God comes to us in many ways: through an inspiring book, perhaps, or a friend, a spiritual teacher, and most importantly, as the guru. Many years ago when I was searching for my spiritual path, I quit my job, sold all my possessions, and traveled for over a year. I traveled to India and visited many of the holy places there, and, even though I had many beautiful experiences, I didn’t really find what I was looking for.
On my return home to the States I remember feeling disappointment, although at the time I couldn’t have articulated it clearly. I just remember praying deeply and the only words that I could think of were, “I’m ready.” I felt ready for something more, but I didn’t know what it was. I knew that my family’s expectations for me, certainly, would be to settle down and get married and have kids, but in my heart I knew I didn’t want that-at least, not without God. Then a few weeks later I received a copy of Yogananda’s book, Autobiography of a Yogi, and like many who have read it, I was immediately captivated. I felt certain that this was my path, but I had no concept of discipleship or the deeper aspects of this path until much later…
Everyone of us has, I think, a bit of an “authority” problem. We want to be uniquely “us”. We want to hold onto our egoic identity, and the Guru says, “I understand that.”
In the meantime, though, he gives us lots of things to do to free ourselves. He gives us meditation techniques. He encourages us to serve one another, to be generous and willing in our work, to be loving in our relationships. He gives us a wonderful host of techniques to practice… He says, “If you do but a fraction of what I give you to do, you’ll get there and get there soon.”
Over the years, I have discovered something: while meditation can be an aid to good health and help us in many areas of our lives, it is a fact that one can meditate for years and never think of God. Yogananda said that mechanical practice of the techniques is not enough. We need to combine our practice of the meditation techniques with the practice of devotion in order to achieve our highest spiritual potential. The guru gives us these techniques to practice, but sometimes we forget that it is attunement to the guru’s spiritual magnetism that gives power to the technique.
Remember the story in Autobiography of a Yogi when Sri Yukteswar’s friend, Rama, died suddenly of cholera. His guru, Lahiri Mahasaya, gave him seven drops of oil to place on Rama’s lips even though he had been dead for almost a full day. He was revived immediately. Afterward Lahiri joked with Sri Yukteswar saying, “Surely, henceforth, you will not fail to carry with you a bottle of this oil. Why seven drops of lamp oil must surely foil the power of Yama.” But of course it wasn’t the oil that revived Rama from death, it was the power of the guru. In the same way, it is not the techniques alone that bring us to Self-realization, but the power that comes through these techniques.
Attunement isn’t dependent upon time and space or upon proximity to the guru’s physical presence, but it is dependent upon our receptivity to the guru’s spiritual magnetism. A good practice is to meditate on the eyes of the guru and draw blessings through his eyes. Visualize the guru sitting in your heart when you meditate, or feel the guru breathing and practicing our techniques through us in meditation.