The following is an excerpt from Swami Venkatesananda’s “Sivananda Yoga”
gukaraschandhakarascha rukarastannirodhakah andhakaravinasitvad-gurur-ityabhidhiyate
“That light which removes the darkness of ignorance is the Guru.” He in whose presence you gain this, is the Guru; or that is the Guru. That moment or that event where the scales of ignorance drop away and this inner structure of theory (which has been put there by the instructions of the Acharya) begins to grow and is realised—there is the Guru.
When you go round India you will meet dozens of Gurus who say: “I am your Guru”. Gurudev never said that for one moment. Occasionally he used to say “You are my disciple” or “He is my disciple”; and some of the older disciples here probably have one letter at least where Gurudev said: “I have accepted you as my beloved disciple, I shall serve you and guide you.” But with all respect and adoration to Gurudev I may tell you that it was meant more as an encouragement to the disciple than as a statement of fact. When Swami Sivananda said: “I have accepted you as my beloved disciple”, you felt that you had a claim over Swami Sivananda, you could write to him more freely. That is what he wanted. The next sentence is: “I will serve you.” You have never heard of a Guru serving a disciple, the disciple is supposed to serve the Guru! So in that formula itself he has cancelled this Guru business. He never regarded himself as a Guru. It was for us, not for him.
It is the disciple’s experience that is the Guru, and the Guru need not know when that experience happened to you. You may say, “You are my Guru”; it is not for the Guru to say, “I am your Guru.” I can go to the Guru and say, “I am your disciple” when I am prepared to do exactly what he tells me to do, and not till that stage is reached can I boldly say: “I am your disciple, you are my Guru.”
Till then there is no Guru. It is very important to remember this, otherwise you can get into all sorts of muddles. Suddenly you go to somebody and if he scratches your back and says: “Oh, I see a brilliant light around your face and you are going to attain enlightenment in three months”, you say: “Ah, you are my Guru!” If he asks you to bring a cup of milk from the kitchen you say: “Ach, what kind of Guru are you? You are no longer my Guru—it is finished.” This is a travesty of truth.
Gurudev insisted (as does the Yoga Vasishtha) that you cannot attain enlightenment without the help of a Guru, and to Swamis who wanted to be Gurus he said, “Be careful, don’t become a Guru.” You should not become a Guru, but I must have a Guru. I need a Guru but nobody is prepared to be my Guru! You see the tangle here? What must I do? Swamiji was emphatic there: “Be a disciple! From head to foot be a disciple! Then you will find a Guru.”
Early in 1947 Swamiji was sitting in the office. A young man from South Africa who had stayed with us for about two or three months was leaving that day. He walked in, prostrated to Gurudev, and started crying. With supreme love and affection Gurudev looked at him. He said, “Swamiji, I have to go today, and in Africa where do we get a Guru like you?” Suddenly Swamiji’s expression changed and with a very beautiful, meaningful and mischievous smile he said: “Huh, you don’t find a Guru in Africa?” By this time the man’s grief had gone, his tears had dried up. He found the Master laughing and smiling. Swamiji then fixed his gaze on this young man and said, “Ohji, it is very easy to find a Guru, it is very difficult to find a disciple!” If you are a disciple naturally you’ll find a Guru.
Disciple means discipline. What does the word ‘discipline’ mean? Not an army drill, but study. The Acharya gave you some information which produced a form within you; and now you wish to study this. The Acharya said that happiness is in you, that it is not in the object of pleasure—but that is not your experience. You have experienced pleasure from that object and in its absence you are miserable. So what do you do? You are studying this inner structure, studying the workings of the mind, the arising of the self, the ego. But it is not clear because you are full of impurities, dirt and filth. Therefore in the course of the study of oneself an extraordinary discipline arises. It is not discipline which is imposed upon you by others, it is not discipline which is goal oriented, but it is a discipline born of intense search. When this discipline manifests itself in your heart you will naturally find your Guru. You go and stand in front of someone and … that’s it. You don’t need to exchange a word.
Some of us came here in 1944 and found Swamiji and some others. He was radiating bliss, radiating peace, radiating joy. We looked around and saw that all the things that you and I consider vital to peace, happiness, prosperity and all the rest of it, were absent here. There was absolutely nothing. A cup of tea in the morning was almost celestial manna, ambrosia. Living in such conditions how were these people able to smile, to radiate joy! What is that, possessing which he led such a life? You began to wonder and something clicked. There was no need to exchange one single word. Looking into his eyes you realised that he had found the truth, you had not. That was enough to humble you, make you collapse at his feet.
Truth is not transmitted by word, but is always transmitted non-verbally. I can tell you I am angry with you, but you know the truth because non-verbally you have not sensed I am angry with you. There are occasions (of which I am sure you are aware) when someone might smile, and you sense anger. Non-verbal communication alone is truth, and truth can only be communicated non-verbally. Information you can pass on, so the passing on of the information is the business of the Acharya. Non-verbal communication of truth is by the Guru. I don’t know if the Guru also knows that his disciple has been enlightened or awakened. Gurudev never discussed this.
On a spiritual level it was most beautiful to observe how he regarded everyone and everything as his Guru. (It is very difficult to explain this and probably more difficult to understand it.) That is, when this discipline becomes total, there is total awareness of Guru everywhere. Whether a person wore a yellow, red or green cloth, to Gurudev he was always Swami. Everyone was a Swami, everyone was Bhagavan, everyone was Devi. That is probably the state you will find yourself in if there is this total discipline. Then the whole universe becomes your Guru.