Guru, Disciple and Mantra

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Guru is a tattwa, a subtle essence. Everyone has that tattwa which can guide and inspire you. It can protect you in case you need it; it can also fulfil your life with contentment, peace and bliss, whatever you need or aspire for as an ideal of life. However, it is so hard to locate that personal guru.

You do not know what to do, where to start, because to locate that guru, to find his address or whereabouts, the only way is to have an external guru, who is guru but not guru tattwa. Then there are certain mental or intellectual topics you can understand. The language is the same, expressions are the same and perhaps sometimes the way of explaining and your way of understanding coincide. Sometimes it happens that I explain and you cannot understand, but most of the times I explain and you understand.

With this guru a disciple must have a certain type of relationship based on devotion. Through devotion or bhakti comes faith. I do not mean superstitious faith, but the faith a child has in the mother. When the intellect does not ask so many things and the reasoning drops, faith starts. You practise this with the guru and as a result the awakening begins to take place within yourself.

This external guru acts as a detonator. The bomb and the explosive material, guru tattwa, is in you but the detonator is outside. You use the external guru to awaken your inner guru. Some people call this guru tattwa satguru – so we have the guru and the satguru.

The relationship with the external guru has to be based on bhakti, devotion and faith, shraddha. Sometimes guru and disciple have been husband and wife, like Sarada Devi and Ramakrishna; sometimes there have been guru-disciple relationships like the great rishi, Yajnavalkya and his wife Maitreyi.

Yajnavalkya had two wives. One day he called both of them and wanted to distribute or divide his property between the two of them. The first one quietly accepted it, but the second one said, ‘What shall I do with this? Will it give me immortality?’ He said, ‘No, it won’t give you immortality.’ She asked ‘What will give me immortality?’ She was a disciple, not just a wife.

As father and son, mother and daughter, brother and sister, husband and wife, or we may not even be related at all; we can establish this devotional and faithful relationship between ourselves, where the dharma or duty of the disciple and the guru are specified and very clear.

Those who live with the guru all the time, those who live around guru or those who do not live with him but are dedicated to him, must have only one thing in their mind, to be committed to the awakening. Every disciple has to be committed to some sort of awakening because that is the only thing that we are aspiring for. It may happen now, or it may happen later, but that is the commitment, and it is a sort of promise.

This awakening to some extent has to take place in the disciple. It is not just an intellectual awakening or a psychic kind of awakening, when the actual awakening begins to take place it is at that time that a transformation takes place in the structure of the mind. It is not a change; it is a complete transformation – something like a dog becoming a horse. It is like a metamorphosis; the mind becomes entirely different. A person who has had certain values until this day, after that metamorphosis, thinks entirely differently. He does not think the way he has been thinking, because with the awakening of the grand force in you – you may call it kundalini, or you may call it anything else – certainly your structure of thinking and your structure of mind undergo a total transformation in quality, form, assessments and values.

At the same time, the perception or inner cognition becomes very subtle – you are able to apprehend, see the forms, behaviour or reactions of your mind in symbolic form. You can see your mental personality in symbolic form. That is the relationship in general.

Apart from this there have been many experiments conducted throughout the world, right from the beginning of creation. Mankind has always been wondering about many things and has always been wanting to realize the grand self in himself. People did not know the way, so they organized many systems.

In tantra, guru has a different personality; in religions the guru has an entirely different personality; for those who are not religious nor tantric but want to awaken their kundalini, the personality of guru is entirely different. But there is one thing that has to be remembered, that in every case both guru and disciple are committed to inner discipline. It can be any relationship, but discipline has to be there all the time. Without discipline, the relationship in any place, for any reason, will be a great failure. The guru will be in trouble and so will you!

How to practise

Mantra is a system which very few people have been able to understand up to now. What is the source of mantra? Is a mantra the name of a Hindu god, Muslim god, Christian god or Parsee god? Has mantra to do with none of these deities and divine beings? How does it work? Does it work merely by chanting or do these mantras need some sort of supporting rituals? All these things have to be understood.

How to choose the right mantra? Do you choose it on the basis of the zodiac sign or do you choose a mantra on the basis of your tradition? Maybe you are a Vaishnava, so Vishnu, maybe you are a Shaivite, Shiva, maybe you are a Christian – what is the basis of choosing a mantra?

How should you pronounce the mantra? If you pronounce it incorrectly will it have an adverse effect? These are many points which you have to consider about mantra yoga. It is a yoga by itself and, it is a yoga which is very sure, but the only thing is, it needs a lot of time.

Mantra diksha is given by the guru to an aspiring disciple and the disciple has to understand that he is accepting the mantra from the guru in order to influence or awaken the inner, the grand force in him. When the mantra is given to him, the guru gives him a minimum discipline, but that minimum discipline should be adhered to regularly.


You should also try to practise more of that. You take the mantra first and practise it for about one year, then a second year or third year, as the case might be. Once in a year, you must retire into seclusion for three days or nine days and practise constant repetition of the mantra, without concentration, without meditation, without one-pointedness, just chanting, Om Namah Shivaya, Om Namah Shivaya from morning until night, with small breaks in between and a light diet. That is what most people do in India. We call it Navaratri anushthana. Navaratri comes in the months of April and October, and we practise it for nine days. These are the days in India which are good for anushthana, unbroken repetition, because they are neither very hot nor very cold, and are the purest seasons in India. You do not have to do it twice a year, once in a year is all right.

Sometimes you do not have the time for nine days so you can decide on a three-days anushthana. One can start the anushthana one year or two years after the mantra diksha. After some time, when you know that you can devote more time, you have to practise purascharana. Purascharana means repeating the mantra 100,000 times the number of syllables that the mantra. If a mantra has five letters or syllables, five sounds, then you practise it 500,000 times. If the mantra has eleven sounds, then you practise it 1,100,000 times. There are also other rules. If you cannot practise a particular mantra, within the span of days which you have decided, then there is also a method of practising purascharana which lasts for many years. I practised one mantra many years ago, maybe in 1946 or 1947. It took me about nine years because I did not have much time in the ashram, as ashram life is a life of service and dedication where you have to surrender your ego and many of the unnecessary things of life. I had to work a lot and I had very little time. Every day I used to do about eleven malas, that is eleven hundred times, but sometimes it was two thousand times, sometimes ten thousand, sometimes one thousand, sometimes five hundred. It took me so long to complete purascharana of that mantra.

This purascharana gives you what we call a form of awakening. All the karmas and samskaras which you have in the mind come out, because during the purascharana you do not control the mind, you just do Om Namah Shivaya, Om Namah Shivaya and thoughts come in your mind. You do not do anything with these thoughts. You may be thinking about money, property, children and fighting, struggle, promotion, purchasing the house, agriculture, garden, flowers, land – all kinds of things. You can go on thinking; this is no barrier. The mind has to be allowed to function, you do not have to stop it.

When a thought comes to you it should come, even in meditation. You should not stop it! It is dangerous and as a result people go mad; it should be allowed and if you do not allow it you are suppressing it. It will come later, either in the form of sickness or it will change your behaviour pattern; it will bring quarrels with your family, your wife and children. So it is much better if you allow thoughts to come, just do not get panicky, only say, Om Namah Shivaya, Om Namah Shivaya. You can think anything for eight hours, nine hours, ten hours.

What happens is that after some time you get tired of thinking, you get fed up and say, ‘What is this, every day I am thinking the same thing!’ At this time, the mind just relaxes and the thought process stops for a fraction of a second. It can happen for five minutes, it can happen for ten minutes, sometimes the whole day you do not get thoughts in your mind because you are not interested in thinking. Every day you are thinking the same thing and what is the use? You are not panicky or guilty about it, but it is too much thinking the same thing over and over again. So you have Christ and the cross, Rama, Shiva, Vishnu and Mohamed with a big crown and big beard and Buddhists all with shaven heads. They come very clearly to your mind and for one or two days you are so blissful. On the second day, it becomes a little less, third day a little less. Then again you start thinking the same thing, again and again.

There is a system of chanting, days of chanting, on which you start that mantra. You should know at what time – which constellation has to be in position, whether Jupiter is in the sixth house and so on. You should know which particular astrological position and the muhurtha, the exact time when you have to start that mantra, and what kind of ritual has to be performed.

Then there are mantras for helping people to get rid of diseases like hepatitis and many other things. Mantras have got a lot of divisions. What you and I are talking about is the mantra for your spiritual upliftment, for your spiritual experience, but that is not the only line of mantra. There are many kinds of mantra: tantric mantras, vedic mantras, puranic mantras or religious mantras, and for each and every type of mantra the system of practice is different. The author of initiation, the guru, is also different. For example, tantric mantras – I cannot give tantric mantras even if I know them because I am not an authority on that. Puranic mantras I can give; vedic mantras I can give but tantric mantras or the mantras in order to give you siddhis or for scorpion or snake bites, I cannot give. I know the mantras by heart but I have not practised them.

Although I have practised the scorpion bite mantra when I was in Rishikesh because once a scorpion bit me. It was a terrible pain! I had never cried in my life or reacted to pain. If anybody beat me, I fought it; I never cried, even if I was wounded but that day it was such a great pain that I thought, ‘No, I am not a strong man.’ So I took the mantra from a scavenger woman who cleaned the toilets with buckets. She gave me the mantra. Can you imagine a scavenger woman as your guru? I had to touch her feet and offer her flowers; she put the tika on me and said practise this mantra. I practised that mantra and later on I tried it, even now I have tried it. I can just take a scorpion bite out, I touch it and it becomes all right.

Carlos Castaneda has also done a lot of adventures on mantra, hasn’t he? He has tried a lot of mantra influencing a lizard or a frog or an animal to move from his shoulder, to go away or to come. So these mantras are there which do act as a gross, external force.

Mantra should not be understood in a limited religious sense of prayer. They are very powerful. In the Puranas like Bhagavat Purana, Mahabharata, they have depicted wars with bows and arrows but everywhere it is written that he chanted a mantra and remembered the shakti, and then he shot. The warrior disciples had such a quick memory that they knew at what time the opponent was repeating which mantra and what weapon he was going to throw at him and how he was going to counteract it.

A Frenchman wrote in the eighteenth or nineteenth century on laser beams and today we have laser beams; he wrote a story about what a laser beam could do and the same thing has happened. Similarly, ‘Star Wars’ – there is so much in the Puranas where these devas and devis are going into the sky, fighting with each other and destroying each other. That has been the fantasy of man and it may happen. So sometimes these crazy thinkers wrote books which talk about psychic warfare. They do not talk about mantra fortunately, but about the psychic forces being released by people towards each other and hurting, wounding and destroying them.

21 November 1985, Munger