Discipleship

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Today is the fifth day of the month, and on fifth December, in the year 2009, my guru – I am not using the word ‘our', I am using the word ‘my guru' – Sri Swami Satyananda attained Mahasamadhi. Every fifth of the month is celebrated in Ganga Darshan as the day he attained his union with Shiva consciousness. And five also happens to be the number of Shiva. The mantra of Shiva also numbers five: Na, Mah, Shi, Va, Yah. The sixth was the day when he was given bhu samadhi and six is the number of Shakti.

Today, after performing Rudrabhisheka as we commemorate the day when he attained Mahasamadhi, I started to think about one attribute or one quality of my master which inspires me the most. That is discipleship. There are two types of disciples in the world: one who has his own agendas and the other who has no agenda of their own. The people who have their own agendas associate with their guru for a limited time, extract whatever they want to extract from the guru, and then go their own ways to fulfil their ambitions and needs.

There is another group of people, who have no agenda of their own, but who simply live for the sake of living with the guru. They make the vision of the guru their own vision, the agenda of the guru their own agenda, and they become one with the guru tattwa as they identify more and more with the vision and mission of the guru.

Decide, look at yourself and find out in which category do you fall: person with no agenda, or person with their own personal agendas.

Rishikesh and old BSY

When Sri Swamiji came to live with Swami Sivananda, he and the group of disciples who had gathered around Swami Sivananda were people who had no agenda of their own, who just wanted to live in the presence of the master and surrender their life to their master. Do you know what the meaning of surrendering life is? Surrender your ambitions, surrender your youth, surrender your needs, and identify only with the vision, the needs and aspirations of the guru. That surrender is not easy for it makes you lose yourself completely. You are finished, and the only thing alive in your memory and mind is the guru.

A group of disciples who came to Swami Sivananda lived that kind of life. They became the foundation stones of the Divine Life Society, and propagated the vision and the mission of their master. Swami Sivananda initiated hundreds and thousands, but only a few names stand out for they were the ones who did not have a personal agenda, but were committed to spread the light, as guided and instructed by their guru. Sri Swamiji was one of them and that is the type of discipleship he lived. He was not attached to anything, no comfort, no luxury, no post, no position.

I first came to the ashram, in the early sixties. We were a group of sannyasins and what did we want to do? We did not want to become yoga teachers. We did not even know what sannyasa was. We only had one awareness and one aspiration: to be with our guru, that's all. We did not mind whether we ate or starved. We did not mind whether we were comfortable or uncomfortable. We did not mind whether we had clothes to wear or nothing to wear. We did not mind whether we were taught anything, formally in a class, or just told to work twenty-four hours of the day, like a donkey. No, that was not our agenda.

In that category fall many people, who are still following the path of sannyasa and discipleship. Whatever we learnt was because the opportunity was given to us to express our ability. This is one group of people who identify with the vision and mission of their guru and have no personal life and agenda.

Disciples with agenda

There is another group of people, the so-called disciples, who have their own personal agendas. Some become disciples for they see yoga and ashram as an opportunity to launch their careers in life, who want to take training, become sannyasins, karma sannyasins, then go back and establish their own ashrams and centres. In the garb of selfless service to humanity, they live their own ambitions. They use yoga, ashram and guru as their launching pad to become established in life. There is no intention of even identifying with the vision or mission of the guru. Many people fall in that category today.

There are people who want to be propped up and given post, power and position. They fight with everybody for respect and tell people, "I am a senior. Give me your respect." Those people are guided by their ambitions and ego, and want to be supported. They want to be told, "You are this, you have this authority, you have this power, you have this position," without even being capable of maintaining the dignity of the post they want to be propped up. They expect the ashram, the guru and yoga to provide them that opportunity and post, where without having any ability and maturity of their own, they wish to be recognized and worshipped by all as somebody great. That is another group of disciples, who do not identify with the vision or mission, but want to be held up.

Another group of disciples are always crying, are over-dependent and do not work to improve themselves, but express negativity towards themselves. As they encounter the cleaning of their emotions, mind and spirit, and the stuff which is there as samskaras and karma, as archetypes of so many lifetimes, they fall prey to the influences of those samskaras when they surface. They lose their balance, as they have never made the attempt to correct or rectify their defects in life.

Real disciple

A disciple is one who corrects and rectifies his own mistakes in life, and tries to become better every day, to become better at every step that he or she takes, rather than falling prey to the whims of the mind, desires and passions. There is a constant effort to improve which is lacking in the personalities of disciples today.

By taking initiation, don't call yourself a disciple. By wearing geru, don't call yourself a disciple. As long as you have your personal agenda, don't call yourself a disciple. You are only an opportunist in the garb of a disciple, like a donkey in the garb of a tiger. The real disciple identifies with the spirit of the guru and lives that spirit.

Sri Swamiji was one such person who identified and lived the principles, the teachings and the spirit of his guru. And that is my sankalpa, therefore I call him my guru. You call him your guru because he is nice to you, but I call him my guru because he is the inspiration to me, to become like him. It is that memory which I hold most dear in my life.

—5 May 2013, Ganga Darshan, Munger