Why Take a Mantra from a Guru?
If a mantra is taken from a book, the results will not be exactly the same as if received directly from a guru, nor will it be a waste of time either. God’s name has its own power. Illumined souls explain that if an aspirant learns from a guru who lives the life, who has progressed a little, the results will be greater. One becomes convinced it is possible to realize God after having seen such a soul before one’s own eyes. In the struggle Godward, every now and then aspirants become discouraged. Therefore, to keep up the struggle and sustain a certain zeal, one must associate with the holy. That is another benefit of the guru.
Prayer is generally the first natural and conscious response in a person who has had some kind of religious awakening. The awareness of our human limitations and mortality is generally enough to turn us in the direction of, and seek help from, a Power or a Person who is not bound by those limitations. As a form of “receiving,” prayer is a movement from God toward human beings. When a prayer is answered, the heart is filled with gratitude.
This article, by Swami Tyagananda, originally was a talk given at a panel discussion organized at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, in June 2003.
I would like to focus on two issues: first, facing life’s challenges with courage; and second, negotiating the boundaries based on nationality, religion, politics, and race. The two issues are related but need to be examined separately. More specifically, I wish to offer a few insights gathered from Vivekananda’s teachings as possible pointers towards addressing these two issues.