Chapter IX

Guru or Satguru

What do we understand by the term 'Guru', and who is the Guru?

To know a Master or to understand His real significance or reality is, in fact very difficult. To do this, discerning eyes like His own are necessary. Only a Godman can know a Godman. How can a person, who is confined in the case of the body, realise the Lord's glory? Unless we are as great as He is, we cannot understand Him.

He who is as high as He is, He alone can know the One on high.

Jap Ji, 5-10

Only a swan flying with other swans can know them. How can the doves and crows know from which country the swans come and to what land they go? The Guru, like that fabled bird which remains always in the sky, does His work on the earth, and then takes flight and returns to the skies. He is beyond the three bodies (gross, subtle and causal), the three gunas, the five elements, earth, water, fire, air and ether, and the twenty-five prakritis; and He is beyond the reach of the mind and Maya. 

Shamas-i-Tabriz says about the Perfect Masters or Satgurus:

There are birds who lay golden eggs, they fly to the realm of the skies every morning, when they run they seem like suns in the seventh region. When they sleep, they make the sun and moon their pillows. Oh Shamas-i-Tabriz, they enable thousands of those born blind, with one kind look, to see the path.

The Perfect Masters are those who have indistinguishably become one with the Lord. They are born in human form according to the wishes of the Lord, so that they may take souls from the lower regions and unite them with the Lord. They connect with the Lord those who follow their instructions, and make them like themselves. Actually, they look after the entire universe. 

A man standing on the top of the hill can see a fire whether it be near or far. Similarly, the perfect Masters find out those that are engaged in selfless service or those that are earnestly seeking God, no matter where they are, whether far or near. They help them and become the means of uniting them with the Lord. It is necessary to have special receptacle in order to obtain special Grace of the Masters. The receptacle is filled according to the state of its preparedness. The perfect Masters freely distribute spiritual powers. One can, by their Grace, progress rapidly and unite with the Lord in this very life.

Although the Masters have assumed human forms similar to our own and live amongst us, yet they live with the Lord of all regions and universes. They appear to be bound to earth because of their bodies, but they live beyond the seven skies.

Their bodies are in the world, but Their souls are with the Lord of the world; Their bodies are tied to earth, but Their souls are beyond the seven skies.

Moinud-din Chishti

Outwardly they have the human form but inwardly they are quite different. 

Maulana Rumi says:

Do not judge the Saints by your intellect. Our words for milk (shir) and tiger (sher) are written in the same way, but in substance they are not the same.

Do not try to judge the Saints by means of your intellect. In Persian, the words 'shir' and 'sher' are written almost alike. But one sher is the tiger which kills and devours, while the other shir is the milk that sustains us. Similarly, though human beings have similar shapes and forms, they differ in spiritual development. 

It is the spiritual development which fulfils the object of human life. It tears off all worldly attachments, destroys all doubts and the Sustainer of life is attained. How can we adequately praise the Perfect Master or Satguru? He is the ocean of truth and wisdom. He is the embodiment of the Supreme Lord who has existed from the beginning throughout the ages.

How can the Guru be praised? The Guru is the ocean of wisdom. He is from the beginning, throughout the ages; He is the ever-existing Supreme Lord.

Asa M5, 397-1

It is impossible to praise the Supreme Lord adequately. The Perfect Master is His manifestation and it is therefore also impossible, to praise Him adequately. He is like the Lord, beyond the reach of thought, imagination, inference, guess, theory and reasoning. He cannot be seen, heard or described. Book after book can be written and the whole of one's life may be spent in writing, but still one would not be able to describe even one letter relating to His personality.

You are beyond inference, imagination, probabilities or intellect. You are beyond what I have seen, heard or read. The book is finished and life has drawn to a close. We are still only at the first letter.

The realized ones say that if all the earth were to be used as paper, all the trees as pens and all the seas as ink, we would not be able to describe His virtues. 

Kabir Sahib says:

If I were to mix all the mountains in the sea to make ink, and were to use the whole earth as paper, I would not be able to describe His virtues.

The Masters are spiritual Kings. We are beggars, deceived by Maya (the illusion) of the material world. How can we know their glory? 

Maulana Rumi says that if he were to praise and glorify the Lord till doomsday, he would not be able to do so.

If I were to describe His mercy until doomsday, it would be fruitless, for there is no limit and no end to it.

If we were to attempt to describe the Lord, we could only describe Him according to our intellect. If a buffalo were to describe Him, it would describe Him as a great buffalo. What comparison is there between a king and a buffalo?

Guru Arjun Sahib says:

You are a King. You are the Emperor of Emperors, we call You the Exalted One, or the Master. Do we really praise You by such honorifics? It is in a sense, insulting You.

Thou art the King, oh Lord; if I call Thee a chieftain then is it any praise for Thee?

 Bilawal M1, 795-3

If a small child were to stand before his mother and say, "Mother, I know you", how imperfect would his understanding of his mother be? Similarly, how can we sing the praises of the Guru? Our praises would be so imperfect.

It is fortunate that whenever such Perfect Masters appear, they themselves give out a few hints regarding their true nature. For it is certain that unless they themselves reveal themselves, the human beings, who are spiritually asleep and under the sway of attachment and Maya, would not know them.

Let us, then, ask them what the perfect Master or Guru is, and who He is? 

They say:

1) The Shabd or divine Music is the Perfect Master. The Shabd is indistinguishable from the Supreme Lord. It is a conscious current of that great power which created the universe and which fully pervades it. All the universe emanated from this Shabd.

Who is your Guru, of whom are you the disciple?

 Ramkali M1, 942-19

The Shabd is the Guru and the soul is the disciple.

 Sidh Gosht M1, 943-2

The Shabd is the Guru, the ancient, the deep. The world would be a madhouse without the Shabd.

Sorath M1, 635-7

The Word is the Guru, the Guru is the Word; in the Word is the nectar, which the Guru says we must accept. The Guru manifests Himself and redeems His disciples.

 Nat M4, 982-11

Tulsi Sahib says:

The soul, the disciple, and the Shabd, the Guru, travel together on the path. There is an inverted well in the sky, the soul becomes absorbed in it.

Bhai Gurdas Ji says:

Know the Shabd to be the Guru: Your Guru will reveal this. Become the beloved disciple. The soul will follow the Melody.

War 7, Pauri 20

Kabir Sahib says:

Where is your Guru? Where does the disciple live? How do the two happen to meet? When do the two separate? How do they come and go? The Guru is in the sky. The disciple is in the heart. The soul meets the Shabd. Then they never separate. Accept the Shabd as the Guru. Most Gurus are false, they seek their personal ends, and wander about for self-gratification. The Shabd is the Guru of the entire universe.

2) Those in whom the Shabd Guru is manifest are indistinguishable from the Shabd. He alone is a Saint or Perfect Master who can initiate others. The Shabd is a manifestation of the Supreme Lord, and it is revealed to the Saints or Perfect Masters. They are indistinguishable from the Lord.

I churned the sea of the body, and saw a wonderful sight. The Lord is the Guru and the Guru is the Lord; oh Nanak, there is no difference between the two.

Asa M5, 442-18

One who practises the Shabd is a perfect Master or perfect Guru. This is evident if we consider the word Guru etymologically. Guru is a Sanskrit word. It comes from the root 'Gri', which means to call or speak or utter a sound. One who bestows the Shabd, one who practises the divine Sound of the Shabd or is connected with the Shabd, is a Perfect Guru.

The Gurus have described the perfect Guru in this way and have emphasised the necessity of taking shelter with such a one.

He instills truth in your mind; accept Him as your Guru. The unutterable He makes you utter; He unites you with the divine Sound.

Dhanasri M1, 686-7

Oh Nanak, know the Truth to be the True One.

Sri Rag M1, 15-18

He is unutterable, but He makes us experience Him. He connects us with the Shabd. 

Kabir Sahib says that he who makes us see the invisible is a Saint or Satguru.

"Oh brother, He is a Sant Satguru, Who makes us see the invisible." The perfect Guru makes us hear the divine Melody of the Shabd. "He is a Perfect Guru, Who makes us hear the Shabd. He makes us offer devotion; He makes us contemplate upon Him."

Maru M3, 1055-6

Kabir Sahib also says the same thing:

In their own spheres, all are great holy men. But he who has realised the Shabd, He is the greatest of all. There are various Gurus, and there are differences in their approach. Worship that Guru alone, Who connects you to the Shabd.

Tulsi Sahib has also given the same definition of a true Guru.

He who knows the different Divine Sounds, He is indeed a great Saint. He knows the Unknowable, He knows the Word.

The Perfect Master or Guru is similarly described in the Sar Bachan:

He alone is the Guru Who loves the Shabd. He who knows it not Is not a Perfect Guru. He who practises the Shabd Is a Perfect Guru. Bow before such a Guru. Become the dust of His feet.

The Perfect Master or Satguru is the true physician, for He has the life-giving herb of the Name or Shabd. The Satguru is the custodian of the Shabd, and it is the Shabd that takes the soul to its source. It is described as the Voice of the Silence in Theosophy, and it resounds in all the universes and regions.

The Saints, in their hymns, consider one who practises listening to the divine Sound to be a true Guru. One cannot obtain true initiation except from such a Saint. When the disciple's efforts bear fruit, he realizes the Shabd and merges in the Lord, the source of the current.

Realize the Shabd and meet the Lord; your service will then be accepted.

 Sri Rag M3, 27-9

The Lord Himself, as the Shabd, pervades the Guru and showers the Shabd through Him.

He Himself pervades the Guru, He pervades as the Shabd. He who loves the True One Merges in the True One.

Malar M1, 1279-14

The true Guru is merged in the Shabd.

All the true Gurus were merged in the Shabd of Satguru; Nanak, Angad and Amar Das, thrice blessed is Guru Ram Das, His Guru connected Him with the divine touchstone.

Sawayye M4, 1407-13

The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.


All true devotees get the Shabd, which is real life, from the perfect Guru. He is life in himself, and since He is free from ego, the Shabd speaks through Him. He has transcended the valley of death. He has realised the life of the Lord, which works through the Sound, and he himself can give that life or spiritual awakening to his disciples.

The soul is entangled in the inertness of Maya or illusion. In order to free it, it is necessary to breathe the Shabd into it, so that what is hidden may manifest itself. This cannot be accomplished by anyone except a perfect Master or Guru. The enlightened ones say that it is only the perfect Guru who can establish contact with the Sound.

That which is on trust should be returned; happiness lies in doing so. The Shabd of the Guru is established only in Him; It cannot be manifested in anyone else.

Sarang M3, 1249-8

The realisation of the divine Sound is the holy gift of the perfect Guru. The realisation is not the result of one's own effort. How can hearing of the Shabd, which is limitless, be the result of one's own limited efforts ? It is beyond such limits. When the unsophisticated, simple child begins to creep towards its mother, the mother lifts the child up.

The Lord is not attained by effort, He is not attained by service. He meets one of His own accord He to whom He is kind Meets a perfect Guru, and practises his mantra.

 Dhanasri M5, 672-12

This does not mean that a disciple should not make an effort. He should practise his meditation as directed by the Guru. But he attains results only according to his Guru's mercy and Grace.

He who meets a Satguru always sings the praises of the Lord. The Name pervades his heart. And he merges in the Shabd.

 Vadhans Var M4, 592-8

The unending music of the Shabd or Naam is within us, but we cannot get it without the help of a Saint, for the Lord has given the key to the Saints.

The Unending Music is the treasure, the Saints have the key to it.

Ramkali M5, 893-19

Without a Guru the Name cannot be attained; both the seekers and the adepts have been waiting in vain.

 Majh M5, 115-2

The lives of the perfect Masters are sustained by the Shabd, which sustains their Pranas (life energy) also. The Perfect Masters swim in the waters of spirituality and give us life by making us also bathe in them. They are enlightened and they have experienced the son-ship of the Lord.

Jesus Christ, for example, said:

I am the son of God.

St. John 11:36

The Gurus say that the Lord does what the Saints request Him to do.

The Lord does that which is requested by the Saints.

 Maru M5, 1076-8

What the Saints wish They get done; no one is turned away from Their door.

Maru M5, 0176-9 

Maulana Rumi says that Saints have been given power by the Lord even to call back an arrow from its flight.

The Saints have been empowered by the Lord; they can even bring the arrow back from its flight.

Maulana Rumi

Are Saints the rivals of God? No, never. Actually, the Lord is captivated by the Saints, for they hold Him in bondage by their love for Him. Whatever the Lord wishes to do, He does through His Saints. In this universe, the Saints are His agents or officers and do His work. 

Paltu Sahib says that in His household there are no other managers. All Saints are lovers of the Name. Whatever they wish comes to pass.

Oh Paltu, in the house of the Lord there is no other manager. The Saints are lovers of God; whatever they wish comes to pass.

The Gurus describe the Saints as 'child-like' and 'indifferent'. Maulana Rumi also says that the Saints and Mahatmas are the children of God. They know this relationship and know their rights as children. They partake of all His virtues.

Maulana Rumi says:

Oh son, the Saints are the children of God, in sight or out of sight, They are always in His mind.

All perfect Saints are the children of God. Everything – whether manifest or not, is known to them. God speaks through them.

Oh Lalu, know you this: Whatever He wishes, I say to you.

Tilang M1, 722-15

In this physical universe, the Saints are the redeemers of human beings. The living Guru is the hope of the people, the Light of the world and the Saviour of mankind. Because of the Grace of the Shabd, the Saint or Perfect Master is free from all limitations and bondage. He takes souls out of the stormy sea of birth and death and takes them to the immortal regions. The Shabd and the Perfect Guru are indistinguishable. 

The Guru, in His outward form, has a human body. He teaches and persuades those who come to hear Him. But when you go to the subtle regions, He assumes a subtle form and accompanies you in that form. If you reach the causal region, the second spiritual region, He assumes a causal form and in that form He helps you there. He has travelled through all the stages of the journey to the highest regions and can help you in those regions also. He does not rest until He merges you in His real form, the Shabd.

3) He who has realised the True Being is a Perfect Master or Guru. He has transcended both the dissolution and the grand dissolution. He has the power to take others to the highest region. It is only by remaining in the company of such Saints that one can be redeemed.

He who knows the True Being, He is the Saguru. His company brings release. Oh Nanak, sing the praises of the Lord.

 Gauri M5, 286-12


Footnote:  For more details to Chapter IX please see the book ‘Godman’ by Kirpal Singh.