शरीरं सुरुपं तथा वा कलत्रं
यशश्चारू चित्रं धनं मेरुतुल्यम् |
मनश्चेन्न लग्नं गुरोरंघ्रिपद्मे
ततः किं ततः किं ततः किं ततः किम् ||
One may have physical beauty, a beautiful spouse, fame & renown and wealth as high as the mount Meru. However if the mind is not fixed upon the lotus like feet of the Guru, there is no use for all the other attainments. This verse is the opening of the Guru Ashtakam, hymn in praise of the Guru composed by Adi Shankaracharya, a towering figure in the spiritual history of this land.
In this country, we have spent thousands of years trying to find ways to accelerate the evolution of human consciousness. Every small and big act was designed to shift the consciousness upward towards the divine. However due to recurring invasions and foreign occupations over the last few hundred years, this cultural link was broken leading to only symbolic remnants of a powerful way of life. One of these remnants is the act of touching the feet of elders. We do this as a symbolic gesture of our respect for age & seniority. There is actually a very esoteric reason for this practice which is not known to most of us now.
At the surface level the act of touching the Guru’s feet symbolises the giving up of one’s ego and seeking refuge. In reality the deep yogic reason is that shakti flows outward from the feet of the Guru and the disciple can access this by touching them. However just like the mouth of pot needs to be open to be receptive to rain, the disciple needs to be ready to accept the flow of energy from the Guru. I have had personal experience of this with my Guru. When I first met him, I did a sashtanga namaskara and touched his feet. Afterwards the next day, I had an intense experience which to this day is etched in my memory.
The term sharanagati is often talked about as essential for spiritual progress. The word sharan can be loosely translated as refuge. However if we look deeper sharan is actually charan which means feet in Hindi. Gati means movement or speed. So speed in spiritual growth happens through feet of the Guru. Even our scriptures state that all the pilgrimages and divine beings reside in the Guru’s feet.
To the modern mind conditioned with reason & logic all this may seem airy fairy hogwash. I myself refused to have anything to do with religion and spirituality till a couple of years back. However, now that I have experienced a glimpse of the divine bliss firsthand, I will be the first one to acknowledge the limitations of the way of the intellect. Sharanagati cannot happen if doubt is there. It is a catch-22. To have experiences one needs to have faith and to develop faith one needs to have experiences.