The Guru-Disciple Relationship
by Swami Krishnananda

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Chapter 3: Association with the Guru

The third point is: association with a Guru is a blessing by itself. I speak from my own personal experience of how we have been blessed by the personal association that we had with Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. This is purely a personal feeling that I am expressing. I have never seen a person like him, nor do I hope to see another, at least in this life. He was superb impersonality in personality—impersonality seen in a personality. He was a person like anybody else in the sense that we could see him; but he was an impersonal being. When he came, one could never feel that a man was coming. Usually, the idea of male-female is there in our minds, and so we would say that a male is coming. But when Swamiji came, we could never feel that it was a male. This male-female idea never entered our heads. That is, he would radiate a force around him which would be wholly impersonal. Impersonality has no gender. There is no male-female differentiation in impersonality; and that impersonality was in him. He was neither a man nor a woman. At least, that idea would not enter our heads when we saw him. It was something very strange. The person who saw him would simply be possessed by some new kind of feeling at that time. He would be overpowered, overwhelmed by a new force.

These are the Gurus. They have spirituality in them; the soul works through them. It is not the mind and the intellect that work through the Gurus. Gurus never speak through the intellect. That is why the Chela is not supposed to use his intellect when the Guru says something. When the soul speaks, the soul alone has to respond. The intellect, the reason, a scientific attitude, etc., should not be applied. It would be an anomaly, and the Chela would be a misfit. The Guru is a soul and not a body.

Now I am coming to another, more interesting point about the Guru-disciple relationship. Because the Guru is a soul, he never dies. We will never say, "Our Guru died; we have nobody now." This is not intelligible to us. The Guru can never die, because the Guru is not the body. Nor is the Chela a body. Now we come to the other side of it. Neither is the Chela the body, nor is the Guru the body, and the relationship between Guru and Chela is not a bodily relationship. So even if the Guru is a thousand miles away, the Chela is happy. He is not bothered. He will not cry, "Oh, my Guru is far away. I have nobody." Distance is wiped out in the spiritual field. There is no distance in the world, really speaking. Distance is only a spatial concept. When even television and radio have wiped out distance, do you think that consciousness—the soul—cannot wipe it out? It can, and it does. Though this is a very advanced state, it is the truth of things. The disciple and the Guru are related in a mystical manner, and that relationship continues even after the death of the body.

In the Chhandogya and Brihadaranyaka Upanishads, we have an example of this. It is said that when a sadhaka—a very advanced soul, not an ordinary sadhaka—quits this physical world, his soul advances further and further and passes through various stages of experience. It does not directly reach the Absolute. Though there is a path which directly contacts the Absolute, it is another subject altogether. Normally speaking, there is progressive salvation, as it is called—krama mukti. Krama mukti is the gradual salvation of a soul from the bondage of individuality. This gradual liberation takes place through various stages. At least fourteen or fifteen stages are mentioned. At the tenth or eleventh stage, says the Upanishad, the soul reaches the point of losing personality-consciousness. There the soul cannot go further on its own, and somebody else comes to lead it. 'Amanava purushah' is the term used in the Upanishad: a superhuman being comes. Amanava means superhuman, not human. Someone who is superhuman comes and takes the soul by the hand, as it were, and directs it onward. The traditional exponents of the Upanishad say that it is the Guru who comes. The Guru himself comes. He was not dead; he was alive. It is not a social relationship, it is not a physical relationship, and it is not even a psychological relationship of the type that Freud describes in his psychoanalysis.

When a physician is to heal a mentally ill patient through the psychoanalytic method, the patient is introduced into a particular condition of mind where the will of the patient is made subservient to the will of the physician. The will of the physician becomes the will of the patient, and the will of the physician directs the will of the patient in such a way that the patient loses personality-consciousness in one sense. But that losing of personality-consciousness is morbid; it is not spiritual.

Some psychologists in the West have a doubt in their minds whether the Guru-disciple relationship is not that kind of obsession which is to be cut off—because the patient is not supposed to cling to the physician always. When the mind is healed, when the person is cured of his mental illness, the obsession is taken away. No more does the patient cling to the will of the physician. So, is the Chela's devotion to the Guru also a kind of obsession? This question was raised by certain psychoanalysts. Can we regard it as healthy, or is it an unnatural clinging which should not be?

The answer is that it is not an obsession. This is something difficult for ordinary psychologists to understand. It is the longing of the soul for its wider dimension. Only people who have trodden the spiritual path will know what it is. We cannot find all this explained in textbooks. It is highly mystical, very deep—and secret, I should say. There are great secrets which are not published in books, and that is why even the Upanishads are not supposed to be imparted in public. In some Upanishads it is mentioned that we should not shout the Upanishads to people. The very word 'upanishad' means a secret guidance that is given to the soul of the individual for its onward march. It is not to be broadcast over the radio or a loudspeaker. The Upanishad is not spoken like that; it is a very great secret. Why is it a secret? Because it will not enter the mind of the non-initiated. If geometry is taught to a buffalo, what will the buffalo understand? Even if the buffalo is told again and again that three angles of a triangle make two right angles, it will just make some sound and go away.

Therefore, let us not teach geometry to a buffalo. It will not make any sense. Sometimes not only does it not make any sense, but it is misconstrued. "The soul is immortal." This statement was heard by some Chela, and he went on killing fish in the river and eating them. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa said, "Look at this fellow. He has misunderstood Vedanta." The soul is immortal, and therefore we can eat fish—does it mean that? Is this the outcome of Vedanta? Well, that is also one kind of Vedanta. "The soul is not killed, so why should I not eat fish? I am eating only the body of the fish, not the soul." So Sri Ramakrishna used to say, "Look at these Vedantins!"

This is the sort of Vedanta we have these days—which is very, very bad. We should not teach Vedanta when the mind is not receptive. It will misconstrue. First of all, it will not understand; and even if it understands, it misunderstands. Therefore, mystical teachings are not to be imparted in public over loudspeakers and microphones. They have to be imparted only to the select disciple who is well matured.

Electric current only passes through high-tension wire. It does not pass through bamboo or plantain stem. It is said there are three types of disciples: plantain stem, firewood and gunpowder. Gunpowder will immediately catch fire. If a match is struck and put on gunpowder, it immediately explodes. These are high-class aspirants. Once they are told, it is sufficient; they do not need to be told a second time. Their minds catch the teaching like gunpowder catches the fire. The second class of aspirants is like firewood. We have to go on blowing air, and only then does the wood catch fire. If we simply light a match and try to set the wood on fire, the first match gets extinguished before the wood catches fire. The third type of disciples is like plantain stem. It will never catch fire. However much we may throw it into fire, it will remain cold. "Oh, I didn't understand what you were saying. I am going back." So the disciples should be at least second rate, not third rate. And we should not shout first-rate instructions to second-rate disciples, and so on. The art of teaching is a science by itself. The teacher should be a wise man, not a fool. He should not go on saying truths which are not to be uttered at that time.

The presence of the Guru is a great influence upon the mind of the Chela. Whatever we are today, in our own humble capacity, is entirely due to our personal association with Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, and not due to the books that we have studied or the texts that we have mastered or the lectures that we have heard. These are nothing; they are a husk. It is due to the force of Swami Sivananda that we somehow or other imbibed—by his grace, I should say. Sivananda was everything for us—father, mother, brother, everything. When he passed away, sometimes it looked as if the earth itself was giving way, cracking under our feet. We had nobody; everything went off.

Anyway, he is working still. Some spiritual force is working, from where our strength comes. Otherwise, this asthmatic body cannot do so much work. I have asthmatic complications; I cannot eat, and have to take so many medicines. Necessity is the mother of invention. When necessity arose, strength also came, perhaps. The Guru's strength is spiritual strength; it is God's strength. Guru and God are regarded as identical. Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnu Gurur Devo Maheshwara Guru Sakshat Parabrahma Tasmai Sri Gurave Namah. We do not regard the Guru as a human being, and he is not supposed to be regarded as a human being. Hence, he is not a body; and therefore, he does not die. The immortal Guru maintains an immortal relationship with the Chela, who is also an immortal part, a spark, a ray of divinity.