In Patanjali’s Yogasutra he points out that some people are born into an extraordinary state of grace, commonly known as “enlightened” a God realized avatar. Such people report their extra ordinary experience and through proximity their devotees have extraordinary experience by their avataric influence. Patanjali’s Yogasutra appeared around 330BC coincident with the time of the Buddha Yogi and the great review of Vedic wisdom.
However he also states that such people, though interesting are not the best teachers. Why, because they do not know the common human experience. They do not know suffering. They can even delude and lead you away from your own dharma or way. The Yogasutra makes clear that the best teacher is the acharya, a person who has gone through the process of suffering, the progression removing obstruction from their life. They have gone through and know the process of Yoga, from suffering to freedom. They have known human limitation. They are able to be truly helpful to a person who is suffering; to give them appropriate practice and recommendation designed for their unique situation.
It is not that there aren’t such people born into a state of permanent freedom, illumination beyond all limits. There are many examples. It is naturally occurring; so they have their vital place in our lives. Such people are indeed inspiring. It is just that in the traditions, always and all ways an appropriate Yoga is Given. It is what we do in response to such a graceful meeting. We can learn this from an acharya, one who has gone through the process. In the ancient world there was a clear distinction between the avatar and the jiva mukti acharya, one who is liberated through a process of Yoga and who can therefore adapt yoga to individual needs for others. There was an acknowledged empathetic mutuality between such people in the community.
In our own time the relationship between U. G. Krishnamurti and Satya Sai Baba was like that. Sai Baba would send people to U. G. in Bangalore because he knew U. G. could help. He knew that his avataric gifts and skills were not ultimately useful for a person without an actual and practical means.
So my point always is that there must be a right Yoga as the practicum, the practical response to what has inspired us. We learn from someone who has a good teacher them selves, practice them selves, and care for others in practical ways. The teacher is no more than a friend and no less than a friend. This is the necessary context of Yoga transmission. This true friendship is beyond social definition and is beyond personal or social identity.
For good reason many people have rejected the concept of Guru because it has been used fraudulently as a social defense and manipulation. In fear the so-called guru protects himself from social interaction and normal mutuality. There has been a valid denunciation of world religion built on the Guru principle that is only used as a power mechanism. An infant argument rages between the atheist and the theist, the guru cults of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and many many more. However, the Guru as a a real function is not an authority, or senior position, or even a personal identity. And we do need others, at least one other because we come in packs, we are social animals. We need to have some One in whom we can trust. It is my wish that we do not throw the baby out with the bath water, that we will restore this natural function around the world as the necessary means to yoga transmission and real human help, real intimacy and liberation. We need our gurus and avatars but they are not what we have been led to believe. It is not the social dynamic of realized and non-realized, more and less, which is the problem of our commonly defined of gurus, Popes and priests. The quality of the teacher student is simply sincere affection and caring in an equal and mutual relationship. The mutual affection between two real people is the context of spiritual transmission and it always has been. Even in the sophisticated dharmas of Buddhism and Vedanta that speak of “no thing” or Only God, when it comes down to it these lofty realizations are transmitted through the plain love between two very real “objects,” two very real people.
The avatar concept has created the social dynamic of inequality and can even create delusion that no yoga is necessary. The experiences generated through proximity to them suggest that just being with the guru is sufficient. Many gurus’ teachings are just that: be in relationship with me. Co-dependence is created where the power of the individuals own yogic directions are lost. In the tradition it is understood however that Yoga is what you do in response to Guru’s grace. It was never absent. Further more, not just any Yoga but the Yoga that is right for you. “Following the Guru’s destination is another way of loosing your self.” In other words it must be your Yoga and not just the duplication of arbitrary practices and patterns that are passed on by charm, authorities or culture.
This of course is the set up of the entire social mind, whether Christ, Buddha, Mohammad, or the contemporary Guru authorities, ideals and practices are set up, and there is no Yoga, no individual empowerment. The teachers teach with a cadence of authority, often sounding charming, sincere and certain but delusional to themselves and others. This arrangement creates social illusion, the fact of disempowerment, individuals trying to get enlightened, imagining they are not, trying to get to God as if God could be absent, yet creating the imaginary absence. It created hierarchy in society that disempowered, degraded the common life. To be a householder, to be in the village still having sex and family was less than the heroic gesture of the monastic life. Sex and mother hood were diminished even degraded as being even the obstruction to spiritual evolution. Of course the opposite is true. Stop looking start living!
An interesting side note is that the Buddha, Christ and Mohamed in their actual human lives were not such avatars but indeed acharya Yogis who had been through their ordeals of human suffering and worked it out. Hundreds of years later they were deified by hierarchical systems for power.
Many try and have claimed to be avatars, either themselves or later their followers. The most effective way to fool the people is to fool your self first. But real avataric appearances are few and far between. Who is an avatar and who is not remains interesting debate. Are their transcendent masters or not, is a good question. This humorous pondering went on around even the Krishnamurtis, J and U. G. who were both involved and rejected the Theosophists who had proposed that spiritual masters were present to guide humanity. J and U. G. toyed with this game of belief, seeming to reject the notion and other times flirting with affection that they had their masters. They were always encouraging people to go beyond mere belief systems into each their own visceral non-mediated experience of life. Although U. G. was usually emphatically dismissive implying that the idea of divine consciousness entering as an exclusive human was a spooky idea that implied that the divine was absent from every one else. With non-yoga teachings that denied sex and motherhood these systems have stripped humanity of real intimacy. On the whole the avatar is a deceitful social construct that has disempowered humanity. The avatar must be redefined and understood. And there needs to be a practical appropriate response to such a One that is all about receptivity and not the denial of experience.
The whole question is finally beside the point when we see that we live in a depthless reality, a profound wonder and intelligence that is each and every ordinary life. There is as much intelligence to create a stone, a piece of dirt, a blade of grass to completely blow the mind. The appearance of anything is a perfect wonder. If we see this wonder in the life of another person, in our friend or Guru, so be it. That is beautiful and we will probably feel that wonder with all teachers, even the frauds because they too are life.
The avatar is some One born with the inherent knowing that they are everything. There is only one nurturing reality and they are that and can explain that you are that too. They are not authorities, not superiors, not different from you and me and do not feel themselves to be different from you and me. Their realization does not create a sniff of personal or social identity or status. They are utterly ordinary and extremely practical people. If there is any one with that certainty in your life, born with it or established later, a friend, someone with whom you have a real relationship let them stand in your life. This could be a famous person or not, just honest, real and ordinary. Without requirement, expectation or need, be with anything or any one who is certain that life is a nurturing force. That everything is arising in nurturing source reality. Find some one or something that communicates to you that the universe knows exactly what it is doing in your case. That you are in good hands here, completely loved and cared for. Be with that flower, a friend, father or mother (either in archetypal cultural form or actual person) as your own, standing in your life as love. The Guru is a caring friend that is all. They make nothing of it.“ No more than a friend no less than a friend.” And Yoga is what we do in response. It is the means to respond, feel, and participate directly in nurturing abundance of your life in the way that is completely the natural relatedness of your life. One day it turns in to the same certainty for you but don’t even look for that or require it. In Yoga there is no requirement to manipulate the body or the energy in attempt to know the source, rather it is the other way round. We start with the heart that is felt in the simple participation in the union of all opposites. In the opposites we find their source. Such as exhale with inhale, strength with receptivity, within and without.
If pain continues don’t worry it is the healing. Yoga is the pragmatic way to co-operate with nurturing but you can’t determine exactly when and how the healing works, but it is. You do it for your self and past present and future generations. The nurturing flows through. Just do your Yoga.
So to all who follow guru, be it in the context of the great world religions or the new age religions and for those who have finished with religion but want to feel better. There must be a practical means. Without practical means things get worse. People live in two worlds, the ideal and the blandness of their every day experience. There must be a realistic Yoga established as one’s life priority. The bottom line is: we are utterly nurtured, Yoga or not. And Yoga is our chosen participation in the profound nurturing that is upon us. By Yoga we know the natural state, the place from which the avatar speaks. It is our practical response to the love we feel with such a One.
We drive our own car, steer our own directions, fulfill our own desires in the guru’s company. We are thrown off mass transit’s predefined destiny and patterns, hurtling along like frightened sheep. We do our own Yoga, our own direct intimacy with reality (body breath and relationship in that order).