Does The Guru Ever Die?
Sri Swami Chidananda
There is a great tradition in the monarchy of England: “The throne shall never be empty; the country shall never be without a monarch.” That is the tradition. The heir apparent instantly and simultaneously becomes the king the moment the last breath leaves the body of the ruling monarch. The announcement is made: “The king is dead. Long live the king!” It seems paradoxical, but no! The king is dead, but the king is not absent because the heir apparent has already assumed the status of monarch of the land.
Ponder this statement, this proclamation, “The king is dead. Long live the king!” When even in a secular set-up the secular monarch is never for a moment absent, can a spiritual dimension be lacking in this? Is it to be found wanting? Are we to think that we are without the guru because the guru is no more? The guru was and now he is not? Are we less than the positive tradition of the British throne? Is the secular set-up one step ahead, and we are one step behind? It’s absurd to think that such a possibility exists.
The guru never dies because he lives in the disciple. That he may so live, he spends his life entering into the disciple in the form of his idealism, his ideas, his vision, his attitudes, his sense of values. His aim and objective for living is to ceaselessly and continuously strive and work so that he may live forever in and through each and every one of his disciples. The bright light of a candle never ceases to shine once another candle has been lit by its flame. It itself may be snuffed out, but it is already burning brightly upon another candle through another wick–the selfsame light.
Ponder this well! You are the being through whom the guru lives. This is an honour. This is a privilege. This is a great good fortune. It is also a responsibility; it is a duty; it is a truth to be known and kept in mind always: “I must be what the guru has taught me to be. I must be what the guru was.” But …….
Somehow there is always a “but.” You cannot rebut the previous statement, but Gurudev himself said in effect many times: “Do not do what I do, but do as I say. Do what I tell you. I have given you some instructions, carry them out. Don’t try to imitate me. You may emulate me, you may try to be as I am in my nature, in my character, in my lofty, idealistic way of life, in my spiritual personality, but do not imitate me. Emulate me.”
Imitation and emulation are two words whose distinction each disciple must know. Sankaracharya put his cloth over his head in a certain way. Today many people imitate that style of wearing a cloth. That is not discipleship; that is not spiritual emulation; that is not what he expected that you would be doing when he wrote Vivekachudamani, Atmabodha etc. He did not write them down so that you would imitate the way he dressed. So if you make that your way of being like him, you will fail miserably.
You must make the vibrant spirituality of the guru live within you, the sublime idealism of the guru live within you, the spiritual teachings of the guru live within you. His loftiness of character and conduct should live within you. His divine nature and the divine way he lived his life should be relived in you. Looking at you, the world should understand the divinity of your guru.
So, Gurudev said: “Do what I tell you to do. Don’t do what I do, because I do it on another level.” Gurudev also said: “Obedience is better than reverence.” Thus if the disciples know the difference between imitation and emulation and follow him through emulation and obedience, the guru never dies. Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji will never die as long as there are sincere striving aspirants like all of you trying to walk the path of divine life, ever striving to fulfil in your thoughts, words and deeds the essence of his teachings.
Who then can say that Swami Sivananda was and not is. He is and he shall ever continue to be. Why? Because each one of you represents a radiant facet, a shining aspect of his noble, divinely lived life. Therefore, in and through his disciples he lives and continues to inspire hundreds and thousands.
This is a great privilege. This is a great guru seva. May you be engaged in doing it, and may you discriminate at every step so that you keep on emulating him and not go off at a tangent merely imitating him.
If for England the king never dies, in the spiritual world, the guru never dies. The disciples ensure that the light of the guru, the inspiration of the guru, the wisdom teachings of the guru will be perpetually present in human society in and through each one of themselves.
The guru lives, and he shines through each one of his disciples. Each one of you, therefore, are living lights of the Sivananda ideal of divine life. May God and Gurudev’s grace and blessings enable you to do this most effectively, most fully and most successfully for the benefit of all humanity.