A True Disciple

From Rikhiapeeth Satsangs 3, Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Why do disciples leave their guru?

The guru-disciple relationship is very nice to hear about; however, very few people are able to fulfil it. There are all kinds of people in this world. When a thief enters your house in the guise of a servant, he washes your utensils, your clothes, cooks food for you, does everything; yet his eyes are always on your wealth. Similarly, there are a lot of disciples who come to their guru to gain siddhis, psychic powers. Someone runs away from home, someone else does not feel happy at home; the wife has died or the son has passed away, or he has suffered a loss in business, or someone has said something offensive, and so for a short while a feeling arises of wanting to be free from worldly desires. This is known as kshanika vairagya, a momentary wish to be free from desires. The mind moves away from the world and the person thinks, 'Let's go to the ashram, shave off the hair and comfortably sing the Lord's praise.' A lot of people come here thinking like this. Many people used to come to me thinking, 'Swamiji will send me abroad.' They would stay for four to five years, and when they realized that Swamiji was not sending them abroad, they would leave saying, "Swamiji is not a good person." I knew all this very well.

When people come here to become disciples, they come with different perspectives, and they receive exactly in accordance to the perspective they come with. However, if someone comes to live with the guru thinking, 'I am going to live here and die here', and he does not have the desire to become someone, to do something or bring about something, then whether the guru puts him on a pedestal or treats him with scorn, it makes no difference to him. After marriage, when a girl comes to a different house, she does not think, 'After some time I will leave everything and go back. If my husband is an alcoholic or an adulterer, I will leave him and go back'. For her, it is a situation of living there and dying there. However, such disciples are very few. A guru may receive just one out of hundreds of thousands of disciples.

It is difficult to be a true disciple. Read the stories of the Sikh gurus. They are strange stories. There was a Sikh called Angad who used to clean utensils and drains in his guru's ashram. When his guru's time of death arrived, all the well-educated disciples thought it was now time for them to occupy his position. Everyone's eyes were on his seat, but the guru's eyes were on someone else. He said, "Call Angad." Angad was called. The guru said, "He will be your guru from today, Guru Angad Dev!"

There have been many gurus like that. The stories are found everywhere. It is not necessary for a guru to be well-educated. He should be humble like a blade of grass, patient like a tree, give respect to others and sing bhajans all the time. These are the attributes of a guru, according to the scriptures:

Trinaadapi suneechena tarorapi sahishnunaa
Amaaninaa maandena keertaneeyaha sadaa hariha

"(A guru is one), who is humble like a blade of grass, patient like a tree, who respects others and sings kirtans of Hari all the time."

Guru Nanaka

A guru is one who does not say that others are beneath him, that they are beggars or thieves or bribe-takers or adulterers or people with bad intentions. A sadhu or guru has no right to say this. His time is used only for chanting the name of God and singing kirtan. Kirtan does not mean just playing the harmonium or the tabla. Kirtan means to ponder the power of God, to spread the glory of God.

Guru Nanaka was a great guru of his time. He was from the vaishya caste and he was given work in the government grain warehouse. In those days, grains were measured on a weighing scale. Once, he was weighing the grains and when he reached the count of thirteen, instead of continuing to count, he went on repeating: Terah, terah... – "Thirteen, thirteen..." Phonetically, 'terah' means 'yours'. He was absorbed in the thought of God, and while repeating, "Terah, terah... " he gave away all the grain. He emptied out the entire government warehouse! He didn't stay there for long. He became a fakir.

Once he traveled to Mecca, which is a centre of pilgrimage for Muslims. The peculiarity of this pilgrimage centre is that no one from another religion can go there, even if he is the President of America. They do not even allow photographs to be taken. Nevertheless, Guru Nanaka reached there. It was afternoon, and he had found a comfortable spot to sleep in. A man came to him and said, "Hey! Move your leg from here. Your leg is facing the Kaaba, the shrine." Guru Nanaka replied, "I am a very old man. Shift my leg to a direction where the Kaaba is not." Having said this, he went back to sleep. The man tried to move his leg, and wherever he moved his legs, the Kaaba also moved in that direction! This story is approximately five hundred years old. Apart from Guru Nanaka, no other non-Muslim has ever visited Mecca. No one can go there, but Nanakaji managed to do so.