When Paramahamsaji describes his first encounter with Swami Sivananda in 1943, he says, “The moment I saw him, my mind became totally empty. There were no questions, no thoughts. Only the awareness, the knowing, that I had found the one I was looking for and I had no need to search anymore.” It was this mind-set of Paramahamsaji, which carried him through his discipleship while living in Sivananda Ashram.
In an ashram people of every mind-set come. Not everybody is a good and pious person in an ashram. There are different personality traits that come and stay here for a few months. Others will stay for one year, others will stay for five years depending on what they want or until they have a breakthrough. When they have the breakthrough they leave. As there are so many different personalities and natures, living in peace is a distant dream in an ashram. There is always conflict, clash of interest, personalities, mind sets, thoughts and ideas. One has to find balance, for in the ashram everybody has to grow together, nobody is an exception.
People in general are unable to confront the many ways of their own ego expressions. If one is free from that ego, then no matter what the difficulties, good and bad times, the feeling is always there ‘I belong and it belongs to me’ – I belong to this place; this place belongs to me. I am responsible for it and this place is good for me. I belong to my Guru; my Guru belongs to me. I belong to my God; my God belongs to me. I belong to my truth; my truth belongs to me’. That belonging awareness of ‘I belong’, indicates the absence of ego. As long as ego is there, you will find fault and you are not that. As long as ego is there, there is expectation and desire waiting to be fulfilled, and there is separation from the intention and the person. In his life, Paramahamsaji went through all the difficulties much more than what people go through today. There is much more comfort now. In the difficult and the good times, his ego never once separated him either from the ashram or from his Guru. And he lived that state of discipleship all his life.
Who is a guru? Does anybody declare, ‘I am a guru’? If they do, it is their ego which is declaring it. There is no such thing as guru. There is only one thing – proper living. As disciples we try to live properly. That has to be the effort. As followers and aspirants, we have to try to live properly. That has to be the effort, with right understanding, with right awareness and with the right hero. Everybody has a hero. In society those heroes are multimillionaires, film actors and actresses, or other achievers in life. Everybody has a hero and everybody tries to emulate some quality of the hero in their behaviour, action or lifestyle.
When I look at my life and at Sri Swamiji’s life, who was our hero? Our hero was our Guru. The hero in Sri Swamiji’s life was his Guru, and they became one. The hero in my life is my Guru and I am making the effort to become one. It is as simple as that. That effort, idea and identity of a disciple, ‘I am an aspirant, I am a traveller, I am making the journey, following the mandates and the guidelines as given by the tradition of the masters’ –is simplicity and staying away from ego.
Without the basic inkling of what spiritual life is, people use the term ‘guru’. In reality guru means the person who is established in the transcendental nature of Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram. This is the energy the guru radiates. However, even in that state the guru is always a disciple connected with the inspiration, the master and the aradhaya. This is one quality I have seen in my guru’s life.
As we celebrate Ganesha today this thought came to me, ’Who is Ganesha?’ A person who has removed all aspects of I-ness and is connected to higher wisdom. Who is a true disciple? One who is able to remove all traces of ‘I’ and connect with the higher reality, the guru tattwa, the guru element, the God element, the pure element. This is the beginning of a journey to attain Ganesha’s grace. To become egoless is the beginning of the journey in the life of a disciple. Otherwise, the guru says, “You do this,” and the disciple says, “No, I am not going to do it. I am going to do something else,” yet the disciple still expects the guru to continue to guide. That is not possible or practical. Therefore, Ganesha and discipleship go hand in hand for to become egoless is the first need of the disciple.
4 January 2020, printed in A 2020 Vision & Guru Bhakti Yoga