Who is your guru?
Last weekend, I headed out to the countryside of Denmark, to an island called Funen, to participate in Ancient Vedic Fire Ceremonies led by two Indian Brahmins from the Sacha Lineage who were visiting Denmark.
Sacha Kutir, a beautiful homestead surrounded by abundant nature and captivating light, was their first stop on a six week trail of blessings for the enlightenment of the world through Europe which will end in the Pyrenees in France mid-September.
Over the weekend, Sri Ram Shiromani Tripatiji and Ashok Kumar Mishrawho were mostly living in the embodiment of reverence with the exception of singing mantras by memory over the fire and in the temple, and during an explicit hour of story-telling that we requested of them Saturday afternoon.
It was a remarkable experience that is so rare to find outside of Ashrams in India, and I was so excited to get to partake, witness, and learn.
During the afternoon, Sri Ram Shiromani Tripatiji told a story of the king goose, known for its ability to separate water and milk. The deeper meaning of the story is that this king goose has an innate ability to attain discernment between ignorance (sex, attachment, ego, confusion..) and wisdom (pleasure, harmony, kindness, softness...). When a king goose attains this capacity of discernment, it is called a Raj Hans.
A person who has earned the name Raj Hans is someone who has embodied discernment, and thus reached enlightenment, often after years of devoted practice, meditation, and explicit work with a guru.
Discernment is an important topic in spiritual and emotional growth and healing, and is often where most of us get stuck. We may be filled with all sorts of valuable resources, but we may not always know which ones are applicable to us or how to actually apply the systems and concepts we've gotten access to. We stop practices and avoid the deeper work, confusing the early stages of bliss with true awakening.
I asked Sri Ram if he could share more about how he specifically teaches discernment to his disciples. And he shared with us that an essential step is through mantras and meditation, or otherwise put: practice. But that practice is not enough. He told us that we could sing mantras and meditate our entire life and not reach enlightenment, and so, we must also find a guru.
Finding a guru is a charged topic. In a world where we crave independence and self-sufficiency, we've forgotten the essential nature and purposefulness of lineage, of taking hold of the roots of that practice, through having a guide.
Thich Naht Hanh once was quoted as saying "The next Buddha will be a Sangha (community)" and many of us have taken that quite literally, opting to allow the world and our environment to be our teacher, and feigning away from the vulnerability required to find ourselves an actual teacher.
But what has gotten lost in translation, and was the intention behind this powerful quote by Thich Naht Hanh, is that when a teacher has reached their own enlightenment (thus qualifying them as a guru), they become the embodiment of a Sangha.
While I'm a huge advocate for embarking on the journey of conscious relationship and engaging in community in order to know our blindspots more intimately, I, personally, do not know where I would be today if it weren't for my mentor, who functions as my guru. This, for me, is a classic case of the need for "both, and" insight rather than "either, or" thinking.
A person who has a unique ability to offer clear reflection to those who want it, is worth gold in my eyes.
What a guru does, is reflect our pure essence and any obstacles preventing us from accessing that essence back to us. And in that way, the guru must also be a student, because to offer such a clear and unwavering reflection requires the ability to fully surrender to what is being channeled through them.
That same afternoon, we also listened to about 80 of the 400 some-odd total verses of The Guru Gita, a story in the form of song, from Shiva to his love, Parvati, about the nature of the word guru.
I encourage you to read more deeply about the meaning of this particular mantra (you can listen to it here), and the word guru, which actually means "remover of darkness, and who reveals the light of the heart." All I will tell you now, is that the story and song function as a message of pure — surrendered — love that pierces straight through the heart, and combined with the wisdom shared by Sri Ram and Ashok all weekend long, I left the weekend softened, humbled, and inspired to continue my own practice as a student, deeply grateful for my own "guru" (Alexandra Stockwell), and the spiritual wisdom and mentorship she has passed onto me, through me, over the years.