Obedience to Guru

Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Obedience to guru is better than reverence. Obedience is a precious virtue, because if you try to develop obedience, the ego which is the arch enemy on the path to self-realisation, is rooted out. Only the disciple who obeys his guru can have command over his lower self. Obedience should he very practical, whole hearted and actively persevering. True obedience to guru neither procrastinates nor questions. A hypocritical disciple obeys his guru from fear. The true disciple obeys his guru with pure love, for love's sake.

Learn how to obey, then only can you command. Learn to be a disciple, then only can you become a guru. Give up the delusive notion that to submit to the preceptor, to obey him, and to carry out his instructions is slavish mentality. The ignorant man thinks that it is beneath his dignity and against his freedom to submit to another man's command. This is a grave blunder. If you reflect carefully, you will see that your individual freedom is, in reality, an absolutely abject slavery to your own ego and vanity. It is the vagaries of the sensual mind.

He who attains victory over the mind and the ego is the truly free man. He is the hero. It is to attain this victory that man submits to the higher spiritualized personality of the guru. By his submission, he vanquishes his lower ego and realises the bliss of infinite consciousness. The disciple who has faith in the guru argues not, thinks not, reasons not and cognates not. He simply obeys and obeys and obeys. This is the path of the disciple.

Happy-go-lucky disciples

The spiritual path is not like writing a thesis for the Master of Arts degree. It is quite a different line altogether. The help of a teacher is necessary at every moment. Young aspirants become self-sufficient, arrogant, and self-assertive these days. They do not want to carry out the orders of the guru. They do not wish to have a guru. They want to be independent from the very beginning. They think they are in the turiya avastha when they don't even know the ABC of spirituality or truth.

Such disciples mistake licentiousness or having their own sweet way for freedom. This is a serious, lamentable mistake. That is the reason why they do not grow. They lose their faith in the efficacy of sadhana and in the existence of God. They wander about in a happy-go-lucky manner, without any aim, from Kashmir to Gangotri, and from Gangotri to Rameswaram, talking some nonsense on the way, something from Vichara Sagara, something from Panchadasi, and posing as jivanmuktas.

If you want to drink water at the tap, you will have to bend yourself. Even so, if you want to drink the spiritual nectar of immortality which flows from the holy lips of the guru, you will have to be an embodiment of humility and obedience. Before desiring the grace of the master, the disciple should deserve it. Divine grace comes only when the disciple is fit to receive it.

Guru tests

The disciple can imbibe spiritual knowledge and power from his guru only in proportion to his faith and obedience. The guru communicates the secret knowledge to his disciples only after repeated testing. In the days of yore, the tests were very severe.

Once Guru Govind Singh tested his students. He said, 'My dear disciples, if you have real devotion for me, let six of you come forward and give me your heads. Then we can have success in our attempt'. Two faithful disciples offered their heads. Guru Govind Singh took them inside the camp and cut off the heads of two goats instead. The guru tests the disciples in various ways. So one misunderstand him and lose faith, hence they are not benefited.

Surrender and grace

The grace of the guru descends upon those who are utterly faithful and obedient to him. Faith is confidence and trust in the guru. Faith is firm conviction of the truth declared by the guru either by way of testimony or authority, without any other evidence or proof. The disciple who has faith in the guru is able to surrender himself totally. The disciple's self-surrender to the guru and the guru's grace are both interrelated. Surrender draws down the grace and the grace of the guru makes the surrender complete and perfect.

The grace of the guru works in the form of spiritual practice in the disciple. If the disciple sticks to the path with tenacity, this is the grace of the guru. If he resists temptation when it assails him, this is the grace of the guru. If people receive him with love and reverence, this is the grace of the guru. If he gets all bodily wants, this is the grace of the guru. If he gets encouragement and strength when he is in despair, this is the grace of the guru. If he transcends body consciousness and rests in his own Self, this is the grace of the guru. The disciple must feel his grace at every step and be sincere and obedient to him.