The True Disciple

From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

A true disciple is one who follows the instructions of the guru to the very letter and spirit and who propagates the teachings of the guru to less evolved souls on the path till the end of his life. A true disciple is concerned only with the divine nature of the guru. The guru’s actions as a man are not his concern. To him the guru is guru, even if he acts unconventionally. Always remember that the nature of a saint is unfathomable. Do not judge him. Do not measure his divine nature with the inadequate yardstick of your ignorance. Do not criticise your guru’s actions which are based on a universal vision.

The guru teaches through personal example. His day to day conduct is a living ideal for the observant disciple. His life is a living sermon to the sincere disciple. By constant contact, the disciple imbibes the virtues of the guru. He is moulded gradually. The disciple becomes like his guru after some time by following his instructions to the very letter.

The best way to express your adoration of the guru is to follow his noble example. Live according to the lines indicated by him. Have him as your ideal. Struggle to build yourselves upon that model. This will be the most effective pooja of your gurudeva and the most pleasing guru dakshina.

The guru will impart spiritual instructions only to the aspirant who thirsts for liberation, who duly obeys the injunctions of the shastras, who has subdued his senses and passions, who has a calm mind and who possesses virtuous qualities like mercy, cosmic love, patience, humility, endurance, forbearance and honesty. Initiation into the mysteries of Brahman will fructify only when the disciple’s mind becomes pure and desireless.

One’s individual ego, preconceived notions, pet ideas and selfish interests should be given up. All these stand in the way of carrying out the teachings and instructions of one’s guru. Gurukripa begins to work only when you surrender fully to guru. Intense devotion to one’s guru and faithful adherence to his teachings are the most essential qualifications of a true disciple. Guru’s grace descends upon those who feel utterly humble and faithful to him. The disciple who has faith in the guru argues not, thinks not and reasons not. He simply obeys, obeys and obeys.

The lower nature must be thoroughly regenerated. The aspirant says to his preceptor: “I want to practise yoga. I want to enter into nirvikalpa samadhi. I want to sit at your feet. I have surrendered myself to you.” But he does not want to change his lower nature and habits, old character, behaviour and conduct. One’s individual ego, preconceived notions, pet ideas, prejudices and selfish interests should be given up. All these stand in the way of carrying out the teachings and instructions of one’s guru.

Lay bare to your guru the secrets of your heart. The more you do so, the greater the guru’s sympathy, which means you will have more strength in the struggle against temptation. Divine grace comes only when there is a real thirst in the aspirant, when he is fit to receive it. The best disciple is like petrol. Even from a distance he will instantly react to the spark of the guru’s spiritual advice.

The disciple’s self-surrender to the guru and the guru’s grace are interrelated. Surrender draws down the guru’s grace, and the grace of the guru makes the surrender complete. Guru’s grace works in the form of sadhana in the aspirant. If an aspirant sticks to the path tenaciously, this is the grace of guru. If he resists when temptation assails him, this is the grace of guru. If people receive him with love and reverence, this is the grace of guru. If he gets encouragement and strength when he is in despair and despondency, this is the grace of guru. If he overcomes body-consciousness and rests in his own blissful Self, this is the grace of guru. Feel his grace at every step, and be sincere and truthful to him.

True discipleship opens the vision and kindles the spiritual fire. It awakens the dormant faculties. It is most necessary on one’s journey along the spiritual path, at the end of which the guru and disciple become one. The guru blesses, guides and inspires the disciple. He transmits his spiritual power to him. He transforms and spiritualizes him.

If the disciple survives after the guru leaves his mortal body, he should lead the remaining portion of his life strictly in accordance with his guru’s instructions and live to preach them to others by practising them himself. One who, with self-control and spiritual vision, serves his guru with atmabhava is a true disciple. A true disciple is one who serves his guru till the end of his life.