Treading on the dolorous path of quotidian existence and the attendant vicissitudes of life, the human being after protracted travails and suffering in one or many births, attains perfection already immanent in him. This is the dominant belief in the philosophy of Hinduism.

To attain this perfection is of necessity an unrelenting effort, pre-eminently through rigorous sadhana. Barring a few exceptions, man cannot accomplish this mission alone and unaided, drifting in a hapless manner in the uncharted terrain of life. A guide is essential and there is the inescapable necessity of a guru ~ the personal God.

When the required assistance from the capable master comes, the superior powers and possibilities of the soul are quickened, growth is animated, and spiritual life awakened… as experienced by Swami Vivekananda. Such rapid expression of impulse cannot be derived from books or from reading the scriptures, but from one who knows and realises the essence of the Shastras.

The Guru is one “who is learned in the scriptures, sinless, unpolluted by lust and is the greatest knower of Brahman”. “Know the guru to the me”, says Sri Krishna in the Bhagavata. Such a Guru, appropriately called sadguru can transmit spirituality in various ways through talks, simple but illuminating, through smiles, through touch by a simple wish.

He may help in the spiritual awakening in the disciple by asking for a fruit or for just a herb. Mysterious are the ways of the Almighty. The Guru is the embodiment of mercy, kindness personified. That is the great truth.

It would, however, be apposite to mention here that there is no dearth of hypocrites, impostors and self-styled Godmen in the country. They capitalise on the ignorance and weakness of the gullible masses.

Dirty politics and shoddy politicians have also contributed to their burgeoning efficacy and clout. But the inherent strength of the noblest of religions enriched by saints, ascetics, holymen and incarnations cannot be dimmed by such knavish and mendacious elements.

Be that as it may, the person who receives the spirituality from the Guru, will have to be pure, dedicated, unfaltering in faith and unceasing in his reverence. It should be a case of self-abnegation and surrender.

“To Dewan to Dewan” sang the Swami, “to dewan hai mera, main gulam, main gulam, main gulam hi tera. This devotion will be supplemented by karma which is the result of peaceful, exalting, excitement and makes him serviceable and dutiful to the world ~ a tall order indeed.

One aspect has been highlighted by the Swami. In the present scheme of things, we do have limitations and are bound to see God as man. Animals, if they had any concept of God, must see him as an animal… each according to its own ideal. We cannot help seeing God as man and we are bound to worship him as man. There is no other way ~ Nanya Pantha.

There must be a certain vibration of spirituality in the mind of the teacher so that it may be suitably comprehended and conveyed to the mind of the taught.

The function of the sadguru, Swamiji explains, envisages the transfer of profound thoughts, not one of mere stimulation of the existing intellectual or other faculties.

For this process of transfer, the Bhakta needs to be connected integrally to the Guru ~ Tani Sarbani Sanjamya, yukta asita mat paro. This crisp but profound prescription is manifest in the Gita for receiving continuous vibration in order to ensure that this process of transfer is not deflected.

Brahman is the spirit, but it is too abstract for human mind to comprehend the same. To help the sadhaka comprehend the incomprehensible, a form or image has to be imagined ~ Sadhakanam hitarthaya, brahmano rup kalpanam. But to be more intimately connected, image is not enough.

So another dictum may be added ~ Bhaktanam hitarthaya Brahmano rup Parigraham. The formless assumes form, becomes corporeal. Thus man appears as Guru in whom God is manifest. The devotee should have to serve the “master being”, in the words of Krishna, Ananyabhak. He will worship and adore him and him alone.

In my early boyhood, I had heard an anecdote from my father who gave me an abiding lesson in matters spiritual. The immortal Mahavira had wanted to see Krishna in the Dwapar Yuga. On hearing about his impending visit, Krishna asked Ruksminj his wife to assume the form of Janaki, while he slung the bow and arrow over his shoulder and assumed the figure of Rama.

Hanuman came, lay prostrate at his feet, smiled and muttered to himself that Srinath and Janakinath are one and the same; still the lotus-eyed Rama was all and everything. Srinathe Janakinathe avede paramatmani, tathapi, mama sarbaswa rama kamal-lochana.

Rama was special to him and his only object of adoration, the personal god, the superior beloved ~ Ishtadeva. In the Bhaktishashtra (Bhagavata) love has been acclaimed as supreme attainment. Free from sensuality, love is the apogee of devotion.

If you have acquired such strength, said the lord, you can smash the world into smithereens, derail the stars and planets from their course, make every one opulent; but if there is no love in your heart, you have achieved nothing. Selfless love for the personal god is the desideratum for the manifestation of divinity.

The writer is a retired IAS officer