The Difference between Guru and Deities
(Guruvani - The Sacred Words Spoken by Navajyoti Sri Karunakara Guru)
What is the range of the term ‘Guru?’ From someone who does a job to a person engaged in the virtuous work of (imparting) self-realization comes under the definition of Guru. Leaving the field of occupation, when one reaches the spheres of pranamayam (energy sheath), jnanamayam or vijnanamayam (knowledge and wisdom sheaths), mere bookish knowledge becomes inadequate as instructions are to be sought here.
The lack of punyam (virtue) in the soul gets expressed as various diseases in the body. This has to be cured by employing different methods. Textual knowledge does not help in this. Where textual knowledge does not help, that path of dharma, which enables one to seek merit (punyam) through action (karma), helps. Such dharma has influence on the soul as well.
The dynamic of action being such, action without dharma hinders the soul and the body in course of time. A person follows his basic instincts and propensities (vasanas) accrued from past births.
Some may do more good deeds and some tend to do bad deeds more. Sometimes, the individual is not in a position to distinguish between good and bad. Therefore when he does a bad deed, taking it to be a good one, his entire activity turns bad.
Unless one confesses to Guru about one’s negative karma, no solutions can be found and one comes to a dead end. In an excess of devotion (bhakti) some resort to strange deeds and invite people’s displeasure. Yet others imagine themselves to be persons of still higher attainment and would act and even move like a yogi or mystic.
In course of time, the activity of such persons loses clarity. It becomes incomprehensible (even) to themselves. They will not be able to assess for themselves whether the path of initiation (upadesa margam) or the path of concentrating on a favourite deity (ishta devata sampradayam) is suitable for them. Beings in the subtle plane start manifesting before a person who follows either of these paths for some time.
Such manifestations would be according to the evolution of the soul of the devotee. If there is a manifestation, the devotee will be full of zeal in his pursuit. His devotion (bhakti) would also increase. He would start getting visions in the waking state of consciousness (jagrat), dream state (swapnam), profound sleep (sushupti), the higher fourth state (turiyam) and a still higher state (turiyatitam).
The inner visions start with the elementals, go on to lower beings such as matan, maruta and mantramoorti, and to apparitions of mystics such as yogi, jnani, karmi and so on. Demonic beings capable of creating powerful movements in the five elements are among them.
These are the ‘lords’ in some households and ‘gods’ in some others. The devotee who has visions of them might even get the feeling that these ‘lords’ and ‘gods’ are pleased in his presence. He would then feel proud that he has attained certain heights. He might get visionary experience in dream as well as in the waking state. He would become respected in the locality. In terms of the soul’s growth, some of these persons get stuck at this stage.
If there is no Guru to guide, at this stage a situation may arise which invites the displeasure of family and neighbourhood. They could say bad things about him and he may even be physically beaten up. Since the devotee has extrasensory experiences, he would still cling on to his object of worship. He would carry on as if his experience is spiritual. He would indeed have many matters to present as authentic! As indicated above, there would also be deeds to his credit that ought to make those around him believe (in him).
Those who follow the path of worshipping a favourite deity like matan, maruta or mantramoorti would sprinkle holy ashes, engage in tantric rites and initiation rituals, in order to earn people’s respect. These are minor tricks inspired by the deity itself. The devotee and those who believe in him get caught and even incarnations could be wasted this way. This could have happened in past births also (to the devotee).
The practitioners of such devotion might take to wandering, and their end might come on the roadside somewhere. Yet others would practice yoga, initiation through mantras and worship of favourite deities and just pass away (without much progress).
Some work towards altered states of consciousness like pratyaharam and dharana related to the samadhi state. Striving thus, they earn certain spiritual experiences as well as perceptions of life. As they are meticulous about their personal cleanliness and bodily purity, they will be held in high esteem at home and outside.
As they go forward, the lack of merit (punya) in the soul as well as the needs of the body will block their progress. Here things get mixed up. Correction and direction can be received at this stage only from a Guru; Guru becomes inevitable here. That is the depth of the riddle that is Guru.
When visions, as indicated above, are received, and 7444 of them realized, an aspirant attains one ‘stage’. If an individual with a healthy body and punya in the soul strives relentlessly and consistently, it would take 18 ½ years to complete this one stage.
Even such completion would take an aspirant (if he is a beginner in spiritual life) only to ‘Vetalanagaram’ – the realm of powerful but dark (tamasic) beings. If a mistake is made at this level, one would stagnate at the same level through many births and deaths without progress. The line from the Gurugita, “aneka janma samprapta karma bandha vidahine” (the one who burns up the bonds of action of several births), could be reflecting this cycle of birth and death.
An aspirant could fall into such error whichever path he takes – be it jnana, karma or bhakti. Some who have come up in the jnana path also have written about this.
Sri Narayana Guru’s Daivachintanam refers to the same experience. It is from his spiritual knowledge that he draws and speaks. To get out of the negative, one must pursue the positive, he says. But he does not make it clear as to how to go about it.
It is one among millions and millions of tyagis (seekers who lead a life of self-sacrifice) who becomes capable of getting such a perspective. Many souls incarnate and depart in a variety of ways. In all this there would be truth also. The truth, in words of dharma, is in the correction by discriminating between right and wrong.
A person who completes 70748 visions of this kind will evolve to a high plane (daivasannidhanam) moving closer to the Supreme. Until and unless the human race realizes the value of this great and inexplicable astral process, no one can even guess what the plight would be. Even the rationalists turn out to be exponents of futile efforts in this field.
More dangerous than these aspirants and rationalists who create perverse karmic streams are those poets and thinkers who present a world vision based on intellect, without an inkling of the gross-subtle-cause-effect(sthoolam-sooksmam-karanam-karyam) relationships. The above mentioned rationalism (yuktivada) and liberationism (muktivada) have led to the philosophy of people like Charvaka. These people have a handicap. They don’t have the maturity of awareness that can lead them to their own liberation. But we keep in mind that they have the skill to open up the storehouse of knowledge of the entire world.
The effort in this area is of two types of devotion -- without using intelligence (mooda bhakti) and devotion born of knowledge (jnana bhakti). Of these, the second group pursues the path of jnana bhakti and will not have any touch with real spiritual experience.
The subjects that their intellects absorb and the writings of those who are in tune with them are of intense value to themselves; everything else would be senseless to them. But legs tire equally for the person who is chased, and the person who chases. Both will fall pathetically in the end. Rationalism and liberationism have only this much of essence.
But the real liberationist is not in these lists. The author of Gita has qualified him with great words: the one who combines intelligence with spiritual power – “budhya yukto yoga balena chaeva.”
Some of the scholars who enthrall people with their textual knowledge are projected as jnanis by some (other kind of) rationalists. There are also persons who are stuck in unthinking devotion (mooda bhakti) till the end. These are the type of people who were described earlier as scapegoats of the sorrow that is Vetalanagaram. People of textual knowledge, no matter how great they are, are slaves to this realm of the spiritual world.
The aspects of gross-subtle-cause-effect (sthoolam-sooksmam-karanam-karyam) are related to the soul’s karma and dharma. The Guru who lends gross-subtle-cause-effect to the soul’s karma and dharma should be a bold doer with direct spiritual knowledge and should respect and consider the five elements (panchabhoota), five senses (panchendriya), five sheaths around the soul (kosas), the individual soul (jivatma), the Absolute (Paramatma) and dharma.
Without Guru, the aspirant may reach the aberrant state of the liberationist/rationalist whose action does not bear any fruit.
Thiruvalluvar does not seem to have discussed dharma, artha, kama and moksha but he has made references based on them. It is not possible for an ordinary person to function without these.
As far as liberationism and rationalism are concerned, they do not rise up to any conceptual height. It does not help to forget the fact that at this point every one falls. Reason and liberation are two ideas which deserve special and serious consideration. Such consideration is a way to freedom.
The dharma of Guru is eternal and inscrutable. Guru is the giver of vision (knowledge) pertaining to the level of the atom, the indivisible totality (akhandata) and the object of one’s worship.
He possesses the clarity of knowing the past, present and future. He can impart that proof to others as well; he causes recurrence of their life situations, to reach a corrective solution.
The difference between Guru and deity is immense. A life without realizing this is fruitless. The deities worshipped – devas and devis - are nothing at all in comparison with the visionary disciple of such a Guru.