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Pleasing the Guru or Oneself?
By Swami Isvaramayananda
In Hindu literature about the guru-disciple relationship there is mention of the importance of pleasing the guru. Obviously this does not refer to sycophantic favours, which would leave any guru unmoved.
Our finest guruseva is diligent sadhana – prayer, japa, contemplation and meditation – and whatever abhyasa (practice; application) facilitates meditation. Initiates are not required to attend any event or participate in any activity, provided they never lapse in their meditation. But does that make every absence a recommendation?
Many do not attend festivals, because on such occasions their intellects might not be stimulated to their satisfaction by a philosophical discourse. They will not put themselves out, lest their patience be tried. What pseudo-sadhaks! They would do well to bear in mind that without a little self-imposed discipline, and especially without bhakti, their sadhana is a facade. A guru reveres his/her guru divine, who is his disciples’ paramgurudeva. If a devotee makes it apparent by his (unnecessary) absence on, for example, Gurupurnima, that Gurudev Sivananda means little to him, what does his guru see apart from a self-indulgent sense of superiority?
At the Sivananda School of Yoga we place little value on performing rituals and ceremonies to the neglect of the only way to God-realisation, which is inner sadhana. However, we do have a few observances, and these provide opportunities for specific teachings. On Gurpurnima, the pitfalls encountered in sadhana by many all-too-self-confident devotees are often expounded.
But, of course, the very ones who need the teaching are then absent!
Here follows a statement by H.H. Sri Swami Krishnanandaji Maharaj, late General Secretary of the Divine Life Society; a spiritual and intellectual giant who was regarded as one of the foremost Vedantins of his time. Swami Sivananda called him the “Shankaracharya of my mission.”
This statement was read out in Gurupurnima satsang. If we do not see how it might possibly apply to us, then it could certainly be for us!
“Realisation is inconceivable to the human mind, because most of our knowledge is book-borne, lecture-borne, and contact-borne by association with varieties of people. It has not come to us through a competent master whom we have had the humility
and patience to serve.
These days we consider libraries our gurus, but whatever the extent of our study through books, we find that we are the interpreters of the books, and see in the books only what we are able to see; and, of that, only what we want to see. Spectacles which we have made for ourselves determine the way we see and interpret, and decide what we will read. We accept only what our minds are capable of receiving through these spectacles, because we have become our own judges and teachers; decided to be our own gurus, and feel that we can trust our own judgement. Many have subtle reasons for justifying this attitude.
The ancient system of guidance and submission to a guru will never be outdated. It is the only way the mind can be purified. Our problems are due to the non-receptivity of the mind to truth in its nakedness. These impurities are not merely the ones we are aware of, but the very conditions of attitude and thinking which prevent true perception in terms of non-temporal facts. So, how can I free myself from the shackles of temporal thinking and spatial envisioning? By obeying and serving the guru.
But we are under the impression that we are adequately educated and experienced, and so capable of thinking for ourselves; that we can stand on our own intellectual and rational legs. Nothing can be a greater blunder than to think in this manner. Outwardly the guru may seem like you, but to look upon the guru as merely a wise counsellor and heed or disregard his advice according to your own assessment, would be to cut the ground from under your feet. Transparent humility and purification of the mind are of paramount importance before we rely on experience, intelligence, reason, convictions and book-learning. How can I be sure that I am on my way to God-realisation if humility and submission to a higher authority, which is the divine principle manifesting itself, are not evident in me? Many seekers who thought they were attaining God were disappointed at the end of their lives.”
The author of “At the Feet of the Master” has commented:
“Here it may be mentioned that it is very difficult for the ordinary mind to understand the way of the saints. Their behaviour seems as normal as that of any other men and hides their divine qualities. Logic fails. Those who are in close proximity to saints must be very careful. One might begin to think of the saint as an ordinary human being and begin to act towards him or her in a familiar way, as one would towards any other person. That is dangerous and may lead the sadhaka astray. While serving a saint one must be aware, remembering that every word or action of a saint might have a hidden lesson.”
The Yoga Vasishta states:
“The sages are to be approached even if they do not teach. Even their talks in a light vein contain wisdom.”
God is Love. You are divine. You are Love.
Express your true nature.
Love overcomes all.
Satguru Maharaj Ki Jai
Sivananda Bhagavan Ki Jai