The Guru and His Teaching

From Yoga Sadhana Panorama, Volume Six, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

How did you become what you are today?

Trust in my guru has made me what I am today. That is a very crucial point to understand. Trust grows spontaneously. Trust which is created and built up can also shatter and change, but trust that is spontaneous, natural and coming from the depth of one's heart never breaks or bends. I feel privileged and lucky to have that understanding and awareness. I knew that whatever happened, he would be guiding me. He has always wished me well. If a person is always wishing me well, how can I mistrust him? Many times intellect comes in between and says, "I have placed my trust in that person, but today I feel it was misplaced." However, if I realize that person has always meant well, then will that person allow me to deviate from my path? That is the trust that was nurtured inside me.

I always felt that Sri Swamiji was the sculptor who picked up a rock and started to carve it, to remove the extra bits from the rock in order to bring out the image that was inherent in the rock. Chipping away the extra pieces is painful, but with trust I accepted that. If I had said, "This is painful," I would have lost my trust in the sculptor's abilities to carve an image from rock. That trust allowed me to realize that this person is never going to permit me to deviate from my path and my aspiration, and he will always continue to guide me and to shape me in my life. It was that trust which has brought me to this point today, and it is that trust which I will protect with all my forces and strengths. I care for it. That is the force which inspires me today and it will continue to inspire me in the future.

How can I cultivate the guru-disciple relationship? Living in the direct presence of the guru in the ashram is not always practical. How do you recommend I strengthen this bond with you from a distance?

The relationship between guru and disciple is an internal relationship, a faith, a conviction, an understanding, that 'by following the teachings of the master I can reach my destination'. I left India at the age of ten and I returned to India at the age of twenty-three. In thirteen years, I met Sri Swamiji only three or four times. In those days there were no mobile phones, so it was not possible to call him up and speak. With snail mail we would not get a reply to a letter for a month. We had to make trunk calls. At that time there was no dialling system and we had to go through the operator. Books were not published. However, I never felt the physical need for Sri Swamiji in my life. I never craved his physical presence. The craving was not there for I knew that as long I was true to myself and remained true to the teachings of my guru, he would always be with me.

This is the message to all of you. We crave for physical presence. That may be our need, but in order to create a deeper bond between guru and disciple the teaching has to become the central authority, not the person. Your conviction in the teaching and the application of that teaching in your life will create the inner link with the guru.

When Sri Swamiji left Rishikesh, he did not see Swami Sivananda again, but he was so tuned in to him and his teachings that, in Munger, he knew the exact moment of Swami Sivananda's departure from the body. He had the vision. That is the link. He was able to know that Swami Sivananda had left his body and he knew that Swami Sivananda had blessed him. We are so bound by the physical presence that we cannot do without it, but as spiritual sadhakas we have to go beyond this mentality at some point in our life. When we see the guru it is a bonus, and when we don't, the teaching continues to inspire us, and if we are true to ourselves, we shall progress. That is my understanding as I have experienced it. Therefore, apply the teachings in your life.

April 2009, Mangrove Yoga Ashram, Australia