Guru and Disciple

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Guru Poornima is the day when we redefine our connection with our own inner spirit. There are two ways of looking at things, the gross or material and the spiritual. Once a sculptor was asked, “How do you bring out that beautiful image from a rock?” The sculptor looked surprised. He said, “What do you mean? I don’t create an image. It is not my imagination. The image is already in that rock. I only have to remove the extra bits, the covering so that the image can emerge.”

That is the understanding one should have – the guru is a sculptor. The purity and image of transcendence and divinity is already inside. It does not need to be created. Only the fluff which covers the purity and luminosity has to be blown away, it has to be removed.

To remove what is hiding the purity, you first have to expose it, to get to know it. Without knowing and exposing it, you cannot see how many layers there are. You start with one layer, then the second, third, fourth, fifth and so on. Ultimately when the inner statue emerges, that is the real you. That is the inner guru with which you now begin to identify, and recognize as the source of your understanding and wisdom.


The greatest quality in life is not love or compassion. The biggest quality in life is understanding. If there is understanding, love and compassion are spontaneous and flow freely. When there is no understanding, not even love or compassion can survive. It is the understanding of the relationship one has with the guru which has to be clearly defined.

The role of guru is to remove avidya, ignorance, lack of understanding and awareness. Awareness and understanding are the two things that guru has to bring into our life and it is multidimensional. Since this awareness and understanding operates at many dimensions of life, the role of guru also becomes multidimensional.

In the spiritual dimension, the guru instructs us about overcoming the duality and the responses of duality: ‘me and you, mine and yours’.

At the emotional level, an understanding has to develop that this emotion is pure and it can help many people by creating a mood in the mind which allows proper thinking, behaviour and action to take place. When you are in a happy mood you are willing to do everything and anything, and when you are in a bad mood you want to avoid everything, shun everything and just remain quiet. One state of mind has affected the entire behaviour of the human personality. Anger, frustration, fear or desire changes the entire expression of human nature. Managing and maintaining the harmony of emotion is the emotional teaching that we receive from the master.

The third dimension is mental and intellectual. What is the meaning of mental and intellectual? Does the guru give you books to read and tell you to digest this literature? No. That is only one aspect: developing an awareness and understanding of something different to what you have been exposed to until now. The real purpose is to understand that each thought and behaviour of our mental expression takes birth from one of the six friends.

There is no seventh source for any thought to emerge. There are only six sources from where thoughts and desires can emerge these have to be modified and transcended in the mental dimension of yoga. They are passion, aggression, greed, infatuation, arrogance and envy. These are the six sources from where every thought will emerge, whether good or bad, positive or negative.

It is the management of this mind, the manas area, which is the focus of guru’s instructions and yogic scriptures. At the gross level, guru can instruct or guide you in creating a harmonized life and routine for yourself so that you are able to bring more harmony, peace, health and dynamism into your day-to-day activity, in the environment of the home and family. By creating a routine of waking up, practices, sleeping, and other activities which are spread out over the day, it becomes easier for you to imbibe a discipline in the normal day-to-day situation and not in a classroom environment.

Bringing down the ego

These are the different roles that a guru can play. However, for any role or relationship to become effective, whether it be between guru and disciple, husband and wife or between friends, what is required? The first thing that is required is letting down the ego a little bit. That is the primary thing. If there is ego in the family, there will be a clash; if there is ego in a relationship, there will be a clash. If ego comes down a little, there will be greater acceptance and more harmony in the relationship. So lessening of ego is the first effort in any relationship which can happen if you begin to cultivate those traits which can bring down the head of ego.

What are those traits? One is trust. Just as a child has trust in father and mother, even if the father and mother rebuke a child, the child will not lose trust in them because there is a connection. ‘I belong to them, they belong to me. They will never lead me astray. They will always want the best for me’. That knowledge, understanding and trust is there. Parents can be angry with children, yet the trust will not go because of the feeling that ‘I belong, they belong. They will always think of my welfare’. In the same way, trust has to be cultivated.

After all, you trust God. Have you ever seen God? No. Yet you trust God. How come you trust God? It is because of the belief that God will always do the right thing for you. You will never imagine that God will do anything wrong to you. How come that positive thought is always there in relation to God? That is because of trust and belief. In the same way, if this is the direction that your guru has asked you to walk, if this is the aim that he has given you in life, then you should walk that path knowing that he will not lead you astray. This understanding, this belief, this thought, this idea and trust will lessen the ego. Once the ego lessens, there is greater receptivity to the teachings; and when there is ego, there is no receptivity.

Disciples live split lives: one which they show in front of the master and another which they hide from the master. The funny thing is not only do they lead a split life, they also tell others, ‘The guru should not know the bad things, they are too personal, but tell the guru about everything nice that I do so that he becomes happy with me. Don’t tell the teacher the wrong things that I do in case he gets angry. Hide my weaknesses, my mistakes, arrogance, hatred and jealousy.’ They wish to present the nice, smiling front of a good disciple. That is a split personality and no guru will ever trust a split personality.

You know what my guru told me? He said, “Niranjan, don’t ever come and tell me of your achievements for I know that they are yours and you will be successful. If you want to improve in your life, come and tell me always of the mistakes that you have made so I can help you overcome them.” After this, my life with my guru was an open book. Every time I used to do something nice, I used to know ‘he knows’. However, whenever I did something wrong, I used to make sure that I would go to him and say, “Swamiji, today I made a mistake. This is how I acted, this is how I spoke, this is how I thought. Is there anything I can do to rectify it?” He would say, “Yes,” or “No.” My life was open in front of him, I never hid my shortcomings from him. I did not think, ‘This is too personal, why should I tell my guru?’ No. If I have that trust and belief, he should know my shortcomings so with his wisdom and skill, he can improve it.

Belief and conviction

That is the open, clear and untainted relationship which should develop, not a two-faced relationship. That two-faced relationship is the worst kind which no sane person will ever accept, forget about guru accepting it. Even in the family no one will accept it. So, how can guru accept it? Guru is working not to create the split but to remove the faults, the darkness and limitations to allow something new to emerge. That is the inspiration that he is giving. Yet, why does a disciple hide? Only because of ego and negative arrogance.

When I look at history as to how many masters there have been in the past, we can count them on our fingers and these masters have had many disciples, millions throughout history. From those millions and millions who followed Jesus, Buddha, Mahavir, Sivanandaji, Ramana Maharishi or Swami Satyanandaji, how many have actually walked the path?

If you are truthful, then ask yourself, ‘How much of the path have I walked? Have I been truthful, have I been sincere, and have I been committed to my aim and aspirations in life?’ Even a little bit of belief and conviction is an aid in bringing down the head of the ego which then allows one to imbibe and recognize faults and rectify them.

This is the foundation of a proper relationship, whether it be in spiritual life or material life. If two people can’t trust each other, there is no relationship and if two people can believe in each other and support each other, then that relationship becomes stronger and stronger every moment. This is the focus we should have. It is not about what guru can do or should not do, rather as aspirants we should improve and become recipients of that wisdom which can transform our life, which can give us the experience of Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram, truth, auspiciousness and beauty.

Guru Poornima, 18 July 2016, Paduka Darshan, Munger