Wednesday, 28 December 2016

“A real Guru frees you from himself!”– UG

UG’s ‘teaching’, sorry, blasting was totally unconventional.

His unpredictable, ‘un-rational’ responses to our burning questions, to say the least, were jolting, shattering and bewildering!  

This leaves us wondering if there was any ‘teaching’ there at all ? 

There is no discounting or disregarding the fact that UG played an extraordinary role in our lives. Amidst the cacophony of sermons, UG remains the lone and sane voice that continues to resonate deep within our psyche, awakening us from our deep hypnotic slumber induced by the cultural environment.

We practically live, breathe and die in culture. Culture, the superimposed reality permeates our every living tissue and cell. Epigenetics, the new branch of science has earnestly begun its study on how culture or social environment is influencing our biology. 

UG was unique in many ways. He relentlessly highlighted the tyranny of the borrowed knowledge, the tyranny of the borrowed wisdom! He ruthlessly blasted our (blind acceptance of) traditions, values, beliefs, concepts, notions and our borrowed ideas about Truth or Reality! 

We tenaciously hold on to our heritage, traditions or values from the distant past. They are sacred and sacrosanct to us. UG emphasised that howsoever grand and noble, this borrowed wisdom cannot become our ‘living truth.’ In other words, the wisdom remains conceptual at best and does not operate or translate into action in our day to day lives!

UG was unsparing in his critique and challenged us every time when we tried to sing glories of our tradition, glories of the wisdom of ages or sages, 

“Forget about your Gita, your Upanishads, tell me what do YOU have to say? Do YOU have anything to say, I want to know!” and continued 

“If any of these things have really helped you at all, in any way, then you will not be sitting here in front of me,  for that matter, you will never visit anyone again looking for answers! That shows all those answers from all those books have failed you, all those gurus have not helped you in any way, I am sorry…!” 


An encounter with UG was akin to a ‘dry wash’! His scrubbing and drubbing could wash away the most stubborn of ‘stains’ of the cultural kind. Our cherished ideas, concepts, views and misgivings of a lifetime got flushed away in the wash cycle! 

Even as he was helping us in discarding our crutches, our weaknesses, our dependencies on each and every kind of prop, UG made sure that we did not turn him into our new crutch! He uncannily managed to dodge every attempt to hold onto him, “Don’t follow me! I have no message for mankind....”

UG successfully managed to sidestep all our attempts to cast him in the role of a ‘teacher’ or ‘guru’. There lies his true genius!  

Teaching, in case of UG was more a process of dumping and discarding. Lao Tzu sheds light in the following famous passage in Tao Teh Ching:

“The student of knowledge (aims at) learning day by day;
The student of Tao (aims at) losing day by day.”
Chapter #48, Tao Teh Ching (a translation by Lin Yutang)
There is an interesting story of Chi Sheung in the lore of Chan Buddhism.

Chi Sheung was a seeker after Truth and had found himself a guru to guide him on his spiritual path. After sometime, unable to resolve his doubts with his teacher, he presented himself before the Sixth Patriarch and sought his help about his strange predicament in the following words: 

 "After staying there three months without receiving any instruction, and being zealous for the Dharma, I went alone one night to his (guru’s) chamber and asked him, what my essence of mind was. He ( the guru) asked me, 'Do you see the illimitable void?' 'Yes, I do,' I replied. Then he asked me whether the void had any particular form, and on replying that the void must be formless and therefore cannot have any particular form, he said: 'Your Essence of Mind is exactly like the void. To realise that there is nothing to be seen, is Right View. To realise that nothing is knowable, is True Knowledge. To realise that it is  neither green nor yellow, neither long nor short; that it is pure  by nature; that its quintessence is perfect and clear; is to realise Essence of Mind and thereby to attain Buddhahood. This is also called, Buddha-knowledge." 

Chi Sheung continued: 

"As I do not quite understand this teaching, will you please enlighten me, Sir?" 

“His teaching indicates," said the Patriarch, "that he (Chi Sheung’s guru ) still retains the arbitrary concepts of ‘Views’ and 'Knowledge'; that explains why he failed to make it clear to you.

“If you realise for one moment that these arbitrary concepts ( the concepts of ‘invisibility’ and ‘unknowability’ ) are wrong, then your own spiritual light will shine forth unhindered."


A teacher who unwittingly leaves behind a teaching rich in concepts and ideas, has failed in his mission. Howsoever grand and noble may be his cause, he leaves behind him a baggage and a burden!

UG was fully aware of the dangers of verbalization, of views and concepts and their serious limitations and implications. He was extremely careful not to give us a chance to ‘store away’ or verbalise the learnings in his encounters!

UG reiterated, “You don’t have to take my word for it or anyone else’s for that matter. You must test every word of what I am saying and find out for yourself and by yourself whether there is any truth to what I am saying!”

I vividly recollect this particular incident in Major’s farm house in Bangalore when I tasted UG’s chastisement.

I was seriously discussing about something that had bothered me for some time. UG in his typical style highlighted the meaninglessness of my query and dismissed the whole thing as baseless! His words on the occasion were extraordinary! In his words, I suddenly discovered a new dimension hitherto unknown to me. As I vainly made an attempt to further grasp its purport, UG fired back at me from a point blank range, “NO! You don’t understand what I am saying! You have no clue! You will never know what I am saying. Forget it!” Just when I thought I had got what he was saying, here UG was shooting me down mercilessly! I was completely dumbfounded!

With UG, all our attempts at understanding or grasping simply got the boot! He pointed out that they were only clever tricks of thought to dig itself deeper and entrench itself more firmly in our psyche!

UG read our every thought and stopped us instantly, checking us, choking us and giving us no room for escape! Chandrasekhar Babu recollects UG’s promise, “I will leave no room for you to escape, no room at all, I will shut every door, window and even the ventilator, I will completely choke you!”


Real Teaching seems more a process of discarding! It is discarding the non-essence, the false or the acquired. It could be unlearning, unburdening where we taste real freedom from the tyranny of culture, of knowledge, of intellect. 

Real Teaching lets the innate, native intelligence to flower and express itself freely. The expression of this essence is pure, simple and natural. The discarding of the burden of human knowledge unleashes the primal energy. 

Real Teaching removes the blockages so there is free flow of life energy. We meet life energy in full display in the untethered movements of the child. The child displays natural spontaneity, charm and innocence. The child and the sage seem to share many a common trait!

Real Teaching does not allow for any build-up! It doesn’t give rise to new doctrines, concepts, views, techniques, ‘isms’.

As one drops and discards the intellectual baggage, there is the overwhelming gush of life energy that is benign, cleansing and healing!

Real Teaching lets one discover and recover one’s own innate intelligence, the inherent greatness lying within one’s own bosom.

Real Teaching rather Real Teacher does not allow any buildup, be it a concept or a relationship!

Unfortunately in today’s sham world of spirituality, many Teacher- Disciple relationships end up as mutually exploitative dependencies. The disciple can’t do without the teacher and the teacher can’t survive without the disciple!

Even the genuine gurus and sishyas might fall into the golden trap of sentiments - the sentiments of gratitude and indebtedness. Howsoever noble, sentiments are debilitating, binding and blinding. They are the ‘warty outgrowth’ of culture or value system! Even the noblest of sentiments could turn into Albatross around our necks and become psychological burden! In the context of ‘Teacher- Disciple’ relationship this could reverse the benefits of teaching and learning!

Who else but UG could sum it up consummately, 

“A real Guru frees you from himself.”  

Footnote (Highlighted Text) : The Chi Sheung episode is from the chronicles of the Sixth Patriarch and not from the lore of Buddha and has been edited accordingly. Kindly note the correction, apologies for the inconvenience!

“ I am a White Brahmin, of purest ray serene! ” - UG

I just recall this one-off anecdote. UG and Mahesh Bhatt had just returned to Parekhji’s place after their lunch at the Oberoi...