Answers on Guru and Disciple

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

How does one become a guru?

Guru is a combination of two ideas: gu means darkness, ru means dispeller. One who dispels the darkness which is enveloping your consciousness is your guru. When he dispels your darkness, then you begin to experience and you can see without eyes.

Gurus are born with a higher awareness in order to guide sincere seekers and aspirants. At the same time, guru and disciple are not senior or junior categories. A disciple remains a disciple all the time, but when he starts teaching, his disciples consider him a guru.

The best way for you to think is how to become a disciple. If you think of how to become a guru, it is a very dangerous idea. You may also think of how to become a prophet, an even more dangerous idea. I know how to become a disciple, and to become a disciple is to become the guru. If you are a true disciple, you are the guru, because a disciple surrenders everything _ emotions, brain, intellectuality, good and bad deeds, ego, vanity, past, present and future, security, fears and passions. Nothing belongs to him because he gives all to his guru. He is empty like bamboo and then he is filled with melody. Just as you make a hole in a bamboo to make a flute, in the same way, you have to empty yourself.

The disciple's dedication has to be so thorough and complete that he is no more a disciple. Then, when he does not remain a disciple, he becomes a guru, the dispeller of darkness. A guru should not be in a superior social or religious position. Anyone can dispel my darkness, and he who dispels my darkness and gives me the capacity to experience within myself the inner light, the inner peace, harmony and bliss, he is the guru. Therefore, you should ask the question, "How does one become a real disciple?"

Manchester, England, 19 April 1982

How can we find the guru?

In order to find your guru, you have to become a disciple. You get the guru according to your discipleship. If you go in search of an enlightened guru and you have not prepared yourself for correct discipleship, then you will not find your object.

There are various stages, forms and grades of guru. Some teach you hatha yoga and others give you mantra or awaken the magnetic energy centres in your body. In this way, there are various classes of gurus, and according to your inclination and desire, you find a guru. However, most people are searching for a satguru, the inner guru. It is difficult to recognize a satguru, because he is enlightened in the depth of his being. He may not know anything of the sciences or yoga, but he may be enlightened within himself. Unless you have attained a certain degree of enlightenment, you will not be able to recognize a satguru.

Therefore, if you are aspiring for a spiritual guide in your life, you should follow the spiritual path, and step by step try to become a disciple by disciplining yourself. In the course of time, you will realize a guru. In fact, the guru is within everybody. It is that inner being and inner light, which is hiding behind the darkness. In order to realize and recognize that inner guru, you have to find an external guru.

The external guru will be the point of initial explosion. When you have an outer, external guru, then the inner guru awakens. All the gurus in the physical body are gurus, but the guru who is within you, formless and nameless, is called the satguru.

Bogotá, Colombia, 1980

What is the ideal relationship between guru and disciple?

Parents and children are related with each other and so are brother and sister, husband and wife. There is a bond between them. Fraternal, paternal, maternal, emotional and sexual bonds keep people together and maintain a constant flow of energy between the two. These relationships belong to the world, the mind, emotions and body. They definitely give you a lot of help, peace and fulfilment, but they cannot give you the absolute experience. You are not only the body, mind and emotions - you are more than that!

You have bodily relationships for the body, mental relationships for the mind and emotional relationships for the emotions. You must have a relative for the spirit and your deeper consciousness and to whom your spirit is related and linked. You have relatives with whom your emotions, your body and mind are linked. Guru is the relative with whom your inner consciousness is linked.

The relationship between guru and disciple is man's higher, ultimate and spiritual need. Without a guru it is not possible to realize and experience spiritual fulfilment

Guru does not mean a teacher, professor or trainer. The guru may not give you theoretical knowledge or guide you in matters of mystery and mysticism. He may not be able to give you a religion or religious teaching. He may not even speak to you at all, but there is a link which has been established between you and your guru and through that link his energy can flow incessantly to you and keep your spiritual inspiration always kindled.

In the twentieth century, people have misunderstood and made mistakes. They think that a guru is an eminent or famous personality, a scholar, a tall, beautiful person with a flowing beard and robe. No, guru is nothing like this! He can be anyone, a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, a beggar or joker, a man or a woman. He can be anyone, but he definitely should have realized the spiritual light or knowledge and become one with the cosmic existence during the period of samadhi.

Verily, I die every night

A guru is one who dies at least once in the body and comes back. You must die in this body, for one night, two nights, for two, five or thirty days; you must die for some time. For a few days you should not exist. The awareness must be withdrawn in the state of samadhi, the state of timelessness, when time, space and object are transcended. You transcend them and again you come back into this body. You are not the same person as you were last week or last year. Your face may be the same, a brown, white or black face with brown or blue eyes. You look the same and your name is the same, but you are not that person. You are a different person, totally transformed and the old person is dead. Such a person is a guru.

This guru is difficult to find, he is a rare creature. However, if you are a sincere and ardent aspirant, you will find him. Gurus are unknown, unheard, unseen, sometimes very unimpressive and very funny in their behaviour. When you look at them, they are not at all gentlemen. They do not know how to say "Thank you", when you bring them tea or "How do you do?" every time you meet them. They just look at you in a crazy way. There were many gurus like that, who were enlightened people and who attained cosmic consciousness in their life. Some gurus always remain merged in that cosmic consciousness and some come out in order to work with us.

The guru-disciple relationship is the best and highest relationship for the fulfilment of one's spiritual destiny. Those people who want to go after higher accomplishments in spiritual life should pray ardently, "Let me have a guru and let him come to my door!"

Plymouth, England, 13 February 1983

What can the guru do to help the disciple?

There are different types of disciples and they are classified into three categories. Sattwic disciples have attained tranquillity and equilibrium of mind and whatever they decide will be correct. Disciples who are rajasic by nature always have a conflict about their decisions. Therefore, they should meditate, attain peace of mind and then decide. However, disciples who are tamasic by nature must consult a wise man or guru.

Everybody is influenced by his deeper nature and the training received from the environment and association. The educational, social and family influences create a lot of interference. These conflicts come in the lives of most people and relate to most affairs of life. When you want to find for yourself a faculty or subject of education, there are conflicts. If you want to marry, there are conflicts. Whether you should do this business or that business, there is always conflict, because to come to a decision is very difficult.

For most people the decision must come from the higher mind. Disciples who have attained a sattwic nature are very clear. They never suffer from insecurity, have no fears about anything and decide everything on the basis of truth. People who are guided by the sattwic quality are guided by certain principles, and they base their decisions on those principles. They do not care whether they succeed or not.

Devotion versus emotion

The guru can awaken an experience in certain disciples just by touch and he can help some to work out their gross karma. He can give guidance to others and then wait to see what happens. Everything depends on the quality of the disciple. There are many types of disciples and the guru has to deal with them differently. In a disciple who has surrendered his ego completely, the guru can awaken the experience first by thinking, but such disciples are very scarce. Ego is a great barrier between guru and disciple, because it stops one from surrendering. Therefore, the guru has to use other methods.

Disciples and gurus do not know what relationship they should have with each other. Do you think about me as your father, your son or lover or something beyond this? The disciple only knows a few emotions, like the paternal or fraternal emotion. However, there is another type of emotion between guru and disciple, which is called devotion or bhakti. Devotion is very difficult to understand. Once you understand devotion, then you can start to think properly. You understand passion, love and affection and therefore you can practice it, but few people know how to experience devotion. When you feel emotion for somebody whom you love very much, you transcend your mind. In the same way, when you have devotion for your guru, you can transcend the mind instantaneously. All relationships are based on body, mind, senses and emotion, but the relationship between guru is not based on any of these. You can start with a relationship known to you, but ultimately you must transcend it.

Medellin, Colombia, 31 November 1982

Should we receive a mantra from a person whom we do not consider to be our guru?

Mantra should always be taken from one's guru, because only then will it be effective. This is the first form of contact or initiation between the guru and the disciple. Neither mantra nor guru should be changed.

Before the guru can pass on the powers of a mantra, he must feel that the aspirant is strong enough and ready to receive it. Many gurus can transmit certain magnetic powers to their disciples, but if the disciple is not ready it can disturb his mental and nervous balance. Initiation is something like an electric shock entering the person's mental atmosphere.

After accepting the mantra, you become the disciple. When you practice the mantra, you strengthen the guru-disciple relationship and once this is established, then you can become the channel through which the guru's thoughts are conducted. The disciple must be regular in his meditation. If there is regular contact with the guru, one can draw upon his unconscious help and guidance.

It is the unconscious mind of the guru which interacts, not the conscious mind. At this level, we are all interconnected and related to each other, permitting communion of thought and feeling. If the guru is truly capable, he can even alter the disciple's destiny.

The guru is concerned with only one thing - removing the duality and distance that exists between the two minds of guru and disciple. The disciple may have certain worldly aspects, a heart, mind and intellectual power of reasoning, but the guru is not concerned with these. He knows that his disciple has to leave him at some stage. Therefore, he must be sure that the disciple is detached from the ego, and there is complete unity and oneness in their relationship.

India, July 1977

What is the difference between a guru and a swami?

You can learn hatha yoga from any expert teacher, but you do not really need a guru. You can learn about yogic texts from a good teacher, but when you come to mind and spirit, then you need a guru, because there are many facts about mind and spirit which cannot be put into writing. It is only a guru who will give you a particular lesson for your self. You need an architect to plan a building and in the same way, you need a guru to plan your spiritual practices. You cannot be your own guru, because you are under the control of the mind, and the mind deceives you all the time. Therefore, to bypass the mind it is necessary to have a guru.

A guru is definitely different from a teacher. A teacher is one who has knowledge and can teach a subject. The guru is one who has achieved inner experience. In spiritual life there is a higher experience or the experience of illumination, when the mind is completely closed, when the senses do not function and when the `I', the ego, is completely lost. When there is no knowledge of time and space, at that time, there dawns an experience of enlightenment and one who has attained that enlightenment is a guru.

Anyone can become a guru, whether he is a householder or a renunciate. If he has attained enlightenment, he is a guru, no matter who he is. When you practice meditation, you arrive at a point of experience, and that is a very little moment. It is like lightning, and during that period you are dead. You do not function in the normal plane, but at that time there is a higher awareness, which is known as total awareness. That has to be attained and that makes one a guru.


Swami is a very old tradition prevalent throughout the world. It is a non-religious order. Swamis do not belong to any religion, but they respect all religions. They do not respect a particular prophet but all prophets. They do not respect one book but all books. This is the ancient order of swamis.

The swamis are those who have control over their mind. The literal meaning of swami is not monk but master of one's own self. Therefore, when we give sannyasa, we put swami before the name. We remind everyone that the first thing to have in life is self-control.

As you train a horse, an elephant or any other animal, in the same way, you train this great mind. As you tame the great rivers, in the same way you tame the mind. If you don't tame the river, it will play havoc. If you do not control the mind, it will also play havoc. Most of you are under the control of your mind. You are happy because the mind wants you to be happy. You are sad because the mind wants you to be sad. You love and hate because the mind wants you to love and hate. A swami uses his mind for a greater purpose. Within yourself there is the creative intelligence and if you can properly control the mind, you can channel it. If you channel your mind, then you can do great things in life, for one who has controlled his mind is powerful.

Helsinki, Finland, July 1981

Why is faith so important?

It is very difficult to discover a guru. As long as our faith is not strong, we cannot recognize the real guru. We have been floating in intellectual conversations and analysis about guru, but with our keen intellect and rational mind we are not able to discover the right guru. It is faith which is important. If we have faith, then we discover him.

Faith is not just belief, but an inner conviction after total surrender of the ego. Everyone has an ego. Without ego there is no individual, no perception, no distinction and no process of knowledge. At the same time, where spiritual matters are concerned, ego is a great barrier no matter how important it is for your life. When you surrender your ego in totality, then faith unfolds itself, you don't even have to import faith from books, scriptures or religious places. Faith is the inherent quality of every being, but it is hidden behind clouds and wrapped in ignorance.

The first and foremost duty of a candidate for discipleship is to unfold this faith. The nature of faith is almost identical to the innocence of a child. It is said, "Be like a child." It means you have to be innocent because innocence is an expression of total purity.

Faith is everyone's real being. A child has faith in his mother and a husband in his wife. In the same way, the quality of faith when it unfolds makes you perfectly innocent and takes you far away from intellectual logic, fears, insecurities, doubts and apprehensions.

We have been trying to solve the problems of life only by intellect without using faith. We must execute all matters of life through intellect, but the basis of everything is faith. if we have no faith, we cannot exist.

Bogotá, Colombia, 1980