How Guru Helps?


Parable of The Cheating Postmaster

A villager wrote to his son living in a town: “Please send me Rupees 10 every month for my expenses.” The village postmaster saw his opportunity in this and added one 0 to the figure and made it 100. The villager’s son went on sending Rs. 100 every month to his father; and the postmaster coolly pocketed Rs. 90 and gave only Rs. 10 to the father.

The postmaster’s greed grew wilder! He induced the villager to write to his son for more money. The villager wrote, “Please send me Rs. 20 hereafter.” The postmaster added a 0 and made it Rs. 200. His income was doubled thereby.

One day a Postal Inspector paid a surprise visit to the Post Office and found out that the Postmaster was enjoying himself thoroughly. He made enquiries from the local people and suspected mischief.

He asked the old villager: “What are your needs?” He answered: “Rs. 20 a month.” “Why are you sending your father Rs. 200 a month, whereas he needs only Rs. 20?” the Inspector asked the son.

The enquiry revealed the Postmaster’s trick. Promptly he was dismissed and punished severely. The old villager was saved from being robbed of his income.

It is the Prana in the body that needs food to sustain the body. The needs of the Prana are very few. But the tongue coming between the food and the Prana demands very much more! It demands delicious dishes-sweets, Chutnies, Sambar, Rasam and Dosai. The more it is catered to, the greater becomes its craving.

The Guru comes into the life of the man and points out to him that there is some fraud, and that all that he is eating is not really necessary for the sustenance of the Prana. The thief is caught and punished severely by fasting, saltless diet, etc. He is completely over come. The Sadhaka becomes a Jitendriya.

Source: pg. 108-110, Parables of Sivananda

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)

Who Is Qualified to Help Others?


Swami Amritageetananda Puri: “A man at a bus stop tried to jump onto a moving bus. A passenger standing on the footboard of the bus tried to pull him onto the bus but was not strong enough, and both fell out onto the road! Similarly, there are many (like them). Those who have learnt the scriptures and have done little tapas (=austerities) try to help others, but unfortunately a time passes, they lose sight of their goal and run after name and fame… Soon, they fall from the path.” (pg. 8, Matruvani, July 2013, Vol. 24, No. 11)

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)

Is Your Conscience Reliable?


Swami Sivananda: “…I shall speak a word on conscience. Some people say, We can find out good and evil, right and wrong, by consulting our conscience only.” No individual will be able to do this by consulting his conscience only. It may give some clue and help, but in difficult and trying conditions, it will not help one. Conscience is not an infallible guide. The conscience of a man changes according to the experiences and education he has had. Conscience is one’s intellectual conviction only. The conscience of the individual speaks in accordance with his own tendencies, proclivities, inclinations, education, habits and passions. The conscience of a savage speaks a language that is entirely different from that of a civilised European.

“The conscience of an African Negro speaks a language that is vastly different from that of an ethically developed Yogi of India. Ask a clerk at the collectorate, “What are your duties?” He will say, “I must earn money and support my family and parents. I must not injure others. I must read the Ramayana.” He has not the least idea of the laws of Nature. If you ask him, “What are your duties to the country and humanity? What are right and wrong? What are good and evil?” he will simply blink. Ask any vehicle driver, “What is your duty?” He will say, “I must anyhow earn Rs. 20 daily. I have to purchase ten gallons of fuel, tyres, tubes and crude oil. The tyres are very costly. I have six daughters and five sons. I have to take care of them.” If you ask him anything about God, about moral virtues, liberation, bondage and freedom, about right and wrong, he will be bewildered.
“Why is there so much divergence between the promptings of conscience of two persons of the same caste, religion and creed? Why do we find ten different convictions among ten persons of the same district and the same community? The voice of conscience alone is not sufficient to guide man in understanding the law of God, about right and wrong, good and evil and other duties of life. The Shastras and realised persons only can truly guide a man in the discharge of his duties in an efficient manner.
“Dear friend, do your duties in a satisfactory manner. Consult the Shastras and the Mahatmas whenever you are in doubt. As you have not the ability or the time to think of the moral principles and rules given in the scriptures, you can get the moral precepts or instructions from the sages and saints and follow them to the very letter. Evolve. Expand. Grow. Develop and realise the Satchidananda Atma.”
(pgs. 27-28, “Kingly Science, Kingly Secret”)

“The Guru is Spirit” by Sri Swami Atmaswarupananda


During his sadhana days in Swarg Ashram, Gurudev carried his sadhana to extreme levels. Afterwards, when he came to this side, he wouldn’t allow his own disciples to do some of the things that he did; for example, standing in the Ganga for long hours doing japa. Indeed, he recommended a balanced and integral yoga. He also said to eat a little, sleep a little, meditate a little.

And yet at the end of his Twenty Important Spiritual Instructions, which he tells us will lead us to moksha, he warns us that we must not give leniency to our mind. And Pujya Swami Chidanandaji, who can be very lenient with others, never gives leniency to himself, which indicates to us that a certain extremism is required for our spiritual life.

The scriptures tell us that if we practice absolute truth for 12 years that we will realise God. But this is a practice of truth that can only be considered to be extreme. It not only means absolute truthfulness with others in our daily life, but ruthless truthfulness within. And above all, it ultimately means the practice of Truth itself, abiding in the Truth. In addition, they tell us that if we will practise any other virtue equally strictly that that will also lead us to realisation.

However, even if we can keep our energy and determination at such a high level, the path and the goal of the spiritual life are so subtle that it is very easy to deceive ourselves and stray from the path. This is why we need a guru. But what if a guru is not available to give us this very subtle and fine guidance? Then we need to practise a basic truth that scriptures and the gurus try to impress upon us.

The guru is not his body. The guru is the Universal Spirit. And that Universal Spirit is omnipresent. It is present within us and without us. That Universal Spirit is capable of leading us and fine tuning us, not just through one body, but through any body It chooses to use, through any insight It chooses to give us, through any spiritual experience It decides to grant us—through any spiritual practice, through any passage in the scripture, through any casual remark from a friend. And, indeed, this knowledge in itself and the practice of this knowledge is a sadhana: “Practice the presence of God, seeing God in all, and that in itself can lead to you liberation,” Swamiji has said.

So while our spiritual life should be balanced and integral, we must not give leniency to our mind. We require a certain extremism. But above all, we require the constant guidance of the Spirit. Lord Krishna says, “If you want to cross this samsara, you must take refuge in Me alone.” In other words, for our sadhana, we must be constantly seeking His guidance—knowing that it is always available if we have the humility to accept it through whatever channel it comes.

Early Morning Meditation Talk given in the Sacred Samadhi Hall of Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh

“How to Approach a Saint?” By Sri Swami Chidananda


Various Approaches to a Saint

The relationship between a person and a saint may be of different kinds. Some look upon the saint with distrust and mistrust. Some have no faith in divinity and the holiness of saints. They are the skeptics, the atheists, the unbelievers, the people of no faith, who are agnostic by temperament. A large section of present-day humanity tends to be in this group.

There are those who run after sadhus and saints just to gain their material ends. They are ever-expecting a pinch of vibhuti or a drop of kamandalu water or some magical formula which will miraculously solve all their problems and troubles. They are after the saints for promotion in service, increment in salary, success in business deals, passing of an examination, escape from the consequence of punishments for misdeed, favourable verdicts in law suits or in marriage of their daughter, I.A.S. (Indian Administrative Service) selection for a son or son-in-law, cure of disease, birth of a child, gain in speculations and similar such desires and fulfilment in material life … its personal, domestic, social, professional or even political aspects, such as winning an election. They seek saints because they seek to make use of the saints for petty purposes.

This is in my opinion, no better than a sort of sophisticated superstition only. They are deluded beings. They are irrational in spite of their selfish cleverness. They have no sense of true values or right proportion. Whether they like to admit it or not, they always want and expect some sort of magic and miracle for their own benefit in the worldly material life.

They even expect sadhus and sannyasins to study their palm or cast their horoscope or foretell their future and give them talismans or tabeez to wear. This is not a saint’s work. A sannyasin is not expected to do these things. For these things one does not approach a saint. Such people’s wrong approach to saints is, I feel, unfortunate, like the case of a person who succeeds in obtaining a personal interview with an emperor or a president and when he meets him, asks him for a pinch of snuff.

The saints can give you the key to Supreme Blessedness and Eternal Life. Instead you seek them and ask them to secure for you some small and petty thing of a temporal nature in this passing, unreal earthly life of short duration, characterized by pain, disease, old age and death. What a great blunder!

There are others who hold a position of neutrality. They are just not interested in saints or sadhus, or holy men. They say: “We have enough to keep our minds occupied. We are already completely engaged with pressing occupations. They may be holy persons, we do not know and we do not care, and we do not bother either.” They are indifferent. They have no interest in knowing anything about holy persons. This is another type.

There is still another section of people who take a testimony that comes their way that he is a great Siddha Purusha or Yogi. “Is that so? He is a saint? Well, if it becomes possible, I shall try.” They do not make a sankalpa to go and see him immediately. They hear about holy men. They say, “Yes, if it is possible we shall try. If we happen to go there we shall certainly drop in and try to pay a visit, but we cannot say definitely.” So, if they do get a chance, if they happen to go to that side, they do not mind visiting such a person, not to have his darshan, but to see him. Perhaps they also feel, because so many people say so many things about this holy man. “There may be something… perhaps some bit of it will benefit me also. I may get a promotion, or I may at least be saved from sacking for the mistake which I have committed. I may get an increment, or some desire which I have in my heart may be fulfilled.”

Then next class is slightly superior to them. They believe and they have faith. They think: “Saints are extraordinary people and not ordinary beings. Therefore it is worthwhile visiting them, worthwhile cultivating their company, worthwhile coming into orbit of their attention and becoming attached to them. In some way they are above ordinary people… they are capable of doing things which a normal man may not be capable of doing and therefore if their company is cultivated we may get many thing done which through the normal human agencies we will not be able to get done. Somehow, in some mysterious way, there is some power in these sadhus.”

So they have a deeper faith, a deeper recognition of something extraordinary or something great, but not the right appreciation of it. There is a recognition and awareness of it, but neither correct appreciation nor proper appraisal of its true nature. They are in a way, benefited by the saints, but I would class them as unfortunate, for when they would gain in a much higher way, they do not gain it. That means they are undergoing a loss in a negative way. When you can invest some money and earn 7% interest, if you invest it at 2%, you are getting 2% no doubt, but you are losing 5%. In the same way these people revere saints and think that they are extraordinary men… that they possess something unusual. They offer them flowers and gifts and revere them, but their relationship becomes one based upon the level of their own life and not in terms of a Higher Being whom the saint does contact in the higher experience. Rather they say: “What I cannot make God give, you can make Him give me, because you are nearer to Him; therefore please intercede.”

There is faith in them, but their lives are still caught up in the earthly way. They assiduously cultivate the company, proximity and association of yogis and saints, but miss the true purpose of it. They ask of them help in all secular affairs.

“Let him give success to my son in his competitive examination. Let my daughter get a good match, let my sons go to England, let me get success in the law suit in court, let my bank balance shoot up.”
In this way there is an endless list and the list keeps growing, just like Hanuman’s tail. Many of these things are fulfilled. As one thing is fulfilled another desire comes up. So, for their entire life they make contact on a level where the saint is not meant to be contacted.

To them, the saint becomes a sort of grandfather, a special more than normal grandfather, which is not a wrong or a bad relationship, but an unfortunate relationship. They expect of him the fulfilment of their secular desires. They expect from his prescriptions, remedy for all secular troubles and they expect from him lots of benedictions and benefits… all in terms of this world and its affairs and its needs. Are they not interested in the spiritual teaching? Yes, they are, but not primarily… you understand this distinction, “not primarily”? Then what are they interested in primarily… in themselves and in their lives? Are they aware of this? No, they are not aware of it. They think that this is how and why people should contact saints.

If we go to a great saint and discuss our earthly affairs, we waste our own time, and we waste the time of other devotees who may at least have had a chance of talking about God and of spiritual life and the Eternal Reality with the saint, if we had not taken up the time.

Yes, in sorrow or grief, or in tragedy, if a soul seeks solace from a saint, that is understandable, because he is there to give shanti. This is solace no one else can give… only a saint can give. So it is all right if a soul draws near a great saint in times of distress, in times of tragedy, in times of such darkness. But normally, we must not try to belong to any of these categories: the agnostic, the reviler, the indifferent man who is not interested, the other man who has faith and belief and is interested, but in a passing way, and the fourth, who is very much interested, who has great belief in the greatness of the saint, but has missed the point and the very purpose.

Saints are people who try to break your delusion, who try to destroy your ignorance and clinging. They try to give you something which is more than anything this universe can ever boast or claim to be able to give you. They give you something which no object in this universe, no person, no king, no experience, not even all the persons, experiences and objects of this universe put together can give or even approach… such a great grand and glorious thing. They live to give and so we must try to know this fact about holy people, the saints and the mahatmas. We go to them for that which the world cannot give and ask for the highest from a saint and seek to be related to him in the plane of spirit, in the place of the soul, but not in the place of this material world.

Do not make it the subject of your satsanga to relate earthly affairs, but always try to know from a saint the way one should live, the way to the goal, to know about Yoga, about Vedanta, about bhakti, about bhava (feeling towards God), about vivekavichara (enquiry), about self-control, about the glory of the Divine Name, the power of prayer the importance of worship, the greatness of dharma, etc. (discrimination) and These you should seek from a saint. Is it then wrong, is it then unethical and improper to seek for earthly blessing from the saints? It is not wrong, but it is a mistake and that means you have missed the way.

The Correct Approach

Did Sudama ever open his lips and say anything about himself to Lord Sri Krishna? No, he did not relate his woe even though his wife had specifically sent him for that purpose. He did not even say a single word about his own condition. Lord Jesus says: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven; all these shall be added unto you.” So seek association with the saint for that knowledge, vijnana. Saints have broken their connection with everything belonging to this world of Maya—the phenomenal world. So you should not try to involve them in this again.

Thus may we approach the Eternal Presence of Gurudev and ask to receive of his discrimination, dispassion, self-control, faith, devotion and inner spiritual strength. Seek from him light, guidance, experience and inspiration and not anything of this secular life. Do ask what you want and let it be distinctly put: “I shall not allow that to come in between you and me. I shall commune with you now in the spirit.” Such should be our approach to the Eternal Presence of this great Illumined Being and even to the other living saints. We should make up our mind that we shall not allow our secular life to come between us and them.

The saint is one who represents for you the highest path that leads you to supreme good, supreme culture and supreme welfare, which give you the Treasure of treasures and Wealth of wealths… which is nirupama (unequalled).

Therefore, seek that which ought to be sought after from a saint and a sadguru. Then alone will you be able to grow in spiritual awareness. Even if you approach the saint with your little awareness: “I am so-and-so; I have these problems; these are my immediate troubles; these are my earthly affairs.” You have to open your heart to him and present yourself before him as a spiritual being seeking emancipation from the trammels of ajnana or avidya (ignorance) and this bondage of samsara (the process of worldly life). To such a soul seeking the highest blessedness he has a ready material upon which he works his spiritual miracle. From this very awareness he tries to break and draw you out. But if you cling to this little awareness, what can the saint do?

Seek therefore, to reject your little self and bind yourself to him purely on the spiritual level. Then, immense blessedness will be yours. The highest Wealth, the Treasure of the saint’s life, will be shared with you. Hold on, therefore, to the great awareness of your spiritual identity when you draw into the presence of holy persons, of saints and satgurus. That way you are wise. That way you stand to gain in the highest way. That way, immense blessedness will flow into your life and that way, you will be shown the eternal path that leads to perennial blessedness, supreme bliss, immortal light. Saints embody for us an experience that transcends all other experiences, and that alone we should seek from them.

May we, upon this holy day, upon this sacred anniversary, take a look at ourselves, our hearts, and try to make an appraisal of our spiritual attitude towards our Satguru. May we try to make a proper estimate of our attitude and relationship with the Satguru. Is our relationship ideal, or is there also an admixture of avoidable error, whose absence or removal may benefit us?

Let us, this day, clarify our relationship with Satguru Swami Sivanandaji and form fresh ties of pure spiritual association, pure spiritual bonds with him, for that way alone we stand to gain in the highest and most blessed manner from this inner relationship with our Satguru, our Guide.

Who is a Guru? [Part 3]


The following is an excerpt from Swami Venkatesananda’s “Sivananda Yoga”

Who is a Guru?  

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.