One time my Guru was standing in the driveway at Mt. Washington with a small group of us monks. I was about two meters from him. As I stood there, I thought, “He’s over there, in a particular location in space. Yet at the same time his spirit is also here inside me. How can I und
Just as I was wrestling with this thought, he came over to me and, with a quiet smile, handed me an apple.
Obviously he knew what I was thinking. Was he merely playing with me? There was, I think, a deeper lesson involved here.
I had been telling myself, “He isn’t human. In his deeper reality, he is Spirit.” In effect, I had been mentally denying his human reality. What he was subtly saying to me was, “The disciple must come to the deeper reality of the guru through the guru’s humanity — as he now knows him, in other words, and not by denying that humanity.”
Philosophically it is right to say, of the guru — and of every Self-realized saint — “He isn’t only human. He is the Infinite Self.”
Indeed, I recall another strange incident, described in my book The Path, when I was new on the path and intrigued by the whole idea — completely new to me — of astral entities and astral possession. I still recall the dream I had that night. I was at a party, talking casually with a few unidentified friends, when all of a sudden I remarked to them, “It is time for me to go and meet a disincarnate spirit.” I left that room, and entered another one which I still remember clearly. This room was empty of any furniture; the floor boards were perfectly bare. Standing in the center of the room, I said, “All right, Come on. I want to see what this business of astral possession is all about.”
All at once I felt as if a presence were entering me. AUM sounded all around, but it wasn’t a pleasant sound. It seemed, rather, to resonate with some lower astral sphere to which the soul I had called evidently belonged.
And then I felt myself being sucked out of my body, out the window, and into what seemed like a gray mist. The doubt seized me: Was I in danger of losing consciousness? At this point I decided I’d gone far enough. I tried to return to my body, but found that this attempt was a struggle. Rather than risk going any farther with this experiment, I urgently called out to my Guru.
“Master!” I cried.
Instantly I woke up. The unpleasant sound ceased. I was again in normal, outward consciousness.
The next morning, Gene Haupt, one of the monks who lived downstairs in the main building, told me, “I sleeping last night when I heard a loud pounding on my door.” In astral experiences of this kind, so I’ve been told, the knocking sounds like pounding over the whole door. In this case, that was what it seemed to be.
“Hello! Whose in there?” demanded a loud, coarse voice roughly.
“Me,” came the somewhat fearful reply.
“I don’t want you,” thundered the voice. “I want Don Walters.” Gene heard footsteps stamping toward the outside door, which opened, and then slammed shut. My room was in a separate building on the same grounds.
Later the next day I spoke of this episode to Master. He questioned me further, then said, “Don’t worry about it. Such experiences do occur, sometimes, on the spiritual path.”
I was not to be put off, however. How could he have responded so instantly to my plea, and then, the next day, ask for details about the experience. “Sir,” I said, “didn’t you know about it?”
He answered almost brusquely. What he said was, “Once you become one with God, you are God.”
What an unexpected reply! And how different from the way Tara later edited something Master had said to me about a saint who had once appeared to him in Encinitas. What Master had said was, “Where God is, there His saints come.” Not wishing him to appear boastful to readers, she changed that statement to read, “Wherever a devotee of God is, there His saints come.” (Italics mine.) However, I’m a devotee of God, and I cannot in any way claim to have been “pestered” by such visitations!
Indeed, there are two aspects to spiritual truth: impersonal of course, in cosmic consciousness; but also very personal. Arjuna, after being given the divine vision of Krishna in his omnipresent aspect, begged to behold his guru once again in the human form he so loved. Krishna, moreover, acceded; he did not say, “Haven’t you understood? I am not that human form at all!” God’s impersonality is not that of one who sees all beings as merely insignificant parts of an infinite whole — as little ants, so to speak, rather than as individual, self-aware beings. His impersonality consists, rather, of not wanting anything from us but our love. His is a giving love, not one that draws from us selfishly to Himself. His love is like that of a mother who, on seeing her child fall and bruise its knee, and knowing that this fall means very little in the child’s over-all existence, nevertheless expresses sincere sympathy and does her best to comfort the child. The mother accepts as real the little one’s experience of the moment. At the same time, she encourages it to broaden its awareness, and to embrace a broader reality. “Come on, darling,” she may say, “you’ll be all right in a few minutes.”
This is what I mean by saying that there is also a very real, human aspect to our relationship with God. It is also why we need a human guru: We come to omnipresent God through a guru. That is how we come clearly to understand how all-encompassing is Divine Love itself.
I have known disciples to scoff at the human side of their relationship with the guru. They seem to be saying, “That isn’t really at all what it’s about.” Philosophically they may be right. It was what I was trying to do, that day in the driveway. Certainly, the goal of the path is to merge in Infinite Spirit. Yet I have also noticed that disciples with this mentality don’t make the best devotees. They tend to be dry in their feelings, and somewhat distant — both of which I hope I was not. And I have noticed that, in their attunement with the guru, they seem to be rather less in tune than more so — something I certainly didn’t want, and for that reason, I think, Master was giving me a gentle reminder.
Master, when he gave me that apple, was implying subtly, “Love me, not in spite of my human nature and personality, but through them.”
As Sri Yukteswar wrote in his book, The Holy Science, the devotee cannot advance a single step toward God until he develops the natural love of the heart.
It is through love of the guru, in his perfection as a human being, that human beings can come most easily to understand the love of God, who is beyond every human perfection.