The word ‘disciple’ is a straightforward word. One who is disciplined is a disciple and one who is not disciplined is not a disciple, but a follower. People who follow are always behind and can go any direction: “Oh I like this road,” so they will go away this way; “I like that path,” so they will go away that way. Their following stops after some time for they are not disciplined. The person who is disciplined is the disciple who follows the path which the guru has walked upon.
The question is, is discipleship acquired only when we receive mantra or any kind of initiation? Or is discipleship something different to what we receive from outside? People say, “I am a disciple for I have taken initiation,” yet that is an incorrect statement. There are thousands who have taken initiation, are they all disciples? No, as nobody is disciplined.
In the last verse of Guru Stotra the aspirations, the aim and intent of discipleship is explained clearly. Before we understand this sloka, verse, we have to understand two things. Guru is a nature which is connected to luminosity. It is a nature that is connected to peace. It is nature that is connected to upliftment. It is a nature that is connected to everything that is positive and uplifting in life. That is the guru nature. Not the detrimental, but the positive. That is the luminosity we all aspire for: to experience that guru tattwa, the luminosity, integrity, positivity, creativity. That is the guru tattwa. Discipleship is in the person who identifies with the guru tattwa, with the illumination, with peace and luminosity. That is a disciple.
There are three requirements of a disciple. Set aside your ego, number one. Set aside your intellect, number two. Apply your senses and your body to do the work of the guru. These are the three requirements of a disciple.
Dhyanamulam gurormurttih, pujamulam gurorpadam,
Mantramulam gurorvakyam, mokshamulam gurorkripa.
The literal translation is – ‘Meditate on the image of the guru, serve the guru, think of the guru’s sentences like they are mantras, and guru’s grace leads to moksha, liberation’. This is the common translation that people have of this sloka.
Sri Swamiji explains that apart from the normal understanding that people have in society, there is a deeper understanding and meaning to it. These four statements indicate the journey of a disciple and the connection of the disciple with the master. If these conditions and qualities do not happen, then one is never a disciple, one is always a follower or an aspirant.
Dhyanamulam gurormurttih – Always in your mind maintain the image and awareness of luminosity and let that become your meditation. Just as a passionate person, no matter where he or she is, will always think of their lover, even while doing the work, while travelling, while eating. In the Ramacharitamanas it has been stated that just as a passionate woman loves a man, a passionate man loves a woman, in the same manner that passionate love has to be for God at all times. When the divine passion pervades, then one is always focused on the guru tattwa. That is the first criteria. Let us check that with our own practice.
When you do your mantra, are you aware of the mantra? Or do you have to pull your mind back to the mantra again and again because it dissipates? Other thoughts pull the mind, pull the awareness away from the mantra. Other experiences pull the mind away from the mantra and you don’t even realize that the mind has been pulled away. Only when you realize that, “Oh, I was thinking something else,” you come back again to the mantra. So there is no continuity in focus, there is fragmentation of concentration and awareness. That is not meditation. The fragmented awareness that you live is not dhyana. The fragmented awareness that you live is getting influenced by the mind and using the will to come out from the trappings of the mind, and that is pratyahara.
Here the statement is straight: Dhyanamulam gurormurttih, unbroken awareness of luminosity, just as you think passionately of your lover. Even when you sleep, when you dream, when the idea has set in deep at all times you will be thinking of your lover. Even during work, you’ll be thinking of that. Can that natural and spontaneous connection which happens at the physical level be attained at the spiritual level? Has any effort been made to maintain constant awareness of luminosity?
Swami Sivananda has given ways to maintain that connection with luminosity by giving the system and teaching of pratipaksha bhavana, always overcome the negative with a positive. Do the grandchildren of Swami Sivananda follow the teachings of pratipaksha bhavana? We are his grandchildren; do we follow his pratipaksha bhavana? Do we follow his teaching? No. So the first qualification of discipleship is failed.
We are unable to maintain our awareness and contact the source of positivity and luminosity – dhyanamulam gurormurttih. That is the first sadhana of a shishya, an aspirant who is disciplined.
Pujamulam gurorpadam is the next sentence. The translation is ‘worship the feet of the master’. The feet of the master are to be worshipped. What is the meaning of the feet of the master? Do these feet have to be worshipped with flowers, incense and garlands?
No. When you undertake a journey, you leave behind your footprints. The first person who crosses the jungle has to find the way through the jungle. The next person who follows the first person doesn’t have to find the path through the jungle, he just has to look at the footprints of the first traveller, and follow these footprints and the path he has taken. The person has gone this way, the person has gone through the low, the person has gone through the high, the person has gone through the desert, the person has gone through the jungle. All that is understood and known by watching the footsteps.
The guru has been the person who has gone through a journey, and the teachings that he gives us provide help to undertake the journey. If we can follow the teachings accurately, then that is the real worship. That is the real worship, for at that time you are only following the footsteps of the master and not looking to create your own path, your own short cut or your own long cut.
That is worship. When you follow the path led by the guru and you look at his footprints, how he has walked, and you emulate that, then that is the actual, the true worship of a disciple, shishya.
Mantramulam gurorvakyam – Until and unless there is one hundred percent faith and conviction in the guru’s instructions, nothing happens. Therefore, it is evident that nobody follows the guru’s instructions. There are people who have not followed the systems laid down for they say, “The system is redundant and useless.” This means they have no connection with the master. They are living their own life. There is no faith, no conviction, no belief that something good will happen if they do it. Good always happens after struggle.
You don’t discover water by digging one foot into the ground. In order to discover water you have to dig fifty feet, sixty feet, seventy feet. You have to toil, you have to make the effort to create the hole yourself, for the hole is not created for you. In your life you have to make the hole. That is your personal sanyam and purushartha. People who don’t have sanyam, restraint, and purushartha, the ability to act, they are just debauchees living a hypocritical life of a spiritual person. That is the reality, however, if one follows the instructions and the guidelines with full faith and conviction, then upliftment will always happen. That is the statement: Mantramulam gurorvakyam.
Mokshamulam gurorkripa means that grace is only for liberation. People say, “I need your grace for overcoming my problems.” They don’t even know what is grace, they only think of the word as something which they can receive. However, the statement is simple. Why do you drink water? To quench your thirst. Why do you eat food? To satisfy your hunger. Why do you go to the toilet? To empty your system. Why do you seek grace? To attain emancipation, liberation.
In order to receive that grace, that emancipation, you have to fulfil the first three criteria, you have to rise to the challenge of being a disciple. Otherwise don’t expect either divine or guru’s grace in your life. It will never happen. I can give you that in writing. It will only be a thought, it will only be an expression, it will only be a desire, but never a reality.
The question to sannyasins in view of this is: Are you a disciple? It is easy to change the blue, black, brown, pink and white dress that you wear in civil life, wear geru robes and state, “I have become a sannyasin.” But have you changed the robe inside the head which is still the black, the brown, the pink, the blue, the white, the grey dress? Have you worn the geru dress which is outside inside your head? No. You are only wearing the dress outside, inside still remains as filthy as it was before you took this geru dress. That hasn’t changed, that has not connected with luminosity, that is still connected with the six ripus – lobha, kama, krodha, mada, moha, matsarya. These are the colours of the mind. Have you changed that colour just as you were able to change the colour of your civilian clothes? Have you been able to change the colour of your mind? No. How does one live? How does one become a disciple? If I ask anyone what do you do to enhance your discipleship, what will be your answer? The majority will say, “I practise my asana and pranayama. I practise my path and chanting. I practise my mantra and japa.” All these acts that you do, do they make you into a disciple or not? I don’t think so. These external acts are the same as changing the blue and black and wearing geru, without affecting, altering or influencing the inner self. So nobody is a disciple. People are followers, not disciples. Nobody is able to live the criteria of disciple. Setting aside the ego, nobody can do that. Setting aside the intellect, nobody can do that. Using and applying the senses and the body to fulfil the work of the master, nobody does it.
Therefore, we have to ask the question, if we are able to live the guidelines given in the Guru Stotra. If we can live that even ten percent in our life, we can call ourselves disciples, until then we can’t.
6 May 2018, Ganga Darshan, Munger