Often when a student talks about their guru, they say things like, “It was like they saw right through me. There is nothing I can hide from them; I am transparent in their presence. They remind me of God; I feel more whole when I am with them. They seem to know everything about me, and yet they still love me, unconditionally.” How does this work? What kind of relationship is this? Gu means “ignorance; that which obscures Truth.” Ru means “that which removes.” The guru is the agent-the teacher-who removes ignorance so that the Truth can be revealed.
The relationship between student and teacher is a spiritual one-a relationship focused on identity. The quest for identity is the ultimate quest. To know oneself, to find out, to discover who you are, is the truth that everyone is looking for. The student seeks out a teacher because they want to know who they are. They are looking for help in understanding the confounding complexities and limitations of their own personality. You could say they are having an identity crisis. Usually the search starts with an experience of discontent and a feeling that they may be more than they thought they were, or that life may hold more potential beyond just eating, sleeping, money, sex, marriage, home, job and acquiring more stuff. This is why the spiritual path is not for normal people; it is for people who are looking for something more than success in the realms of the three basic power drives which fuel the three lower chakras: money, sex and fame. When these start to look less interesting, it is then that a person is at a critical point where they begin to realize that they are more than their body and mind, more than a skin encapsulated ego/personality. At this time, they begin to seriously ask: Is there more to life? Is compassion, generosity and kindness really worthwhile? What is Love, and does God exist?
We all need help to be able to see ourselves as we truly are. The job of a guru is to provide this assistance. A guru is someone who sees you as you really are-sees beyond your personality foibles, sees you as a holy being. It is through the medium of love that the guru is able to perceive this truth.
Love is that which connects us all-it is the ground of being, the medium through which all is created, sustained and renewed. Real love is slippery like mercury and cannot be grasped, while at the same time it is attractive, embracing, enveloping, nurturing and constant. Traditionally the guru serves as a love object for the student, allowing the student to love them. It is understood between student and teacher that the relationship will be based on love. The teacher by their presence becomes a focus for the student to pour their feelings into, but it is an unusual relationship because the normal aspects of relationship are missing; material gain, sexual gratification or ego enhancement is not involved. You could say it is a “pure” relationship in that sense; there is nothing else that the teacher gives the student: in the words of the old song, “I can’t give you anything but love.” There is nothing that the teacher needs or wants from the student other than the student’s happiness and ultimate enlightenment – Self realization – the realization of Love.
This realization is facilitated by the guru, who serves as a mirror for the student, reflecting the student’s outward as well as innermost desires, and thereby reveals to the student who they really are. The teacher reminds the student of God, which after all is who they really are. Before embarking on a teacher-student relationship, it is good to be sure that you want and are ready for what will come up, because it will all come up. But approached with humility, respect, appreciation and a sense of adventure, the guru can be a doorway, a magic mirror through which the student can walk into the realm of infinite possibilities.