True Mirror

From On the Wings of the Swan, Volume VIII, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

From whom do we learn yoga? In the spiritual tradition, we learn from the guru, whereas in the social tradition we learn from a teacher or a professor. There is a difference between a professor, teacher, reader, lecturer and a guru. Those people who identify with social identities say, “I am a professor of yoga, I am a teacher of yoga, I am a graduate of yoga, I am this of yoga, I am that of yoga.” This indicates that their understanding is limited. What is the difference between a teacher and a guru? The teacher, whose knowledge is bookish, teaches but does not live yoga, whereas the guru lives yoga and does not teach. If you can emulate the teachings of the guru, if you can incorporate the teachings of the guru in your own life, you will have a deeper experience and realization of the whole process.

You have to accept the guru as the guru and not as a trouble-shooter, not as a consultant for family matters like marriage, divorce, profession, job or studies. The role of the guru is clearly defined. In the simplest sense, the role of the guru is as a spiritual guide, not a marriage consultant or an academic consultant. Ask the guru how you can attain mental peace, how to develop your positivity and creativity, and you will get the answer. If you can accept the guru as a spiritual guide, you can grow and succeed in life. However, if you think of the guru as your consultant and that by following his advice you will be happy in life, find a good partner, a good profession and make money, then that relationship will not grow at all. You might be happy, fine, but there is no growth, no connection.

Spiritual independence

The association with guru has to be without expectation. There should be no expectation from the guru; rather, there should be an expectation from yourself. What do you expect from a tubelight, a ten-volt bulb or a hundred watt bulb? To give light. Yet, what do you do when you are able to see? If there is light and you decide to shut your eyes, the light has no meaning. However, if there is darkness and you decide to open your eyes in the dark, you will be able to see one day. Therefore, the expectation should be from yourself, not from the guru.

Just as in the bathroom you see yourself in the mirror, in spiritual life guru is the mirror in which you see your spiritual self reflected. In the bathroom you look in the mirror to groom yourself; in the same manner, when you look at the guru and your reflection, you try to groom yourself to become that beautiful self. The expectation has to be with yourself, not with the guru. Guru is only a mirror that will show you whatever you are at that time. So, how to develop a relationship with guru without getting dependent on the guru? People become dependent when they begin to expect too much from the other person. However, if you expect improvement from yourself then your dependence will decrease, and that is the secret of spiritual development.

—18 August 2008, Ganga Darshan, Munger