Guru Seva

Swami Gaurishankara Saraswati

A guru can draw people to him from all parts of the world. Those who come to see Swami Satyananda at the Bihar School of Yoga may have different backgrounds, needs and desires, but the one thing they all have in common is their attraction to the guru. Swamiji does not call these people to him because he wants something from them, rather he has something to give to them- a teaching, an experience, some work, a mantra, a cure, a realisation, some advice or warning.

Often these people bring gifts for Swamiji, ranging from a land contract, a year's supply of coal, large sums of money, to fruit, a box of incense, sweets or a flower. But the greatest gift of all is complete surrender and service to the guru.

Serving the guru is really renouncing all personal ambitions and desires for success and achievement. Guru seva, service to the guru, requires surrender. To be good servants we must put our lives into the hands of the guru, knowing that he will direct us more positively and beneficially; not only for our own sake but for the good of the world in general.

We may serve the guru in various ways on different levels. By becoming a disciple, one can devote his life to the continuation of the guru's work. Usually a disciple will live with the guru and go through a period of training which involves service to the guru in the form of karma yoga. If the disciple practices karma yoga (selfless work) with bhakti yoga (complete devotion) in each and every action, his spiritual development will be rapid. While serving the guru the disciple's personal ego decreases, bringing him closer to the guru, his object of devotion.

Visitors to the Bihar School of Yoga are often amazed at how hard the sannyasins work. Being happy to serve their guru, they are able to work long hours maintaining cheerfulness and good health. They work with devotion and their energies are all directed to the guru and yoga rather than to personal achievements. This service to the guru constitutes the main part of a disciple's training program.

Because the guru can't physically be everywhere at once, he trains disciples to be suitable vehicles for carrying on his work. The guru accepts everybody who accepts him and specifies no particular qualifications for discipleship. He accepts all, with their positive and negative personality factors. Then, like a sculptor, he smooths their rough edges and carves each one into a beautiful masterpiece.

Sometimes the guru transforms a disciple so subtly that the disciple is not directly aware of it. Disciples learn from what the guru tells them, but mostly they learn from a realisation or an intuitive awareness. So it is not necessary to always be by the guru's side to receive his love and training. In fact, it usually works the other way around. Simply by doing their work with awareness and devotion, disciples find themselves in situations which will most rapidly accelerate their spiritual growth. But those who are unable to maintain awareness or watch their reactions, miss the lessons they should be learning. Then similar situations arise until the disciple has learned the best way to deal with them. The disciple's strength to handle whatever situation comes his way arises from one-pointed adherence to his goal and magnification of his positive qualities. The most important thing the guru teaches is that we can do anything, providing we have developed faith and a positive attitude.

One does not have to become a sannyasin to serve the guru. There are many ways in which a householder disciple may be of service. One only requires complete faith and trust in the guru to be of service to him. It is not that the guru needs any help. Accepting service is actually a way by which the guru helps his devotees. This service is karma yoga, and the faith and devotion are bhakti yoga. The combination of these two yogic paths is like an express road to spiritual awareness and development.

If you are unable to serve your guru as a disciple, be assured that there are many ways in which you can still be working for him. In your profession you can work towards perfection and being positively occupied without any desire for praise and rewards. Work is an important part of sadhana. Whatever your position, you must realise that you are there for some positive reason. If you look carefully you will see that through this work there is a way of serving your guru.

Many people find that their work brings them into contact with those who have a great need for yoga and can therefore refer them to a yoga teacher or introduce them to a particularly beneficial yogic technique. Some householder devotees have started to conduct yoga classes themselves or have been able to offer premises where yoga classes can be conducted. Others have organised seminars or lectures, donated money or useful items to the ashram, secured an outlet for the sale of publications on yoga - all in service of the guru.

Those who feel that they have limited time or opportunity to serve their guru in daily life should come to one of the many BSY affiliated ashrams whenever they have a few days or weeks to spare. There they can serve the guru directly by becoming involved in the ashram's karma yoga activities.

Through writing an article for Yoga magazine you will also be doing a service for the guru as you will be helping him to spread the message of yoga from shore to shore and from door to door.

The happiest people in the world are those who understand the grand plan of destiny. They know that experience is the purpose for our being here in this earth school and that happiness is a by-product, never an end in itself. To actively seek happiness is like a child seeking a dancing sunbeam. It closes its hand eagerly on the lovely shining thing but opens it to find nothing there. Whereas if we set about our work and give it all we've got, the warmth of the sun steals gently over us - and lo! happiness has come.

All those who think of the guru are blessed by his protective guidance and inspiration. One has only to think of him in moments of joy, sorrow, illness or confusion, and he is there. Think of the guru and he thinks of you.