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I often see people considering a saint as their Guru who is no longer in physical plane. Many such saints lived hundreds of years ago.

When a Guru is not in physical plane, how you will get your doubts cleared or get guidance? At least when you are a newbie and have not reached a level where Guru being in a physical plane doesn't matter.

I want to know whether such saints are Guru-Tulya (like Guru) but not actual Guru. Can I have multiple gurus (Guru Tulya) unless I get a guru where I get personal attention, which is not possible these days? I mean if one is inspired by the divinity and spiritual ecstasy of few saints.

  • In Ramakrishna Mission Sri Ramakrishna and Ma Sarada are considered as source Gurus. Sri Ramakrishna is the Guru if someone takes Sri Ramakrishna mantra. Ma Sarada is the Guru if someone takes sarada or any Devi mantra. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Oct 18 '17 at 15:05
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    There have been instances, and not a few, where people have been given their diksha mantra in a dream by a guru who no longer retains a physical body. Upon questioning a living saint, saints have repeated the same mantra given to the person in the dream. What is important is for the non-physical guru to claim you - not for you to 'claim' a non-living guru. To simply claim to be following a non-living guru without any spiritual practices or experience is sheer nonsense. – Swami Vishwananda Oct 19 '17 at 5:22
  • Yes, under Tivra Tivra Saktipata it's possible. – Mr. Sigma. Oct 19 '17 at 16:58
  • tīvra-tīvra-śaktipāta - the so-called "Super Supreme Grace" - produces immediate identity with Śiva and liberation; such a being goes on to become a siddha master and bestows grace from his abode (Siddhaloka), directly into the heart of deserving aspirants. – Mr. Sigma. Oct 22 '17 at 13:28
  • @Rohit. But this Shaktipat is very rare. One in thousands. – RKh Oct 23 '17 at 7:58
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NO. Not in the strict scriptural sense of the word Guru.

In both Vedic and Agamic Dharmas, a Guru has to be someone who is alive. I too have one friend who considers Adi Shankara as his Guru.

But unless he takes DikshA from a living Guru he will be considered technically as an non initiate (Adikshita) only. Such mentally accepting someone as one's Guru may look fancy but does not really work. (Having said that, in very rare cases, one is allowed to accept Lord Shiva or Mother Goddess as their Guide-Guru but that's an exception not a rule for everyone to follow).

Guru or Teacher in the Vedic Dharma:

The first birth is from the mother and the second at the tying of the Muñja-grass girdle. At the latter birth, the Savitri verse is his mother, while the teacher is said to be his father.

The man who initiates a person and teaches him the entire Veda is called ‘teacher’; whereas someone who teaches just a section of the Veda is called ‘tutor’, as also someone who teaches the Vedic Supplements.

VDS 3.20

So, obviously, the teacher or Guru has to be alive to initiate the student and teach him (the student) the Vedas.

The student, after being initiated, has a lot of duties and he has to stay along with his teacher in his (the teacher's) house.

Student––he should serve his teacher until death and, when the teacher dies, the sacred fire; for it is stated, ‘The fire is your teacher’

12 He should wait upon his teacher, walking behind him if he is walking, standing by if he is seated, and sitting if he is lying down. 13 He should recite his lesson only when he is called upon to do so. 14He should announce everything he has received to the teacher and eat with his permission.

VDS verses.

So, it is more than obvious now that we are talking about a living Guru here.

Guru in the Agamic Dharma:

In Agamic DikshA SamskAra too, a Guru has to be alive in order to transfer energy, consciousness, mantras etc into the disciple. The following verse defines the Guru more precisely.

EkAkshmarapradAtAram yo gurunchA vamanayet |
SwAnam yoni satam gatvA chandAlatvam vApnuyAt ||

....

One who insults the Guru, who is the giver of ekAkshara (or OM), gets the womb of dogs for hundred births and thereafter gets chandAla-hood (low human birth).

KT 11.74.

So, here the Guru is defined to be the one who gives disciple the ekAkshara or the OM. Now, obviously doing so is not possible for someone who is dead.

DikshA is actually a process where the Guru gives mantra into Shisya's ears by chanting it a particular number of times. Their nearness (sAmippya) is essential in the process. Needless to say, both have to be alive in order to participate.

The next verse says, that all kinds of knowledge, conducts, scriptures, mantras are successful only if they are learned from Guru's mouth. And, there is no other way.

PAramparyA AgamAmnAyAm mantrAchArAdikam priye |
Sarvam guru mukhAllabdham saphalam syAnna chAnyathA ||

............

ParmaparA (lineage), Agamas, AmnAya, Mantras, AchAra (conducts) are all fruitful if obtained from Guru's mouth ( i.e directly learned from a personal living Guru), and otherwise not.

KT 11.46.

Further, it is stated in scriptures that just like a wife's sins get attached to her husband, likewise a Guru has to pay for his disciple's misdeeds. Hence, Guru, before initiating the disciple, has to test him in many ways. In fact, they both have to mutually test each other before the DikshA.

The following verse gives the amount time for which such tests are to be conducted:

EkAvedana dvijo yogyah kshatriyo vatsara dvAt |
Vaishyo yogya stribhirvashairshchaturbhih shudra eva cha ||

...........

The Brahmin becomes competent [for dikshA] after one year, a Kshatriya after two years, a Vaishya after three years and a Shudra after four years.

KT 14.105.

EkAvedana in the verse means one year. So, for a Brahmin disciple, the mutual test time is one year, for Kshatriya it's two years.... and for a Shudra disciple it's four years.

Now, obviously Guru only if he is alive can conduct such tests and can be the subject of such tests.

Can I have multiple gurus (Guru Tulya) unless I get a guru where I get personal attention, which is not possible these days?

Well, such persons have not actually become your "Gurus". So, there is no harm in mentally accepting more than one such Saints as your mentors or protectors.

And, even in case of actual Gurus, having more than one Gurus is allowed ( I myself have two Gurus).

MadhuluvedhA yathA bhringah pushpAt pushAntaram vrajet |
JyAna luvdha stathA shishyah guro gurvantara vrajet ||

.........

Just like the bee, desirous of honey, moves from one flower to the other, a disciple, desirous of knowledge, can likewise move from one Guru to another.

KT 13.132

And, similar thing has been stated in the Uddhava Gita too.

However, there can be some exceptional kinds of Gurus. Anyone or anything who (which) teaches you something is your Guru.

Lord Dattatreya is known to have 24 such unusual Gurus.

In the Uddhava Gita, a song embedded in the Bhagavata Purana (11.7-9), Dattatreya tells King Yadu about his 24 unusual gurus:

1. The Earth

The Earth is disrespectfully trodden on by all creatures but bears them all without complaint. So from Her, I learned to accept all of life’s pleasures and pains with forbearance.

2. The Wind

Wind is of two types, Prana refers to the internal life forces and Vayu refers to the external movement of air. Prana is in all bodies but takes on the shape and form of the particular body it is in. Vayu passes everywhere but does not remain in one place. So from Prana and Vayu I learned to avoid attachment to any place but to adapt to wherever I might find myself.

3. Akasha

Akasha is one and all-pervading. From it I learned that Brahman is one and all-pervading.

4. Water

Water purifies and sanctifies. From it I learned to be a source of purity and sanctity.

5. Fire

Fire burns things leaving only their essence. From it I learned that a yogi should see in beings not all the false opposites like rich-poor, old-young, high-low, but only the Atma which is the essence.

6. Moon

The one and same moon appears to go through changes, waxing, waning etc. From Him I learned that the one atman only appears to go through changes such as birth and death.

Abbreviations used:

KT- KulArnava Tantram ( All verses in this text are spoken by Lord Shiva to his consort Sri Devi). Also, KT 1.100 means verse number 100 of chapter 1 of the text.
VDS- The Dharma Sutras of Vashishta.

Updating the answer regarding Swapna Lavdha Mantra (mantra received in dreams)

The TantrasAra quotes the following verses:

Swapno lavdho mantro yadi sathgurum prApnoti tadA tata eva tanmantram grihniyAt nochet jalapurna kalase guroh prAnpratishthAm vidhAya vatapatre kumkumena likhitam mantram tat kalase prakshipya uttalya mantram grihniyAdityarthah..

...........

If Sathguru is obtained through a mantra seen during dreams, then one has to receive that mantra once again from that Guru (in reality). However, if that is not possible, then the following procedure is to be adapted- Install the life-energy (prAna) of the Guru in a water filled Kalasa, then write the received Mantra in a Pipal leave with Kumkuma and throw that leaf into the Kalasa. One can then take back the leaf out of the Kalasa and receive the Mantra.

The above is the procedure only if Guru (who gave the mantra in dreams) is inaccessible. If the Guru is reachable, then one has to receive the same Mantra from him yet again. Doing in that fashion one can complete his DikshA.

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    Thanks for the detailed clarification. Even it is my experience that unless you have spent a considerable amount of time with a Guru, who is alive, and learned advanced meditation techniques and other practices, it is very difficult to progress without a Guru. Once you have spent enough time with a live guru, you can easily get his guidance even when he is not in body. I have seen devotees who have considered a saint as a Guru who lived hundreds years before and now not in physical form. These devotees are always puzzled. – RKh Oct 23 '17 at 7:57
  • You are welcome. And yes all Hindu scriptures recommend taking Diksha from a living Guru only. Nothing else is ever prescribed. @RKh – Rickross Oct 23 '17 at 11:51
  • Agama traditions cannot work without a Guru in physical form – Akhil May 1 '18 at 23:29
  • what is the exact verse reference number of this shloka which you quoted - "Swapno lavdho mantro yadi sathgurum prApnoti tadA tata eva tanmantram grihniyAt nochet jalapurna kalase guroh prAnpratishthAm vidhAya vatapatre kumkumena likhitam mantram tat kalase prakshipya uttalya mantram grihniyAdityarthah.." ? It is very important for me, can you please help – zaxebo1 May 2 '18 at 14:51
  • It is from the Brihat Tantrasara.. you won't find the book online.. it quotes from Tantras and Agamas.. @zaxebo1 – Rickross May 4 '18 at 13:00
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When a Guru is not in physical plane, how you will get your doubts cleared or get guidance?

Guru and disciple are like one soul living in two bodies. One is always aware of the other on the spiritual plane. External communication is no longer necessary here, because the disciple does not function on the level where he needs the guru's physical presence. He has the guru's spirit within him which illumines the dark corners of his being. What need is there to talk to him or see his face. More can be read here

As Kabir said, "If your beloved lives abroad, do write him a letter. But if your beloved dwells within, there is no movement, no emotion, no question of even being together. Wherever we are we are always close."

What happens when the Guru drops the body?

He may retain individuality, if he takes rebirth. If he does not take rebirth, then there is no individuality, and there will be no relationship afterwards. It is like the relationship with God at that time, because they have merged with God. But if they have maintained an individuality still, then, of course, the relationship continues.

You can't have a relationship with the Absolute. That is not possible, unless you yourself become the Absolute. If the Guru merges into the Absolute, then there is no relationship. You can't maintain anything. It is another way of saying that the relationship is with God Himself. But if you maintain an individuality, then the relationship will continue. Even in the next birth, it will continue. Unless there is some individuality, some personality, a relationship is not possible. You can't have a relationship with the Absolute. Only below that level a relationship is possible.

Can I have multiple gurus?

A Guru cannot be changed. Once you accept a person as your guide, it is permanent. You cannot change the guide from time to time. Logically too it makes sense because if you follow more than one guru then your mind is bound to get confused and you will end up achieving nothing. Basically Confused, Scared, Directionless. There is a famous saying "too many cooks spoil the broth". Yes in order to master different traits you can have differnt Gurus, for instance Arjuna has Drona as guru to master weapons, he was trained in religion, science, administration and military arts by Bhishma. More details here

Find a guru who can guide you personally

In the seventh chapter of the Bhagavadgita, LordKrishna describes four types of people who worship him: men in pain, seekers of knowledge, seekers of wealth and seekers of enlightenment. Of them he says the last kind, the men of wisdom are dearest to him because they identify themselves with him and are forever established in him. Lord Krishna does not demean the first three. He calls them noble (udara), but considers the last group of men as the noblest.

If you seek a guru for enlightenment or liberation and if you want him to initiate you in a proper manner into spiritual life, you have to choose your guru carefully, making sure that he or she is available to you on a regular basis and respond to you promptly. If you cannot reach him or if he is inaccessible, you may have problems dealing with your difficulties on the path and you may not be able to seek the guidance when you need it most. If you think your guru can communicate with you supernaturally or clairvoyantly across the oceans and continents, first check your convictions with him before you delude yourself. It is also true that sometimes the gurus deliberately ignore their most sincere followers to teach them some lessons or remove the sense of dependency and attachment. Whatever may be the nature of your relationship with your guru, you must have unflinching faith in him. Refer this

  • Let me clear the last point. Lord Ram's guru was Maharshi Vasistha. Later Maharshi Vishwamitra gave him knowledge so Ram Laxman obeyed him like a Guru. Much later, Maharshi Agastya initiated Ram with Aditya Hridayam and other vidyas. So he is also a Guru. I met few saints, who were enlightened but never gave deeksha to anyone. In that case I consider all three as Guru, but I have not left one and changed to other. If you meet an enlightened saint, who in any way guides you, is he not a Guru? If you accept a person as your guide, but he is not in physical plane, who will guide you? – RKh Oct 18 '17 at 15:56
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    our experiences too are your guru. Your experiences will guide you from within. The experience, which does not become a cause to guide you, is not an experience.That is why these are all gurus. – Just_Do_It Oct 18 '17 at 17:13
  • In that case I have multiple Gurus. I have one more query but I am asking as a separate post. – RKh Oct 18 '17 at 17:54
  • @RKh Yes in order to master different traits you can have differnt Gurus, for instance Arjuna has Drona as guru to master weapons, he was trained in religion, science, administration and military arts by Bhishma. – Just_Do_It Oct 18 '17 at 18:17
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    Like sated in ans: It is true that sometimes the gurus deliberately ignore their most sincere followers to teach them some lessons or remove the sense of dependency and attachment. Whatever may be the nature of your relationship with your guru, you must have unflinching faith in him. – Just_Do_It Oct 18 '17 at 18:25

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