There are two types of gurus and two types of disciples. Some gurus are tutors and their disciples are students; that is the process of teaching. They teach hatha yoga, raja yoga, jnana yoga, Gita, etc. and are known as acharyas.
However, the true process of guru is through transmission. There is a total rapport between guru and chela; they function almost on the same level and at the same frequency, and the guru transmits his energy to the disciple at the intuitive level. However, it does not happen with every disciple and with every guru.
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was a great, realized person in our times. He had many disciples who used to come to him, and he used to instruct them on jnana, on knowledge. That is called satsang, just as I am talking to you now. But what happened between Ramakrishna and Vivekananda at one time, is called transmission, and that transmission in the vedic, yogic and tantric terminology, is known as shaktipath.
Shaktipath is the transfer of the inner energy of the guru to the disciple, but as I said, it does not happen between every guru and every disciple. Ramakrishna did it only with Vivekananda. Even when there is transmission of shaktipath from a guru to a disciple, it is necessary for the disciple to improve his own quality, so that he becomes a good conductor of the guru’s spiritual energy. The perfect disciple is one who surrenders his ego; surrender of the buddhi, or surrender of emotions, is not the ultimate surrender.
You love your guru; that’s alright, and you decide, “Okay, from today, I’m going to surrender,” but that’s not final. Buddhi is not the last item of spiritual life. Buddhi is a crust, the intellect. The emotions, too, your bhakti, are only a part of it. You can cry for your guru, “Guru, where have you gone? I’m pining for you. I cannot live without you. Please come.” That’s emotion, but it’s not final.
However, there is a very hard nut to crack, and that is the ‘I’, and that I is sometime very subtle. Swami Sivananda used to say that even the process of renunciation becomes the basis for ego. Sometimes you are very humble; you are the most humble; you are ready to serve anyone without distinction. Even that humility can become the basis for ego. Sannyasa, compassion, mercy, charity, ‘I am nothing, my Lord’, can all become the basis of ego. It is such a powerful force and demon in man that it can assume thousands of forms.
How do we become free from ego? By perfecting discipleship. The perfection of discipleship is the perfecting of sadhana also. There are many beautiful stories in the Upanishads, the Puranas, and other ancient books, where the disciples were tested in various ways, and many of them found that they did not come up to the mark. Some of the disciples, on the other hand, succeeded. When salt or sugar are mixed with water, the duality ceases. They become one; there is no longer any separate identity. That has to be the relationship between God and devotee, and between the guru and his disciple.
Published in Teachings of Swami Satyananda, Volume 3