Satsang at Ganga Darshan

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Could you please explain Sri Swamiji's words, "When the mother retreats, the guru comes."

During the 2003 Sat Chandi Maha Yajna Sri Swamiji said that when the cosmic mother comes, the role of the guru is over. When the mother departs, the role of the guru begins once again. It is quite logical. The purpose of a guru is to bring the aspirant in front of divinity, or the transcendental nature, or God, or the higher self.

The guru should be seen not as a person with a physical body but as representing the quality and energy which inspires and motivates each of us to attain a glimpse of the transcendental nature that is contained within us and of which we are a part. The confusion comes when we identify with the guru at the physical level. Then we ask why the master with whom we have identified is physically absent during an event. But that is our shortcoming because the guru is not the physical body.

After all, when Sri Swamiji himself went to his guru Swami Sivananda's ashram in Rishikesh, he was an ordinary person, but with the grace of guru and also with conviction, dedication and surrender on his part, he became luminous. The guru tattwa manifested in him. So, do you connect with him because of the body, or do you connect with him because of that guru tattwa shakti in him? If you connect with him because of the body, then you have missed all the secrets of spiritual life. But if you connect with him because of the essence that he represents, then it makes no difference whether he is there physically or not. As a spiritual aspirant, as a person sincere enough to follow the path of yoga, it is necessary to also identify with the quality or the nature of the guru which is inspiring, motivating and guiding all of us.

The guru tattwa, the guru shakti, is responsible for uplifting the human mind from the basic material plane to the higher spiritual and transcendental planes. That is the role of the guru. The role of the guru is not to sit in front of you physically and bless you and grace you. That is the job of pontiffs, not of gurus. Gurus are sparks. Swami Sivananda created a spark in Sri Swamiji, the material was right, it caught fire. The guru creates sparks within all of us, but the material is not right and we don't catch fire. Sometimes our material is all wet due to our frustrations, tensions and anxieties, so there is a lot of smoke but no fire. Sometimes we are made out of material that can't catch fire, like a rock. Sometimes we are made of material which can catch fire and it burns.

There is a saying that if God and guru are both standing before you, to whom should you pay your respects first? The answer is to pay your respects to the guru first because it is through him that you have attained God. God is secondary, not primary. We have to understand what Sri Swamiji is doing in this spirit. He is uplifting the level of our consciousness, our awareness, making us live yoga, not practise yoga.

There are two traditions: one is practising yoga, the other is living yoga. Both traditions are very strong. Sage Patanjali is recognized as the codifier of yoga. He describes the process of yoga as being to prepare oneself to receive that higher awareness. But after you have prepared yourself to receive that higher energy, that higher grace, then comes the yoga of Swami Sivananda, which is to experience and manifest that quality, that grace, that ability, that creativity, that clarity, which you have developed with the practices of yoga. Sage Patanjali talks of the eightfold path of yoga as practice. After that, Swami Sivananda also talks of an eightfold path of yoga as living the experience of yoga. And when we are living the experience of yoga, then our consciousness is uplifted.

Take the example of a radio. When you turn it on, there is a lot of garbage and static, but as you move the dial towards the station the static and garbled noises become less and less. Sometimes when you are near the station, there is a high pitched sound, as if all the sounds have fused and become one high frequency sound. The frequency goes higher and higher until it becomes inaudible and then you come to the station and hear the music.

This is the process of yoga. When you turn on the radio and there is static and garbled noises, that is ordinary life. The chitta vrittis are active. There is no tuning, no focusing, no clarity, which is the state we are in at present. But then you begin to move the dial of the radio in order to tune it. The purpose of tuning is to lower the other frequencies so that the words, or the sound, or the music can come through clearly. That is elimination, removal and focusing. Both are happening at the same time. Through the practices of yoga, you move through the states of pratyahara and dharana, and that gradually reduces the garbage and the static. Then all the sounds fuse into one and you get a high frequency whistling note. That is like meditation, dhyana, where everything has fused and merged into one high frequency note. As that frequency goes higher and higher and it becomes inaudible, that state of dhyana is converted into samadhi. Up to this point it is human effort. Then you pass that point and you come to the station and begin to hear music. And that is living that experience, because now there is no focusing, no concentration, no meditation, but you are listening to the whole spectrum of sounds, the music, the words, in harmony. That is living yoga.

This is the movement of yoga. At each stage, as we evolve, as we progress more and more, our mind, our feelings, our emotions, our sentiments become more refined; they become much sharper and more creative. With this refinement, a new perception dawns. A new understanding, a new vision, a new state of mind is experienced. That state of mind is known as saumyata, the serene mind. There is no exact word for saumyata in English. The closest we can come is the serenity or balanced wisdom, stitha prajna, that Krishna talks about in the Bhagavad Gita. It is in this state of balanced wisdom, or saumyata, or stitha prajna, that one connects with the higher realities.

Just as in samadhi you connect with the higher realities, similarly, with the awakening, transformation and purification of the mind, there is an awareness and an experience of that higher self. That experience of the higher self has to be maintained. That experience of the higher self covers all the aspects of life and karmas, actions, behaviour and attitudes. It creates an energy field around a person and a place, and once you enter that energy field you are touched by it, you feel different; you feel either happy or at peace or tranquil. What we experience intellectually through our buddhi in front of the master as peace, serenity, control, balance and harmony is only an external understanding of a subtle process that is affecting our consciousness and psyche at deeper levels. That subtle process has to be developed in order to become the recipient of that cosmic grace, in order to experience that transcendental nature within.

The role of the guru is to bring you to that level. Once there is that connection with the higher self, the function, the role, of the guru is over. Then you have to become that light. You have to experience that higher nature. Later, when you are again brought back to this material plane because of the mind and the self-limitations, then the guru returns and says, "OK, now you have to do this, this and this in order to overcome your limitations and fly." So what Sri Swamiji said during the yajna was the truth. Those who have ears hear, those who have eyes see.

—December 3, 2003

Swamiji, you are my guru. Although this is only the second time I have seen you, there is a deep attraction and I feel I know you from the past. How does this happen?

Life is an interplay of emotions and affections and we relate to each other with the help of our emotions and affections. Some people express that quality more than others and can link up with somebody at the emotional level and find the support which nourishes and sustains them emotionally.

It is your sentiment, your feelings and your emotions which are creating that link between you and me. The same can happen in reverse as well. You may see me for the first time and totally dislike me. There will be a different reaction. Then the question would be, "Why do I hate you at the first sight? Were we enemies in a past life?" These questions have no relevance at all because we are all relating to each other through our emotions and affections. If you remove the emotion and affection, there is no connection between you and me, or anybody else for that matter.

If you have a positive emotion, then cultivate it. There is a positive application and a negative, detrimental application of the feelings, emotions and strengths that we all have. We have to cultivate the positive and the uplifting. Instead of brooding over what is restrictive, negative and bad, cultivate what is positive and good, and try not to think about it too much. Why think about doing good, feeling good and experiencing good?

Goodness has to be understood in a practical way. It is human nature to be bad, not good. Any actor will tell you that it is very easy to play a villain, but playing a good role doesn't come spontaneously and requires preparation. Becoming good and being good can create a lot of practical difficulties and so you have to be very careful and learn how to manage goodness.

Goodness can only be managed if the structure of the mind has been developed to an extent where it is aligned with positive and creative qualities. This happens with the practice of the yamas and niyamas. By practising the yamas and niyamas, we learn how to understand goodness and apply and experience that goodness in our life.

Applying and experiencing goodness in our life is known as tapasya. Tapasya is not austerity or self-punishment. Tapasya is transformation of the inner self to experience and live that good quality. As long as we are able to creatively express that goodness within, there is a connection to everyone around us which is supportive and uplifting. If that connection is not there, then nothing will hold our attention. Our motivation and inspiration will be dissipated and we will lose interest.

So, the question is not about you or me. It is about how to develop and maintain that good feeling and energy which can strengthen the bond between guru and disciple, and which can also act as the launching pad for discovering new and higher dimensions in our lives. That is known as sambandh, harmonious connection, harmonious interaction.

—December 3, 2003

When a disciple lacks goals and asks the guru what to do, and the guru says to you're your own descision, then what should he do because he feels too perplexed and confusd to make any descision?

The question is very simple, but the answer is not. When people ask the guru something, they ask how to do this, how to do that. Up to a point that is all right, but there comes a time when your own sadhanas and practices should bring you to a stage where you begin toyou're your wisdom, your discrimination, your Viveka, your vairagya. Once discrimination and wisdom become effulgent in you, then you will find solutions to any problem. The problem is that human beings think wih a one-track mind which always compares and analyzes situations, wants and interactions with the subtle idea or thought - what will I gain from it?

Our nature, our personality, is subject to likes and dislikes. Likes give us the experience of happiness, pleasure, joy, satisfaction and fulfilment.

Dislikes are painful. Dislike is rejection. So, like and dislike, known in yogic terminology as raga and dwesha, attraction and repulsion, is the nature which controls the human mind. Now, when raga and dwesha are controlling the expressions of the human mind, then anything we think or plan or desire will be subject to the influence of like and dislike. In this condition of mind, neither guru nor God can give you wisdom. If your likes and dislikes are predetermined, then even God's words will not make any difference because there is no acceptance. So in cases like this, the guru tells you to decide what your focus and aim in life has to be, because the guru knows his suggestion will not be accepted.

This applies to everybody. The guru will only guide that person in whom he has implicit trust - that this person is my responsibility. Therefore, qualities of discipleship are more important than instructions from the guru. It is not important to find out the aim of your life from the guru or to seek solutions to problems from the guru. That is secondary. It is important to cultivate the qualities of discipleship in life.

If one is a true disciple, then the guru's guidance is received every step of the way, because it becomes at times physical, at times mental, at times psychic, at times just words that one hears in meditation. But if that awareness, that level of acceptance and surrender is not there, and the relationship with the guru is intellectual and satisfaction-oriented, then it is better to find your own solutions in life.

—August 5, 2002