Since Shri Sai Baba gave tremendous importance to the adoption of the Guru in one’s spiritual “Sadhana”, it would be relevant to devote a chapter in discussing the importance of a Guru and his intimate bond with the “bhakta”. With an innate compassion Shri Sai Baba often declared -- “I am your savior, not only from the weight of sin, but from the weight of care and misery.” “Guru is all the Gods”, said the Saint of Shirdi, thus putting into a nutshell his trend of thought. Moreover, the Baba declared reassuringly that though as the all pervading Guru he would naturally expect complete surrender, obedience and loyalty, he promised that through his supreme powers he would extend complete protection to those who put their implicit faith in him. The security and vastness of such a protection is indeed a tempting bait.

Bharat’s ancient seers also gave considerable importance to the concept of Guru. The “Vedas”, which incidentally are the oldest of all “Shastras”. are often called “Shrutis”. because the “Vedas” are supposed to have been Revelations given by the Vedic Rishis. The authority of these scriptures is undisputed. According to these ancient vedic seers, the concept of the Guru is like the fundamental axiom for any spiritual path. It may be that some seekers do not consider it necessary to have a personalized Guru or a transcendent Guru. They feel that the self in one’s own Being acts as the immanent Guru. Nevertheless, whether transcendent or immanent, the Guru is the supreme reality in all our endeavors for seeking absolute salvation.

Since, however, we have given great importance to Bhakti Yoga in which the transcendent Guru is the pivot of progress, it would not be amiss to describe the Guru-Bhakti relationship according to the traditional demands.

The Guru is necessarily the perfect spiritual preceptor, but the disciple too must fulfill his obligations by cultivating in himself a true spirit of dedication to the Guru. The entire matrix upon which the relationship is founded is the familiar idea of reciprocity. The gracious act of giving by the Guru would lose much of its benefits, if the acceptance of such gifts was not equally gracious and spontaneous.

The human soul, even though initiated in the spiritual path, cannot love an abstract power; and it is for this reason that the scriptures advise us not to venerate those who lead us to God and to love their physical presence as the Divine manifesting itself in human form. The Guru’s physical body is just a receptacle of the mighty Divine, and as such worthy of the utmost devotion and reverence. The central principle is that the Almighty and his medium of manifestation are identical. The art of being the perfect disciple is in itself an arduous sadhana in India. The spiritual impulse is certainly latent in every man, but it needs great inspiration to bring it to the surface, and that inspiration can come only through inspired contacts with the great Seers and Saints who have taken birth among men to conscientiously fulfill this sacred purpose. Theoretical knowledge derived from books can never achieve what the Guru’s compassionate guidance can do.

It is said that an intense hunger for God in a sadhak inevitably summons a supreme force that responds from above -- and lo! The genuine Guru tenderly manifests himself to help and guide him (the sadhak). The sadha’s task then is to lay himself exclusively open to the Guru’s power, protection and love. Once this divinely ordained contact is established, the relationship between the Master and the disciple becomes a thing of beauty, where each completes the other to bring about a rare and lyrical fusion. It must be remembered that the Guru too has his needs and longings, because once the link is established, once the Guru admits a sadhak into his heart, the Guru actually craves to sustain the link for life, if not for eternity. Such indeed is the Guru’s infinite compassion. On the other hand, the indulgence that seasoned sadhaks shower on their sadgurus is no less moving. If the sadhak succeeds, achieve or gain in any field, they attribute it to the Guru’s Grace: If they fail and falter, they accept it as just retribution for their own shortcomings. Such self-effacing dedication, however, is also a gift bestowed by the Divine Himself!

But, initially, the Guru is cautious and slow in bestowing his Grace. He stands aloof, and displays a certain sensitive diffidence to enter into the Bhakta’s heart.............Yes, indeed the Guru is shy -- he respects the bhakta’s privacy and hesitates to enter his heart as an uninvited guest! But, once the Guru is sure of the bhakta’s surrender, the Guru with great love and labor guides his disciple in his efforts, and does not leave the bhakta till he too is able to experience the utter wonderment of the cosmic Realization.

The Guru’s mission is two-fold -- the first and the more important is to help the aspirant to achieve a total surrender to himself as God’s true representative. Knowing full well that the human mind cannot be awakened without an alter of dedication, the Guru projects himself as an ideal. For, to constantly contemplate on some Divine embodiment establishes a divine channel of reflection which automatically leads to meditation. Thus to awaken, elevate and transform are the Guru’s sacred mission. But the second purpose of the Guru is paradoxically to help the sadhak to transcend this state of complete dependence which he (the Guru) himself in partnership with the sadhak took such pains to foster. For, the final spurt of Realization is exclusively the bhakta’s job, and the Guru withdraws his tangible hold on the one who is now ready to go beyond all that is personal and individual to a universal realization of Truth.

The concept of the Guru is a very ancient one in Bharat, for, it dates back to the ancient Puranic age. Possibly, the doctrine of Brahma manifesting as Iswara who is a sadguna aspect of God attributes predicated of Him, gave rise in time of a belief in the possibility of God Incarnate. In fact, it was this faith in the visitations of God as persons incarnate that was considered a great contribution of the Puranic period. This belief in Incarnations was further strengthened by actual appearances from time to time on this holy soil of ours of spiritual Giants endowed with extraordinary qualities. Through a great faith in Incarnations and the traditional respect accorded to all teachers of spiritual knowledge was created a happy fusion of ideals that had created the concept of the Guru. The Gurus, in India initiate their chosen bhaktas in many different traditional methods -- they are (1) by Look (2) by Touch (3) by Speech --or all them combined. Very often the Guru bestows a holy and a secret Mantra which generates a tremendous help in the sadhak’s spiritual evolution; for the Mantra is bestowed as the outcome of a penetrating scrutiny of the recipient’s vital psychic needs. An attempt to analyze this exquisite relationship can never be complete or satisfying, for, it is replete with inexhaustible possibilities. Almost every Guru enriches its lyrical composition with some delicate nuances, some subtle touches from perennial beauty of his own Impersonality.

Thus, an ancient Bharat gifted to mankind through its mighty seers an incredible depth of scholarship which is as profound as it is beautiful and which has not been duplicated in any other civilization or culture.

In the writer’s humble opinion, Bharatvasis themselves today need to go back to this ‘ancient Cradle of Knowledge and Wisdom’ in order to rejuvenate their values.