The relationship with the guru is so wide, so deep, and so very personal that each person experiences it from many perspectives and differently from other people. In the course of this relationship, the guru (if we allow him) will literally take us back to birth and help us to start a new life, which under his guidance can become a perfect one. There is nothing figurative or symbolic about this; I am talking literally! To understand the work of the guru one must start at the beginning.
When we are born, we come into the world with many tendencies such as instincts, in varying strengths and proportions, depending on the individual. What we become is a result of these propensities plus the impact of those around us, especially parents and other close authority figures.
At the time of birth, the child is in a state of 'oneness' with the environment which Freud called 'the oceanic feeling'. He is in this state of identification with everything because he has not yet perceived him-self as a separate entity. He has not yet realized the basic phenomenon of the physical world - i.e. that I am a 'subject' and the other things are 'objects'; that for this physical body to be maintained, things need to come from 'out there' to 'in here'. The basic or primary state of human consciousness is undifferentiated oneness with everything. In this state there is no me or you, no subject or object, no mine or yours. The sage Vasishtha described it as:
"...that pure state of consciousness in you, which is devoid of the reflections of the outer world and which does not give room for the dual considerations like existence and non-existence."
This state of oneness doesn't last long, however, because the consciousness now has a body to care for in this material world. This body has inbuilt instincts such as hunger, and before long, mealtimes start making themselves felt. At these times the consciousness is brought down with a direct blow to the solar plexus. Associated with this comes the gradual realisation that the storm in the solar plexus is relieved and the oceanic feeling is restored by something coming from outside. It is at this point that the idea of ego or individuality becomes implanted, in association with the solar plexus where it stays for the rest of the life. Then the little learner discovers that a bit of noise brings the meal more quickly. He now not only identifies himself as a separate entity, but realizes that self assertion sometimes brings results. Even at this early stage, the manipura chakra mechanism is thus established.
Then another realization dawns. This 'thing' from outside is fairly consistent, satisfying and has a very pleasant vibration. Just her maternal presence creates an exquisite fluttering of pleasure in the chest. This sets off an answering feeling, and these mutually vibrating sensations seem to bring the two closer and closer together until they merge. Thus the love song of the anahata chakra starts to be sung. These two seem to communicate on so many levels and over such a distance that the song often seems like a celestial choir accompanied by a heavenly orchestra.
For some years as the child develops, the give and take of the self-assertive ego and the (sometimes weedy) garden of love are the tendencies in the child which receive the most energy and create the most feeling. Of course, there are bound to be hurts and disappointments. Firstly, self-assertion soon causes resentment in others; they have their lives to live too and so they retaliate, but eventually limits are set. Secondly, the loved one cannot be around all the time and neither can the other close ones in the child's life, so there are rejections and absences. Eventually the little striver learns to put up with life's traumas, but t the joys, the hurts, and the other feelings of good times and hard times remain for life in the memory.
We now come to puberty and the emergence of the powerful sexual drives, as the primitive alarm clock of the pituitary gland signals that it is time for the body to start reproducing others. There has been sex play up to this point, but unless these feelings have been prematurely aroused by over-stimulation from adults, this has been minor. Now it becomes a powerful searching and yearning as the powerful sex hormones transform the whole body and mind. Thus the swadhisthana chakra starts to function in earnest. If the passage through the other two chakras has been reasonably easy, if there is an adequately balanced sense of self, and if the love relationships have been generally kind, the further passage into sexual maturity should also be smooth.
At this time another hunger develops - for knowledge. The child hat learned things before but, unless he has been over-stimulated intellectually by stressing the importance of factual education, this has taken a back seat to the-first two processes. Now, however the young person has a knowledge hunger as the vishuddhi chakra circuit keeps asking, that incessant question “Why?”
Later at some variable-time, depending on the mating instinct, the earthly drive for gaining territory and material possessions asserts itself. Thus the mooladhara chakra system flowers. Previously, the child had collected toys and things, and had a strong sense of 'my-ness', but this was only the ego that was involved. Now the desire to collect is much deeper, more altruistic and involves the mate and offspring. In other words, the urge to collect things and gain territory as to use them for the family rather than to have them for the ego purpose, or to appease a deep feeling of insecurity.
As we can see, the path of our development is fraught with potholes, rocks and thorny bushes. ideally, we could develop the ability to come to terms with the demands of our body and its requirements for living on this earth. At the same time we could retain our original identification with the 'oneness'. In this way we would have the ultimate versatility, the perspective of expanded consciousness and the utility of material functioning.
However, our environment is too imperfect, inconsistent and narrow minded. Our potential perfection is corrupted and adulterated with conflicts, impressions, hurts, negative attitudes and myriads of other stimuli. Ultimately, these reduce our consciousness and tie it firmly to the ego consciousness in this physical body. Thus we can no longer merge with the infinite or communicate with our loved ones with that majestic choir of vibration. We are stuck in the concrete boots of 'I-ness' and seem to spend our whole life with the minor, petty battles which this involves.
This is where the guru comes to the rescue, because if we really give ourselves to him for a 'complete overhaul' he takes us right back to the beginning. This is the process of becoming a true disciple, and it can be seen in the following stages of development:
The exact mechanisms by which the guru leads us to develop in this way are wide and deep. If we can allow him to, he will help us in many subtle ways, but always the accent is on our own personal experiencing rather than on instruction. As Vasishtha said:
"The self cannot be found to be existing merely by following reason and argument. Even the revelations of the great ones cannot be an ample proof of its existence. One's own direct experience of it is the ultimate proof."
The guru also uses the technique of example. As we live with him we come to see that he really is what he is said to be. He really does have that incredible depth of love, strength, inner joy, knowledge and higher power; this is real example. As we ourselves grow, we look at him and he is always so far ahead of us in these qualities that we wonder if we will ever catch up with him.
As the guru leads us back to that "pure state of consciousness which is devoid of... the dual", he shows us, by example, how to live as Vasishtha advised Rama:
"Inwardly contemplate always upon the non-dual truth and realize your nature as the pure essence of being called the Self, which is single and undifferentiated. But while wakeful, keep aside the non-dualness and be concerned with the multiple objects rightly and well. Thus inwardly given to adwaita (oneness) and outwardly to dwaita (dealing with the world), behave as a combination of dwaita and adwaita."