Master and Servant

Paramahamsa Niranjanananda, Satsang at Ganga Darshan 28/7/94

Paramahamsaji said during darshan that the relation between God and man is that of master and servant. We can relate this to the guru disciple relationship. Please enlarge on the concept of master and servant in our ashram and spiritual life?

It is not right to speak of a master and servant relationship in the context of an ashram environment or in the context of a guru/disciple relationship. Generally, because of our intellectual understanding, the idea of master and servant creates an image in our mind that is not applicable here. In an ashram the energy can be that of the guru, but the feeling and environment has to be that of a co-creator where everyone has the same status and is expected to fulfil the duties of a co-creator. I can't manage the ashram by myself. It is all of us together who manage the ashram and create the atmosphere. It is the cooperation, good will and open communication between us that helps to maintain the ashram.

At a spiritual level, the energy of the guru is the point of focus for all of us in an ashram. We focus our energy there. Paramahamsaji may focus his energy and derive his energy from his guru, Swami Sivananda. We may focus our energy and derive our energy from our guru, Swami Satyananda. My disciples may focus their energy and derive their energy from me. After all everyone needs to focus and derive their energy from some point. That focusing and pulling of energy happens at a psychic and spiritual level. It is the affair of every individual, but in an ashram environment we are all co-creators and are equally important, there is no distinction.

Guru/disciple relationship

The relationship between guru and disciple is always one of the heart. The heart has to experience the relationship, not the mind. This is one thing you have to learn, either as a guru or as a disciple. Do not allow the mind stuff to percolate down to the heart because if it does there will be a mess. Do not allow the heart stuff to affect the normal functioning of the mind because if it does then again there will be another mess.

We have to make a conscious effort to retain the experiences of the head in the head, and the experiences of the heart in the heart. In the external communication and lifestyle, use the faculties of the head. In the spiritual environment, in the relationship between guru and disciple, use the faculties of the heart. This is the testing ground and training ground of every disciple and guru, of a disciple who becomes a guru. 'We have to identify with the purity of the heart and not with the complexity of the mind, Both have their roles and both have to be worked out at their own levels.

Now when we are able to have a clean head and a clean heart then a state of union is experienced between guru and disciple. Externally I may be a servant to my guru, following his commands and using my creativity to fulfil those commands that I receive. Mentally my guru is my friend who guides me, with whom I relate at an intellectual level, at an emotional level, at the level of feelings, at the level of faith, at the level of trust, at the level of conviction. He or she is definitely my friend. Spiritually there is no difference between guru and disciple - they are one. There is no difference between me and my guru - we are one. These are the areas of experience that can happen in the life of a person. If you are relating to your guru externally then let him be the ruthless master and you be the obedient servant. If you identify with the guru at a subtle level, let him be your most intimate and close friend who guides you every step of the way, with feelings similar to those that exist between friends. And if you can identify in a deeper spiritual way then let there be no difference between you and the guru.

Merger of spirit

But please remember you have to develop the awareness to be able to identify with the guru at different levels. It doesn't mean that you start thinking, "I am Swami Satyananda", and start behaving idiotically. The feeling has to be there, that oneness has to be there. You can't say, "We are one," and maintain the same idiosyncrasies of mind and behave differently.

What happens when two flames merge and become one? There is no difference. So there is no difference when one spirit merges with the other one. Then individuality is lost; I become the guru, the guru becomes me. I experience the same condition and state as the guru, and the guru experiences the same condition and state as me. This is the most difficult part, but definitely we can begin to accept the relationship at a subtle level as one of friendship. Then it becomes more fulfilling and more enriching.

Now, when this merger, this union is taking place, whether it is between disciple and guru or between a person and God, then you have to remember that although the spirit has become one, the bodies are different. You may begin to experience the divine spirit, but still you are subject to the laws and karmas of your physical body and the mind which is manifesting in that body. Despite your best efforts the body will need to fulfil the karmas, the mind will need to fulfil its role in life. Even self-realised beings have the need to eat and to sleep, the need to sometimes give vent to their mental expressions, sometimes in isolation, in solitude, sometimes in public. Sometimes the mind has to follow its Own nature and karma.

So it is at this time that the concept of master and servant comes automatically and spontaneously into the life of a person who is an evolved being. Master here means the spirit with which we have united ourselves and which continues to guide our destiny, the person who has the larger picture, the vision of what is going to take place. This body has its limitations. This mind which has its limitations follows the will of the spirit. This is the concept of "Let thy will be done."

Two points are implied here. Firstly, I am aware of thy will, I have come to know what your will is and I accept the concept of "Let thy will be done" because I have nothing to say in relation to it. There is an implication that I am in tune with the divine will, that at least I have some concept of it. If I say, "Let thy will be done," will I just be rambling without any concept, belief or understanding? No. There will be some idea even though it may be wrong or misconceived or false. The second point which is implied here is make me a capable instrument so I become the servant, the bamboo which has to be hollowed out from the inside.

Divine melody

There is a beautiful story from the life of Krishna and Radha. Radha once said to Krishna, "You love your flute more than me." And Krishna said, "Yes, I do, because this flute is absolutely hollow inside. There is nothing in it. I can fill the hollow flute with a melody which is enjoyed by everyone who hears it." So the flute is the servant, the flute is not the master. The flute doesn't play itself, the master has to play the flute. In order to become the flute you have to become empty from inside. Do not allow your head stuff to come in the way, do not allow your heart stuff to come in the way. This is the final stage where even the heart has to be transcended. We all know that we have to make an effort to go beyond our heads, but there comes a time when even the heart has to be transcended.

When the heart is transcended then we can truly understand the master and servant relationship which happens with fusion and union of spirit. A musician breaks off a piece of bamboo, takes it home and then works for many days to hollow it out, removing all the unnecessary pieces from inside and making holes in it. Then when the piece of bamboo is absolutely clean inside, it can be played and music will come out of it. So another trick of Bhakti Yoga is learning how to become hollow from the inside. But this hollowness is not the absence of individuality or individual personality, this emptiness is the outcome of having shed the unnecessary items in order to experience the divine melody flowing through the personality.