The Ideal Disciple

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

In the Mahabharata we have the story of Eklavya and Guru Drona. That is an example of an ideal disciple, one who can, without question surrender himself completely to the will of guru, realising that the will of God flows through him. He is the transmitter and we are the receiver. When Dronacharya asked Eklavya to cut off his thumb, he did it without questioning at all. If you or I had been in his place, what would we have done? We would have said, 'This guru is cracked!'

In the Tibetan tradition we have the example of Marpa and Milarepa. If Milarepa would not have obeyed Marpa's instructions to build several stone houses, one after another, on the side of a mountain, and if he would not have accepted with total humility all the abuses which Marpa heaped upon him, then he would not have changed. Many gurus have come and gone in this world, but few are outstanding. Milarepa became one of them, because he was an ideal disciple, and the ideal disciple later on becomes the ideal guru.

The link between guru and disciple is not physical or external. It is an internal link which is beyond the limitations and concept of time and space. In the book 'Autobiography of a Yogi', there is a passage which describes Paramahamsa Yogananda's experience at the time of his guru's death. When his guru was dying, he was not in India, and by the time he returned, his guru had already expired. Paramahamsa Yogananda was staying at a hotel in Bombay when he heard that his guru had expired. The same night he had a vision of his guru. He saw him in flesh and blood, he touched him and spoke with him. That is the type of relationship a disciple has with a guru, and tenses and time do not really matter.

This relationship only comes when you surrender yourself completely, not only in things that you like, but also in things that you dislike. If you go with the guru to a hotel and have good food, you say, 'Oh yes, this guru is very nice'. You wish to have good food, so you have it with the guru. Why? Because the guru also is having it, so why not I? But if the guru decides to drink molten glass, would you also drink it? Your guru is drinking it, why not you?

At the time of like and dislike, where dots that feeling of oneness come from and go away to? We tend to accept the guru in the idea or the image that we have created. That is how he should be for us. But a real disciple and a real guru are able to recognise every type of quality in each other, and be one in every thought, no matter whether they are near or far. So, if you have that type of relationship, then you are the ideal disciple.