Avatar and guru

The following excerpts by Sri Aurobindo have been taken from Letters on Yoga (Volume 23, pp. 614-620 of the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library (Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1970)).


by Sri Aurobindo
Sri Aurobindo
The Guru is the Guide in the yoga. When the Divine is 
 accepted as the Guide, He is accepted as the Guru. 

The relation of guru and disciple   is only one of many 
relations which one can have with the Divine, and in this yoga which aims 
at a supramental realisation, it is not usual to give it this name; rather, 
the Divine is regarded as the Source, the living Sun of Light and Knowledge 
and Consciousness and spiritual realisation, and all that one receives is 
felt as coming from there and the whole being remolded by the Divine Hand. 
This is a greater and more intimate relation than that of the human Guru 
and disciple, which is more of a limited mental idea. Nevertheless, if the 
mind still needs the more familiar mental conception, it can be kept so 
long as it is needed; only do not let the soul be bound by it and do not 
let it limit the inflow of other relations with the Divine and larger forms 
of experience. 

* * *

No, surrender to the Divine and surrender to the Guru are not the same 
thing. In surrendering to the Guru, it is to the Divine in him that one 
surrenders-if it were only a human entity, it would be ineffective. But it 
is the consciousness of the Divine Presence that makes the Guru a real 
Guru, so that even if the disciple surrenders to him thinking of the human 
being to whom he surrenders, that Presence will still make it effective. 

All true Gurus are the same, the one Guru, because all are the one Divine. 
That is a fundamental and universal truth. But there is also a truth of 
difference; the Divine dwells in different personalities with different 
minds, teachings, influences so that he may lead different disciples with 
their special need, character, destiny by different ways to the 
realisation. Because all Gurus are the same Divine, it does not follow that 
the disciple does well if he leaves the one meant for him to follow 
another. Fidelity to the Guru is demanded of every disciple, according to 
the Indian tradition. "All are the same" is a spiritual truth, but you 
cannot convert it indiscriminately into action; you cannot deal with all 
persons in the same way because they are the one Brahman; if one did, the 
result pragmatically would be an awful mess. It is a rigid mental logic 
that makes the difficulty but in spiritual matters mental logic easily 
blunders; intuition, faith, a plastic spiritual reason are here the only 

* * *

Tne can have a Guru inferior in spiritual capacity to oneself or to other 
Gurus carrying in him many human imperfections and yet, if you have the 
faith, the bhakti, the right spiritual stuff, you can contact the Divine 
through him, attain to spiritual experiences, to spiritual realisation, 
even before the Guru himself. Mark the "If", for the proviso is necessary; 
it is not every disciple who can do that with every Guru. From a humbug you 
can get nothing but his humbuggery. He must have something which works even 
if he is not in this outer mind quite conscious of its action. If there is 
nothing at all spiritual in him, he is not a Guru, only a pseudo. 
Undoubtedly there can be considerable differences of spiritual realisation 
between one Guru and another; but much depends on the inner relation 
between Guru and sisya. One can go to a very great spiritual man and get 
nothing or only a little from him; one can go to a man of less spiritual 
capacity and get all he has to give-and more. The causes of this disparity 
are various and subtle; I need not expand on them here. It differs with 
each man. I believe the Guru is always ready to give what can be given, if 
the disciple can receive. If he refuses to receive or behaves inwardly or 
outwardly in such a way as to make reception impossible or if he is not 
sincere or takes up the wrong attitude, than things become difficult. But 
if one is sincere and faithful and has the right attitude and if the Guru 
is a true Guru, then after whatever time, it will come. 

* * *

Up to now no liberated man has objected to the guruvada; it is usually only 
people who live in the mind or vital and have the pride of the mind and the 
arrogance of the vital that find it below their dignity to recognize a Guru. 

-compilation by Madhu Kink and Steven Watson
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