it up immediately.

       The Guru and the scriptures can show you the path and remove your doubts.  Direct experience of the aparoksa kind or direct intutive knowledge is left for your own experience.  A hungry man will have to eat for himself.

       No doubt, the Guru's blessing can do everything.  But how can one have his [Guru] blessings?  By pleasing the Guru.  A Guru can be pleased with his disciple only if the latter carries out his spiritual instructions implicitly. Carefully follow, therefore, the instructions of the Guru.  Act up to his instructions. Then only will you deserve his blessings and then alone his blessings can do everything.

Source: An articles written by Swami Sivananda  & Swami Jyotirmayananda taken from the book on "Guru - The Guiding Light" published by Mananam Publications.