For the longest time I had always imagined that the only reason one goes to a Guru is because one is unable to deal any longer with the blows Life has meted out to you. The blows can be various: a deep existential crisis, a broken relation, a persisting physical pain, an emotional imbalance, the death of a loved one, a sense of meaninglessness or a complete lack of direction. Life has no shortage of presenting us with difficulties. And yet, we all devise ways to learn to live alongside this pain till one fine day having spent all our strength trying to deal with it we give up. We are left with an aching empty space right inside of us and a deep sense of fatigue and resignation. It is this complete acceptance of defeat and failure that finally makes us humble enough to ask for help from a higher Source. And then at last we begin our journey to find Someone who can help us figure out the mess we have become. Apparently it is in this state of complete misery that one is ready to become a disciple.
But my study in the Guru Disciple Relationship (see my first blog) proved this assumption quite wrong. Before the interviews I was sure the most common answer to the question, “Why did you look for a Guru?” was going to be, “because I was in pain.” I was completely wrong.
During the interviews, one of the areas we spoke about was how did the journey of the disciples begin. And to me the answers to this query were the most unexpected and revealing. To begin with most of them did not go out to seek a Guru; according to them it was the Guru who found them. The common belief in the Indian tradtion says that when a disciple is ready then the right Guru comes along. And this is excatly what happened to most of them. Exploring further I realized what it meant for a disciple “to be ready.”
To give you an example, X was a person leading a normal, succesful life. Having studied in Oxford, he was doing the work he loved, earning well, did not have any major difficulties. One day a friend asked him to parcel a book to India. While packing it he glanced at the cover. The cover had a photo of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Just by looking at the photo something stirred deep inside him. There was an instant recollect and a reconnection that took place and before he knew it he had found his way to the Ramana Ashram in Tiruvanmalai. The next 40 years were spent in the Ashram, serving the Guru. In an instant the entire course of his life had changed. The right place, the right time and the right circumstances lead him straight into the loving presence of his Guru.
And this was the case with almost all of the disicples I spoke to. For many of them it was one chance meeting, or one powerful experience or a set of simple co-incidences that helped them start their journey.
But their “readiness” also included another, more hidden aspect. They all spoke about an innate aspiration, a deeper urge to understand the meaning and purpose of their lives. They were looking for something, not sure what, but the search was on. Many of them, since their childhood, had a natural opening to a vaster and deeper approach to life and the world. An inherent faith in something beyond themselves and this world kept their quest alive.
And this quest was supported at times by their family, or a teacher or a series of experiences or regular visits to the Himalayas or simply by reading books. These outward aids helped them continue to explore the “not so apparent” aspects of life. The simplicity and sincerity towards their quest is what made them ready for their Guru. It was clear that before they became disiciples they were already seekers. And once the Guru found them… the rest was history!