"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

“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

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.

>Who is a Guru? [Part 2]


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Still we are at the stage of the Acharya and the pupil. There is mere transmission of information between the two. It is called ‘information’ because it creates a form in you—information. Gradually, drop by drop, these bits and pieces fall into you and take form. If you are quite satisfied with the form you are lost, because you build an image with this information and treat that image as the truth, as self-realisation. In your study of the Isavasya Upanishad you must have come across a puzzling Mantra: “They who are devoted to ignorance go to hell. They who are devoted to knowledge go to a greater hell.” How is that? If you are devoted to the image that has been formed in you when the theory was imparted you are stuck forever, there is no way out of it. 

You have devotedly and devoutly built it up and the whole being resists any change in that image, so you are lost. But once this image is formed, if you realise that it is only information about Atma-jnana—it is not Atma-jnana itself but merely a description then it is possible that you are inspired to go further. The ‘Jijnasu’ stage is over and you are creeping into the Jnani stage. Then someone else appears, and that is the Guru.
If you read the first chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita very carefully you will see that Arjuna thinks he is the Guru. He boldly and arrogantly teaches Krishna what is right, what is wrong. When he discovered that Krishna refused to be his disciple (!) he collapsed, and as he collapsed the words ascribed to him are very inspiring: 

yacchreyah syannischitam bruhi tanme
syshyas-te ’ham sadhi roam tvam prapannam (II. 7)
 

Arjuna said:
Destroyed is my delusion, as I have gained my knowledge (memory) through Thy grace, O Krishna. I remain freed from doubts. I will act according to Thy word.

Tvam prapannam—“I have surrendered myself at your feet because I don’t know the truth. I thought I knew, but looking at the way you are unimpressed by my teaching, I feel maybe I am wrong. So I surrender myself at your feet.” Sishyas-te—“I am your disciple.” yacchreyah syannischitam bruhi tanme,—“Tell me what might lead me to Sreyas.” This word ‘Sreyas’ is extremely difficult to translate. It has been taken to mean ‘your ultimate good or spiritual good, enlightenment, liberation’. That is where Arjuna says: “I am your disciple.” Krishna is still not the Guru. It is only in the eleventh chapter that Arjuna bursts out: “Oh! you are the Lord of the whole universe.”

What is the state of the disciple when he has found the Guru—not the Acharya? It is beautifully described towards the end of the Bhagavad-Gita:

nashto mohah smritir-labdha tvatprasadan maya ’chyuta
sthito’smi gatasandehah karishye vachanam tava. (XVIII. 73)
 

All these are vitally important. Nashto mohah—“my confusion, my delusion has gone.” There was a confusion to begin with, but that has completely disappeared. If that happens you are an enlightened disciple, you have found the Guru. Smrtir-labdha—it is not merely gaining or regaining memory but… Normally, you remember what others did to you and you remember what happened to you so far, but you don’t remember yourself. You don’t know yourself, but you know everybody else; you don’t know who you are, but you know the entire world! Even when you try to recall a past experience all that you remember is what others did and what others said. The self is completely ignored in knowledge, as well as memory. So smrtir-labdha means: “Now I remember who I am.” Tvatprasadanmaya’chyuta—“By your Grace,” not by your instruction! The Acharya is gone. The Acharya merely put up a structure within and the student became aware of that structure. The structure knocked down false notions and deluded ideas that were entertained before, and created the climate for enlightenment.

It is the Guru’s Grace alone that brings about this enlightenment. No amount of theory and no amount of knowledge can ever bring about enlightenment. If the cloth is dirty you put it in a bucket of water with a lot of soap in it. Has the cloth been cleaned? You hope so. When you take that cloth out it is full of soap. That’s not clean—the cleaning happens afterwards. In order to get rid of the rubbish called worldly knowledge you may need a spiritual instructor who gives you knowledge about the self, but in order to gain self-knowledge none of these would do. It is only the Grace of the Guru that flows directly into your heart without the interference of your mind that can bring about this self-knowledge, Atma-jnana. Gatasandehah—“There is no doubt,” the mind and the heart are free from doubt, and therefore whatever has to be done is done without hesitation. That is what is called ‘spontaneous action’. The shock of the vision of this cosmic form probably brought that about in the case of Arjuna, because a similar expression occurs even at the beginning of the eleventh chapter: 

yat tvayo’ktam vachas tena moho’yam vigato mama (XI. 1)

Arjuna said:
By this word (explanation) of the highest secret concerning the Self which Thou hast spoken, for the sake of blessing me, my delusion is gone.

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

>Who is a Guru? [Part 1]


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

He who imparts the theory concerning self-knowledge and guides us in our practice is not a Guru, but an ‘Acharya’, a teacher. From this teacher you learn about self-knowledge. It is not self-knowledge but a peripheral knowledge, which may be very necessary as otherwise we might be easily misled.

Just as the description is not self-knowledge, a technique is also not self-knowledge, nor does it lead to Atma-jnana; but it is necessary. In the Yoga Vasistha you have a fantastic double negative statement concerning this. Vasishtha says that a teacher does not give you Atma-jnana, but you cannot attain Atma-jnana without a teacher. As we go on, this will become clear. 

The Acharya is the person from whom we gain an understanding of the theory, the peripheral knowledge or a description about (not of) self-knowledge, self-realisation or Atma-jnana. He guides us in our practice and may even prescribe a practice for us, and if we are responsive to him he removes the obstacles that we may encounter on the path. He is not exactly a teacher in the modern sense of the word. Here the word ‘teacher’ refers to some kind of a person who is aloof, who walks into the class, spits out what he has not been able to digest and walks out. 
That is what you see in schools and colleges nowadays. In the Gurukula system where the students lived with the teacher, there was the transmission of theory and guidance in practice without aloofness. There was a certain amount of physical and psychological intimacy, and a certain openness between the teacher and the taught. This is not to be confused with the modern definition of a teacher in the schools and colleges of today, where there is no psychological rapport at all.

This word ‘Acharya’ to me nearly sounds like the word ‘Achara’. Acharya means teacher, Achara means your conduct, your lifestyle. So an Acharya is involved in the pupil’s Achara, external behaviour. For instance he might emphasise punctuality, so that you come at the stroke of nine. He might emphasise that you should not look through the window, or look here and there. There can be training in behaviour, but no Acharya can compel your attention, no Acharya can impose understanding upon you, so there must be a certain psychological rapport. Only then is there a guidance or governance of behaviour. If you are attentive he transmits to you information about self-knowledge, and guides you in your practice. That is the only responsibility of the Acharya. So an Acharya is more a teacher than anything else.

Apart from the word ‘student’ there is another word, ‘pupil’. A pupil is not only the person sitting in front of the teacher trying to learn something from him, but the word ‘pupil’ also means the diaphragm which closes and opens in your eyes. When you go in the sunlight the pupils close, and when you are in darkness they open. That is what happens in the relationship between the teacher and the pupils. If the teacher is brilliant they close up, they can’t take the light anymore. If the teacher is interesting, funny, dark or stupid they open up wide—with the result that it seems to be far easier to learn rubbish than to learn something worthwhile. If someone sits there and discusses a hundred ways of robbing a bank it is interesting, there is not a dull moment, the pupil is keenly interested in it. But if someone sits there and discusses Upanishadic wisdom not only the pupils but the eyelids close.

If there is psychological rapport and if the Acharya is able to govern the pupil’s behaviour then it is possible for some transmission to take place. Psychological rapport is possible only if both the teacher and the taught are on the same wavelength—otherwise you go to sleep. Physical behaviour can be tailored, but the teacher has no access to your mind, leave alone to your heart. In a strange way, Gurudev Swami Sivananda understood this. He understood the psychology of the masses, the problems of young seekers—people who are used to the theatre, to films and an exciting, fast life. If they are put in a Vedanta class they would probably go to sleep, so he invented interesting methods of transmission. A dialogue from the Upanishads was enacted here and people who otherwise fall asleep when exposed to the ideas of the Upanishads sat up and looked and listened and something got through. 
This was Swami Sivananda’s wonderful method—and later he invented the Yoga museum—audiovisual instruction where you participate and try to understand.

Rituals in Hinduism… Lower Bhakti Vs Higher Bhakti


The following is an excerpt from Srila Sri Sivananda Maharaj’s “All About Hinduism” (pg. 119-120, Chap. 7)
 
From Ritualistic Bhakti To Para-Bhakti
Bhakti is of two kinds, viz., higher Bhakti or Para-Bhakti, and lower Bhakti or ritualistic Bhakti. Ritualistic worship is Vaidhi or Gauni Bhakti. It is formal Bhakti. Vaidhi Bhakti is the lower type of devotion depending on external aids. The mind becomes purer and purer. The aspirant gradually develops love for God through ritualistic worship. He who does ritualistic worship rings bells, adores a Pratika (symbol) or Pratima (image), does Puja with flowers and sandal paste, burns incense, waves light before the image, offers Naivedya or food for God, etc.Mukhya Bhakti or Para Bhakti is advanced type of devotion. It is higher Bhakti. It transcends all convention. A devotee of this type knows no rule. He does not perform any external worship. He beholds his Lord everywhere, in every object. His heart is saturated with love for God. The whole world is Vrindavana for him. His state is ineffable. He attains the acme of bliss. He radiates love, purity and joy wherever he goes and inspires all who come in contact with him.

The aspirant who worships the idol in the beginning beholds the Lord everywhere and develops Para Bhakti. From Vaidhi Bhakti, he passes on to Ragatmika Bhakti or Prema Bhakti. He beholds the whole world as the Lord. The ideas of good and bad, right and wrong, etc., vanish. He sees the Lord in a rogue, dacoit, cobra, scorpion, ant, dog, tree, log of wood, block of stone, sun, moon, stars, fire, water, earth, etc. His vision or experience baffles description. Glory to such exalted Bhaktas who are veritable Gods on earth, who live to lift others from the quagmire of Samsara and save them from the clutches of death!

Hinduism leads the aspirants gradually from material images to mental images, from the diverse mental-images to the one Personal God, and from the Personal God to the Impersonal Absolute or the Transcendental Nirguna Brahman.

What Does (Guru’s) Darshan Do to Us?


Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, “Little is know of the guru’s grace or the power of darsana in Western culture. Darsana (more popularly darshan) is a Sanskrit word meaning “vision, seeing or perception”. But in its mystical usage, it is more than that. Darshan is also the feeling of the emotions of a holy person, the intellect, the spiritual qualities that he has attained and, most importantly, the sakti, the power, that has changed him and is there constantly to change others.

“…Darshan, in the true meaning of all mystical, complex and most esoteric word, conveys all of this. The concept of darshan goes beyond the devotee’s seeing of the guru. It also embraces the guru’s seeing of the devotee…. when you are in the presence of the guru…his seeing of you, and therefore knowing you and your karmas, another grace. So, darshan is a two-edged sword, a two-way street. it is a process of seeing and being seen. The devotee is seeing and in that instance drawing forth the blessings of the satguru, the swami or the sadhu… Both happen within the moment, and that moment, like a vision, grows stronger as the years go by, not like imagination, which fades away. It is an ever-grwoing spiritual experience.

“…The darshan from a guru who has realised the Self can clear the subconscious mind of a devotee in minutes, alleviating all reaction to past actions and alter his perspective from an outer to an inner one. Darshan is the emanating rays from the depth of an enlightened soul’s being. these rays pervade the room in which he is, penetrating the aura of the devotees and enliving the kundalini, the white, fiery, vapor-like substance that is actually the heat of the physical body in its natural state.

“…whenever the cloud of despair covers the soul of a devotee, the darshan of a guru is sought. Whenever it becomes difficult to meditate, his grace is hoped for ato lift the veil of delusion and release awareness from the darker areas of mind to soar within.

“Darshan is the vibration that emanates from the illumined soul as a result of his inner attainment, be he a yogi, pandit, swami, a guru or a rishi. Usually, the yogi, swami, saint or sage attracts his following not so much by what he says as by the darshan he radiates…. A great soul is always giving darshan.

“..Darshan coming froma  great soul helps them in (our) evolution, changes patterns in (our) life by cleaning up areas of (our) subconscious mind that (we) could not possibly have done for (ourselves)…. If the (great soul’s) darshan is strong enough…by its power, the kundalini force can be stimulated… this is called the grace of the guru.”

(pgs. 720-723, Merging with Siva)   

How To Recognise A Jivanmukta By Sri Swami Sivananda


It is very difficult to judge a Jivanmukta. A Shakespeare only can understand a Shakespeare. A Jesus only can understand a Jesus. A man of experience who has mixed with Sadhus and Sannyasins and lived with them for a number of years may arrive at certain definite conclusions and infer something. But he may or may not be accurate. Only a Jivanmukta with his eye of intuition (Divya Drishti) can directly see and understand a Jivanmukta.
A Sadhu may be physically nude. He may not keep anything with him. He may use his hands as the begging bowl and live underneath a tree. He may live in a forest. Yet he may be the greatest scoundrel; he may be the most worldly minded man with internal and external attachments. He may dance in joy when he gets an eight-anna piece for his opium-smoking. His mind may be full of distractions and disturbances. 
Whereas a man may live in the bustle of a town or city. He may lead the life of a Big Babu. He may wear fashionable dress. He may eat dainties. Yet he may have the least attachment and craving for anything. Sri Ramanuja lived amidst luxuries. He preached a life of enjoyment. Raja Janaka had his royal pleasures. And yet he said: “My Wealth is boundless, yet I have nothing. Even if the whole of Mithila were burnt to ashes nothing of mine will be burnt.”
Householders make wrong judgments in deciding the nature of Jivanmukta. They take into consideration only the external conditions of a Jivanmukta. Even educated people commit mistakes in this regard.
One cannot estimate the advancement of a Jivanmukta by a simple casual talk for an hour or two. One has to live with him for a long time and then alone one will be able to draw some accurate conclusions. There had been instances of realised persons who had elephants, horses and all royal paraphernalia without being affected in the least by these external objects. They had always Jnana Nishta and Svaroopa Stithi (established in knowledge of Brahman) amidst multifarious activities. This is the integral development. This is the gist of the Bhagvad Gita. This is the central teaching of Lord Krishna.
What is wanted is mental nudity. Jnana is purely an internal state. The external marks are no sure criterion. So do not look into the external things of a Jivanmukta. A man may take any kind of food, he may dress in any way he likes, he may part his hair in any manner he finds it convenient. These are all non-essentials. Always look into his internal mental state.
Do not judge a man by his Siddhis (psychic powers). Another great blunder people generally commit is that they judge the enlightenment of Jivanmuktas by the Siddhis they display. Siddhis are side-lights. They are invitation from Devatas. They have nothing to do with Atmic realisation. A Sadhu may manifest Siddhis due to strong passions and intense desires, and if that be the case he is undoubtedly a big householder only. But this does not mean that a person manifesting Siddhis is not a Jivanmukta. There are several instances of such persons who have exhibited several Siddhis purely for the elevation and uplift of the world, but never for selfish motives.
The ways of a Jnani are mysterious. Many do not recognise a Jivanmukta. Real aspirants know him at once without any difficulty. They follow him. They live in close contact with him.
He who has mastery over the mind and Indriyas, he who always dwells on the inner Atman is the real Jivanmukta, Nityamukta, a great master, the real hero indeed.

He who is calm, collect, controlled and contented, he who dwells in solitude, he who has given up seeking pleasure outside in sensual objects but seeks bliss and peace inwardly in Atman that shines in the chambers of the heart by constant and intense meditation after withdrawing the Indriyas, is really a Jivanmukta. Such a man must be adored. He who comes in contact with such a person is a blessed soul indeed. Verily this man also will be spiritualised and elevated quickly.

A Jivanmukta is the Sun of Suns, the Light of lights. Sun shines only during day. But the Jivanmukta shines day and night. Glory, glory to such awakened inspired high souls! May their blessings be upon us all.
The great soul who does not offend anybody in thought, words or deed, and who is not hurt even a bit by the taunts, censures, insults and injuries by others is the real Jivanmukta. He who dwells or lives in the Supreme Self only, he who delights and rejoices within the Atman cannot hurt others and cannot be hurt by others.

He who is homeless, who is free from all cravings, yearnings, longings, passions, desires, love of society, lustful feeling, and who calls nothing his own is really a Jivanmukta, who has attained freedom or emancipation from births and deaths. Hail, hail to such a great Mahatma!

He who is above good and evil, virtue and vice, who has transcended the mind and seed body (Anandamaya Kosha or Karana Sarira) who has knowledge of the Vedas and wisdom of the Self, who finds no faults in others, who is free from all kinds of doubts, who bears reproaches and insults, who never gets angry even under extreme provocations, who is always gentle and mild, and who always speaks the truth and utters sweet and instructive words is really a Jivanmukta.

He who has broken all ties, who has subdued all Indriyas, who is free from all kinds of temptations, who has renounced Trishna, Vasana, Kamana and egoism and who is dwelling in Atman and Atman alone is the greatest of all men. He is a Jivanmukta. Even Indra and other Devas are envious of such an exalted personage. Even Lord Vishnu follows the feet of such a great saint to get the dust that is thrown off from his feet. Even Lord Siva keeps the dust of his feet in a golden casket.
Self-poised state in pleasure and pain, censure and praise etc., and universal love are the two important characteristics of a Jivanmukta.

If a person has no dislikes or hatred for any creature in this world in thought, word and deed, he is a Jivanmukta.

A Jivanmukta or a full-blown Jnani is full of pure love, compassion, mercy, exquisite gentleness and hidden power and strength. Love and lustre (Brahma Tejas) shine through his brilliant eyes.

He who sees all things in one and one in all things is really a Jivanmukta. He enjoys peace of mind. He lives in God.

A Jnana Yogi is always in Samadhi (Jnana Nishtha). He need not sit in a room in an Asana. No Asana is needed for him. He does not want a room. He is not affected by Maya. There is no ‘in Samadhi’ and ‘out of Samadhi’ for a Jnana Yogi.

He is very silent. He speaks a few words. These words produce tremendous impressions. They give a new life and joy to all who understand him and his message. In his presence alone all the doubts of the aspirant are cleared, though he remains mute.
When a Jivanmukta sees outside, he may simply see, but the Vritti may not assume Vishayakara (form of the objects) as in the case of worldly-minded persons.

A Jivanmukta may or may not have any Siddhis. But if he likes, he can have. He will find out quickly the modus operandi and exhibit them. He cannot have the Anima, Mahima Siddhis. He will have spiritual Siddhis through Sat Sankalpa. A fully developed Jivanmukta can achieve anything through his will.

Pain in the body and quarrels always exist in the world. A Jivanmukta has to face these when he does Vyavahara. He does not mind them. He rises above them. He laughs and smiles as they are unreal. He knows that there is neither pain nor quarrel in the Atman.
When he is absorbed in Brahman (the Glory of glories, the Soul of souls) he will not be able to work. But when he comes down from his full Brahmic-consciousness owing to the force of Prarabdha and Vikshepa Shakti, he will pour forth his love at the cry of a suffering soul. So radiant and compassionate is he. He is the ocean of mercy and love and peace, a Buddha or Jesus.
A Jivanmukta casts off this body as a slough when he identifies himself with Brahman (Sat-Chit-Ananda) just as a snake throws off its skin.
A Jivanmukta may give up his body in any place, at any time. Just as the falling of leaves and fruits of a tree will not affect the tree itself, so also the dropping the body will not affect the Atman, which survives like the tree.
They are the Jivanmuktas or the ‘delivered in life’ who have come to know that ‘Brahman is real; the world is illusory and Jiva is Brahman himself’ through the teaching of Sastras and Guru as well as through Self-realisation; and who took upon all as Brahman.
They who have the direct or intuitive knowledge of Brahman (Aparoksha Jnana).
Direct knowledge (Aparoksha Jnana) is the knowledge characterised by firm conviction of one’s being neither Brahmin nor Sudra nor Purusha nor body, but the everlasting intelligence and Bliss Absolute, the Self-effulgent, the Inner Ruler of all beings, all-pervading intelligence like Akasa just as one labouring under Avidya has the same firm conviction: ‘I am body, I am male, I am Brahmin, I am Sudra’ etc.
The direct knowledge ‘I am Brahman,’ annihilates the bondage of all Karmas.
A Jivanmukta is perfectly desireless, I-less, mine-less, fearless, and angerless. He beholds the Self only everywhere. He has equal vision. He has balanced mind. He has no attachment, longings and cravings. His state is beyond description and yet he will move in the world like an ordinary man. He is ever calm and peaceful. He rests in the Turiya state. He identifies himself with the Pure, All-pervading Brahman. He is free from dualities, differences and distinctions.

Jivanmuktas will neither long for things in the future nor think of the things of the past. They will always do actions for the solidarity of the world. They are not frightened or astonished at any unusual occurrence in nature. They will never be disconcerted even should the sun grow cold or the moon turn hot or the fire begin to burn with its flame downwards or the course of the river begin to rise upwards.

Jivanmukta is free from egoism, desires, Gunas and attachment. He has equal vision. He enjoys perfect peace and eternal bliss. Therefore he will never be afflicted in mind. Whether engaged in business or retired from it, whether living with a family or leading a single life, the man who identifies himself with the Immortal Self or Brahman and who has nothing to fear, or care, or to be sorry for in this world, is regarded as liberated in this life. He who knows himself to be without beginning and end, decay and death, and to be of the nature of pure consciousness, remains always quiet and composed in himself and has no cause for sorrow at all. He gets rid of the knowledge that ‘this is I’, ‘that is another,’ ‘this is mine.

(pgs. 41-47, Jivanmukta Gita)