This article is a chapter from the book Swami Sivananda, Our Loving Awakener.
Radiant Atman! Beloved and blessed children of the Divine! It is through developing proximity to Reality and then contact with Reality that one ultimately becomes Reality. It is only through Sparsa (touch), it is only through contact, that a philosopher’s stone is able to turn iron into gold. If you keep it a hair’s-breadth away, the iron will forever remain iron. No matter how powerful the philosopher’s stone is, it cannot exercise its power unless the base metal comes into actual contact with it. This lets us into the great truth that it is in developing a living contact with a source of transforming spiritual power that one becomes illumined, one becomes divine, one becomes transformed.
Thus, the way to derive maximum benefit from our Guru is by connecting ourselves to him. We do it through faith, Sraddha. We do it through supreme devotion, Parabhakti–‘Yasya deve para bhaktih yatha deve tatha gurau, tasyaitekathitahyarthah prakasantemahatmanah’ (He whose devotion to God is supreme and whose devotion to the Guru is as great as to the Lord, to that high-souled one all knowledge of the scriptures stands revealed).
Is there an additional method of contacting the Guru? Yes, and one that was constantly, repeatedly reiterated by Gurudev. Gurudev said: “Obedience is better than reverence.” Devotion is good. But what is the sign of devotion? What is the practical proof that you are really devoted to the Guru? It is to be sincerely, earnestly and seriously desirous of carrying out his instructions and living according to his teachings.
To walk along the path that the Guru has made for us and to go in the direction he has pointed out is the sign of true love and devotion. That is Bhakti. Bhakti also means Seva. Bhakti means serving the Guru. And what is the greatest service one can render to the Guru? Try to be like him. Try to do exactly what he has asked you to do. For this will effect an even deeper contact and connection. When you are living the teachings of the Guru, you are in the deepest contact with the Guru; you are in the deepest state of Yoga with the Guru.
Guru Sishya Yoga is present in its highest and most intense form when the disciple makes himself the very embodiment of the teachings of the Guru, the very personification of the Guru Upadesa (instructions), the Guru Ajna (orders) and the Guru Adesa (commands). That is why Sanjaya was able to utter the concluding Sloka of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita–‘Yatra yogesvarah Krishno yatra partho dhanur-dharah; tatra srir-vijaya bhutir-dhruva nitirmatir-mama’ (Wherever is Krishna, the Lord of Yoga, and Arjuna, the ideal disciple, there are prosperity, victory, happiness and firm policy–such is my conviction). When the full carrying out of the Ajna, Upadesa and Adesa of the Guru is present, everything is wonderful, everything is auspicious, everything is blessed. It is certain fulfillment and victory. Everything is certain when this type of Yoga between the Sishya and the Guru is there.
This inner fact is a very important truth that is revealed in the Gita. For in the beginning, Arjuna is the very contrary of a Sishya. He says: “I will not fight.” At the outset, he even questions the correctness of the Guru’s teachings, because he is in a state of ignorance. He is in a state of delusion. He is in a state of deep attachment, completely entangled by himself, in himself. He is a slave of himself. He is entangled by his own emotions, his own sentiments, his own desires, his own whims and fancies, his own attachment and Bhranti (delusion). But very quickly he is made to realise his folly. In the second chapter he says: ‘Sishyas-te’ham sadhi mam tvam prapannam’ (I am Your disciple. I have taken refuge in Thee. Please teach me. Please guide me. Please enlighten me. Please lead me; otherwise I am lost.) Thus he appeals to the Guru.
Now, there itself is the first transformation. Arjuna gives up his own self-assertive state of saying “I am right”, and he is able to recognise his delusion. He does not rebel when it is pointed out by the Master: “What has happened to you? What is this type of Moha (delusion), this Kasmalam (dejection) in which you are caught? Are you not ashamed? Stand up! Stop this!” When he was chastised, immediately it worked. He realised: “I am doing something very foolish, something wrong.” And so he says: “I am sorry. I was not myself. I take shelter at Your Feet. Please instruct me.”
From there onwards, this connection is established where he is eager to receive, he wants to be guided, wants to be taught and he is willing to listen. And his earnestness and sincerity are brought out by the questions he asks: “Please, this is not clear to me. You say this, you say that. I am confused. Kindly out of mercy, compassion, make this clearer to me.” He wants every doubt cleared. He is a Jijnasu (seeker of Truth). Right from the start he keeps on asking, and Krishna keeps on giving.
So you must see that the Gita teachings commence when the Guru-Sishya relationship has been voluntarily undertaken and is fully expressed: “I am your disciple. I take shelter at your Feet. Remove this delusion. Tell me what is good for me.” And at the culmination, when their Samparka (contact) becomes fruitful in absolute discipleship, we have the grand last verse. What is the fruit of such discipleship, the Guru-Sishya Yoga, this inner connection between the seeking soul and the illumining liberating master? The glory of it is brought out in the last verse of the Gita. If there is such obedience, if there is such oneness, Samparka, then all auspiciousness and blessedness, all plenty, prosperity and victory become assured.
Therefore, by the grace of the Lord and the blessings of Gurudev, we have been able to ponder this important aspect of the Guru-Sishya relationship. We see that the greater the Samyoga (contact), the greater is the illumination and benefit to the disciple and the greater is the ability of the Guru to go on sharing, giving and transferring–“Yes, whatever I have is yours. Come, take it.” This is possible only if this Samparka is there.
The great Samparka is Bhakti, Parabhakti. A further Samparka is constant living in the spirit of the Guru’s teachings, the constant carrying out of his instructions, fulfilling all his Ajnas, making oneself the embodiment of Guru Upadesa and Guru Adesa. This becomes the deepest connection, the heart connection between the Sishya and the Guru. The Sishya becomes the embodiment of the Guru’s teachings. He strives earnestly and diligently to make himself the very personification of Guru Upadesa and Guru Adesa. This is the greatest blessedness. This is the essence of discipleship. What is Sishyatva (discipleship)? It is making oneself the very Pratikam (image) of the Guru Ajna, Guru Upadesa and Guru Adesa.
And I need not go one step further and tell you what Gurudev’s teachings are. You are all familiar with his Universal Prayer, his Twenty Spiritual Instructions, the Sadhana Tattva and his book Essence of Yoga. Whatever Gurudev had to give to the world, he condensed and gave in the form of these four concise teachings. I always swear by them. For me they represent Gurudev himself.
May we thus recognise the inner secret and truth about the essence of discipleship and how we can derive maximum benefit, maximum gain from the Guru Tattva and one’s connection with the Guru Tattva, one’s discipleship. God bless you all!