Since my elementary days, getting behind the whole guru worship was awkward, particularly if I did not know much of a certain guru. In the Eastern traditions, guru worship, or obeisance, is very common and often extends to unknown individuals who hold a certain status'. Such courtesy is usually bestowed to religious individuals, elders, ancestors, etc. It took no thought to bow before entities that dominate our religious traditions, but I took pains in having to bow before gurus which I knew nothing of other than that they were wearing particular garments associated with monks, etc.. Overall, it appeared to be tradition over spirituality at the time.
As an example, my family has occasionally attended the Swaminarayan temple, and I remember one particular event in attending the London temple. Behind the altar piece, which I assume was the Hindu entity Krishna, was another room filled with the busts of unfamiliar gurus, for which my family one by one lined up and bowed before. I remember asking my elder if he knew who these individuals were, for which he responded as they are "gurus" as he continued to bow before each bust. Flash forward a decade, my family will occasionally visit the recently constructed Southern California location due to its magnificent structure. To my surprise, the center piece was not Krishna or anyone familiar from the ancient stories (puranas), but it was their guru, Swaminarayan. In comparison, the Hare Krishnas place the statue of their guru, Swami Prabhupada, at the foot of Krishna closer to the audience, but the Swaminaryan temple placed their guru at the center. I'm not one to criticize due to my ignorance of the sect, but I do feel in order to heart-fully bestow my obeisance, the figure should first be a "guru" unto my own intellect, which he probably has been for so many people to bestow him that honor.
The word guru is actually two (2) sanskrit words, "gu" and "ru". "Ru" is familiar if you know the story of Ru-dra aka Shiva, the cosmic aspect of destruction. Hence, "ru" means destruction. "Gu" means ignorance. Hence, in order for an individual, or an experience, or a train of thought to be a "guru", it must destroy the illusion of ignorance. With this understanding, guru worship makes more sense where we are simply paying respects to those who help enlighten our intellect. However, the obeisance was still difficult for me, where much of it in the Eastern spiritual traditions seem to revolve around a form of submissiveness. What's even more difficult is when viewing certain sects as completely submissive to their guru, where all other information outside their circle is simply negated in favor of their alleged guru. Such is counter to "guru" in the sense of dispelling ignorance. More simply put, there seems to be plenty of occasions where "guru" worship is more akin to "ego" worship.
Don't get me wrong, I have my pantheon of gurus. However, my obeisance stems form the brilliance they have shined into my intellect. I also have past gurus who I still honor as simply stepping stones to clearing the cloud of my mind, though I may not return to their teachings. However, the intellectual battle between when a teacher is an actual guru or uses that status to accentuate ego was ongoing. I have continually played with this idea in viewing Nithyanandaji who, although brilliant and dispels ignorance, can be seen wearing gold jewelry, seated on a golden throne, and even found as a golden statue within his temples. Nonetheless, my battle with such glamour was dispelled with the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta.
More so than any other philosophy that I have divulged, Advaita Vedanata is designed for you to experience the oneness, the God/Goddess within, the sat/chit/ananda (existence/consciousness/bliss). As the great guru Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj would state regarding the worship of deities, is simply where do these deities go when we pass on, do they not dissolve into the illusion that we are witnessing? What is truth is simply pure consciousness, it is the one aspect of our illusion that doesn't change, the aspect of ourselves that simply witnesses without attachment to ideas or beliefs. It is the "I Am" without the "That". Provided that we are all One and part of the infinite expanse known as Brahaman and beyond, guru worship, deity worship, or any form of worship is simply consciousness worshiping consciousness.
In Hinduism, we greet each other with Namaste, or "my higher self bows and honors your higher self". In Mayan, the greeting was In'Lakesh, or "you are another me" or simply that we are all mirrors of each other. In Tibetan Buddhism, particularly the enlightenment teachings of Padmasambhava it is pivotal to recognize everything as simply mirroring yourself, and hence, must love unconditionally. Therefore, my favorite teachers are typically ones that recognize this concept and consider themselves as "catalysts" or "permission slips" to allow us to recognize what we've always really known. These gurus understand that they are simply mirrors reflecting back to us.
Though Nithyanandaji may display himself with some flare, he continually acknowledges Shivoham, meaning "I Am Shiva" and further elaborates "You Are Shiva". In mentally dissecting his style, I've realized that he is simply playing a role within a tradition in order to bestow his knowledge to a particular audience that is ancestrally rooted in guru worship. With the knowledge that we are simply "consciousness worshiping consciousness", that our gurus are simply "permission slips" for us to acknowledge greater truths about ourselves, it is good to see guru worship is alive and well.
Our Father. In the Christian tradition, the Father represents the Source, or that which is beyond the Source. It is the ultimate, which I rather like to consider as Brahman or ParaBrahman. In Advaita Vedanta, Brahman is the "all that is" and that which is beyond "that". It is the unfathomable infinite, that which is aware of each point of interest, pure consciousness or what may be beyond that. Our crown chakra is our access, our portal, to the infinite.
Who Art In Heaven. To access the divine, or that which relates more to spirit than matter, yogi's often place their seat of awareness, their consciousness, at the third eye. Placed between the eyes, at the center of the head, placing one's awareness at this point creates a "mindfulness" state of being where one is aware of being within the body. Given that this is where most meditative work occurs, this seat can ripe-fully be called heaven. This is where sits your Higher-Self, your Atman, you spirit free of egoic/karmic biases/attachments. And, there is no difference between Atman and Brahman.
Hallowed Be Thy Name. In certain cultures, the belief that to completely speak nothing but the truth is to have the ability to manifest everything you want. Quite possibly a fable to show the difficulties of honesty/transparency, nonetheless, it adds to the fire that fuels mankind's desire to know the truth. To know the truth of "all that is", the "infinite-one", is the sacred path of all of our traditions, including science. The throat chakra is essentially wisdom. It is our seeking for not only the truth of our Atman, but the truth from all our experiences that lead to beliefs that limit ourSelves. From what we discover, we speak the truth of our wisdom.
Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done, On Earth As It Is In Heaven. The Kingdom is in reference to the infinite-one, that which is "all that is". The statement is in obvious reference to bringing forth the domain of the infinite-one into our relative reality. Essentially, it is requesting a blessing into our existence. The "Will" of the infinite-one or Brahman, which is the same as your signature Atman, is attempting to accomplish its goal. However, what the "Will" is, is found in the heart chakra. Following your heart, following your bliss, is following the Will of God. It is the way to bridge Heaven and Earth creating "Heaven on Earth".
Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread. Christians use "bread" to signify something called Manna, food which fell from the Heavens to feed the Israelite's in their time of need. Hence, it is simply requesting the Infinite-One to provide us with nurturing substance to keep us sustained. At the solar plexus rests our inner Sun. Much like the Sun enlightens our environment, our inner sun assists in lighting our ego identities and experiences. Here, we request the energy and strength through "bread" to not only sustain our daily lives, but to choose the "Will" based on love-heart and truth-throat so that we do the "Will" of our Atma, and not that strictly of the lower sacral and root chakra.
And Forgive Us Our Trespasses As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us. The sacral chakra is the home of our creative abilities. From the One came Two. From the One was created Two. The One as "subject" finally created an "object" for it to have "awareness" and have an experience. From the creator, creation is constantly creating, creating new life, creating new experiences, creating beauty, creating relationships. However, sometimes such creators will trespass onto another creator's creation. Trespass being defined as intentionally moving onto another's rights in a non-consensual way. When such occurs, beliefs are created triggering all sorts of bodily chemical emotions that can lead to anger, frustration, hate, etc. Forgiveness is asking for clearing such emotions from our energy field.
And Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From Evil. It seems that almost all of our problems are based on beliefs of "lack", especially lack of our basic needs (shelter, food, hygiene). As a plant is properly nourished by grounding its roots within the Earth, so does the abundant Universe/Earth/Elements provide for us through our root chakra. Given that we carry the belief of a "limited" Universe, or the belief in "lack", we create all sorts of root chakra issues. It is our seat, our support, and if we're not properly supported and have lack of love, lack of necessities, lack of passion, etc., such can lead to the development of negative emotions that can lead an individual into "temptation" or "evil". Anything to be "temptation" or "evil" would be something that "opposes" the love-heart and truth-throat of the Atman.
Amen. From the infinite, you are born. A point of interest for the infinite to perceive a version of reality. From that perception, the infinite gains wisdom by seeking the truth of itself. Love is the key for such discovery and the path, the Dharma, our duty. From the infinite we are nourished and blessed with the ability to create within our abundant Universe, our Heaven on Earth. So let it be.
Overly educated and continuously exploring and revealing more behind the veil.
"It cannot be too highly emphasized that the mystic swims in the same waters in which the psychotic drowns."
-James Wasserman, The Mystery Traditions