Acertain Mysorean, well-built and short in stature, presents himself before Sri Bhagavan and puts a question on a familiar yet enigmatic subject. He asks: “Bhagavan, what is this thing they call ‘Guru-kripa’ (Guru’s grace)?” All the devotees sitting there are expectantly watchful for the answer that will come from the statue- like figure seated on the divan, utterly unswayed by the happenings around Him, with His eyes gazing into somewhere — the depths of which we know not — with an expression whose simple placidity catches even those with a superior air of their own. Unassuming He is, yet His authority tells; naked in every sense of the word, yet He is clothed in all that is wholly divine; poor, yet possessing and claiming by right all the Cosmos as His own; simple, yet a problem and a marvel for all who come to study Him. He is the One Man to whom real India, nurtured on her glorious traditions of the great past, looks for light and life.
This Sage of Arunagiri was one who burned His boats even at the age of seventeen, while He was a student in Madurai. This was so that He might be drowned in the Ocean of Arunachala and dissolved in It, so that there might be no trace of His little ‘self ‘ and He be only the One Self that is, was, and shall ever be. This is to Him ‘Arunachala’ — the one resplendent and immutable Truth, which is the substratum of all that is, was and shall be. For aruna means red, radiant, and achalam, the changeless rock-bottom of Truth. To Him life in the wakeful stage is as good as a moment of dream. According to Him, the one problem of life is how to wake from this perennial dream. For when we awaken from life’s dream, aware of the One Seer and of all that passes before His gaze, painful and pleasurable, we shall abide ever as the unaffected witness, immortal and infinite.
What is the Guru’s Grace? Well, this is exactly the word that awakens us from this dream life of ours, to which we cling so hard until the tiger of death pounces on us and proves that it is ephemeral, unreal.
What is this wonderful power the True Guru holds? Man is accustomed to dope himself in sorrow with more and more palliatives; so he finds the more he tries to escape from the quagmire, the deeper into it he is drawn. Out of sheer despair, he goes to some Enlightened Man and asks for help.
The Master says: “You feel unhappy because you do not know your Self “.
“How strange!” thinks the bewildered soul. “Do I
not know myself? Here I am, and yet I am in sorrow!”
“But sorrow and wandering is not your real nature,” the Illuminate replies, “really you are Being and Blissfulness.”
“How so?” asks the yet more bewildered soul.
With one meaningful look the Master sees deep into
the soul of the enquirer. And lo! What a trance of joy,
what a blissful existence, and what a calm this is! The agitated soul is stilled, silent; he sits and sits and sits. Gazing at the Master before him the minutes and hours are hardly noticed gliding softly away. In this way days and months are condensed into a few moments of blissful life. The wanderer has found his harbour; he is all new life and light, so he swears, “For eternity I shall not part from my Master, who is my All!”
Well, for a time he keeps to his resolve. But then the “I” followed by the thought of “mine”, the remnants of his petty being, the past accumulation of tendencies (vasanas), all pull him back with all their force and tear him from his Master’s bosom.
He slides back again into the very dream of life which he had come to abhor. Now he is neither of the world, nor of eternity. Being entrapped by the world’s forces, yet unable to be in harmony with them he returns to his Master for proper guidance in his conduct of worldly affairs. The Master is only too pleased to give him all the help he needs in order to free himself from the meshes that have once again entangled him. The poor man finds that he has to fondle and hug once again the very dolls he formerly abhorred. But the more he does so, the more they burn him, make him a prisoner; he can neither give them up, nor escape from their clutches. It is like the proverbial monkey with a cobra in its hand, or the ant between two fires. He is only waiting for the least opportunity to wind up his business here and slip away into oblivion, so that he may once and for ever return to the calm of his Master’s presence.
He has indeed come there; but now he finds himself utterly unfit to receive that soothing solace from the Master which was formerly his. The mind and the senses, by their recent association in the things of the world, have so completely exteriorised him that ‘diving in’ has become for him a matter of the past, he can do it no more. So much is this so, that he has now to sell himself, so that in the proximity of the Divine and through It’s Grace, the rebellious and discordant elements of his being may all be harmonised, life that was formerly so dear to him becoming worthless if not for surrender to the Master in absolute self-abnegation.
Now the Master speaks: “People think the Master is confined in a human frame, but it is not so; His existence and presence are universal, cosmic, because He is the True Guru (sad-guru) and Truth (sat) as such is not a newly discoverable entity. He has always been there with you even while you were undergoing all the pangs of existence. In fact, I am the ‘I’ in you; you and I have never been apart, nor ever can be. But you, with your separate ‘I’ and its exclusive and warring interests, could not know Me, much less feel Me. Now that that ‘I’ in you has dropped away, I alone live in you.” This is the meaning of Tattvamasi (“That thou art”), and this is the meaning and the function of the Guru’s Grace.