In India, one does not go up stage by Maslow stage, only after each stage is satisfied. All stages can exist simultaneously, although in different proportions for different people in different stages in life – and this is not necessarily dependant only on how much money one has for day to day living, but on your inherent inclination and inborn characteristics. The study showed that a spiritual Guru actually helps in different ways across the hierarchy of needs.
The Guru as Survival Strategist: giving a sense of security and stability, reducing restlessness, encouraging persistence. “Spiritual gurus help more to deal with everyday life than to reach the beyond.” “You come back like a charged person. Now you are ready to face anything.” “He has given us the courage to face problems, difficult situations.”
The Guru as Problem Solver: “If I just close my eyes for a few minutes and tell Baba, now come on, try and give me the solution, try and give me the right light. Immediately I go back and something strikes up.” “He views problems in a different perspective. Whatever problems I put forward to him or discuss with him, he sees them in a different perspective and proves that every problem has got a solution.” “If there’s something to tackle…we just say, ok Guruji, you tell us what to do.”
The Guru as Temporary Escape: “The moment we see him, we forget everything. We live in such peace there, only after coming back everything comes back to our mind… our illness, our worries, our problems. As long as we are there we are at peace.” “I just say come on Baba. Let us sit and chat with each other so that I can disconnect myself from all these worries.”
The Guru as the Pleasure Principle: There are two aspects to this. One, proponent of “living in the now”: “He says live a natural life and enjoy nature. Enjoy the innocence, laughter of the child. Enjoy the birds. That’s something he talks about. And this is one aspect that influences me highly.” “He makes you feel, just relax and enjoy life.” The other, learning to depend less on material pleasures: “Spiritual powers overpower pleasures of life. There is no end to pleasure. Today no materialistic things allure me.” “At a younger age I thought earthly pleasures were more important, I thought making more money, was a pleasurable thing. Yes, I’ve achieved detachment from earthly pleasures after my association with my guru.”
The Guru as Performance Enabler: builder of confidence and self belief, giver of courage, empowerer of goals. “When I go to Baba in the morning, I feel I have shed off all my fears and insecurities and then I’m like a free bird to conduct my level best during the day.” “He empowers me in a way…Certain things that I cannot do, he makes me able enough to do”. “I never knew all the things I could do. I never used to think I could go on stage and talk. We have never been trained for all that…This is not something I believed I could do.” “We put limitations in our mind…but this becomes a limitless thing…you can do whatever.” “I do more and much more than a normal person would do. I do so much now.”
The Guru as Parent, giver of unconditional love: “He loves us, in spite of all our faults, in spite of the things he tells us to do and we don’t…we are not able to do…some people don’t even try. For me that is the greatest love.” “Guruji loves everyone. It’s unconditional love. It’s not like he loves you more or me more, his love is for everybody and its equal.” “It’s like a mother and child relationship” “I have felt that every relationship in life is a give and take. For him, its only give. ”
The Guru as Relationship Therapist: helps maintain relationships, accept people as they are, say the right thing at the right time, and face unfriendly situations politely. “Definitely, my attitude has changed. Within my relatives, I used to be a very arrogant person before becoming a Sai devotee… but now even they say that I have changed.” “He, by giving so much advice regarding behaviour of human beings, he gives us a different outlook in us by which we see other people totally differently.” “I used to expect a lot from a relationship…since I used to give in a 100% in my relationship, my expectations were very high, which now I have learnt to let go.” “Even when people behave in an erratic manner which is not acceptable to you, instead of getting upset, I sympathize and I try to guide them, counsel them, reform them. And that improves the relationship and my credibility also goes up.”
The Guru as proponent of Social Responsibility: brings out kindness and compassion. “I’ve been attracted to the service side… as it makes me feel good when I help someone out. The thing that I liked about this organization is that there isn’t much money involved… It’s more about personal involvement.” “In Puttaparthi… I was surprised to see, many of them… For example a scientist, a professor and a big organization’s head, who liked to serve in the canteen. ” “Sometimes we just live in our circle and what we can do for our children and what we can do for ourselves. He makes you get out of the comfort zone. Move out of your comfort zone and just go and do.” “There are other ways to help out. I want to do new things to help… It was there in me before, but it was in different style. Mostly in trying to show off to people, to make money or something like that. But now it’s mostly social work.”
And finally, the Guru as Catalyst of Self Actualisation: inner growth, learning that obstacles are stepping stones .“I have learnt to live with less expectations. Guruji says no expectations because expectations bring sorrow, no expectations bring joy. “ “I would rather be at peace with myself…connecting to god. There are times at night, when there are so many thought provoking things, now I’ve learnt to switch off.” “I feel that life is not only this…there’s something beyond.” “Life is about growth of your own self also.” “The stronger you become, the tougher lessons come in life. “Now I am trying to rise myself to a higher plane. ““Pleasure is inner happiness of mind, that is peace.”
Guru seekers are therefore in essence, solution seekers (Maslow’s safety – not necessarily physiological but mental and emotional), performance seekers (Maslow’s esteem), parent seekers (Maslow’s love and belonging) and inner peace seekers (Maslow’s self actualisation).