The experience of being in the direct physical presence of a God-realised Guru has been described by Hari Prasana Chaterjee (Vijnanananda) a direct disciple of Ramakrishna as such: “I felt in Sri Ramakrishna’s room a tangible atmosphere of peace. The devotees present seemed to be listening in blissful absorption to the words which poured from the Masters lips. I don’t recall what he said, but I still remember the transport of delight I experienced then as if it was yesterday. For a long time I sat there, beside myself with joy, and my whole attention was concentrated on Sri Ramakrishna.”
In my own experience, when in the presence of my Guru, Sri Chinmoy, I always notice especially on first arrival from New Zealand to our beautiful meditation grounds in New York, the overwhelmingly tangible experience of walking into a very high consciousness ‘zone’. The moment I enter the grounds and see Sri Chinmoy, I feel a lightness in my whole being, an intoxicating joy and delight fills my heart, a smile immediately spreads across my face and I notice the glow on the faces of all the others that have been there a few days already.
Sri Chinmoy himself radiates a peace and light so profound that just by watching the Guru meditating and even doing simple activities, there is a feeling of absorbing and drinking deep a wealth of bliss simply by being in their presence. The atmosphere is thick with peace. There is an absolutely magic feeling in the air that I have never felt anywhere else, as though we are existing on a heavenly plane of consciousness. Every step feels like a step on holy sacred ground, and one becomes much more conscious of every thought, action and movement of the body. All worries and doubts of the mind seem to melt into a ‘knowingness’ that everything is perfect here and now. Each moment seems to take on a deeper depth, beauty and significance.
Paramahansa Yogananda describes his experience of being in the presence of Sri Yuketswar his own Guru: “I always thrilled at the touch of Sri Yuketswar’s holy feet. A disciple is spiritually magnetised by reverent contact with a master; a subtle current is generated. The devotee’s undesirable habit-mechanisms in the brain are often as if cauterised; the grooves of his worldly tendencies are beneficially disturbed. Momentarily at least he may find the secret veils of maya lifting, and glimpse the reality of bliss. My whole body responded with a liberating glow whenever I knelt in the Indian fashion before my Guru.”
One may imagine a Guru to be a strict disciplinarian to be perhaps feared and obeyed, but all the accounts from disciples of various Masters and from my own experience conclude that this is not so. Although the Guru has high standards and may be strict from time to time, there is also in all the God-realised Masters presence, an incredible sweetness, boundless divine love for every human being they encounter, childlike simplicity, and joy as well as a wonderful humour! The Master represents all the aspects of the divine in a most charming way, in a perfectly balanced way, reminding us that spirituality is something that is part of all our human experiences.
It is fascinating to observe a God-realised Master in their different activities. At times they are engaged in outer activities, and at other times they will be withdrawn in a very distant and deep trance like state of meditation. At these times one knows that the Master is operating and working in the inner worlds and the disciples present, respectfully remain in a meditative silence.
Everyone has their own special and unique experiences while in the presence of a Guru. Esme Howard-Anna, a student of Sri Chinmoy from Auckland, says about being in the presence of her Guru: “It is absolutely amazing, there are no words to describe it! I feel incredible amounts of joy and an overwhelming sense of being loved. I felt like I had come home, somewhere I had been looking for, for so long and never been able to find.”
Jenny Haydon, a disciple of Swami Satyananda explains her experience of the love a Guru has and gives to his disciples: “It is like nothing else I can describe, it’s a love that is different from any love that you read about or experience in the world, it is something much much deeper.”
It is infinitely easier to develop a strong connection with a Guru while they are alive on earth because you have someone in front of your eyes who represents a high level of Yoga in every action and every deed, which is convincing and inspiring for the mind, heart and soul. Also you can consult them and receive personalised guidance for your practise. When you are in their presence you can receive direct and tangible benefits from their highly elevated consciousness. Jenny Haydon comments that: “Any living Guru that you have a contact with has a specific understanding of your condition and your needs and can guide your practise. No book can do that.”
However, there are some who feel the strong guidance of a Guru who is no longer on earth. Gurus who are no longer in the body can still be just as powerful guides from the higher worlds for those who are receptive and have tremendous faith. In many cases they may have been connected to the particular Guru for a number of lifetimes. Paramahansa Yogananda, is no longer on earth but Kavita Parshotam describes the inner presence of her Guru as follows: “I feel in whatever I do, the presence of the Guru. I feel it very strongly when I am practising what the Guru has told us to practise – I feel an overwhelming presence.” Sri Daya Mata quoted Paramahansa Yogananda saying: “Many true ones will come after I am gone. I know who they are, and they will know me.”
If we cannot be with our Guru in person we can do the next best thing, which is to meditate on a photograph of the Guru which will embody and capture the Gurus consciousness. In the same way through the photograph, we can identify with our teachers consciousness, and through the photograph if one is receptive enough, one can have just as powerful meditation as if you were with the Guru in person. This has happened on countless occasions and there are many stories by disciples of different masters throughout the ages to illustrate this.