How to Relate to a Master by Swami Kriyananda

Posted: October 7, 2012 in approaching a guru, Follow Your Guru, Guru's Grace, Guru's Presence, Guru-Bhakti, How to Recognise a Guru, Satsang, Who is a Guru


A master is not what he appears to human eyes. Yet his human appearance is, for all that, an aspect of what he is. The distinction lies in the fact that he is infinitely more than what he appears. Thus, for those who see in him a great and wise teacher, he is that. For those who see him as a dear friend, he is also that. He appears differently to every person: as a gracious and charming individual; as a wonderful raconteur of wise stories; a delightful humorist; an inspired lecturer; an invincible opponent; a powerful crusader; a guileless child; a stern disciplinarian; the truest friend one could ever have. He is infinitely morethan every possible definition of him, and more than the sum of all concepts of him—more even than people’s capacity to understand.A master is like a mirror: Whatever qualities we present to him, he reflects back to us: not our errors, needless to say, but what our own souls perceive in us from their level of deeper wisdom. To each of us he represents the reactions of the eternal Self. Thus, even if people view him as the personification of kindness, he never fails to correct them, even sternly, if that is what they need at the moment. At the same time, behind each of those reflections he remains ever the same: wise, kind, all-forgiving, humble, firmly resolute, and forever incapable of compromising the truth. He is whatever each of us, in his soul, wants him to be; at the same time, he is beyond our mental concepts, unshakably centered in infinite consciousness.

The author recalls once addressing a saint in India lovingly, “How tirelessly and selflessly you have given of yourself to others all your life!”

The saint, gazing at him with calm eyes, replied, “Is that how you see it?”

Whatever else a master is, he is also a person of extraordinary magnetism. Thus—inevitably so—he attracts people to him though his one desire is to draw them to God, not to his humanity. Devotees who love God one-pointedly enjoy more than others do the charm and inspiration of a master’s nature. Nor is it wrong for anyone to do so. Indeed, it is his magnetism that carries the soul on a “magic carpet” up to the Infinite Light. The devotion a master receives is directed by him to God alone. And he patiently teaches others to direct their love to God also, viewing him as but a window onto infinity.

One of the chief signs of a true master, indeed, is the impersonality of his love: impersonal where he himself is concerned, but not where others’ needs are concerned. He knows, however, and others know also, whose perception is intuitive, that without the inspiration they receive from him their very devotion would become only a sputtering flame.

Thus, disciples often focus their devotion on the master as a catalyst for their love for God. By devotion to him as a conscious instrument of the Divine, they open themselves to the flow of divine love. The magnetic presence of a true master, far from impeding their spiritual progress, greatly accelerates it.

In like manner, people in general are lifted to higher levels of consciousness by associating respectfully with people who live more in wisdom than they themselves do. The young, therefore, are well instructed to show deference to the old, whose longer experience in life has (or should have) given them greater wisdom. It is good, indeed, to serve any human being whose magnetic influence can raise one to higher levels of awareness. To work even as a servant in the home of people who are socially above oneself can be a karmic boon for someone whose family background is coarse and uneducated, for it can help him to become more refined. Even pets who are loved by their owners receive an impetus through that association in their own spiritual evolution.

Thus, association with a great master, even for those with only dim awareness of what he is, can bring priceless spiritual benefits. Of course, the more aware one is, the greater the blessings he attracts.

Much grace comes through association with a great master, even for people who are only vaguely aware of the gifts they are receiving. The benefits vary, depending on the disciples’ understanding and receptivity. Few disciples are as intuitively attuned to their master as Peter showed himself in the above story to be. Most are content to enjoy the master’s personality. Thus, they follow him about eagerly, gaze at him avidly, and try mentally to absorb his expressions and gestures as indicative of the consciousness he emanates. His least remark is reported eagerly, and every tidbit of news concerning him is circulated widely: to whom he has spoken, whom he has favored especially, the time he has given to this person or to that. The disciples’ attention, in other words, is often directed so much outwardly that they neglect to develop inward communion with him, and think by physical association alone to receive his blessings.

Much of this sort of energy may be seen around the kings and queens in the royal courts of this world. We see it displayed also in this Bible passage in people’s fascination with such superficial questions as who Jesus was in other incarnations. It isn’t that such questions ought never to be asked, but only that too much of this kind of interest becomes mere gossip, and prevents one from absorbing the master’s vibrations and magnetism.

(pgs. 187-190, The Promise of Immortality)

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