The Hub of Being – Gurus


The 1st written references to the concept of guru are found in the earliest Vedic texts (~1500 BCE) which became the basis of Hinduism. Sages scrivening wisdom doubtlessly date to the earliest writings; an echo of what had been orally passed down through generations in prehistory. Knowledge may be lost in social chaos, but the sagacity that comes from realization is individually received, and so transcends time and place.

It is not that you knew what you are and then you have forgotten. Once you know, you cannot forget. Ignorance has no beginning, but it can have an end.

The world is full of contradictions, hence your search for harmony and peace. These you cannot find in the world, for the world is the child of chaos. It is your restlessness that causes chaos. ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

Paramahansa Yogananda

The power of unfulfilled desires is the root of all man’s slavery. ~ Paramahansa Yogananda

Indian yogi and guru Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952) was born into a devout Hindu family, and took to the spiritual path at an early age like a duck to water.

In 1920, Yogananda went to the United States to teach yoga and meditation. He stayed for the rest of his life, albeit with a visit back to India 1935–1936 to see his guru, Sri Yukteswar.

Yogananda was very influential among American seekers. His life story, Autobiography of a Yogi (1958) was popular.

In the days leading to his death, Yogananda hinted that his time had come. He spoke at a banquet on 7 March 1952. Yogananda’s talk ended with: “I am hallowed; my body touched that sod.” Upon uttering these words, his body slumped to the floor. His followers thought Yogananda committed mahasamādhi: intentionally shuffling off the mortal coil.

Mortician Harry Rowe received and interred Yogananda’s body. He wrote in a notarized letter:

The absence of any visual signs of decay in the dead body of Paramahansa Yogananda offers the most extraordinary case in our experience. No physical disintegration was visible in his body even 20 days after death. No indication of mold was visible on his skin, and no visible drying up took place in the bodily tissues. This state of perfect preservation of a body is, so far as we know from mortuary annals, an unparalleled one. No odor of decay emanated from his body at any time.

Meher Baba

The universe is the outcome of imagination. Then why try to acquire knowledge of the imaginative universe instead of plumbing the depths of your real Self? ~ Meher Baba

At 30 years of age, Indian guru Meher Baba (1894–1969) said all he was ever going to say. While he kept an active teaching schedule, Baba maintained silence the rest of his life, communicating using an alphabet board or by unique hand gestures.

Suffering is essential for the elimination of the ego, just as it was necessary for you to scrub and scrub in order to wash the stain from my coat. ~ Meher Baba

Anandamayi Maa

The supreme calling of every human being is to aspire to self-realization. ~ Anandamayi Maa

Nirmala Sundari (1896–1982) was born and lived her early life in poverty. She attended school for 2 years. Although Nirmala’s teachers were pleased with her scholastic ability, her family thought she was dimwitted because of her constant blissfulness. When her mother fell seriously ill, relatives remarked with puzzlement about Nirmala appearing unperturbed.

At age 13, in keeping with rural custom, Nirmala was married. She then spent 5 years at her brother-in-law’s home, mostly in a withdrawn, meditative state.

During this time, a devout neighbor, Harakumar, developed the habit of addressing her as “Maa,” prostrating before her morning and evening in reverence. Harakumar was considered insane.

Nirmala moved to Shahbag with her husband in 1924. She was in a silent state of ecstasy much of the time.

In 1926, Nirmala set up a temple and devoted herself to spiritual practices. While in a meditative state at the temple one day, she held difficult yogic positions for extended durations and spontaneously formed complex mudras (yogic hand positions and gestures).

More and more people became drawn to Nirmala as a living embodiment of the divine. She was given the name Anandamayi Maa, meaning “Bliss Permeated Mother,” by an early disciple. Though she called herself “a little unlettered child,” many were attracted to Maa’s spontaneous spiritual teachings.

This world is itself but an embodiment of want. To perceive duality means pain, conflict, struggle, and death. Suffering is sent to remind you to turn your thoughts toward that which is real. ~ Anandamayi Maa

Nisargadatta Maharaj

The real world is beyond the mind’s ken; we see it through the net of our desires, divided into pleasure and pain, right and wrong, inner and outer. To see the universe as it is, you must step beyond the net. It is not hard to do so, for the net is full of holes. ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

In his early adulthood, Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897–1981) ran a string of small-goods stores, which mainly sold beedis (south Asian cigarettes). He smoked these spicy cigarettes his entire adult life. They took their toll.

Maharaj died of throat cancer at 81. The cancer was to him a painful inconvenience, which he stoically accepted. Maharaj made himself available to seekers until he was no longer able physically.

When you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance. ~ American singer Lee Ann Womack in the song “I Hope You Dance” (1999) (“I Hope You Dance” was written by American songwriters Tia Sillers & Mark Sanders.)

When he was still healthy, it struck many visitors odd that Maharaj would participate in the daily rituals – dancing and chanting – that took place in his ashram. They wondered why he felt the need to do that.

Maharaj needed nothing. He simply lived the life that was enjoyable to him.

Do not take the trouble to acquire or renounce anything. ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

There is unified wholeness in transcendental consciousness. ~ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Once known as the “giggling guru” for his easy laughter, Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918–2008) built an empire of wealth on his Transcendental Meditation program, which initiated millions into the practice of meditation.

Born Mahesh Prasad Varma, Maharishi studied physics and mathematics at university before becoming a disciple of Brahmānanda Saraswatī for 13 years, whom he later called Guru Dev.

As Mahesh was not of the Brahmin cast, Saraswatī could not name him as his successor. Instead, Saraswatī charged Mahesh with traveling and teaching meditation to the masses.

These are ancient teachings, but now I have made them new. ~ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Mahesh began teaching meditation throughout India in 1955. Within a few years, Mahesh bestowed upon himself the title of Maharishi (“great seer”).

From 1959, Maharishi toured the world teaching meditation. Maharishi’s growing prominence brought criticism from other Indian sages and gurus, for his unorthodoxy in disseminating a simple technique without teaching other traditional Hindu concepts, particularly the need for internal discipline.

Maharishi’s fame peaked in 1968, when he was visited by The Beatles at his ashram in India. Maharishi’s meditation business continued to bloom in the early 1970s.

Maharishi introduced his sutra for levitation in 1978. Often called “yogic flying,” the technique launches the body into the air, defying known physics in the process.

In the last decade of his life, Maharishi increasingly limited his social contact, even as he retained interest in the potential for meditation to solve world problems.

Eckhart Tolle

Awareness is the greatest agent for change. ~ Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart Tolle (1948–) had an unhappy childhood in post-war Germany. He later remarked that pain “was in the energy field of the country.”

“Depression, anxiety and fear” plagued Tolle until one night in 1977, when, at age 29, he had an epiphany: that the mind-made self is false. (Tolle’s sudden realization may be explained by his profound desire for release from his mental torment; in other words, wanting nothing but enlightenment.) An abiding “state of deep bliss” ensued.

Being spiritual has nothing to do with what you believe, and everything to do with your state of consciousness. ~ Eckhart Tolle

Tolle abandoned his academic career and spent a few years in penury before beginning to teach. Thanks to an endorsement by American talk show host Oprah Winfrey, Tolle’s book – The Power of Now (1977) – became a bestseller.

All the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind. ~ Eckhart Tolle

Ishi Nobu

The most egregious illusion is belief. ~ Ishi Nobu

Ishi Nobu (1955–) learned how to meditate at age 19. At 21 he received an inner instruction to “explain everything.” After 42 years of research, Nobu published his magnum opus: Spokes of the Wheel. While having a Western scientific bent, Nobu’s teachings are spiritually classicist in emphasizing conceptual knowledge as guidance, along with the discipline of living in meditation by subduing the mind.

Your only choice is to stay a creature of your mind, or to gain the skill of silence and live fulfilled. ~ Ishi Nobu