If we want to find real and lasting happiness in life then first we have to realise that this will come not by grasping things purely for ourselves and our own enjoyment but from the insight that nothing in reality belongs to us and that trying to cling to possessions, pleasure or relationships brings only suffering in the end. When however by contrast we are able to cultivate an attitude free of attachment with the clear understanding that time sweeps all away, our minds turn to how we may contribute to the happiness and well being of others.
A mother’s love for her children illustrates this principle. Before the mother retires for the night she first makes sure her children are fed and comfortable and safe. Only then will she think of her own rest. She takes her youngest into her room and stays with the child in case something is needed during the night so that she can be close at hand. With this in place she is able to sleep soundly.
The Guru’s love for the disciple follows a similar path. It is not that we can appoint a Guru in the wrong belief that if we fulfil certain conditions we become entitled to the Guru’s teachings. “See, I have done a yoga teacher training course, I wear a japa mala and have shaved my head, now give me the initiation to which I am entitled.” No, we can never earn the Guru’s grace just as a child does not earn the love of the mother. It is the mother’s nature to love her child and the Guru’s nature to impart the teachings to the disciple when the disciple is ready to receive them.
Thus it is said that three things are rare and precious. The first is a human birth. We come to this human birth after many thousands of incarnations and with human birth comes the opportunity for self consciousness, self realisation. The second rare and precious thing is to have the yearning for spiritual life, a sense of curiosity, self enquiry into the nature of life. “What is this life, why am I here, what is the meaning of it all?” The third and most precious of all is to find the loving grace of an awakened and enlightened teacher. So how do we prepare ourselves to receive the grace, the teachings and transmissions of the Guru? We have to reach the point described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras Chapter II verse 32.
śauca santoṣa tapaḥ svādhyāye ‘śvara praṇidhānāni niyamāḥ
Translation: In the light of intelligence illumining the life-style, arise the following observances: purity of body, mind and environment, contentment, psychic fire that simplifies life and purifies the heart, self-study or constant vigilance, and surrender to or worship of the indwelling omnipresence.
Self surrender is needed. We have to realise that we are unable to progress any further on our own strength alone. Just as we undertake a pilgrimage to visit the holy Mount Kailash and may hitchhike from Lhasa undergoing all manner of difficulties to arrive there, being tossed around in the back of a truck amongst luggage, and then setting out on the journey we may encounter a fierce snow storm and be unable to see ahead thus losing our way, perhaps even lose our shoes and at that point when we are close to despair and stumbling blindly we are found by some local people who out of compassion for our suffering take us in to their home in a nearby village and place a blanket around our shivering shoulders and offer us hot tea and comfort. In that moment the Goddess is revealed to us in the form of unearned loving kindness, the Lord is revealed to us in the generosity of others. We cannot repay them fully for their kindness. We may offer them some money but even so it does not recompense them. Loving kindness is not for sale, the mother’s love is not for sale, the Guru’s grace is not to be bought, entitlement to it cannot be earned or demanded.
How then do we thank our Guru once the teachings have been received? It is through putting the teachings into practice. It is through cultivating loving kindness in our own lives and living a life of selfless service to the well being and happiness of others. In this way, unintentionally and without motive we find our own true happiness and peace of mind and a quiet and thankful heart.
Salutations to the great Masters and adept Yogis whose lives are themselves an illustration of this timeless truth.