Ch. 4, v. 1, the guru, the immaculate

Ch. 4, v. 1, Haṭhayogapradīpika              the guru, the immaculate

“Salutation to the guru, to Śiva, who is essentially ‘sound’, ‘point’, ‘division’. He who is constantly committed to him attains the state of purity.”

नमः शिवाय गुरवे नादबिन्दुकलात्मने ।

निरञ्जनपदं याति नित्यं तत्र परायणः ॥ १ ॥

namaḥ śivāya gurave nādabindukalātmane |

nirañjanapadaṁ yāti nityaṁ tatra parāyaṇaḥ || 1 ||

Rev. Dr John Dupuche, is a Catholic priest, and Yogi Matsyendranath is from the Nath Yoga tradition, Father John and Yogi present teachings from their contrasting traditions. They are using as their starting point verses from the Haṭha-Yoga-Pradīpika.

“to the guru, to Śiva”,

Haṭhayogapradīpika chapter 3 started with reference to the ‘feminine’. This chapter 4 begins with salutation to the ‘masculine’, that is to the guru and to Śiva. These two are mentioned in apposition, in the same case, next to each other. In this way the writer seeks to identify the two. Śiva is manifest in the guru, and the guru’s role is to give access to Śiva.

This raises considerable questions. Is the guru truly a manifestation of the highest Reality? How do we determine who is an authentic guru? What is there in him that leads to a perception of Śiva? These questions need to be asked for it all too apparent that there are false gurus who deceive and pretend.

The question can be answered by assessing the quality of the guru’s teaching, in the first instance. Does it correspond to long-standing tradition? Does his life conform to what he teaches? What is the quality of his peace? Is he driven by desires, fears, and ambitions? Is he detached while being fully involved in life? Better still, to what extent is he willing to die for his disciple? Gurus may wish to live for adulation and success and fame, but the guru who will die for the truth and for the disciples who come to him, that guru is trustworthy. Has he already suffered for the truth by the austerities (tapas), which he has performed? How much has he given up for the sake of his practice? The charlatan easily deceives the foolish disciple. The wise, however, perceive the wise.

The Christian tradition teaches that it is by the Spirit that we are led to the Christ who dies for us. Thus, in the Christian tradition, the Christ is the authentic guru who wins our allegiance and for whom we, in turn, can die. To see the Christ is to see the Father, because Jesus is completely one with the God who sent him, of one nature and being.

“Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.’” (Jn 14.9)

“who is essentially ‘sound’, ‘point’, ‘division’”

The text goes on to describe the guru/Śiva with three terms, ‘sound’, ‘point’ and ‘division’. He is perfectly described as ‘sound’, that is as Word, the ultimate Logos.

This Word can be seen in its transcendent quality or in its manifestations in limited form. Both are one, just as the guru and the Deity are one. The Word is first made manifest in the ‘point’, namely the totality of sound as the Word when it is about to manifest itself; and then in the many divisions of sound in all its forms and realities. Thus the Deity is expressed in the panoply of beings. They are one. They refer to each other, lead to each other, contain each other, and are manifest in each other.

It means that the authentic guru also, by his very character, is expressed in all creation. Words and deeds are one, sound and objectivity are one; all realities are signs; all has meaning; all is expression. The guru is expressed in all, and all is found in him and taken into him; he is identified with all deeds and words. He and all words are one. The guru is, therefore, worthy and credible.

This is consonant with the Christian tradition where the Word of God is manifest in all the works and words of creation.

“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by the Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.” (Heb 1:1-3.)


“He who is always devoted to him attains the state of purity (nirañjana).”
The disciples who commit themselves fully to such a guru find that they are fundamentally changed. They reach a state of being which is called nirañjana, literally ‘without colour’, that is ‘pure’, ‘immaculate’, ‘faultless’. Because the guru is perfectly self-consistent, transparent and fully expressed without alloy, the disciples too reach a state of transparency, without impurity, without obstruction, without taint.

The nirañjana literally means ‘without colour’. The colour red is one particular colour and is not blue. If a garment is already red, it cannot take on a blue dye without changing the blue into purple. The colour white strictly speaking is not a colour. It can take on every colour without altering it. The nirañjana is both transcendent and identifiable with what is immanent.

For that reason the colour of the Christian baptismal garment is white. That which transcends all colours can take on all colours. That which is without imitation can take on all limitations and refuses none.

The term nirañjana is given other meanings. There are the three faculties of will, knowledge and action. When these are perfectly consonant one with the other, we know what we are doing, we know what we want, we want what we know, we do what we want, etc. So often, however, we do not know what we want, we do not want what we do, we don’t do what we want, we don’t know what we wish to do. There is discord between the faculties of our being. This is what St Paul felt when he says,

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. … I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. … Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15, 18-19, 24-25).

Paul is freed from this inner conflict and regains his integrity by his union with Christ who is the Word without alloy, both transcendent and immanent, the Word made flesh; to see him is to see the Father. Paul is the disciple who, on the road to Damascus, learnt to commit himself (cf. parāyaṇaḥ) perfectly to the guru, Jesus, who revealed himself to Paul in the Church.

About interfaithashram

Rev. Dr. John Dupuche is a Roman Catholic Priest, a senior lecturer at MCD University of Divinity, and Honorary Fellow at Australian Catholic University. His doctorate is in Sanskrit in the field of Kashmir Shaivism. He is chair of the Catholic Interfaith Committee of the Archdiocese of Melbourne and has established a pastoral relationship with the parishes of Lilydale and Healesville. He is the author of 'Abhinavagupta: the Kula Ritual as elaborated in chapter 29 of the Tantraloka', 2003; 'Jesus, the Mantra of God', 2005; 'Vers un tantra chrétien' in 2009; translated as 'Towards a Christian Tantra' in 2009. He has written many articles. He travels to India each year. He lives in an interfaith ashram.
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