The Guru-Disciple Interface

Dr Swami Shankardevananda Saraswati

Human beings bathe in a chemical sea of intra- and extra-cellular fluids, blood, spinal fluid, and so on. We are a staggering chemical factory producing billions of molecules, cells and chemicals all required for the interaction of our whole structure - mind, body, emotions, personality, spirit. The body has an infinite capacity to preserve life. The guru is there to help us transform ourselves. The body is an alchemical vessel to be heated slowly and steadily under the constant guidance of the alchemist, the guru, who is also the philosopher's stone which turns the disciple's dross into gold. He not only adds the right ingredients in the correct amount for the perfect mixture, but his very presence creates the essential inner change, just as a master cook turns out a delicious meal from the simplest ingredients.

Directing the flow of chemicals within the body is the endocrine system, and the guru of the endocrines is the pituitary gland. It directs the whole symphony of hormonal interaction and feedback. The hormones are the most powerful chemicals in the body. We have all experienced the flush of adrenaline when we feel fear or shock; it takes only one or two molecules in the system to effect this reaction. One ounce of adrenaline in a small lake, properly mixed and then injected, will produce this flush. Hormones have a powerful influence on not just the body but also the personality and mind.

The guru has to show the disciple how to balance the release of hormones. The energy required to continually produce these power-packed chemicals is enormous, and the metabolic chains set into motion by each molecule involve the whole body. Thus a relaxed and efficiently functioning body is required so that energy is not wasted. Energy can be conserved through certain yogic techniques, but our whole lifestyle has to be adjusted so that the order in the brain, and the whole body as a consequence, is re-established.

Whereas in society our habits manipulate our bodies negatively and towards bad health in the vast majority of people, in the hands of a master, habits can be cultivated to totally change our reality for the better. For example, it has been found that the brain is separated from the rest of the body by a screen called the blood-brain barrier. This filters the blood, allowing only the purest ingredients to reach the crowning jewel of evolution, the brain. There is a break in this barrier, however, at a small part of the pituitary gland so that any substance that is put into the body is sampled by the master chemist inside the pituitary who regulates hormonal secretion and nervous regulation of the whole body. This finding has vast ramifications for our whole lifestyle and culture. It means that whatever we put into our body alters the total chemical balance. Medicines, drugs and diet all affect hormonal regulation and personality.

The guru says, "Do you wish to change your personality in such and such a way for the better?" If we answer in the affirmative he tells us what to do. For example, to achieve bliss consciousness you must eat very bland, simple and pure food. This allows the body to conserve energy for it does not have to constantly adapt to a changing diet by changing enzymes and metabolic pathways, and thereby does not tax the energy from the pituitary and the brain.

Under the guru's guidance the pituitary can be made to retain hormones, which has a tremendous effect on the whole human vehicle. The endocrines have a chance to rest and the chakras charge up. The brain acts more appropriately and thinking power is enhanced. We feel more peaceful, capable, powerful and dynamic.

How the guru accomplishes these things is impossible to say. He resides beyond the realms of intellect and so is beyond the normal rational modes of understanding. The only way to truly realize what happens is to experience it yourself, if you are lucky enough to find a guru. The guru seems to work in two ways. Firstly, he removes physical impurities, negativity, false concepts and so on. Secondly, he gives inspiration, experiences, energy, and when the disciple is ready, a glimpse of the truth.

At first perhaps you don't trust the guru, but then you wonder does he tune into our thoughts. We start to wonder just who he really is and what he does. After concentrating and meditating on him for some time, we start to communicate with him on a deeper level. He can lead us to the 'inner guru'. Telepathic union begins via ajna chakra. He works on us via the psychic plane through our emotions, the pineal gland and the limbic (emotion) system.

Guru and disciple are one. However, they are separated by a thin screen or veil. They move like two interlocked hands. We can experience this presence, guidance and inspiration at every moment of our life.

The guru does not always work on us directly. Sometimes he puts us in situations where we can learn. For example, he may put us in a position where we get angry. At first our intellect and emotions may not understand or agree with what is going on. It is quite natural to react negatively and then to experience the nervous and chemical processes going on within the body, mind and personality. After some time we begin to see why the guru subjects us to these anticonditioning experiences; it is a form of brain 'washing', making it clean and clear again. We get an inner message which leads us to detachment and this controls glands and emotions. We learn awareness and relaxation.

The guru subjects us to physical cleaning, which we may experience as diarrhoea, fever, boils and other cleansing conditions. By making us interact with different people we clean our minds and emotions; for example, we may have to adjust to various 'in charges'. The whole atmosphere of ashram life tends to mental cleaning, and so the guru does not always act directly on the disciple.

After the cleansing process comes the real relationship with our guru and this is hard for both, but harder for the guru who has to work to ensure that the disciple traverses the razor's edge at the right speed, neither too fast so that he falls nor too slow or he won't reach the goal. For the disciple there is only one sadhana - constant awareness and remembrance, that is, making the guru again part of ourselves, making him a member of our consciousness, or vice versa.

The guru carries with him the tradition and lineage of his ancestors, the paramgurus. Thus they transmit a powerful divine force. The disciple who surrenders to this force begins to feel that he is not alone, there is always someone watching him. You don't think or fantasize this, but rather feel and 'know' your guru's presence. When the disciple holds a pen to write the words flow and he just reads and watches as they come. The ideas are not his but he is writing. He is learning as much from this experience as the reader.

The guru makes his disciple the medium of his power. When you meet a disciple you also meet his guru, there is no real difference. It is because of this union that the guru can exert such a powerfully transforming effect on the disciple for their personalities are in the process of merger. This is an ongoing process, one in which radical evolution takes place over a long time span. For both guru and disciple, life becomes better and more fulfilling. More can be accomplished to help transform the rest of humanity to a higher level of consciousness for we are all linked and interdependent, we are all part of evolution and involution towards cosmic consciousness.