What is a Guru?


We often hear the word Guru used here in Australia. He is Guru at this or that or in that field of work and so on. So where does the word Guru come from? Guru is a Sanskrit word. The literal meaning of the word Guru is ‘the one who illumines.’

For many things in life we need a teacher. If you want learn a musical instrument you go to someone who knows more than you. If you want to learn a subject you go to school or university. To learn anything we need a teacher. This is especially true in the spiritual life. The Guru teaches the student how to meditate and helps them locate their own spiritual heart and potential. “The Guru just tells his disciples what is best for them,”says Sri Chinmoy. “In the spiritual life, there is no such thing as demand; only the Guru tries to make his disciples aware of what they have to do.”

Sri Chinmoy was affectionately called ‘Guru’ by his students. We rarely called him ‘Sri Chinmoy’ and what does a Guru like Sri Chinmoy teach? It is not just meditation. “A Guru is he who has wisdom in the inner world. It is from the inner world that he gets the messages about what the disciples ought to do in the outer life,” he explains. “The outer life has no meaning, no reality, without the inner life. The inner life is the source. Most of us do not get messages from the inner life. Whatever the mind tells us we try to execute. So what the Guru does is to enter into the soul of the seeker and then tell the seeker what his own soul wants him to do. The Guru works in secret like a thief. He enters into the heart of the disciple and brings to the fore the messages or inner wealth that is found there and then he offers it to the disciple.”

How do you find a Guru?

How to find your inner guide? Really you need aspiration or an inner cry. There is a famous saying: when the student is ready the teacher appears. I remember when I was seeking. I would go to many different groups and talks offered by various monks and paths. Eventually you find something that touches you inwardly. Something that inspires you and you feel uplifted just hearing about it or being with students of the master who follow the particular path that is meant for you.

As I mentioned earlier we use the word Guru a lot in the West and often refer to the word Guru as an expert in any field. I am learning an Indian instrument and the teacher is a Guru at music and his profession. In the traditional Indian sense the students treat him very devotedly and respectfully, it is very sweet, but a Guru in the true sense of the term is a Spiritual Master. In the spiritual life your Guru has to be a genuine Spiritual Master, someone who has achieved Self-Realisation or God-Realisation. Their teaching can from their silent gaze either in a statue, a photograph or even a memory. It is present in their writings, their music or utterances. In anything they have achieved or done. The Guru’s teachings last forever so they don’t need to still be in the physical to teach their students. If you want to learn meditation you can practice of course by yourself, within a meditation class or lecture, using apps and guided meditations. These things help. But to truly get good at meditation you do need a Guru,  you need to find an inner guide or teacher. They act as a bridge between you and God or inner light or infinite peace…whatever it is you are trying to achieve. They know the direction or guidance you need. The connection you develop with them helps take you to the higher goals of meditation and you improve at lightning speed compared to otherwise.

The Sri Chinmoy Centre offers free meditation classes around the Perth metropolitan region. The classes, which are regularly updated in our calendar page cover the basics of meditation. Concentration, breathing techniques, visualisation and so on. Afterwards though free more advanced follow up classes in a regular meditation group setting are always offered. These dive deeper into the spiritual side of meditation and role the of a spiritual path in helping your meditation lifestyle.