Spiritual Guidance

A discussion with Swami Satyananda Saraswati on guru and disciple

What are the deeper aspects of the guru/disciple relationship?

Mother and daughter, father and son, brother and sister, husband and wife - these are the social relationships through which individuals are bound to each other. By virtue of a relationship you cherish someone or something in your life - a husband cherishes his wife, a mother her child, you cherish money and so many other things. The relationship between guru and disciple, however, is the closest of all relationships, with one great difference - it has no carnality. It is not based on physical or emotional attachment. It is not a blood relationship or one of worldly love. Between guru and disciple there is a spiritual relationship only.

When guru and disciple are connected with each other on the spiritual plane, much of the disciple's karma can be assimilated by the guru. If the guru is highly evolved, he takes the karma of his disciple but he does not suffer; he just throws it away. This is only possible, however, when there is perfect communion between guru and disciple on the spiritual plane, not on the physical or emotional planes, This means that while sitting for meditation with the eyes closed, you forget the whole world and everything, except for the guru who is always there in front of you - that is communion on the spiritual plane. When I close my eyes I see my guru. If this is the depth of the relationship between you and your guru, then you can get anything from him - nothing is impossible. Maybe you can even become greater than your guru, but this is not easy. There are so many barriers between me and my guru, between 'me' and God, and these barriers are so high, so strong, that a disciple can't break them. That is why the guru and disciple behave as two and not as one - there is a duality. You have your own personality, limitations, passions, pride, ignorance. You are also not sure of your guru and your relationship with him; maybe he is not so highly evolved after all. You understand the purpose and the meaning of the relationship, but still you have so many doubts; you are not convinced about him. So what happens, even though intellectually you understand everything, on a practical level, the union, the communion does not take place. Where do guru and disciple unite? Not on a physical, emotional or mental plane, they unite in total darkness, when everything is finished, in the innermost chamber where everything is dead. There you do not hear a found or see any form or vision. You are aware of nothing but the guru, shining like a lofty light. That is how the guru and disciple must commune with each other. If I am your guru, it is not necessary for you to say, ‘He is my guru; he is so fantastic’. We are one; praises are for worldly people, not for us. The guru/disciple relationship is also very secret and absolutely personal. Without a guru, the disciple can go astray and without a disciple the guru can also go astray.

How is the guru/disciple relationship formed?

In deciding one's spiritual relationship with guru, one's eternal relationship with the supreme being, absolute sincerity and devotion are required. When you enter into a relationship with the guru, it is very important that he should be able to handle you without any difficulty. So the disciple could be compared with a pet dog. Of course, the necessity of the guru in teaching yoga or meditation is always there, but in forming the guru/disciple relationship on a practical level, it is the guru's knowledge, experience and ability to direct the awareness of the disciple that are important. For that purpose, gurus give some different sorts of exercises to check up where the disciple's awareness is responding.

If the disciple does not respond to the guru's hints, instructions, suggestions or inspiration on this ordinary intellectual level, then how can the guru direct him in that higher realm? If the guru is not able to direct his disciple's conscious thinking, how can he direct his dreams? Guru should be able to influence and direct his disciple's mind in any direction - right, left, front, back, up, down, into the ditch, onto the mountain, into the river, into the fire, into the water. And the disciple says "Take my life and let it be". That is the concept of guru/disciple relationship.

What is the link between guru and disciple?

I have lived very independent life always, and have had no personal or intimate connections with anything, neither individuals nor objects. I never surrendered my loyalty to anything, but there is one person in my life who has permeated my consciousness through and through, and this is my guru. Not that I wanted it, no, but somehow this happened. Love is intense awareness, total awareness, non-dual awareness of one person, but in my case this did not happen. I never thought much about my guru, but in my final analysis I realized that he loved me and always thought about me. Even when he entered mahasamadhi and freed himself from his mortal frame, he became so much aware of me that, wantingly or unwantingly, I had to work. When a guru loves his disciple, he is always aware of him, always thinking about him, and he suffers from disciple neurosis. When the disciple loves the guru so much that he can think of nothing else, he has a guru neurosis. This is a strong form of shakti. In the Ramayana there is a story about a ten-headed monster, Ravana, who was Sri Rama's rank enemy. Later on he became his greatest devotee because he thought about him day and night. There are positive and negative aspects of love. Awareness is love. If you are aware of guru all the time, you love him and this is a powerful link.

What does it mean to surrender to a guru?

In Sanskrit the word for surrender is samarpan which means giving oneself as an offering. When you go to guru, you offer yourself to him, but what do you offer? After all, guru is not a king to whom you offer yourself in the form of a fruit! Surrender to the guru means complete unity and communion with him. When you are aware of guru and remember him from minute to minute, you are surrendering. Every time the thought of guru comes, you give your mind completely to it, like when you remember your own child or dear mother. That is the meaning of samarpan.

In the Upanishads there is a story about a king and a rishi (Janaka and Yagyavalkya). When the rishi came to the royal court, the king asked what he could offer him.

- Whatever is your own, was the rishi's reply.

- Very well, said the king, I offer you ten thousand cows.

- But they are not yours, said the rishi, they belong to your empire. I will only accept something which is your own.

- Then I will offer you one of my sons, said the king.

- Your son is also not your own, replied the rishi.

The discussion continued, the sadhu declining all the king's offerings on the grounds that he did not really own them.

- Alright, said the king at last, I offer myself.

- What do you mean by that? asked the rishi. Who are you?

- Then I will give you my mind, said the king after some deep thought, that is my own.

Still the rishi was not satisfied.

- If you give me your mind, he said, you have to stop thinking. Are you prepared to do that?

- Can't I even give you my mind? asked the king.

- No, replied the rishi, if you give your mind to someone, it means that you will think of that person and nothing else unless it is specifically permitted by him. What is the point of giving away five hundred rupees and then spending them on yourself?

So the rishi left the court and returned after a few months.

- Tell me honestly and seriously, he said to the king, whether you are now ready to give me your mind. I don't want about your property, your empire, your queen or your children.

- No I'm not ready yet, replied the king.

So the rishi went away and came back a third time. During his absence the emperor had prepared his mind through yoga.

- I will try to offer you my mind this time, he said, if i fail, forgive me.

The rishi accepted the king as his disciple and from that day on the king's mind stopped thinking about everything except his guru. He spent his time quietly in meditation and became a jivanmukta. He did not eat, move or discharge his duties.

The people brought this report to the guru who called the king.

- Now it is time for you to get back to the business of ruling the kingdom, he said, this is my order.

That is the concept of surrender - you give your limited self away and receive it back again in fullness. Surrenders not giving up your freedom but receiving freedom, like the king. It is not a matter of prostrating yourself before the guru and saying, 'Guruji, I am here- protect me, take me in'. How can he take you in, and how can you go in? It is a hard psychic process, but if you want to make quick progress on the spiritual path, surrender is a must. Once the guru has adequate control over your mind and psyche, he will make you spiritually powerful.

Surrender is a natural urge in man. When the Surrender is complete, your thoughts are one with the thoughts of the guru, then every word that he speaks conies true in your life. This I know from my own experience. If the disciple is disobedient and obstinate with a personality of his own, though this may be a good thing in its own right, the guru's words will not come true for him - this is the psychic law. When the disciple has completely surrendered and his mind is connected with the guru's mind, he is not only guided in conscious moments but also during meditation. In certain stages of meditation there is darkness, a valley through which the disciple is unable to pass, but the voice of the guru carries him beyond it. If he cannot obey the guru on the conscious plane, he certainly cannot do so on the unconscious plane. When commands from the guru are received on the unconscious plane, even if the disciple is told to perform the most difficult action, he is able to carry it out if the unconscious mind is obedient to the guru. The purpose of surrender is to become an efficient instrument of the guru on all levels. If the disciple's surrender is complete, when the guru tells him, 'This will happen through you', it happens. The guru can work wonders through the disciple who surrendered.