What Happens If Your Guru is Imperfect?

Looking for a Suitable Guru

There was once a man of good spiritual impressions who used to attend Satsang classes where he heard that the Guru’s Grace was indispensably necessary for God-realisation. From that very moment he began to search for a Guru to receive instructions and practise Sadhana. He came across many Sadhus and saints but found some fault or other with every one of them. He had a perverted intellect and a narrow-minded; fault-finding nature. Therefore, he was not able to find a Guru. As long as one does not crush one’s pride of intellect and learning and become like a child with intense faith, one cannot find a suitable Guru.

One day while sitting in his house in a sorrowful mood, his wife asked him the reason for his lamentation. He replied that he could not find a Guru who would show him the way to God. His wife suggested that they should both go to the forest at night and sit on the wayside, and the man who happened to pass that way first should be taken as their Guru. The husband agreed.

The next day they went to the jungle and sat on the side of a pathway. It so happened that a thief with some stolen ornaments was hurrying that way. The couple at once caught hold of his feet and took him as their Guru They begged him to teach them, the Guru Mantra.

A Thief for a Guru?

The thief was very surprised and also frightened. They narrated the whole story to him. He was moved by their faith and expressed the truth that he was a thief. The couple, however, would not allow him to go further and insisted that he teach them the Guru Mantra. The thief was alarmed that if he tarried any longer he would be caught. In order to get away somehow, he asked them to bend down, close their eyes and catch hold of their ears. He asked them to remain in that posture until he again ordered them to stand. They obeyed him and assumed the position. They remained like that throughout the night and the next day also. The couple did not take any food or water. In the meantime, the thief was caught and put into prison.

Waited for their (Thief) Guru

Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi were very much moved by their faith. Lakshmi became restless and prayed to the Lord to give them Darshan. Lord Vishnu appeared before them. On seeing the Lord, the couple were pleased but did not open their eyes or stand up. The Lord requested them to stand up but they replied that they would not do so without the permission of their Guru.

Thereupon the Lord appeared before the ruler of the country in a dream and asked him to release the thief from prison. The Rajah thought that the dream was false, but when it was repeated thrice, he at once released the thief. The same night the Lord appeared in the dream of the thief and told him to go to the place where the couple still remained in the same posture as he had ordered, and ask them to open their eyes.

Upon his release the thief immediately proceeded to the jungle and asked the couple to open their eyes and stand up. They did so and explained how the Lord had given them Darshan. The thief too revealed to them his dream and about his release.

A voice from heaven was heard: “I am very much pleased with the intense faith you have in your Guru. Do Bhajan, Japa and meditation regularly. I will give you Darshan and liberate you from the cycle of births and deaths.”

From that day onward the thief also left his habit of stealing and became a devotee of Lord Vishnu. The couple commenced regular Sadhana and Bhajan and became liberated souls while living.

Devotion and obedience to the Guru can achieve anything. Guru Bhakti is the supreme purifier and illuminator. It is devotion to the Guru alone that makes the life of the aspirant blessed and fruitful.

Source: 120-122, Inspiring Stories by Swami Sivananda

Bhakta Pipa

When once you have taken a man as your Guru, you should never change even if you get a man with greater developments or Siddhis. Then only will you have faith. Through strong faith, you will then and there, realise Brahman, the God in that Guru. You must become like the famous Bhakta Pipa of the well-known Bhaktamala, who took a rogue Nata as his Guru and when he saw his Nata Guru dancing on the bamboos in the open market, he took him as Guru, the Brahman incarnate, prostrated before him and thus eventually had his Self-realisation through the form of the rogue-Guru, the Nata.

Source: pg.275, Yoga Samhita by Swami Sivananda

The Glory of Mantra-Diksha

Swami Sivananda: “Initiation into the Divine Name or the solemn Mantra-Diksha is one of the holiest and most significant of the sacred rituals in the spiritual life. To receive the Guru Mantra from a realised Saint and Sat-Guru is the rarest of good fortune and the most precious of the divine blessings that may be bestowed upon the aspirant—the full glory of the Mantra-Diksha, specially when it is done by a realised soul, can hardly be imagined even fractionally by the uninitiated who has not yet proper idea of what that Mantra and Mantra-Diksha really imply. The process of Mantra-Diksha is one of the most ancient in this sacred land and is the grandest jewel in the treasure of our peerless culture.

“Initiation puts you in possession with the direct means of attaining the grandest and the highest thing which can be attained, attaining which you obtain everything, knowing which you know everything, and gaining which nothing more remains to be gained! Initiation leads you to the full knowledge and experience that you are neither the mind nor the body, that you are Satchidananda Atma, full of Light and full of the Highest Bliss. May the Grace of the Satguru, the Visible God, bestow upon you all the highest fruit of Self-Realisation.” (pg. 304, Yoga Samhita by Swami Sivananda)

Swami Muktananda: “The mantra given by the Guru, although seeming to be mere syllables, has the divine potency to awaken the highest yoga in a disciple. It has the power to burn up completely a sadhaka’s accumulated karmas… the mantra is capable of transforming the (sadhaka), of making him worthy of attaining oneness with (God).” (pgs. 59-60, Light on the Path by Swami Muktananda)

Swami Satyananda: “Once you are initiated into a mantra you should continue it throughout your life in order to succeed in the practice. You must have faith in the Mantra which you have received in initiation, and stick to it right up to the very end. Japa Yoga may be a long path but it is sure and certain. (pg. 117, Early Teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati) [Swamiji is a direct disciple of Swami Sivananda].

Swami Sri Sivaya Subramaniyam: “Mantra diksha bestows the permission and power for Japa Yoga. Without this initiation, it’s repetition bears lesser fruit,”  (pg. 405, Dancing with Siva)

Hypocrite Who Pretends to Follow His Guru: குரு துரோகி

“Self-assertive nature is a great obstacle in the spiritual path. This is an evil quality born of Rajas. This is accompanied by vanity and arrogance.

“The self-assertive aspirant does not pay attention to the instructions of his Guru. He has his own ways. He pretends to be obedient to his Guru. At every step his little ego asserts. He is disobedient and breaks discipline. He creates party spirit, revolt, chaos and disorder. He forms parties. He criticises Mahatmas, Sannyasins, Yogins and Bhaktas. He has no faith in the scriptures and the words of sages. He insults his own Guru even. He conceals facts and tells deliberate lies to keep up his position or to cover up his wrong actions. He tells several lies to cover up one lie. He twists and tortures real facts.” (pg. 368, How to Cultivate Virtues and Eradicates Vices by Swami Sivananda)

Fate of Insincere Disciples

the-guru-disciple-dynamic-2019-04-21“(Many) disciples who get initiation from their preceptors become insincere and faithless and ungrateful. An insincere disciple betrayed Lord Jesus. Some of the disciples of Lord Buddha became his traitors and enemies. They left their Guru and did much harm and mischief. Even now there are plenty of insincere disciples who cheat even their Guru. What a shame! What a sad state! Their lot is highly deplorable! Such disciples will meet with miserable death. They will be tortured in the Maharaorava hell. They will be thrown in lower wombs in the next birth and suffer from incurable diseases.” (pg. 196, How to Cultivate Virtues and Eradicate Vices by Swami Sivananda).

“An insincere man cannot make even an iota of spiritual progress…. Sincerity is one of the important qualifications in the path of spirituality. Throughout the Gita, the one ringing note is that the aspirant in the path of Self-realisation should possess the important virtue, sincerity. The Sanskrit term for sincerity is Arjava. Look at the sincerity of Lakshmana and Bharata  and their unflinching  devotion  to Lord Rama. Wherever  there  is sincerity there is devotion  also. Savitri was very sincere to her husband Satyavan.  Maitreyi was very sincere to her husband Yajnavalkya. So she received  the Atma-Vidya from him. Mira was very sincere towards her beloved Lord Krishna. She had the good fortune  to have Darshan  of Giridhar Gopal. A sincere friend, a sincere  devotee,  a sincere husband,  a sincere wife, a sincere son and a sincere  servant are gods on earth. There is no virtue greater than sincerity. It should be developed at all costs by one and all.

“(An insincere man engages in) double-dealing… cunningness, crookedness, petty-mindedness… He tries to pose for a sincere man by trying to please his friends in a variety of ways, by gifts, artificial sweet and nice speech born of cunningness and other cunning methods. But he does not know that there are better intelligent people to detect the crow which shines in borrowed feathers. He is soon found out.

“O friend…! You have become insincere on account of intoxication from selfishness and greed. You do not know what you are exactly doing. You have a clouded understanding. Your conscience will prick you severely at one time. Your heart will bleed when you come to your senses. Your heart must bleed through repentance with a contrite heart. Then only can you purify yourself. Do Japa. Sing Lord’s Name. Fast on Ekadasi. Do not take even a drop of water. You will develop sincerity and through sincerity you will achieve freedom, peace and perfection.

“Hypocrisy, arrogance, conceit, wrath, harshness, unwisdom, deceitfulness, falsehood…cunningness, crookedness, petty-mindedness are connected with insincerity.”

(pgs. 191, 192, 194, 195, How to Cultivate Virtues and Eradicate Vices by Swami Sivananda)

Is There a Need for a Human Guru?

Question: What is this Guru?

Bhagavan Sri Ramanamaharishi: From the standpoint of the path of Knowledge, it is the supreme state of the Self. It is different from the ego which you call yourself.

Question: Can’t one approach God without the Grace of (a human) Guru?

Bhagavan Sri Ramanamaharishi: The ego is the individuality and is not the same as the Lord at all. When it approaches the Lord with sincere devotion, He graciously assumes name and form and takes it to Himself. Therefore, they say that the Guru is none other than the Lord. He is a human embodiment of Divine Grace.

Question: But there are some who seem to have had no human Guru at all?

Bhagavan Sri Ramanamaharishi: True. In the case of certain great souls, God reveals Himself as the light of the Light from within.

Question: Some people report that (you) deny the need of a Guru. Others say the reverse. What have you to say about this?

Bhagavan Sri Ramanamaharishi: I have never said that there is no need for a Guru.

Question: Okay, is there a need for a human Guru?

Bhagavan Sri Ramanamaharishi: What is a Guru? Guru is God or the Self. First a man prays to God to fulfil his desires, then, a time comes when he does not preay for the fulfilment of a desire but for God Himself. So, God appears to him in some form or other, human or non-human, to guide him as a Guru in answer to his prayer.

Question: what are the characteristics of a Guru by which one can recognise him?

Bhagavan Sri Ramanamaharishi: The Guru is one who at all times abides in the profound depths of the Self. He never sees any difference between himself and others and is quite free from the idea that he is the Enlightened or the liberated One, while those around him are in bondage or the darkness of ignorance. His self-possession can never be shaken under any circumstances and he is never perturbed.

Source: pgs. 94, 95, 96, 97, The teachings of Ramana Maharshi

Question: Who is capable of giving me the Divine wisdom, that which gives me Self-realisation?

Swami Sivananda: Divine wisdom, according to Sri Krishna, should be sought at the feet of a liberated Guru, one who has realised the Truth.

Question: How should one approach such a Guru?

Swami Sivananda: The aspirant should approach such a sage in a spirit of humility and devotion. God Himself manifests in the heart of the Guru and instructs the disciple. Having understood the Truth from the Guru by direct intuitive experience the aspirant is no longer deluded by ignorance.(Summary of Gita’s Fourth Discourse)

Question: Can’t I study the scriptures like the Gita on my own and understand what God wants me to understand? Do I need a Guru even for that?

Swami Sivananda: “…without the help of a Guru, you will not be able to understand the proper meaning of the verses of the Gita. You will be like the man who brought a horse to one who asked for saindava while taking food. The word saindava means salt as well as horse!” (pg. 9, Bhagavad Gita [Divine Life soceity, South African Edition]

Question: Is there any reference in the scriptures that say the greatness of the truly enlightened Guru?

If (God) becomes angry, the Guru can save (the individual who has been the subject of God’s anger), but when the Guru gets angry (with an individual), even (God) cannot save him. So, the Guru should be served with the utmost care.” [pg. 727, Canto 7, Chap. 36, verse 26, Srimad Devi Bhagavatam]   

Shallow Seekers Meet Lesser Teachings

Does a magnet make an effort to draw the iron? there is a natural attraction according to the affinity of the iron and the power of the magnet. Of course, the iron must be near enough to the magnet to be drawn. So is the relationship between guru and disciple. it is a question of the recipiency of the disciple and the spiritual power of the preceptor to inspire and draw him to God.

“…shallow seekers in contact with lesser teachings…”

Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” (John 6:44). The omniscient God brings shallow seekers in contact with lesser teachings and spiritual books; from these they derive some benefit commensurate with their degree of spiritual desire and understanding. But deep seekers of God are brought by Him into contact with fully realized gurus who are able to commune with God and to serve as channels in imparting divine guidance. It is their duty to introduce the devotee to God. So, it is ultimately God who brings together guru and disciple, but there is also a desire on their part to come together. Through earnest spiritual longing, the disciple, perhaps unconsciously at first, seeks the guru—one who can lead him to God. And the true guru, when he intuitively knows a disciple sent by God, makes an effort to draw him, and goes out of his way to help him. The true disciple, finding a true guru, becomes magnetically attracted to him and recognizes him as the one sent by god. This is the law.

(pg. 187, “Journey to Self-Realization” by Paramahansa Yogananda)

You Talk A Lot About Your Guru BUT…

Mata Amritanandamayi: “This is not an easy path, and there is pain involved….Faith and self-surrender Have become limited to words. More speaking and less doing is the policy of the modern age, and the tendencies of the mind are stronger than before. No one wants to be disciplined. Everyone wants to keep their ego, it is so precious to them. People think that the ego is an embellishment; it is not considered to be a burden anymore. People do not feel the heaviness of their ego. They feel comfortable inside its small, hard shell. They feel afraid and insecure to come out of it. They think that they are well protected where they are. For them, what lies beyond the shell of their ego is frightening, it is unknown, and therefore, unsafe…

“Surrendering to a Master is not easy. It needs courage. It is like jumping into a flowing river. The Master is the flowing river. Once you jump in, the current will inexorably take you to the sea. There is no escape. You may struggle and try to swim against the current, but the river is so strong that it is bound to take you to the ocean — to God or the Self —that is your real dwelling place. To jump in is to surrender. It needs a courageous mind, because it can be compared to the death of your body and mind.

“You may not take the plunge now, because you are not yet ready to jump into the Deep waters of the river. For the time being, you may want to remain standing on the river bank enjoying the beauty of the river. You may want to enjoy the cool gentle breeze, the constant chatter of the running water, the power and charm of the river. That is fine. The river is not going to force you to jump in, and you can stand there for as long as you like, because it won’t send you away. It is not going to say, ‘Enough is enough! Go away! There is a long waiting list!’ Nor is it going to say, ‘Okay the time has come! You either jump into me right now, or I will force you!’ No, nothing of the sort. It is all up to you. You can either jump in or stay on the shore. The river is simply there. It is always willing to accept and to cleanse you.

“The river of the Master does not have an ego. It does not think, ‘I am flowing, I am powerful and beautiful. I have the power to take you to the ocean. In fact, I am the ocean. See how many people bathe and swim in me, and how they find delight in me!’ No, the river of the Master has no such feelings. It just flows because its nature is to do so.

“But once you dive in, the current is such that you will become almost like a corpse. You will find yourself so powerless that you have no other choice but to simply be still and let the river carry you wherever it wants. You have the freedom to choose. You can either remain on the shore, or dive in. But once you take the leap, you do not have a choice anymore; you will lose your individuality, you will have to give up your ego. At that point, you disappear, and you find that you are floating in pure consciousness.

“So, you are free to stay on the shore. But for how long? Sooner or later, you will either have to turn and go back to the world, or you will have to jump. Even if you return to the world, the beauty and charm of the river is so enchanting and so tempting that you will keep on coming back. The day will come when you will be tempted to take that final leap, and finally you will dive in — it has to happen.

“While standing on the shore, you may have many things to say about the river. You will sing its praises, you will describe its beauty, you will have many opinions about it, and you have unending stories to tell about the river, and its history. But you are describing the river, and telling stories about it without having taken a dip in it even once. And whatever you may say about the greatness of the river without having gone into it, is Simply meaningless. Once you finally dive in, once you surrender to the River of Existence – the Perfect Master – you will be silent. You will have nothing to say.

“Surrender makes you silent. Surrender destroys the ego, and helps you to experience your nothingness and God’s omniscience. Once you know that you are nothing, that you are totally ignorant, then you have nothing to say. You have only unconditional and undivided faith; you can only bow down in utmost humility. In order to really know, one should be humble. The ego and real knowledge are not compatible. Humility is a sign of true knowledge.

“There are people who are good speakers. They tend to have big egos. There are exceptions, but the general tendency is to speak more and do less. Why? Because they haven’t surrendered to a higher reality, to the higher values of life. They have not really accepted God’s all-powerful nature, and become aware of their own nothingness, even though they may speak about it.Such people may do a lot of good for the world, but they also do a lot of harm…

“When you surrender to a higher consciousness, you give up all your claims; you Release your grip from everything that you’ve been holding on to. Whether you gain or lose, it doesn’t matter now. You don’t want to be something any longer. You long to be nothing, absolutely nothing. So you dive into the River of Existence.

“The ego, or the mind, is that which makes you feel that you are something. Unless it is eliminated, you cannot dive deep into your own consciousness. you have to become nothing. Not even a trace of, ‘I am something’ should remain. If you are something, there is no entry into the realm of pure consciousness.”

(pgs. 159-163, Awaken, Children! Vol 7)

How to Relate to a Master by Swami Kriyananda

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)

Scriptures Becomes Alive in the Presence of the Guru

The auspicious Guru Purnima celebrations were held in Amma’s new Chicago Ashram.
The celebrations took place after a long day of darshan, with Swami Amritaswaroopananda leading the worship of the Guru’s feet.

Amma spoke to the devotees about the importance of the Guru disciple relationship. “A disciple with awareness, devotion and self surrender, will continuously receive the Guru’s message and guidance, no matter where they are.  Once we find a true Master, the scriptures are reborn. The Vedas and Upanishads are repeated. When we find such a Master our search ends there. All we need to do is to live in their presence and try to imbibe their sacrifice into our own lives.

“In reality, there is no new message to deliver about spirituality. ‘Everything is God, there is nothing else but God.’ This is the only message. This is the single message in the Upanishads, Vedas, Bhagavad Gita and Puranas. When we say that there are 108 Upanishads, we should understand that it is actually, 108 different ways of conveying the same message.

“Amma’s only desire is for Her children to be happy. Happiness is within everyone, but we are not able to experience it. This is because of our likes and dislikes. We are in the grip of our ego and because of this we hold on to our likes and dislikes. In order to break away from the ego, we need the help of a Satguru. Amma’s goal is to give her children this strength and love. If we let go of our likes and dislikes, we will become fit vessels to receive the Guru’s ever flowing grace. We can become freed from our mind and become a blessing to the entire world.

“Today, each of you should take some kind of vow. Sharing with others, taking only what we need, this is spirituality in practice. Every night we should contemplate, “What good did I do today? Did I hurt anyone? Did I get angry with anyone? How can I prevent myself from making this mistake tomorrow?” In case we have done something good, we should think, “How can I do better tomorrow? How can I speak even kinder words tomorrow? Can I help someone? Can I donate 10 minutes of my time to the poor or needy?” When we contemplate like this, our entire life becomes filled with light. When we have light within, no darkness can affect us.

“All your actions and duties should be filled with the sweetness of love. It is that sweetness that transforms ordinary action into Guru Seva, or service to the Guru. Devoid of the sweetness of love, action is mere labor. Action that is performed only for material growth is also mere labor. However, action that is performed to develop love within and attain spiritual growth is Guru Seva. Such actions are worship of the Inner Self. That, indeed, is true devotion. This is the key to open the doors to our True Self. The purpose of this human birth is to know God, or our true Self.

“Each and every living being in nature is part of the Guru’s body. Loving and serving such a Satguru is the path to reach our true Self. It is the key to open the doors to our soul. It is the way, it is the goal, it is the path. May all Amma’s children awaken and rise in this love, may we all become lamps of love shedding light to the whole world. May grace bless us all.”

After the message, prasad was given out to all devotees by Amma herself. Celebrations ended on a high note with Amma singing Bandalo and Hari Narayana for the overjoyed surprise of the devotees.

share your joy:

"Guru and Disciple" By Sri Swami Venkatesananda

It was the end of May, 1924, when Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj reached Rishikesh. His joy knew no bounds. The perennial river Ganga, the majestic hills clad in green forest—they whom Gurudev calls his divine parents, greeted him.

On the night of his arrival at Rishikesh, he slept on the verandah of Charan Das Dharmasala near the Rishikesh Post Office. There were other Sadhus, among them was Swami Visvananda Sarasvati, an aged man of wisdom, ochre-robed, with nothing but a staff and a Kamandalu as his possessions. His face was aglow with the fire of Knowledge. It captivated Sri Gurudev’s heart the moment he had the old Sannyasin’s Darshan early in the morning. Gurudev fell prostrate at his feet. Fondly, the saint—Swami Visvanandaji—raised him and embraced him with all love and affection and said:

“My dear child! I see something on your forehead which tells me that you are a wonderful instrument in the hands of God for conveying His Message to the world. I have been watching you for the past nearly half an hour. Am I right in assuming that you have renounced the world and desire to lead the life of a monk?

“Most Holy Sire! Yes, you are right. Oh, how fortunate I am to have the Darshan of a divine sage! Blessed I am this day; blessed I am indeed. Shower your Grace on this poor humble seeker. For, it is only through thee that I can attain my goal.

“Well said, my child. I should myself feel it the greatest privilege to initiate you into Sannyasa.”

A torrent of tears from his eyes was all that Gurudev could offer in reply. He was ready and Swami Visvananda was eager.

Gurudev’s dispassion was of the highest type. Prosperity did not affect him at all; he saw in it always, the hand of God. He offered everything to God without any reservation. Swami Visvananda Saraswati now gave him the chance to make the final offering of himself to the Lord, in return for the love that had been shown on him.

Gurudev was initiated into the glorious Order of Sannyasa on the 1st June, 1924, by the saintly Swami Visvananda Sarasvati. From that day on he became known as Swami Sivananda Sarasvati.

He who has supreme devotion to God and equal devotion to his Guru, unto him the truths of the Upanishads are revealed.

—Svetasvatara Upanishad

Thus Sri Gurudev proclaimed, by his own conduct, the absolute necessity for a Guru, and for Sannyasa. He says in his ‘Autobiography’:

The spiritual path is beset with many obstacles. The Guru will guide the aspirants safely and remove all sorts of difficulties they have to face. He will inspire the students and give them spiritual powers through his blessings. Guru, Isvara, Truth and Mantra are one. There is no other way of overcoming the vicious worldly Samskaras of the passionate nature of raw, worldly-minded persons than by personal contact with and service to the Guru.”

“There are many egoistic students who say: ‘I do not need a Guru. God is my Guru.’ They change their own robes and live independently. When difficulties confront them, they are bewildered. I do not like the rules and regulations of the scriptures, sages and saints to be violated. When there is a change of heart, there should be a change in the external form also. The glory and the liberty of a Sannyasin can hardly be imagined by the timid and the weak.”

Explaining the glory of the ochre-coloured robe, Gurudev says:

“Wearing the ochre-coloured cloth, the orange robe, is very necessary for one who has a changed mind. Due to the force of Maya or habit, when the senses move among the sense-objects, the moment you look at the coloured cloth that you wear, it will remind you that you are a Sannyasin. It will give you a kick and save you from vicious actions. It has its own glory and advantages. A real Sannyasin only can cut off all connections. His friends and relatives will not trouble him. The robe is of great service when one appears on the platform for preaching. It has its own sanctity in the minds of Hindus. Common people will easily receive the ideas from a Sannyasin. Some hypocrites say: “We have given colouring to our minds. We need not change the clothes.” I do not believe these men. Even the famous Mandana Misra who fought with Sri Sankara, became a Sannyasin. He was known as Suresvaracharya. The great Rishi Yajnavalkya became a Sannyasin. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa removed his hair and became a Sannyasin. He was initiated into the Order of Sannyasa by Swami Totapuri. It is only those who have cravings, passions, attachments, and who are timid, that dread to change the cloth; they bring forth false, ingenious, unsound arguments. It is a pity that even some great persons of the present day, who are treading the spiritual path, have not recognised the glory and importance of changing the robe.”

The great ones act in this wise, not because they need to, but to set an example for others to follow—Lokasangraha, as the Lord says in the Gita. By their own conduct they bring out the imperative necessity of having a Guru to guide one in the acquisition of knowledge. Gurudev has often said: “For learning even the simple art of cooking, you need a teacher. Nothing has been possible for man to achieve without being instructed by one who knows. How much more Herculean would be the task of reaching the Life’s Destination without a guide!”

On the 11th of March, 1949, while instructing some disciples on Guru-Bhakti, Sri Gurudev said: “You should revere the Guru who teaches you the knowledge. Only then will the learning be fruitful.” And he cited his own example in this regard, and said: “See, I had Swami Visvanandaji’s company only for a couple of hours. Yet, daily I remember him in my hymns in the morning. I include Swami Vishnudevanandaji’s name also, as it was he who performed the Viraja Homa for me. It is very necessary; only then will the spark of Mumukshutva burn bright in us.

Incidentally, he also revealed another interesting anecdote of his life in Malaya. He said: “In Malaya, there were several adept Tantriks. It was the time the Spanish Flu took a heavy toll of life in Malaya. I, too, had an attack, but somehow escaped. The Tantrik had several Mantras and Yantras. That was a wonderful Vidya (science). A special unguent is applied on the thumb-nail of the adept of the Mantra; through this unguent, the adept would be able to see and know about distant happenings. He can tell you what is going on in such and such a place in Mysore; or, what a particular person is doing, where he is and so on. I even now remember the Mantra. I had great reverence for the man who taught me the Mantra. I used to prostrate myself before him and entertain him nicely, serve him whenever the occasion arose. Later, I gave up the Tantrik practice as I did not like the idea of subjugating Devatas and getting things done through them.”

Sri Gurudev had dispassion, born of a knowledge of the permanent and the transient, which is the basis for higher knowledge of the Self. In and through the world, Gurudev had acquired a glimpse of this higher knowledge, too. He has trained himself to hear the shrill Inner Voice of God, the Indweller of all hearts. It was thus quite unnecessary for him to seek the aid of Guru, when he could more easily depend on the Prompter within.

Yet he laid his head low at the feet of Swami Visvananda and received the Mahavakyas (great sacred utterances) from his preceptor’s powerful heart.

Gurudev’s Guru-Bhakti is evident from his words quoted above. To him, the preceptor—even the one who taught him fencing and the one that taught him the Tantrik Kriya—was the Lord Himself, come upon this earth to enlighten him. As the Svetasvatara Upanishad says, in the concluding Mantra, the Truths taught in the Upanishads are apparent to one who has supreme devotion to God and equal devotion to the Guru. Truly, indeed! And Gurudev is a good example to illustrate this truth. Gurudev shampooed his preceptor’s legs and thus attracted to himself the current of spiritual knowledge which brought him nearer the Goal. Swami Visvanandaji understood the worth of his divine pupil immediately, and came to the conclusion that he no longer needed his personal help. With tears of love and regard they parted from each other, as Swami Visvanandaji took leave to return to Benares.

Source: http://www.dlshq.org/discourse/jul2008.htm