Guru, God, Self in Teachings of Ramana Maharishi


The word Guru is often loosely used to describe anyone who gives out spiritual advice, but in Sri Ramana Maharishi’s vocabulary, the word had a much more restricted definition. For him, a true Guru is someone who has realized the Self perfectly and is able to use the power of that Self to assist others towards the goal of Self-realization. Such a Guru is non-different from God or the Self. It was a basic tenet of Sri Ramana’s teachings that a Guru is absolutely necessary for almost everyone, who is trying towards permanent awareness of the Self. The catalytic role of the Guru is therefore a must except in rare instances, because in most cases the ignorance of the Self is so deeply rooted that seekers will be unable to escape from it by own effforts.

Q: What is Guru’s grace?

A: Guru is the Self. Sometimes in his life a man becomes dissatisfied and, not content with what he has, he seeks the satisfaction of his desires by prayer to God. His mind becomes eventually purified and then he longs to know God more to obtain his grace than to satisfy any desires. Then God’s grace begins to manifest, God takes the form of a Guru and appears to the devotee.

The Guru is both external and internal. From the outside he gives a push to the mind to turn inwards. From the interior he pulls the mind towards the Self and helps in quitening of the mind. That is Guru’s grace. There is no difference between such a Guru, God and Self.

Q: How is the Guru found?

A: God, who is immanent, in his grace takes pity on the loving devotee and manifests himself according to the devotee’s development. The devotee thinks he is a physical body so he expects another physical body to manifest as the Guru. But the Guru who is God or Self works from within, helps man to see the error of his ways and guides him to the right path until he has found the Self.

Q: What are the marks of a real teacher [Sadguru]?

A: Steady abidance in the Self at all times, looking at all things with an equal eye, unshakeable courage at all times, in all places and circumstances.

Q: There are a number of spiritual teachers teaching various paths. Whom should one take for one’s Guru?

A: Choose that one where you find you get shanti [peace].

Q: Should one not consider his teachings?

A: He who instructs an ardent seeker to do this or that or run around is not a true master. The seeker is already afflicted by his activities and wants rest and peace. In other words he wants cessation of his mind. If a teacher merely asks the student to do some activity in addition to or in place of another, can that be of help to the seeker? Activity is creation and churning. Activity is destruction of ones inherent peace. If constant activity is advised then the master is a killer. In such cases one may say that Brahma (the creator) or Yama (the killer) has manifested in the guise of a master. Such a person cannot liberate the aspirant, he will only strengthen his fetters more and more.

Image result for arunachala

Arunachala. Source: Google Image Search

[Ramana stressed constantly that the true role of a Guru is to destroy the mental churning of the seeker, only then the Self is realized. Normally, an engagement in lots of work only further binds the mind in cycles rather than helping to bring quietitude and silence of the mind.]

Q: How can I find my own Guru?

A: By intense meditation.

Q: What are the marks of a Guru’s grace?

A: It is beyond description or thoughts and words.

Q: How come a few people attained jnana without a physical Guru?

A: To few rare and mature devotees the Lord manifests as the formless light of knowledge and imparts awareness of the Truth from within.

Q: Tell us more about Guru’s grace.

A: Liberation is not something outside you. It is only within. If a man is anxious for deliverance, the internal Guru pulls him in and the external Guru pushes him into the Self. This is how grace acts.

Q: Many people say that you (Ramana Maharishi) have no Guru.

A: It depends on what you call a Guru. He need not be in a human form. Dattatreya had 24 Gurus including the five elements. Every object in the world was his Guru.

The Guru is absolutely necessary. The Upanishads say that none but a Guru can take man out of the forest of intellect and sense-perceptions. So there must be a Guru.

I might have had one at one time or other. Did I not sign hymns to Arunachala [ Shiva]?

Q: How does the Guru help in Self-realization?

A: The Guru does not bring about Self-realization. He merely removes the obstacles created by the mind. The Self is ever realized.

Q: If the Guru turns out to be incompetent what will be the fate of the disciple who has implicit faith in him?

A: Each one gets what is according to their merit.

Q: I have surrendered my heart and soul, yet I feel no grace.

A: If you had truly surrendered the question would not arise.

Q: I have surrendered. Still the question arises.

A: Grace is constant. Your judgement in variable.


A photo of the Arunachala temple and the hill. Tradition has it that it was here that Lord Shiva manifested as a pillar of Light in an ancient time. Historically the hill and temple of Arunachala has attracted many seekers of enlightenment, particularly those who have accumulated “jnana tapas” from their previous lives.

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