Faith is the Key

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Can one receive diksha and establish the guru-disciple relationship from a distance?

Definitely. When your guru lives far away and you do not know where he is, but still you have fallen in love with him, that is mentally projected devotion. The only basis of a relationship between guru and disciple is shraddha, faith. Guru is the reflection of the disciple’s faith. If the faith of the disciple diminishes, he will see less of it reflecting from the guru. If the faith of the disciple is strong, the reflection from the guru will be very strong. The personality of the guru is the image of the faith of the disciple. Therefore, Mirabai has also said:

Now I have fallen in love with the guru’s feet,
I want nothing but the shelter of his sacred feet.
The illusory world has now become a dream.
For me the ocean of the world has dried up.
Now there is no anxiety to cross it.
The lord of Mira is the clever Krishna,
And she is hopeful of the guru’s refuge alone.

It has also been said in the Ramacharitamanas that none can cross the ocean of samsara without the help of the guru, even if he is Brahma or Shiva. If my faith is unshakeable and my belief is deep and strong, my guru’s personality will dazzle me. Tulsidas had great faith in his guru. He has said:

Victory to you, Master Hanuman,
Be kind to me like my Gurudeva.
Kabir Das has also said:
Guru is greater than God,
Because those created by God
Sink in the ocean of samsara
Due to their worldly attachment,
While those trained by guru
Are sure to cross over.

Why is the guru like a donkey and the disciple like a dog?

Even if you twist the donkey’s tail, he will not move unless he wants to. He will always act of his own free will, never according to your wish. If the donkey stops, he stops, and moves only when he feels like moving. You may beat him, break his legs, wrench off his tail, but the donkey will remain obstinate and immovable. He will move at his own discretion, just like a guru. The disciple always wags his tail and demands love. He licks and smells the guru, and remains constantly in his service. He is loyal to his guru, just like a dog. Kabir has aptly said:

Kabir is the dog of Rama, his name being ‘pearl’.
He goes where the rope of Rama’s name draws him.

Does the relationship between guru and disciple go back to previous lives?

You should ask a guru this question. I am not a guru and I do not want to be one. I am a disciple and I accepted my guru as a guide for a certain period in my life. When I saw that I could stand on my own two feet, I let go of his finger and he let go of mine. To begin analyzing whether he was my guru in my past life and whether he will be my guru in my next life is unnecessary.

At a certain point in your life, the guru enters as a guide. Just as a mother holds the child’s hand and teaches him to walk, but lets go when the child takes off on his own, so my guru let go of my hand. I let go of his hand too. I stayed with him for twelve years, but then said goodbye. Children who hang on to their parents forever become dependent and weak. Similarly, a disciple who hangs on to the guru becomes dependent and weak; he does not learn to solve his own problems.

If the disciple is sincere, he works hard to put his guru’s teachings into practice and to earn spiritual benefits. This is my theory. I cannot answer for you. A lot of things on the spiritual path are purely personal, just like people’s emotional lives. If you believe that the relationship with the guru carries on through different lifetimes, you are free to have this opinion. I cannot negate it, but I do not believe it to be true. Nowhere does it say so in our shastras, Vedas, Upanishads or Puranas.

—Rikhia, December 1994