Author: Teppo-Venn Publisher: The NEURAL SURFER Publication date: July 1997
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Teppo-Venn's List of "Nice-Guy" Gurus, or "Gurus you might even consider bringing home to Mother."
[Disclaimer: This list is not intended to be complete, exhaustive, hagiographic, or definitive. It is simply based on whatever levels of "consensus" seem (to me) to currently exist concerning the "reputations" = of the Gurus in question, along with subjective impressions, (opinions, "vib= es," whatever), from recent encounters with these "Masters" during nearly a year of trave= l in India. There are many Gurus I have not yet had the opportunity to visit, = and many more, I'm sure, that I haven't heard of. I have only included Gurus = that I have visited. Readers are encouraged to submit their additions to the list (and subtractions therefrom), according to their own informat= ion and experiences. No claims regarding the "spirituality" or "enlightenment" of these people= are implied by this selection, but they all seem like "nice guys" to me. Feedback is most welcome. If readers don't like someone on the list, or like someone who's= not yet on the list, please submit recommendations. More Gurus (Mata Amrtanandamayi, Swami Ganapathi Satchidananda, and others) will be added = to the list soon--T.]
1997 Preliminary List of Favorite Living Gurus:
1. Swami Chidananda of the Shivananda Ashram (Rishikesh) "Since 1959, when Swami Sivananda sent Swami Chidananda as his person= al messenger to spread his teachings in the West, he has traveled extensivel= y. Although entertained by dignitaries and received with honor, he has remained the modest ascetic whose most precious commission is the service= of lovingkindness to the sick and needy, teaching through example the principle of 'doing unto others' whether they might be a desperate leper,= a neglected and hungry child, an aggrieved animal, or the earth itself. As God dwells in all, says Swami Chidananda, 'The protection of = the envionment is built into the various Hindu visions of this world and the universe. Swami Chidananda is held as a living Hindu saint."--A PARLIAMENT OF SOULS, p.154. = Just about the first Guru I ever met and my personal favorite, I guess, h= ence his position at the top of the list. His humility, serenity, and ascetic demeanor combine (for me) the archetype of the "Himalayan yogi" with the = sort of "Mahatma Gandhi" mystique. One of the few still living "old generation= " Gurus who attracted foreign devotees during the 1960's (along with Mahesh= Yogi, the Dalai Lama, Swami Satchidananda, etc). =
2. Swami Ranganathananda of the Ramakrishna Math "Born in the village of Trikkur, Kerala State, on December 15, 1908, Swami Ranganathananda joined the Ramakrishna Order, at its branch in Mysore, in 1926. He was formally intitiated into Sannyasa in 1933 by Swami Shivananda, one of the eminent disciples of Sri Ramakrishna and the= second President of the Order. After spending the first twelve years as a young monk in the Mission'= s Mysore and Bangalore branches, he worked as Secretary, Ramakrishna Mission, Rangoon, and thereafter as President of the Ramakrishna Math, Karachi. He was the Secretary of the New Delhi branch of the Mission, and then Secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Calcutta. = He has a versatile pen, and has to his credit a number of publications..."--THE MESSAGE OF THE UPANISADS. = Another of the older generation, (those Gurus who were personally acquain= ted with such spiritual "giants" as Sri Ramana Maharshi, Swami Ramdas, Sri Aurobindo, Swami Shivananda, etc.). I've been a fan of his writings ever since my first visit to the Ramakrishna Math in Calcutta back in 1984. Du= ring my recent visits with him, I particulary enjoyed his reminiscences of Sri= Ramana Maharshi and Swami Ramdas. =
3. H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet "Though he is a monk himself, and practises a minimum of four hours meditation a day, his life is utterly given over to the role he was born = for. He is a world statesman and politician as well as a spiritual leader, and= his schedule would daunt the hardiest of business travelers. When asked what he would do if Tibet gained its freedom in his lifetime, he says he would like to revert to being 'a simple monk.' This, he says, would allow him to deepen his wisdom with more meditation practice. Tenzing Gy= atso is a rare statesman indeed."--TRAVELS THROUGH SACRED INDIA, pp. 240-241. = This gentleman needs no introduction. One of the great living symbols of= non-violence and compassion for our times. A powerful spokesperson for t= he plight of politically oppressed peoples throughout the world. =
4. Baba Gurinder Singh-ji Maharaj of the Radhasoami Satsang, Beas "....I feel quite lost, but have no option save to carry out the orde= rs of my Satguru. I am entering upon the performance of my duties in the ho= pe and with the confidence that the sangat, treating me as their humble servant, will give just a little bit from the vast ocean of love that the= y have for Huzur Maharaj Ji. With these words I dedicate myself to the service of the Sangat."--Baba Gurinder Singh-ji's Inaugural Address, TREA= SURE BEYOND MEASURE, p. 292. My initial impressions of this Master, during my first visit to the Beas Radhasoami Satsang on June 1, 1991, are difficult to distinguish from my = awe and astonishment at the teeming multitudes gathered to hear his discourse= s at the Dera Baba Jaimal Singh. His satsangs at the Dera (and elsewhere in In= dia) can at times become events on the scale of truly "Biblical Epic" proporti= ons. Confronted with the spectacle of such vast numbers of devotees (Baba-Ji m= ust have one of the largest global followings of any Guru in India), a newco= mer or outsider, such as myself, is forced to wonder how it is possible for s= uch a popular Spiritual Master to maintain such a relatively low profile (he'= s not nearly as famous as many other Gurus who have smaller followings). T= he answer would appear to be that his followers do not advertise, proselytiz= e, or otherwise promote him. Truly a remarkable phenomenon.
5. H.H. Yogi Ramsuratkumar of Tiruvannamalai = "....this hidden spiritual luminary who shuns the limelight and hides= away from the general public."--Swami Chidananda, GLIMPSES OF A GREAT YOGI "'Most men wouldn't like to say they had three fathers, but this begg= ar had three Fathers. There was much work to be done on this beggar. Aurobindo started, Ramana Maharshi did a little and Ramdas finished.' Sri Aurobindo gave him the Jnana to seek the Truth, Sri Ramana led him in= the path of Tapas and ultimately Sri Ramdas gave him the Bhakti to soar into the realm of Divine Ecstacy."--Sadhu Rangarajan, GLIMPSES OF A G= REAT YOGI, pp. 30-31. The "crazy beggar" of Tiruvannamalai now has an ashram of his own. Twice = a day he gives darshan while going back and forth from there, and devotees = can attend Nama-Japa inside while waiting for an interview. Still somewhat accessible, I've spoken to people who have spent several hours at a time = with the Yogi. During my short encounter with him, I found him to be very gen= tle, kind, and unimposing, basically a benevolent paternal figure of whom I ha= ve very fond memories. He wasn't chain-smoking when I met him, and he sends= off everyone with the benediction, "My Father blesses you!" =
6. Sri Lakshmana Swamy and Mathru Sri Sarada of Tiruvannamalai "Sri Lakshmana Swamy is a direct disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi, the= great sage and Guru who taught at Arunachala from 1900-1950. After sever= al years of intensive meditation Sri Lakshmana realised the Self in Sri Ramana's presence in 1949. Ever since then he has been living a reclusive life, mostly in the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.... Mathru Sri Sarada is his adopted daughter and appointed successor. S= he came to him when she was still in her teens, completely surrendered to hi= m and realized the Self within four years."--David Godman, NO MIND, I AM THE SELF. "Sri Lakshmana Bhagavan, I am very happy to have had your darshan. Yo= u are my walking and talking God. O my divine father, my prostrations unto = you, for by your grace my mind is dead. By your grace I am now the all-pervading Self."--Mathru Sri Sarada Although their ashram is listed as being in Andhra Pradesh, Sri Lakshmana= Swamy and Sri Saradamma are more likely to be encountered during one of t= he three or four satsang appearances a year that they give in Tiruvannamalai= , (right next to Yogi Ramsuratkumar's ashram). On December 25, (Swamy's birthday), Shivarathri (in February or March) or the Deepam Festival day = (in late November) Lakshmana Bhagavan gives a nice Satsang to a relatively sm= all group of Indian and foreign devotees. During my visit to Tiruvannamalai = for the Deepam Festival, I was perhaps more impressed with Lakshmana Swamy an= d Saradamma, (with their low profile, cloistered lifestyle, etc.) than with= almost any other gurus I've encountered so far. By all accounts I've hear= d or read, Sri Lakshmana Swamy is, in his life and teachings, just like a livi= ng Ramana Maharshi.
7. Sri H.W.L. Poonja (Papa-ji) of Lucknow "....an enigmatic man based in Lucknow whose self-realization had occurred through the agency of Ramana Maharshi, the great sage of Arunachala."--TRAVELS THROUGH SACRED INDIA, p. 177. "You simply have to watch: where does the mind arise from? Where do= es thought come from? What is the source of this thought? Then you will see that you have always been Free and that everything has been a dream."--THE TRUTH IS. Currently the most popular of the "crazy wisdom" teachers of direct, non-= dual realization. Poonja, affectionately known as "Papa-ji" does not have an ashram, as such, does not charge for his teachings, and is still fairly accessible to devotees, especially during the summer months. Popular amon= g students from diverse traditions, (Vipassana, Dzogchen, Zen, Osho, Bhakti= ) Papa-ji gives more or less regular satsangs at a meeting hall near his ho= me in Indra Nagar, a Lucknow suburb. During, the couple of months I stayed = with the Lucknow scene, (before the pollution and airborne diseases of that ci= ty drove me away), I was impressed with the informality of Papa-ji and his teachings. Some of his "apostles," however, have been a bit more controversial (i.e. Andrew Cohen).
Suggestions for Further Reading: =0D Chidananda, Swami. LIGHT FOUNTAIN. Shivanandanagar: The Divine Life Society,1991. Godman, David. NO MIND, I AM THE SELF: THE LIVES AND TEACHINGS OF SRI LAKSHMANA SWAMY AND MATHRU SRI SARADA. Pondicherry: All India Pres= s, 1988. Housden, Roger. TRAVELS THROUGH SACRED INDIA. London: Harper-Collins, 1996. Murray, Muz. SEEKING THE MASTER. Jersey: Neville Spearman Limited, 1980.= = Poonja, Sri H.W.L. THE TRUTH IS. Lucknow: Prakash Packagers, 1995. --------------. WAKE UP AND ROAR: SATSANG WITH H.W.L. POONJA. Kula, Maui= : Pacific Center Publishing, 1993. = Ranganathananda, Swami. THE MESSAGE OF THE UPANISADS. Bombay: Bharatiy= a Vidya Bhavan, 1990. Rangarajan, Prof. V. GLIMPSES OF A GREAT YOGI. Madras: Sister Nivedita Academy, 1990 Sethi, Shanti. TREASURE BEYOND MEASURE. Beas: Radhasoami Satsang, Beas,19= 91. Tillis, Malcolm and Giles, Cynthia, eds., TURNING EAST: NEW LIVES IN INDI= A. New York: Paragon House Publishers, 1989. Tobias, Michael, Morrison, Jane and Gray, Bettina, eds., A PARLIAMENT OF SOULS. San Francisco: KQED Books, 1995.
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I want to go back to the home base now.