Divine Contract

Swami Atmananda Saraswati

The bond between guru and disciple cannot be compared to any other human relationship. Father and daughter, mother and son, husband and wife, lovers, brothers and friends: all love with a reason, a motive or a desire. But guru and disciple are welded together by a divine affection which is not subject to drifts of emotion or doubts of the mind. They are beyond the formalities that the world lives by. Their relationship takes place on a higher spiritual plane.

The guru chooses his disciple with great care, for he takes as his own only those whose hearts are pure. His ways are mysterious, but there is great meaning behind them.

When Guru Ramdas was preparing to die, he wanted to see the mind of his disciples to find the one upon whom to confer his powers. One day he was passing a sweet-shop and he stopped to purchase some jalebis. His disciples were following behind, and they too began to savour the delicacies in the shop. Guru Ramdas smiled to himself. He next took them to a wine-store and began tasting the different liquors. The disciples said to each other, "We must sacrifice our principles and follow his example, for our guru's sake." To show their devotion they shared a bottle of wine between themselves. Guru Ramdas visited a prostitute's house; he ate chicken, drank bhang, and all the devotees proved their obedience by following his example without hesitation.

It was time for the final test. Guru Ramdas took them to a glass factory and began drinking boiling liquid glass as if it were water. The disciples stepped back, horrified, "Our Guruji cannot be in his senses", they murmured. "He will scald his throat and die - and so shall we if we do likewise."

But one disciple cried, "When Guruji offered you sweetmeats you accepted them, but now in the face of danger we all desert him. Guruji, let me die with you, for I cannot bear to live in this world without you." He swallowed a draught of liquid glass - and with that he instantly attained samadhi, and Guru Ramdas left his body.

In the beginning the disciple may be disturbed by the guru's unorthodox behaviour, but once the guru-disciple relationship is cemented, the disciple has to accept the rough with the smooth, and the blame with the praise. Whether the guru loves him or insults him, his mind should be as unswerving as the mother who has given birth to a girl and never wishes it had been a boy. If the disciple is wise he quickly realises that whatever the guru may do, it is only for the good, and his doubts give way to implicit trust.

There was a boy who was destined to die from a snakebite, and his guru knew it. The disciple used to accompany his master on his travels, and one night they had to pass through the jungle. The boy felt tired, and lay down to rest beneath a tree. The master sat beside him, alert to the dangers that surrounded them. When the disciple was sleeping the guru saw the king of snakes approaching the boy's head. He commanded him to stop, and asked from which part of the boy's body he was destined to take blood. The snake replied, from the throat. So the saint took his knife and gently made a small slit in the disciple's neck. He gave the blood to the snake, who retreated, satisfied, back into the jungle.

When the boy had felt the knife on his throat he had opened his eyes, but on seeing the knife was held by his beloved guru, he closed his eyes again and went back to sleep. The guru woke him and asked: "Why did you open your eyes? And why did you close them again?"

The boy replied: "I opened my eyes because I felt a knife on my throat and I thought that someone wanted to kill me. I closed them again because I saw you, and I know that you would never harm me."

The true guru is as rare as the true disciple. The spiritual aspirant should not look for a gracious smile and eloquent words, nor should he be impressed by the guru who meditates in padmasana for hours together, chanting aum in a sonorous voice, his physique resplendent, his neck embellished with malas and his head adorned with an extravagant turban. The guru can be dirty. He can be ugly. He can be a cripple. But no problem should confound him, whether it be social, political or spiritual. His brain should be able to tackle the source of any conflict and prescribe the cure. No task, however menial, should be degrading to him, yet his hands should master the most complex skill with effortless ease. His knowledge should be so vast and his wisdom so deep that psychologist, scientist and critic will find ineffable truth in his words, while even the child's innocent questions will be replied with sincerity and understanding. He should be as indifferent to flattery as the ocean to a scurry of rain. If he is abused in public, no sign of sorrow or annoyance should cloud his expression, and he should be able to sit before an audience of beautiful women without any lustful thought spoiling his mind. He should have the power to mould his devotee into a greater saint than he is himself, and the desire to remain hidden behind a veil of anonymity in order to enhance the fame of his disciples. That is the behaviour of the man who has balance of mind.

The unity that grows between guru and disciple is so unfailing that the guru can kick his disciple out of the front gate because he knows he will immediately appear at the back door. Similarly, the disciple can abuse his guru with frank hostility if he chooses, for the guru is his own and he adores him. Despite the stature of the guru and the humility of the disciple they can confront each other without formality. Freedom in speech and behaviour is the vehicle by which they reveal, one to the other, their thoughts and feelings. Whether the disciple scolds the guru or the guru scolds the disciple it is of little consequence, for there is no difference between them, and each may just as well be abusing his own self.

My guru has never spared the rod and spoilt me with praise. Many times he has beaten me in public, sometimes for mistakes, sometimes for no apparent reason at all. But his harsh words have made me tough. If he threatens me he is challenging my weak mind, if he beats me he is breaking my inflexible will, and if he kicks me he is clearing away the ignorance that blinds my vision. Once my guru hit me 'till I lay face down in the mud crying, but I saw tears in his eyes, for in punishing me he suffered more than I did.

The guru should be kept inside, for closeness to the guru is spiritual, not physical. It is not necessary for the disciple to live with the guru to be close to him. The greater the physical distance between them, the more faith, devotion and love inspire the disciple. He who lives on the banks of the Ganges rarely thinks of bathing in her, but he who lives far away dreams of having that opportunity. The disciple who always sits in the presence of the guru is blinded by Immortal form, but from a distance the guru's essence shines in meditation, and their souls meet in a mystic embrace.

In many silent and unknown ways my guru has saved and supported me at uncertain moments of my life. It was my guru's blessings that protected me when I lived for six years in a troubled city amidst violence and gunfire. While homes all around were gutted by bombs and even the walls of my ashram were pierced by bullets, the house remained safe.

When I first came to my guru I was a foolish young girl, drawn by an undefined attraction and a simple desire to be near him. I used to sit in his class and chant aum louder and longer than everyone else to make him notice me, and I followed him from town to town on his travels. But although I loved him, I hated the idea of becoming a sannyasin. By force my guru dyed my clothes orange and shaved my head. My resistance was feeble when confronted by the power of his loving will.

My guru can do what he likes with me, for I am his. My only sadhana and my only resolve are to obey him more. I do not care whether he loves me or not, whether he blesses me or not. I pray that he abuses me, hurts me and rejects me. Only I want him in my heart. He is my mother, father, husband and companion. I do not need to massage his feet or sing his name aloud to prove my devotion, for I have kept him inside and closed my ears, eyes, nose and mouth so tightly that he cannot escape, nor can anyone else get in.

Guruji, I pray that I may be reborn in every species and every form to serve and repay you, for this lifetime is not sufficient.