Sri Swami Sivananda
This article is a chapter from the book “Bliss Divine”.
Who Is Qualified to Approach the Guru?
Obedience to the Guru
Surrender and Grace
How the Guru Teaches
How the Guru Tests
Four Classes of Disciples
A disciple is he who follows the instructions of the Guru to the letter and spirit, and who propagates the teachings of the Guru to less evolved souls in the path till the end of his life.
A true disciple is concerned only with the divine nature of the Guru. The Guru’s action as man is not the disciple’s concern. He is totally oblivious of it. To him, the Guru is Guru even if he acts unconventionally. Always remember that the nature of a saint is unfathomable. Judge him not. Measure not his divine nature with the inadequate yardstick of your ignorance. Criticise not your Guru’s action which is done on universal vision.
True discipleship opens the vision. It kindles the spiritual fire. It awakens the dormant faculties. It is most necessary in one’s journey along the spiritual path. Guru and disciple become one. The Guru blesses, guides, and inspires the disciple. He transmits his spiritual power to him. He transforms and spiritualises him.
WHO IS QUALIFIED TO APPROACH THE GURU?
To approach a Guru, you must be a proper Adhikari (qualified person). Correct understanding, non-attachment to worldly objects, serenity of mind, restraint of the senses, absence of base passions, faith in the Guru, and devotion to God are the necessary equipment with which the aspirant has to approach the Guru.
The Guru will impart spiritual instructions only to that aspirant who thirsts for liberation, who duly obeys the injunctions of the Shastras, who has subdued his passions and senses, who has a calm mind, and who possesses virtuous qualities like mercy, cosmic love, patience, humility, endurance, forbearance, etc. Initiation into the mysteries of Brahman will fructify only when the disciple’s mind becomes desireless, and will produce Jnana in it.
Aspirants should direct their whole attention in the beginning towards the removal of selfishness by protracted service to the Guru. Serve your Guru with divine Bhava(feeling). The cancer of individuality will be dissolved.
The captain of a ship is ever alert. A fisherman is ever alert. A surgeon in the operation theatre is ever alert. Even so, a thirsting hungry disciple should be ever alert in the service of his Guru.
Live to serve the Guru. You must watch for opportunities. Do not wait for invitation. Volunteer yourself for the Guru’s service.
Serve your Guru humbly, willingly, unquestioningly, unassumingly, ungrudgingly, untiringly, and lovingly. The more your energy you spend in serving your Guru, the more the divine energy will flow into you.
He who serves the Guru serves the whole world. Serve the Guru without selfish ends. Scrutinise your inner motives while doing service to the Guru. Service must be done to the Guru without expectation of name, fame, power, wealth, etc.
Obedience to the Guru is better than reverence. Obedience is precious virtue, because if You try to develop the virtue of obedience, the ego, the arch-enemy on the path of Self-realisation, slowly gets rooted out.
Only the disciple who obeys his Guru can have command over his lower self. Obedience should be very practical, whole-hearted, and actively persevering. True obedience to Guru neither procrastinates nor questions. A hypocritical disciple obeys his Guru from fear. The true disciple obeys his Guru with pure love, for love’s sake.
Learn how to obey. Then alone you can command. Learn how to be a disciple. Then alone you can become a Guru.
Give up the delusive notion that to submit to the preceptor, to obey him, and to carry out his instructions is slavish mentality. The ignorant man thinks that it is beneath his dignity and against his freedom to submit to another man’s command. This is a grave blunder. If you reflect carefully, you will see that your individual freedom is, in reality, an absolutely abject slavery to your own ego and vanity. It is the vagaries of the sensual mind. He who attains victory over the mind and the ego is the truly free man. He is the hero. It is to attain this victory that man submits to the higher spiritualised personality of the Guru. By this submission, he vanquishes his lower ego and realises the bliss of infinite consciousness.
The spiritual path is not like writing a thesis for the Master of Arts degree. It is quite a different line altogether. The help of a teacher is necessary at every moment. Young aspirants become self-sufficient, arrogant, and self-assertive in these days. They do not care to carry the orders of a Guru. They do not wish to have a out Guru. They want independence from the very beginning. They think they are in the Turiya Avastha (the state of superconsciousness) when they do not know even the A-B-C of spirituality or truth. They mistake licentiousness or “having their own ways and sweet will” for freedom. This is a serious, lamentable mistake. This is the reason why they do not grow. They lose their faith in the efficacy of Sadhana and in the existence of God. They wander about in a happy-go-lucky manner, without any aim, from Kashmir to Gangotri, and from Gangotri to Ramesvaram, talking some nonsense on the way, something from Vichara Sagar, something from Panchadasi, and posing as Jivanmuktas (liberated beings).
If you want to drink water at the tap, you will have to bend yourself. Even so, if you want to drink the spiritual nectar of immortality which flows from the holy lips of the Guru, you will have to be an embodiment of humility and meekness.
The lower nature of the mind must be thoroughly regenerated. The aspirant says to his preceptor: “I want to practise Yoga. I want to enter into Nirvikalpa Samadhi. I want to sit at your feet. I have surrendered myself to you”. But he does not want to change his lower nature and habits, old character, behaviour, and conduct.
One’s individual ego, preconceived notions, pet ideas and prejudices, and selfish interests should be given up. All these stand in the way of carrying out the teachings and instructions of one’s Guru.
Lay bare to your Guru the secrets of your heart. The more you do so, the greater the Guru’s sympathy, which means an accession of strength to you in the struggle against sin and temptation.
The aspirant, before he desires the grace of the Master, should deserve it. The supply of divine grace comes only when there is a real thirst in the aspirant, and when he is fit to receive it.
The Guru’s grace descends upon those who feel utterly humble and faithful to him. Faith is confidence and trust in the Guru. Faith is firm conviction of the truth of what is declared by the preceptor by way either of testimony or authority, without any other evidence or proof. The disciple who has faith in the Guru argues not, thinks not, reasons not, and cogitates not. He simply obeys, obeys, and obeys.
The disciple’s self-surrender to the Guru and the Guru’s grace are interrelated. Surrender draws down the Guru’s grace, and the grace of the Guru makes the surrender complete.
The Guru’s grace works in the form of Sadhana in the aspirant. If an aspirant sticks to the path tenaciously, this Is the grace of the Guru. If he resists when temptation assails him, this is the grace of the Guru. If people receive him with love and reverence, this is the grace of the Guru. If he gets all bodily wants, this is the grace of the Guru. If he gets encouragement and strength when he is in despair and despondency, this is the grace of the Guru. If he gets over the body-consciousness and rests in his own Ananda Svarupa (the form of bliss), this is the grace of the Guru. Feel his grace at every step, and be sincere and truthful to him.
The Guru teaches through personal example. The day-to-day conduct of the Guru is a living ideal to the disciple who is observant. The life of the Guru is a living sermon to the sincere disciple. By constant contact, the disciple imbibes the virtues of his Guru. He is moulded gradually. Study the Chhandogya Upanishad. You will find that Indra stayed with Prajapati for a period of a hundred and one years and served him whole-heartedly.
The Guru alone knows the spiritual needs of his disciples. He will give Upadesha (spiritual advice) according to the disciple’s temperament and evolution. This Upadesha should be kept a secret. Discussion among disciples will lead to criticism of the Guru and slackness in Sadhana. There will be no spiritual progress. Follow the Guru’s Upadesha to the very letter. Remember it is meant for you only. The other disciples have received Guru- upadesha, too. Let them follow it. Do not impose the Upadesha you have received on others.
The student can imbibe or draw from his teacher in proportion to his degree of faith. When the Guru comes to the aspirant to give spiritual instructions, if the aspirant does not pay any attention, if he is self- sufficient and heedless, if he bolts the door of his heart, he is not benefited.
The Sadguru communicates the secret knowledge of the Upanishads to his trusted disciples only after repeated entreaty and severe testing. Sometimes, the Guru may even tempt his disciple, but the latter should overcome the temptation by firm faith in the Guru.
In days of yore, the tests were very severe. Once Gorakhnath asked some of his students to climb up a tall tree and throw themselves, head downwards, on a very sharp trident or Trisula. Many faithless students kept quiet. But one faithful student at once climbed up the tree with lightning speed and hurled himself downwards. He was protected by the invisible hand of Gorakhnath. He had immediate Self-realisation.
The Guru tests the students in various ways. Some students misunderstand him and lose their faith in him. Hence they are not benefited.
The best disciple is like petrol or aviation spirit. Even from a great distance, he will instantly react to the spark of the Guru’s Upadesha.
The second class disciple is like camphor. A touch awakens his inner spirit and kindles the fire of spirituality in him.
The third class of disciple is like coal. The Guru has to take great pains in order to awaken the spirit in him.
The fourth class of disciple is like a plantain stem. No efforts will be of any avail over him. Whatever the Guru may do, he remains cold and inert.
Two things are necessary for a beautifully finished idol or image. One is a perfect, faultless, good piece of marble; the second is the expert sculptor. The piece of marble should but unconditionally remain in the hands of the sculptor in order to be carved and chiselled into the fine image. So too, the disciple has but to cleanse himself, purify himself, and make himself a perfectly faultless piece of marble, and placing himself under the expert guidance of his Master, allow to be carved out and chiselled into the image of God.