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The Master-Disciple Relationship

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by Gregorian Bivolaru,
yoga course notes.

Jesus (shroud) Many people heard stories, which are absolutely true, only on false GURUS or spiritual guides, and because such stories are much more frequent than the ones about real, authentic GURUS or spiritual guides, they remained with a deformed and aberrant impression on the nature of the master-disciple relationship.

The authentic-spiritual link between a spiritual master and a true disciple never had anything to do with the relation between a master and his slaves and does not imply that the disciples forever bow and be inert at the feet of their GURU, waiting without doing any personal effort that one day, the GURU should have mercy on them and give them the spiritual liberation for the simple reason that they served him their whole life. The connection between the master and the disciple also has nothing in common with the so often comical relationship between a super star and his hysterical adulating fans who obsessively hunt for the smallest gesture or look from the one they adore, a person who is itself so often very superficial.

Babaji (painting) Also, the master-disciple relationship is not similar to the relationship between a military commander and his hierarchical subordinates who are under obligation to blindly execute any orders, and are promoted upon their ability to obey without questioning and hesitation the orders of their superiors.

If we had to pick, as an analogical example, a common human relationship which is closest to the ideal and profound relationship between a true GURU and a true disciple, the only one would be the relationship between an expert mountain guide and an aspiring climber.

A sincere, devoted and serious spiritual aspirant is just like a climber who wishes to conquer the highest mountain in the world as soon as possible, but currently does not know the best route and does not have enough experience to successfully finish this extraordinary adventure. If we would truly want to conquer the highest mountain top as soon as possible, as beginner climbers we would have several options : we could, for example, make the stupid decision to take on the ascension alone, on our own, or we could choose to join a group of more experienced climbers (that are trying for the first time to get to this top just like us), but in both cases the chances of success would be reduced and the dangers we would face be greater. On the other hand we could take as a guide a book written by a person who already made it to the top but, the book, no matter how well written, would be unable to take into consideration all the factors of success like : our strength, talent and experience as climbers and would not be able to completely anticipate all the obstacles like : weather changes, modifications that occurred in the relief, landslides, avalanches, etc.

Yogananda Finally, the best choice would be to look very carefully and find a real live person who made it to the top and wishes to accompany us and help us if needed all the way. When we searched for this expert we would not care for his exterior appearance, the way he dresses up, his religion or skin color. All that mattered tough would be if he REALLY REACHED THE TOP we are about to climb. He has to know very well the way and have an excellent teaching skill, patience and experience in climbing. He has to choose a path depending on our qualities : perseverance, vitality, dedication, power, skill, courage but also our defects, a path that best fits our real capacities and also to teach us all that he thinks is necessary to reach our aim quickly and safely.

In spirituality, like in other domains, the presence of an excellent guide who has an authentic knowledge and a vast experience can greatly help us reduce the time and energy we would waste on useless pursuits. He could help us eliminate the suffering and the risk of a possible failure. He would easily lead us to complete success giving us advice on how to utilize our forces most efficiently. He could even give us a hand when we are in a difficult situation. He would act wisely towards helping us unlearn our destructive or unhealthy habits which wold otherwise hinder us in the future and facilitate the development of those qualities that would help us in our ascension. All these may seem useless to someone standing at the base of the mountain but they are extremely useful on the way to the top, as the ascension gets more and more difficult. So, just as a beginner climber would have to take an oath to himself that he/she would not leave his guide in the middle of the journey and if, despite better judgement he did so, he/she would have to take full responsibility and face the huge risks so has an authentic spiritual aspirant to do - otherwise the master-disciple relationship can never truly work.

Nityananda Because every GURU or spiritual guide leads his disciple on the path to Self revelation that best matches the disciple's qualities and his experience, it would be a stupid thing to take simultaneously the guidance of more GURUS at once - just as a climber could not climb the mountain with different guides and on different routes simultaneously - anyone can see this would be impossible. An analogy preferred by the yogis would be that of an eccentric traveler that wishes to "safely" cross the sea having each foot in a different boat.

We cannot say we have a GURU until we are completely sure we found the right person, someone we are willing to follow unconditionally. Then we must be ready to apply with perseverance and dedication his teachings. Also, we cannot say we are true disciples until we follow with self-abnegation all he asks of us to do.

Every GURU has both disciples and devotees. In the group of devotees are included those that although they are convinced of the authenticity of the master, have very little or no wish to make efforts to walk on the path towards Self realization. These devotees often have a lack of trust and test their spiritual master and sometimes other masters at the same time, wasting time in their presence, mentally analyzing their behavior, character, teachings, gestures, etc. The true disciples are only those spiritual aspirants who are firmly engaged on the spiritual path and do not have the need to test their GURU for anything, allowing him to help and support and even test them when necessary.

Sivananda Once a true master-disciple relationship appears, the authentic spiritual journey towards Self revelation begins immediately, with no delay. During this journey both GURU and disciple have to take on serious personal responsibilities. Just as a mountain guide, the GURU pledges to take care of his disciple all the way, but, as we could never have expected the guide to carry the beginner climber on his back, we cannot expect the GURU to make the spiritual journey in the place of his disciple. The ascension, even if it is guided, assisted and even helped by the GURU still must rely on the personal effort of the disciple. The GURU always accompanies his disciple spiritually, energetically and telepathically all the way, step by step giving him/her advice, help and reminding him/her the right way. ONLY WHEN THE DISCIPLE IS TRULLY PREPARED will the GURU teach him/her the shortcuts, the useful techniques methods to easily surpass all the obstacles, will warn the disciple on the temptations he/she may be facing and will remove his/hers doubts and fears with the help of his spiritual powers and huge knowledge and personal experience.

Also, the GURU inspires and guides his disciples by the power of his example, but we must understand that the GURU cannot do the work for his disciples, he cannot carry them "on his back" all the way. The only exception is the periodic SPIRITUAL EXEMPLIFICATIONS when we can benefit from his divine grace directly proportional with our degree of spiritual openness. Consequently it is entirely our responsibility to continue to walk up this path with no stopping and no detour, no matter what obstacles, difficulties or sufferings we face. The GURU never has the responsibility to pamper us and carry us "on his back", permanently, all the way, because the Divine objective of the spiritual ascension is not to become more and more dependent on our GURU but to become more and more independent and self sustained, as we evolve. After the disciple experiences a real spiritual evolution, he becomes AUTONOMOUS.

Even tough the spiritual guide is a selflessly and unconditionally looking after his disciples, he is always the one who gives guidance, help and commands and not the vice-versa. A disciple who gets angry because his GURU does not do what he wants or does not satisfy his aberrant wishes shows a monumental ignorance and egoism. Just as a mountain guide, even tough he is always at the disposition of his mountaineering student, he always leads the one who hires him, having better knowledge on how to get to the top of the mountain, so does the spiritual guide or GURU. In conclusion we have to have complete trust in our spiritual guide, his divine power to decide what is best, his wise inspiration and his selfless will to help us - only when we deserve his help.

Ramana Maharishi If for one reason or another, in the course of our spiritual journey, we decide to leave our GURU, have to accept right from the start the RISK of SPIRITUAL STAGNATION or involution, the risk that we might delay our spiritual evolution with millions of years and gradually yield to demoniac or even satanic temptations.

What the benefit of the disciple from this relationship is obvious, but what is the benefit of the GURU or spiritual guide ? From now on, our analogy of the GURU to the expert mountain guide ceases to function. While the mountain guide offers his services only for financial rewards, the true spiritual guide does not have any need for material or personal egoist gains, and because he is a PERFECT BEING he enjoys unconditionally and permanently a state of supreme happiness and fulfillment. Benefiting from limitless wealth in spirit, which includes an existence in a state of eternal beatitude accessible at his wish, he will never be tempted to lead us to the supreme knowledge for material or any othe kind of rewards. His only reward is the divine ecstasy he experiences when one of his disciples reached the Self realization. Then the joy of God receiving one of his sons back flows and manifests in the GURU.

The sacred texts show the single reason for which a perfect being, who reached a state of permanent unity with God or Shiva, would later assume the role of guiding us to a state identical to his own, is the Infinite Love and Divine Compassion of God. Only love can make possible the existence in this world of the perfect spiritual guides, otherwise we would never have had around us such beings capable of showing us the way towards Self liberation. Only the limitless compassion will make the GURU assume the role of spiritually guiding other people towards spiritual liberation.

Grieg But what is that which such a compassionate and loving being expects as a reward for his invaluable help ? The only "thing" the GURU permanently expects form us is that in turn we be perfect disciples, so that he can give us his love and guide us with God's help, full of compassion, towards our spiritual liberation as quick as possible. And after we reach this stage and are equal to our GURU we become ourselves centers of infinite love and compassion and bestow spiritual light for those who deserve it.

Never forget that although MANY feel called towards the goal of Self realization FEW are chosen. Most of them stumble, hesitate, calculate, stagnate, go astray, critic, allow themselves to be tempted, fall into doubt or let themselves be overcome by egoism. The CHOSEN ones are the few who are full of love, humble, patient, perseverant and finally, perhaps when they least expected or even lost hope, they suddenly reach the ABSOLUTE and are united in ecstasy with GOD.

The biggest enemy of the mediocre disciple is himself, in fact, his EGO. Don't forget that "WHEN THE EGO COMES OUT, YOGA INSTANTLY COMES IN, AND WHEN THE EGO COMES IN, YOGA INSTANTLY COMES OUT".

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