Tag Archive: Ramakrishna

Some Books About Gurus

As I have discussed with a few of you, I have been contemplating deeply and for a long time the questions of what is a guru and who is a guru.  In the context of this contemplation, I read to enhance my background and understanding, deepen my contemplation, and give myself food for thought or additional exploration.  Here are some books that I have in my library about gurus or those who have been labeled gurus (in no particular order).  Some are written with loving devotion by disciples.  Some question or comment on the interrelationship between the status of guru and the sometimes all too human foibles of the guru and his disciples.  Some are of the guru’s own experience of practice and his relationship with his own guru.

Be Love Now, Ram Dass, HarperOne (New York, NY 2010)

Miracle of Love — Stories About Neem Karoli Baba, Ram Dass, E.P. Dutton (New York, NY 1979)

Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda, Self-Realization Fellowship (13th Ed., reprinted 2001)

The Golden Guru — The Strange Journey of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, James S. Gordon, The Stephen Green Press (Lexington, Mass. 1987)

My Guru and His Disciple, Christoper Isherwood, Penguin Books (New York, NY 1981)

Ramakrishna and His Disciples, Christopher Isherwood, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY 1970)

Great Swan — Meetings with Ramakrishna, Lex Hixon, Shambhala Dragon Editions (Boston, Mass. 1992)

Bhagawan Nityananda of Ganeshpuri, Swami Muktananda Paramahamsa, SYDA Foundation (South Fallsburg, NY 1996)

The Buddha from Brooklyn — A Tale of Spiritual Seduction, Martha Sherrill, Vintage Books (New York, NY 2001)

Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, Stephen Cope, Bantam (New York, NY 1999)

At the Eleventh HourThe Biography of Swami Rama, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Himalayan Institute Press (Honesdale, Pa. 2001)

Play of Consciousness, Swami Muktananda Paramahansa, SYDA Foundation (Oakland Ca. 1974)

The Great Oom — the Improbable Birth of Yoga in America, Robert Love, Viking Press (New York, NY 2010)

ps Jess–Yes, the widget for Library Thing is coming for the website.  I just need to add more books, so that it is a decent start at a representation of at least the yoga-related portion of my library.

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The Parable of the Guru, the Disciple, and the Mad Elephant

It is a constant dialogue that arises for me with others in my various communities about the place of political discussion in a spiritual community.  Is there a place for examining the state of the world, calling for action, and trying to change things when we believe (or are seeking to understand) everything as being at its essence infused with the light?  I just happened to read this parable today, after being advised that spiritual and political dialogue have no place being conjoined (today, it was about the budget and the war; it could just as easily have been about how to address from a place of spirit the complexities of how to shift and respond to the Gulf oil spill):

“RAMAKRISHNA: … [W]ater remains water, whether it stands still or breaks into waves.  Divine Reality remains exactly the same when one is silent and one speaks.  Relax your mind a moment and consider this parable.  A guru teaches his disciple that every being and event is simply God.  The ardent disciple, while walking home meditating on this truth, encounters a mad elephant.  The elephant-driver, who has completely lost control of the animal, shouts to all who are in the way, warning them to run.  But the stubborn disciple refuses to deviate from his path.  He continues his contemplative exercise, regarding himself as God and the elephant as God.  The crazed beast picks up this foolish man with its trunk and dashes him to the earth.  The guru, famous for his healing powers, is called to revive the unconscious victim.  After certain prayers are recited and holy  water is sprinkled, the young man regains consciousness.  He is surprised to find his guru gazing at him.  When asked why he did not run from such evident danger, he replies:  ‘Why should I run?  My guru, you teach that all beings and events are God.  I have implicit faith in your inspired words.’  The venerable master then addresses his immature disciple:  ‘But my child, why did you fail to heed the inspired words of the elephant-driver, who is also God?'”

Lex Hixon, Great Swan:  Meetings with Ramakrishna (Shambala Publications 1992)

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Great Swan

I found a used copy of Lex Hixon’s Great Swan–Meetings with Ramakrishna, last week that I am reading with delight.  Lex Hixon has rendered the teachings from the seminal and extraordinary voice of Ramakrishna very accessible.  It also provides in a light-handed and intelligent way, an excellent perspective on the history and dance of the mingling of East and West. Ramakrishna, as Swami Vivekenanda‘s guru, is an incredibly important part of the path of yoga to the West.

As an American drawn to the teachings of yoga, I feel it important for me to know the context of how these teachings reached me, and how they interconnect with the embodiment of religious and social practice in both the society whence they came and the cultures they have reached and shifted.  Those who have imbibed the teachings with pure bhakti (devotion) might think it is not necessary to study so much.  For me, whose nature and practice includes skepticism and questioning, the more perspective I gain by thinking, exploring, and studying, the more I am able to open in different ways.

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