The question ‘Who is a Guru?’ to me feels like asking a three year old kid to write a proof of a hard mathematical equation. At this point, I feel like I am not capable of it. However, this is my humble trial to explain the meaning of Guru merely from my life experiences.
The word Guru by definition means someone who removes darkness from your life. But before elaborating on that, a little bit about myself. I am coming from a middle class family from the south of India. My dad is a retired high school teacher and mom is a government employee. I had pretty much everything I needed as a child. Good education, nice friends, siblings and cousins to play with, and so on. In general, I was a happy child. The point I am trying to make is that there is no ‘darkness’ period in my life in a very negative sense. Anyways, the deep explorations on the phenomenon called ‘Guru’ began when I joined my bachelor studies at Amrita University founded by Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (aka Amma). Amma is a world renowned humanitarian and a spiritual leader. She is Guru to millions of people around the world, now also to me.
When I chose Amma’s university to do my bachelor program, there were two main reasons that attracted me. The first one is the swimming pool at the campus. The second one is the fact that every student who graduates from the university is promised a job in the desired field. I expected a fun filled campus life with lot more friends and learning. However, I didn’t have any clue about Amma or about any Gurus.
My university campus was attached to the ashram, which means a spiritual center founded by Amma. There were people from all parts of the world who came to visit her ashram.I heard a lot about Amma from various people there. Initially, she appeared like a celebrity for me. People talked about Amma with so much respect and love. Almost everyone in the ashram had a story to tell on how their life changed after meeting Amma. Anyways, I didn’t have any idea on what it means to have a Guru and if I need one in the first place. But I left that topic with a very open mind and without any prejudices.
My path to Amma began with my mentor at the university, Vipin sir. He is a very interesting person. Vipin sir works as an assistant professor at Amrita university. But he likes to mentor students in the after work hours. Even though he was very strict with discipline, I really liked his mentoring. He had a very unique approach to mentoring students. He did genuinely care for the improvement of each and every student who came to him. His mentoring sessions were advancing then with more and more students going to him. There were about 25 or more students then I guess. Every student got at least 10-15 minutes to spend with him every day. It cost quite some time for him overall. He would check on personal improvement of each student, give advice on what else to try next, how to improve etc. It was not limited to technical trainings. He advised us to do gardening on weekends, eat healthy food, regular exercise and yoga. We went on groups to plant trees. We went for outings, dinners/lunch together with him regularly. Lots of jokes and fun moments. If one of us fell sick, he would call in person and check how he/she is doing. Also, some of us were very much into open source contributions at some point. We didn’t have internet in our hostel rooms where we slept. So most of the days,we stayed back at the university labs till late night. He would stay back with us every single night and accompanied us all the way to our hostels after work. He would even carry some of our bags as it was quite heavy. In total, Vipin sir became our local guardian and caretaker. Learning started becoming a celebration with Vipin sir. He did all this with so much dedication, love and compassion. He had a high paying job in the US and was living a very comfortable life with all wellness. But at some point, he decided to move to India so that he could stay with his Guru, Amma. And all the university job and mentoring job that I mentioned above is without any money in return. He does that totally out of his own interest and as an offering to his Guru. Now, this was a striking element in my life. It is for the first time in my life that I experienced someone being so genuinely interested in the upliftment of another person without any personal gains in return. Most of his students are doing exceptionally well in different fields in different parts of the world. For me, it was a new dimension of love and compassion that I experienced. I was never used to this new found connection of selfless love at such a deeper level from a mere stranger. It felt so cool and very elevating. I knew very well that the source of compassion and inspiration in Vipin Sir is none other than Amma. I am thankful to Vipin sir for so many things in my life. But the most important of all is generating this interest of exploring the phenomenon called Guru and her compassion.
I guess it is time to get to Amma now. As I briefly mentioned before, Amma is a great humanitarian who is involved in so many charity projects. A single day in her life is comprised of meeting at least an average number of 1000 people. This is not an exaggerated number. There are literally 1000 or more people queued up with a token to get a motherly embrace from Amma. Some of them come with a happy story to share, some with the most terrible incidents of death, disease and mental distress. There are some days where there are upto 2,00,000 people queued up to meet Amma (Amma’s birthday is the most crowded event I have ever been to). Whether you see Amma as a Guru or not, anyone who observed her closely enough can easily say that she puts a lot of energy and time into meeting people and listening to them. This is not the only thing that she does. Amma is the chancellor of various organisations. This includes schools, hospitals, universities (one of which where I studied), and many other programs such as pension program for the old, orphanage, vocational education for women, education for the poor in villages, and so on. Many of the organisational decisions are taken as a side task while she is meeting the regular crowd of people. I have seen plenty of times that my professors in my university would squeeze in the middle of the queue to ask Amma a question about the next upcoming project in the university. As an 19 year old girl, who is in the prime of energy and youth, I was struggling to find a balance to do my course-works, assignments, exams and studies without stress. Then I see Amma in her late 50’s meeting thousands of people, along with running multiple organisations elegantly. I was very deeply impressed with her sense of commitment, energy and ability. I have never met a woman of such a great capacity. Somewhere deep down in my heart, I had a small desire to become like her one day. As the desire started getting stronger, I thought I would go and ask Amma directly. One day, I got a token and stood in the line to meet her. As my turn came, I got a warm embrace from Amma. I held her hands and asked ‘Amma. You are doing so many things in your life. Some of the initiatives you started are done for the first time in the world by you. How do you do this and even I would like to become like you one day.’ I didn’t really expect her to answer to me. There are just so many people waiting to go to Amma. Amma listened to my question and gave me the most humble smile ever. She giggled like a little kid and told me ‘Child.. It is not so hard. It comes with experience. Just try’. Then she also gave me some examples from the ancient scriptures on how people built mental strength and courage to do so many great things in life. Then told me that those are her inspiration. She then hugged me and I had to leave the space for the next person to meet Amma.
That was my first longest time I spent with Amma. From next time, I always went with a question for her. I was very curious about what she would reply. It became a habit. I went to Amma atleast once a month. There were times when I went twice a week. Amma spent so much time with people that anybody who wants to meet her gets a chance very easily. Even though I got a tiny glimpse of her being with my questions, I soon realized that there is a limit to what can be understood intellectually. Amma is an overall experience emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. There were so many beautiful moments when I sat next to her for meditation and got so deeply immersed in her love. Just sitting and watching her embracing people started becoming such a blissful experience. It brought immense peace which is hard to explain in words. I saw myself bursting into tears sometimes and having no clue on why am I crying. Initially, I had the impression that I am a very insignificant person to Amma among thousands of people who went to her everyday. Slowly, it became more and more clear that not even a single person who went to Amma is insignificant. Amma gives the utmost care and compassion to everyone who went to her. It doesn’t matter who you are. Amma had unlimited patience, love and curiosity to listen to you.
A single day in Amma’s life is still a wonder for me. The idea of just sitting and listening to so many people one after the other for days, weeks, months and years is indeed a wonder for me. She has been doing this for the past 40 or more years. Not only just listen, but to enjoy this so much that the people who go to Amma also experience that happiness and deep peace. The more I tried to know Amma, the more I realized the depth of her love. It is only when you are genuinely passionate about your work can you excel in that domain. This is true for any field. Amma is having outstanding experience in understanding a human being in the deepest of the meanings possible. One day, I asked Amma ‘Who is God’ and she gave me a beautiful answer. She said ‘The creator and the creation are the same. Just as the Sun’s reflection can be seen in multiple small pots of water, it is the same God’s consciousness that is reflected in each and every being’. I did contemplate a lot on that. For me, to study Amma became to study that supreme consciousness that is there in every being. For me, to study Amma became to study that supreme consciousness in my own self. By definition, a Guru is the one who removes darkness. Yes, the darkness that limits you to believe that you are that insignificant creature made up of your limited body, mind and intellect. I really hope that there will come a day when everybody is able to get established in the truth of seeing the creator and the creation as the same. Even though it appears as a very abstract idea now, I know I will reach there one day because Amma told me ‘Child.. It is not so hard. It comes with experience. Just try’.