In Essays on the Gita, Sri Aurobindo notes that every scripture has both a ‘temporal’ and an ‘eternal’ aspect. The temporal aspect is transitory, changes from time to time and from culture to culture, based on the societal background within which the scripture has been produced. The knowledge gained from this aspect is subject to modification. The eternal aspect represents knowledge that transcends the specific time and place within which it was produced, and remains valid regardless of cultural background or societal norms.

Similarly, the relationship to the human Guru has several aspects. The Guru represents for the seeker the Divine Presence and guides and aids the seeker in focusing and tuning the consciousness to the Divine. At the same time, the Guru is a human being, with the issues and limitations of human beings, physically, vitally, emotionally and mentally. The Guru in the human aspect is dealing with these things within himself. The human aspect of the Guru is not ‘perfect’ and the seeker does not surrender to these imperfections, but to the higher guidance and relationship to the Divine Presence expressed through the Guru.

There are various examples of human gurus who provide real benefit and guidance to seekers generally, but who are grappling with their own issues of sexual desire, greed for money or power, seeking after fame, etc. Some may be purely charlatans, who manipulate using techniques of control and domination, but do not actively or consciously channel the higher Divine Presence focusing instead of using vital powers, but there are others who are in fact sincere in their ability to tune to the higher consciousness and provide such a guidance or influence to the seeker. Distinguishing these two things, the human and the divine aspect, is thus important. If the Guru is attempting to abuse the Guru/disciple relationship by preaching one thing but exacting the opposite for his own aggrandisement, then an issue arises and the seeker’s surrender should be to the Divine Presence, not to the human Guru’s demands. Much of the difficulty faced by seekers in the modern world when confronted with a Guru who demands money, wealth or sex from the seeker can be overcome through understanding this distinction.

Some Gurus will manipulate the concept of surrender by pointing out they are doing the seeker a favor by breaking through their ego-personality and resistance. They cite the example of Marpa and Milarepa. It must be noted however that while Marpa exacted heavy physical labor from Milarepa as a way to expiate his prior actions of black magic, building and then taking apart various structures, and then rebuilding them, he did not demand sex, or money nor self-aggrandisement for his own personal satisfaction or desires from Milarepa as he worked through the disciple’s issues.

Regardless of the limitations of the Guru, a sincere seeking, trust in and receptivity to the Divine Presence in the Guru can help the sadhak obtain the needed guidance and support. When this occurs, the aid is not limited to the capacities of the Guru, as the connection is made and the psychic being within the seeker opens itself to the unlimited force of the Divine.

The Mother observes: “If you have faith and confidence, it is not the human form of the guru that you worship, but the Supreme Lord who manifests through him. … Give yourself unreservedly to the Supreme Lord through whatever channel helps you.”

Sri Aurobindo adds: “The Guru is the channel or the representative or the manifestation of the Divine, according to the measure of his personality or his attainment; but whatever he is, it is to the Divine that one opens in opening to him; and if something is determined by the power of the channel, more is determined by the inherent and intrinsic attitude of the receiving consciousness, an element that comes out in the surface mind as simple trust or direct unconditional self-giving, and once that is there, the essential things can be gained even from one who seems to others than the disciple an inferior spiritual source, and the rest will grow up in the sadhak of itself by the Grace of the Divine, even if the human being in the Guru cannot give it.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter III Growth of Consciousness Basic Requisites, pp. 55-56

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 17 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.