Your Guru will come when the rains in thy life have passed away. He will come when you are all alone, none within thee!
Swami Satyananda Saraswati
In the opening verse of the 'Avadhoota Gita' it is said that it is by God's grace alone that wise men obtain the desire to realise the non-dual Brahman, and thus be saved from great tears, but where does God end and Guru begin? Where does Guru end and disciple begin? I still have the first letter I received from Swamiji five years ago in reply to a 'desperate' letter I had written describing what I, back then, thought to be an insurmountable problem. He wrote, 'Your duty is to fulfil the promise you gave to yourself when you decided to tread this path' a quite unpredictable answer according to my conditioned way of thinking. I thought that once you live like a sannyasin, Guru will always externally tell you what to do and what not to do, deciding for you, living your life for you, in a way. Well, I was wrong.
For quite some time he never ceased to surprise me with his answers. When I first met him I said to him; 'Swamiji, frankly, I have come to see whether you are my Guru'. As he came up with, 'Who is the Guru and who is the disciple?' I was bewildered, but when he added, 'Well, if that's what you feel in your heart then it is so!', my mind and heart went to the right place and have stayed there ever since. At another point, in a Satsang I was transcribing, in response to people thanking him he said, 'There is no need to thank me, but if you really want to, then learn to live with yourself'. So it was due to him that I seriously started to question my already existing concepts and understanding of spirituality, sannyasa and other basic facts of life.
We have come to Swamiji as his first formal batch of sannyasin disciples - each like Arjuna before the battle at Kurukshetra (well, in my case, all the symptoms were there - hair standing up and everything) and before Krishna has had a chance to explain to him a few things about life. Acting our own little parts in the divine play, we represent the link between the old generations of BSY sannyasins and the new ones to come.
On our initiation day Swamiji told us, 'I can't tell you how happy I am today! You are the first sannyasins of the 21st century, with a new vision and new ideals to realise'. But this can only be so under Swamiji's close guidance, first to discipleship and then to sannyasa, to the path of losing the self and finding the Self, ultimately being able to stand on our own two feet. Until we reach that stage he will be the centre of our life, inner and outer, dedicating everything we do or do not do, think or not think, feel or not feel to him, in an act of service.
To understand someone one has to become that person. I certainly cannot claim to understand even a part of Swamiji. Since people like to compare they say Swamiji is like Paramahamsaji, like Swami Sivanandaji, Shankaracharya, Krishna and so on. To me, Swamiji is just Swamiji, as he is and seems to be: sometimes serious and stern, at other times playful like a little boy, sometimes formal and 'Guru-like' indifferent, angry or compassionate or even just 'a nice guy', but always 'Niranjan' - 'The Untainted'. Because although be can be 'the player of a thousand parts' he is pure and unchanging. And as much as it is difficult to tell where Swami Sivanandaji ends and where Swami Satyanandaji begins, or where Swami Satyanandaji ends and Swamiji begins, each one of them stands alone, complete in himself, radiating the inner wisdom and light, each in his own magnificent way ordained by Dharma.
We, his aspiring disciples, have come to him seeing and recognising in him our own forgotten Self. Just like Plato once said that external objects remind our soul of the absolute states of purity, beauty etc., once experienced, in the same way Swamiji is the projection of that absolute state of untainted freedom and our soul recognises this.
All that stands in our way is our ego. Each Guru has different methods of 'egodectomy'. Swamiji's approach is (most of the time) artistic and playful, A 'master sculptor' supporting with one hand while striking the blows with the other, visualising the result before he starts the 'ego-work', paying attention to detail, all in an act of meditative awareness. In this way, by constant chips and blows the potential which lies within manifests itself, and although it may be an 'extremely painful process', something within compels one towards implicit trust.
Once Swamiji was asked whether the Guru chooses the disciple or the disciple the Guru. His answer was, 'You can't clap with one hand! It has to be mutual'. This has also been our experience with him. However, the knowledge or the wisdom - as Swamiji would say - of the laws governing the Guru-Disciple relationship is only gradually being revealed, and only by His grace.
Many more people will come to Swamiji, laying down their arms of ego, to learn from him the secrets of life and flower into their own selves, but one should not embrace this life solely due to an emotional outburst or plain intellectual attraction. Whoever comes to him to know the inner secrets of life and follow the path of sannyasa must be prepared to accept the other and not readily obvious side of him - the destroyer - and be ready to take the blows, the kicks, the storms, the scathing winds and the frozen gusts, the long nights, when everything is dark, lonely, doubtful, fearsome, depressing and desperate, the sheer pain of shedding old patterns of thinking, feeling and acting, and of separation from God and Guru that one may meet on the way to discipleship and sannyasa.
Swamiji will always be there, waiting at every crossroad, probably with a joke, to help you reorient yourself. And only as one comes closer to one's inner core and to tuning in with him will he appear as 'the Guru' and gently raise one to the next step, each time making one aware of another bit of the puzzle we call reality.
Because he has the inherent gift of inspiration to lead his sannyasin disciples along the path to freedom and send them out as his messengers he will be in each one of them as the inspiration, the force and the Spirit!