One of the most important characteristics of a true spiritual teacher is that he cannot have a hard heart – it is impossible. Because as we progress in the spiritual field one of the most important changes that takes place in one’s spiritual evolution is kindness and compassion that fill the heart. Therefore, if you have been doing your spiritual practices for a number of years, and find that compassion and kindness towards living creatures is lacking in us then we have to re-examine and review what we have been practicing – there must be something wrong with us somewhere. Because, unless and until the heart becomes kind and soft, one cannot become perfect in the spiritual field.
There was a great king called Jnanashruti. He went to a great rishi and told him “Sir I want to meet a perfect stage who can guide me on from where you have stopped guiding me.”
The Rishi said” Go and see a sage called Raikva”
So, he says “which hermitage or which forest does he live in?”
The rishi says, “He doesn’t live in a forest, he lives in a small town.”
He says, “Oh! Does he have an ashram there?”
He says, “No, this sage Raikva does not have an ashram,”
“What does he do?”
“He pulls a cart carrying building materials”
So this King Jnanashruti was quite surprised – he said how can this be a rishi? and the sage said, “you go and find out.”
So the great king went to this village and saw a man pulling a cart carrying a heavy load and coming. As soon as he saw him, he said, “Please be seated, oh king, let me finish my work.” He went and put his building materials, reversed the cart so the sunlight did not fall on the particular place and sat under it and said “This is my ashram in the shade of the cart” and said “sit down.”
The King said, “I have come for spiritual instructions sir, please give me the teachings.” He said ” Wait, wait, I have some work to do, after that I will explain.” The King looked in astonishment as this stage Raikva sat in the shade. His body had multiple festering wounds and he put his hand forward and said, “Come, come I am back from work you can now come and eat.”
The King looked around and saw these white maggots who came and got into the wounds and sat down comfortably. Then he said,” this is food for them so I don’t allow the sores to heal as they live in me and this is their food. Now, what would you like to say?”
The king was dumbfounded. He couldn’t talk as this person wasn’t concerned about the sores and he wanted to look after the maggots. Maggots that most people get really frightened and want to run away from, he was letting them feed on his body, there was so much compassion.
So the first message Jnanashruti got was that the highest spiritual attainment comes with compassion and kindness, not through anything else. Some people think that spiritual knowledge and spiritual practice is an affair of the brain. They think if I know this much then I am highly spiritually advanced. If I have learned this scripture then I am highly spiritual, that is not true. It is good to learn, it is good to have knowledge but the heart has to open. And unless the heart opens, one cannot get direct access to that Supreme reality which is beyond the realm of rational human thought.
Those who are in the medical field know that there is a new science today which is known as neurotheology, which says that there are parts of the brain which are capable of spiritual experience i.e., man is wired for a spiritual experience. Whether you have it or not, you are wired for it. There is a central part of the brain which is known as the limbic system, which has the thalamus and the amygdala – it is in the center of the brain and it is connected directly to the stem – the brain stem – the medulla. They have found that this limbic system is that which is the emotional part of the brain and if the person has that which is known as samadhi – a spiritual experience, it is the limbic system that becomes active – not the rational part of the brain (the right lobe and the left lobe which are necessary for us to survive), but the inner part.
In the Bible, you will find this – lay treasures in your heart, where thieves cannot break in and steal. Any other treasure, the more you have the more the fear that somebody may break open and steal, but here no one can do anything. It is you! No one can steal you from yourself, right? So, this thing is to be thought over, reflected over and carried in your heart – throughout the year. You need not have to wait for the next Guru Purnima to think about this. Guru Purnima comes once a year, but we have to shine like the full moon throughout the year – come clouds or clear sky.
So, the spiritual teacher is very important, but more important than the spiritual teacher is the spiritual teaching which is given. And if you follow the spiritual teaching you are following the teacher. No matter how many miles away he is from you physically.