The few who have a broad experience of life, whose reason is sufficiently alive to judge both fruits and roots correctly and whose intuition is sufficiently active to recognize nobility when meeting it, who want the whole truth and nothing less, will find a friend (for he will not wish to be anything more) who will decline to permit others to hold a fanciful vision of an earthly perfection which is non-existent; who will be humble, sane, and balanced above all things, and yet prove with time--if they themselves prove loyal--to be also a sure and benevolent guide in this dark forest where so many wander bewildered, deceived, or self-deceived. Excessive unreflective saint-worship raises exaggerated and even false hopes. It has historically often ended with exploitation of the worshipper. But even where it does not, it is still incompatible with healthy self-development; an affectionate respect is wiser and safer. Let us not ask a teacher to be a god, because thereby we are liable to deceive and endanger ourselves, but let us ask him to be competent and illumined, truthful and helpful and compassionate.
Not by our own exertions alone, and not by the gift or grace of an external being alone, can we be brought to final realization, but by both.
Those who can let themselves be uplifted by some inspired or enlightened person should understand that he is capable of lifting them to the point of touching their best self, the divinity within them. Some may even gain a glimpse of it, a memorable unforgettable experience. But will they let it happen?
We are not left to find out for ourselves what the truth is. Now and then messengers appear among us, each bearing his own personal communication about the existence of a higher power and the need of a higher life.
We may help the Overself in drawing us to the goal by surrendering to the guidance of a competent spiritual adviser or we may obstruct it by clinging to the ego's. But an incompetent adviser will also obstruct it, and in fact become a channel for the ego's truth-obscuring tactics.
The difficulty of the task of self-improvement is not to be underrated and it is because of this as well as for other reasons that seekers since ancient times have been advised to obtain the help of a guru. From him they can get inspiration, guidance, and a certain telepathically transferred strengthening power which is called Grace.
It is not necessary to be living always near a guru in a monastery as so many seem to think. What is really necessary is to meet him on this physical plane once only, even if it be just for five minutes. After that his help can be received inwardly and mentally by telepathy without any further physical meeting. This is because the real guru is not the body, but his inner being, the Mind behind the body, and it is that inner being with which the seeker must try to come into relation. Such a relation he builds up himself by his own mental attitude, by his faith devotion and obedience to the way that is shown.
Wherever there is instruction to be got there is an ashram. And whenever you go there you will get instruction from the experiences of life. Therefore the whole world is an ashram to a discerning student. Much the same applies to the question of a teacher. Says a Bengali verse: "Wouldst thou make obeisance to thy master, my heart? He is there at every step, on each side of thy path. The welcome offered thee is thy master, the agony inflicted on thee is thy master. Every wrench at thy heartstrings that maketh the tears flow is thy master."
Any book or person seen or art production which reminds a man of his diviner self, is to that extent his teacher. Any happening or event or experience which alienates him from such remembrance, whether it be regarded by the world as good or as evil, likewise is his teacher. Even his own unworthy actions will, because of the consequences to which they must infallibly lead, also be his teachers.
Those whose inner development or outer circumstances or personal karma have prepared them for the truth will come to it anyway: they may need a little prodding or a lot of reflection, but in the end they will recognize it for what it is. But they confound this recognition with the relation of discipleship to some guru. The two things need to be separated if they are to be correctly understood.
Teaching is always available in some way or some form, for Life, through varied situations, takes care of its own; but a Teacher in his physical form may not be available just at the necessary point in time. In that case, one may be met through his writings. If this does not happen, he may come into the mental life during a great anguish or an enforced inactivity or an unusual relaxation or, finally, through or during meditation.
(Mira Bai) "On the way I found two guides: the spiritual preceptors and God. To the preceptors I make my bow. But God I keep in my heart."
The need for a teacher
Happiness depends on our understanding of life, understanding depends upon the penetration of insight, insight depends upon right instructions received from a competent teacher.
The inspirational and moral, the intellectual and meditational helps which a competent guide can give to a worthy disciple are valuable. If such a worthy, honourable, selfless, experienced, and expert guide can be found--and this may be counted exceptionally good fortune--the disciple should certainly submit to his tutelage and surrender to his influence.
The need of a saviour arises from the fact that the ego cannot lift itself by its own bootstraps, cannot rise out of its own dimension into a higher one, and will not willingly encompass its own destruction. Yet its spiritual career arrives eventually at a point where it finds and sees that it has done what it could, that further efforts are futile, and that only some power outside itself can bring about the next forward move. However, it may not without self-deception declare this point to be reached when in fact it ought to continue with its strivings; it may not cease prematurely from its struggles. If it does so, then it would be equally futile to seek a master's grace.
Those who refuse to admit that a Master is essential to the neophyte will at least grant that his aid is advisable. Only a man severely handicapped or a fool would undertake the study and practice of medicine, or building, or of any other art without a teacher, an expert who has himself mastered the subject. How then can anyone take up the art of soul-unfoldment, subtle and recondite as it is, without realizing the usefulness of a Master?
Heaven lies within and without us, it is true. But in most cases, only by the intervention of some authentic spiritual genius do we seem able to translate this into actuality for ourselves.
Life is teaching us all the time but its voice needs a human being as a more direct medium, its lessons need human speech or writing to gain clearer utterance.
Nature herself is forever silently voicing these majestic truths and if we are unable to receive them from her lips, as we usually are, then we must receive them from a teacher's lips.
We know that the mere reading of books and journals is not enough, and our essential conviction (as also the acknowledgment of the Orient since time immemorial) is that a personal guide who can instruct and inspire one to travel through the twilit jungle land which lies between ignorance and truth is indispensable.
The missing element in many quests is the spiritual guide.
One of the greatest helps to convert our timid thoughts and our trembling wishes into deeds is the inspiration received from a superior mind.
Most men find they need a concrete symbol to receive their devotion and concentrate their aspiration. In short, they find they need a Spiritual Leader, be he historical and of the past, or contemporary and of the present.
The purposes of human evolution require the presence at all times through human history of some spiritually fulfilled individuals to act as guides or teachers. At no period has the race been left entirely without them, no matter how bleak, how savage, or how materialistic the period has been.
Every generation has to find its own way through these mysteries and to these truths anew, despite the heavy freight of recorded teachings and revelations which it receives from all the previous ones. This is why new prophets have always been needed to provide the old, old clues.
Something or someone is needed to draw us from the ego to the Overself behind it.
When he finds out that all his efforts at self-improvement are movements around a circle, that the ego does not really intend to give itself up in surrender to the Overself and therefore only pretends to do so, he realizes that left to himself he cannot succeed in really changing his inner centre of gravity. Help is needed from some outside source if he is to free himself from such a hopeless position.
It is said that wisdom comes with experience. But the sages who offer to impart it, whether in person or in writing, may save us some of the effort and suffering which accompany experience.
While the dream is still continuing, he cannot help taking its scenes and figures as being quite real. But if someone rings a bell until he awakens from the dreaming state, he will then see that both scenes and figures were mere figments of his own imagination. In a sense, the teacher of philosophy acts as this awakener did, except that he directs his efforts to the sense-deceived consciousness of everyday life.
It is not enough to set up a spiritual ideal for him to attain. He needs also the psychological help, the emotional and mental re-education which can remove large obstructions to that attainment.
No seeker is so wise, so informed, so perfect, or so balanced as not to need the constructive criticism and expert counsel of a true spiritual guide.
If someone knows what I do not yet know, if he has trodden farther on this path, then it is well to learn from him if he will teach me.
A man needs comfort and support in these times more than in ordinary times. Where can he best find them? By sitting humbly in intellectual discipleship under those who have been blessed by the higher power with the revelation of its own existence. He can absorb from them a certitude that the world is still ruled by higher laws and its history by higher purposes.
Such is the world today, with its tensions and greeds, its confusions and wrongs, its ignorance and evil-doing, that if anyone has a store of virtue and an awareness of divinity, people have need of them and hence of him. There is too little of the one and hardly any of the other among us.
The instruction and criticism of a qualified living guide are worth having. But owing to the rarity of such guides, many seekers are unable to find one.
He should appreciate the value of finding a master worthy of being followed. The inner demand of the one will attract in time the outer meeting with the other.
No maniac can cure himself. We dare not leave the treatment of humanity's mania entirely to the humanity themselves. The help of sane outsiders is needed. But it should be given indirectly and unobtrusively.
If the more mature, older, and more experienced nightingales find it necessary to give lessons in singing to the younger ones, why not the same situation among human beings?
It is the greatest irony of man's existence that in the end he will be saved from his meanness and misery not by those who shout the loudest but by the quietest, the most silent of his fellows. For the power and knowledge which he will gain from discipleship with them will be what he needs above all else--power over the baseness in himself and knowledge of the divine World-Idea.
It is when one reaches the end of a particular phase and has first to find, then to begin a new one that help from outside is useful. The same is true when one reaches a difficult place on the Quest. This help may be found in a book, a lecture, a guru, a chance meeting, or in some other way.
The beginner cannot take his lessons from the skies. He has to find a teacher, even if only to impart the right atmosphere and inculcate the right ideas.
The use of a teacher is, firstly, suggestive. His influence is a definite aid to incline us to travel along the proper path. It is, secondly, protective, for under his constant guidance we learn to be wary of pitfalls.
Not only is the teacher helpful in pointing out the proper path to be followed and also in exposing the errors of the disciple but furthermore in bestowing upon him an impetus to the practice of meditation and the strength to obtain the concentration required for it. The impetus is needed because through long habit engendered over many reincarnations of the past, most people are unbalanced. That is, they are either too extroverted and overactive with outward matters or live in a state of continual mental restlessness through being too busy with their own thoughts. The strength is needed because keeping the attention along a single track and sustaining it for a certain period is an extremely difficult task. Once the inner contact has been properly established, quite often the mere thought of the master will be enough to inspire the disciple and thus give him both the impetus and the strength required to make his attempts at meditation more effectual.
Other results of associating with one who is more spiritually advanced are that it incites a student to excel himself, strengthens him in the resolve to pursue the quest, and fans the spark of longing for the Divine.
It is said in the Yogic and Sufi schools that the company of enlightened men tends to arouse those who dwell in darkness to seek light, as it tends to hasten the development of those who are already engaged in this search.
In the single matter of learning meditation alone one will encounter all sorts of obstacles within oneself and difficulties without. They will be much more easily and quickly overcome if one places oneself under the training of an expert preceptor whose long experience in this matter and natural gift for guiding others makes his advice mentally enlightening and practically useful.
The help of a master shows itself principally, and is chiefly important in, the course taken by the mind during meditation.
One of the chief benefits of meeting with an illumined book or an inspired man, is that such an encounter opens up the possibility of moving more swiftly from a lower to a higher standpoint. It opens up truths which would ordinarily be too far ahead to be noticed, thus acting like a spiritual telescope. It also brings us face to face with our own errors in thought and conduct. Such a movement might otherwise take several years or sometimes a whole lifetime. But it remains only a possibility. It is for us to recognize the true character of the opportunity and for us to grasp and take the fullest advantage of it.
It may be that he keeps the spiritual quest in the background of his mind only. If so he needs a quickening impulse. Such an impulse can be given him but only by a master. He imparts the necessary impetus which helps the student towards the realization of his finest aspirations.
Whoever seeks to raise his own consciousness to the Overself's, will get most help from seeking out an individual who has already accomplished that task. In the presence of someone whose own consciousness is in the Overself, he will receive the inward inspiration which can energize and lead his personal efforts in the same direction.
The entrance of a book of truth, or of a man bearing truth, into the aspirant's life will, at certain periods when he is ready and prepared for further development, be like turning on the light in a room to shut out the darkness.
The earnest seeker will get more from a single meeting with a truly inspired man than from attendance at a hundred sessions in an organized spiritual school or ashram. For the first will awaken his intuition whereas the second will merely add to his information. The first will really advance his progress whereas the second will only give the illusion of doing so. But such is the widespread ignorance and inexperience of these things, as well as the suggestive power of pomp and prestige, that the organized institution will always attract fifty followers where the lone illuminate will attract five.
The master can see the disciple's character and motives, hidden complexes and unrevealed weaknesses better than he can himself.
His own little experience may be too limited to comprehend mystical revelations aright. Consequently he may in parts or at times misinterpret them. A safeguard against this is first, to call in the experience of other seekers, which he may do through their books or speech, and second, to call on authority, which he may do through joining his inner life to a trustworthy teacher.
The beginning aspirant lacks the experience to judge himself aright and even the intermediate lacks the impersonal view to judge himself correctly.
Even a single meeting with a master is vastly important to the aspirant. He may never enter into any personal relation with the master but that meeting will alone suffice to do four fundamental things. It will vindicate the value of his aspirations and demonstrate their attainability; it will convince him that the Overself does exist and show him in what direction he is to seek it.
When he himself forgets it, man is reminded of his divine linkage by prophets, teachers, and sages.
One advantage of having a personal teacher is that, to some extent, you can watch his mind work.
A human channel is needed for the superhuman inspiration, grace, teaching, or revelation because the recipient minds are not sufficiently sensitive, pure, or prepared to receive it directly for themselves.
So long as experience and results have not established sufficient confidence in his intuitive guidance and sufficient trust in his philosophic knowledge, he needs to continue travelling with a teacher.
The master is the wonderful catalyst who makes possible a quickened development, an inspired renewal of the aspirant's inner life.
Teaching is necessary. How can those who do not know the true cause of their afflictions know the way out of them? Someone must warn them, someone must awaken them.
What the earnest mind is struggling to formulate to itself vaguely and uncertainly and unclearly, the teacher states decisively, assuredly, and definitely.
A phrase or two, coming from an inspired man, may set a subconscious process working in the mind of another and lead him in the end to acquire a new truth or a new view.
Those who come forward as gurus driven by the ego, the ambitions, and ulterior motives are not gurus at all. They are trespassers on a fine vocation. We must remember that those who work to earn a livelihood and come home tired have not the time or strength to think for themselves or to search for themselves. For them the ready-made support of established religion is indeed helpful, while the guidance of sincere, competent, and available teachers is even more sought for.
To follow one's own path, rejecting the idea of seeking the expert help, tested knowledge, and accumulated experience of a Master is to follow a haphazard course of trial and error. The determination to maintain such independence and to make one's way by one's own effort is not of much use. One will be far better off working under guidance than without it.
An aspirant is most fortunate if he has been led safely upwards past the delusory sidetracks and bypaths which detain so many other seekers. Only in this way can his consciousness arrive at what really constitutes the Highest Truth.
At a certain stage in the life of the aspirant it is of the utmost importance to him that he improve his character and karma. This, neither he nor anyone can hope to do so effectively alone as when studying under a genuine teacher. In the latter case, it is possible for him to accomplish within a relatively short time that which would ordinarily require many more years of floundering self-effort.
Sri Ramakrishna once said: "A man who himself approaches God with deep longing for Him, and earnest prayer, will find Him even if he has no guru." When asked why a teacher was necessary at all, he replied, "Very few people have this deep yearning and therefore the guru is necessary for them." By this he meant that the teacher inspires and encourages seekers of God not to give up when the going is difficult, but to stick to the Quest, regardless of the many long years it inevitably takes.
It is always pleasant to learn that a seeker has found a good teacher. It may be puzzling then to hear that the teacher can no longer continue with his pupil. However, in such a case, the individual should not be unnecessarily distressed, because he can most certainly continue to make progress on the Quest irrespective of whether or not he has an outward teacher. All he needs to do is to pray humbly to God, whose love and forgiveness will accompany him always where a human teacher's cannot.
We do not go all the way with the Tibetan saying that "without the guru you cannot get liberation," but we do go part of the way.
The need of a guide and mentor is obvious but this is no reason to exaggerate it to the extent that so many have done.
Is there then no real need of a master? The answer is "No!" for some men but "Yes!" for most men. He is needed to wake up the sleeper by telling him the highest truth from the very first time, and then descend by degrees to the stages while still holding on to the truth. The master serves only by showing a seeking person his real self, his Overself: or holding a mirror up to him. This can be called, also, giving him a "glimpse," or, more truthfully, being used by the higher power as a vehicle to do so.
He who is working under the guidance of a master is not exempt from making mistakes, but he will make fewer and expose them sooner and correct them quicker than he who is not.
I write all this in no sneering or disparaging manner, but rather as one who understands sympathetically the need of most beginners and many intermediates to find guidance outside themselves for the all-sufficient reason that they cannot find it inside. Indeed it is because I have been a disciple that I myself know why others become one, and can approve of their action. But that experience is also why I know the limitations and disservices of a discipleship.
To say that no teacher is necessary is to set oneself up as a teacher by that very statement.
The original Shankara, Adi Shankara, made it an absolute necessity that whoever sought to realize the spiritual Truth must seek out a guru. This injunction has hypnotized the Indians who came after him as it hypnotized those before his time because it was laid down in the Mundaka Upanishad long, long before. Shankara even warned his readers and hearers that even an expert student of the Vedas should not engage in such a search by himself. Yet there are several cases in Indian history where men have experienced this realization without any guru whatever.
Self-instruction cannot be as correct and efficacious as instruction by an expert, a specialist, or a fully experienced person who can also communicate adequately as a teacher.
We need to build up an intimate inner relationship with a being whose compassion is wide enough to understand us and whose power is developed enough to help us. It does not matter that he is dead.
Those who know only a single mode of living, that of the extrovert, or a single mode of thinking, that which is sense-based, need to expose themselves for sufficient time to the influence of a spiritual master before they can begin to become even dimly aware that they have a soul. But since a fully evolved master is hard to find, something else must act as his next best substitute. This must necessarily be an inspired writing produced by such a man.
The truth is that nearly all aspirants need the help of expert human guides and printed books when they are actively seeking the Spirit, and of printed books at least when they are merely beginning to seek.
Books as teachers
It is not essential to find a teacher in the flesh--he may be in print. A book may become a quite effective teacher and guide.
In the absence of a sage's personal society, one may have recourse to the best substitute--a sage's printed writings.
Most students seeking inspiration have no other choice than recourse to the printed words.
Books are most useful to those who, whether by necessity through lack of sincere competent instruction or by choice, to avoid narrow sectarianism, seek the goal by themselves.
Inspired texts, portions of scriptures, great men's writings and sayings offer guidance on the course of action to be followed, the ethical considerations to be heeded, the decisions to be made under certain pressures, crises, or confrontations--decisions whose consequences are often quite grave. Who can price the value of such readings at such times?
The personal contact with a master does not necessarily require a face-to-face meeting. It can also be effected through a letter written by him--nay, to some degree, even through a book written by him. For his mind incarnates itself in these productions. Thus, those who are prevented by circumstances from meeting him physically, may meet him mentally and gain the same results.
The perspicacious student will cling steadfastly throughout his life to the writings of illumined masters, returning to them again and again. Their works are the truest of all, pure gold and not alloys.
There are men whose thought went deeper and understood more clearly than that of their fellows. Their record exists, their sayings and writings also. Their study is worthwhile, their precepts can be put to the test in practical everyday living.
In these books the voice of men who were spiritually illuminated long ago speaks to him. They are the only way in which it can speak to him today. Therefore he should respect and cherish them.
Those who have towered above all other men as Masters, who have left records of their path and of its attainment, can be good guides.
Why not make these great men your teachers through their preserved teachings? Why not be the disciple of Socrates, Buddha, Saint Paul, and dozens of others?
However distant a teacher may be, whether in country or century, by means of this written record he is able to help whoever is willing to lend his time and eyes.
If a book gives correct teaching about the quest and necessary warning about its pitfalls, it should be studied with proper care and respect.
A man can take from the printed word what he is unable to hear from the spoken word.
The truth-seeker will be wise to make use of such outward helps as appeal to him. They may be the written word, the printed book, the molded statuette, the pictorial representation, or the human photograph--always provided they are referable to a genuinely inspired source. He should study the words and works, the lives and examples of practising mystics, and follow in their footsteps.
Good books are not to be disdained, despite contemptuous references by fanatical mystics or ill-balanced ascetics. Negatively, they will warn him against misleading elements likely to cause a deviation from his correct course. Positively, they will guide him where no personal guide is available.
But he must beware of imagining that the pleasure he derives from spiritual reading is any sign that he is making progress in spiritual living. It is easier to read lofty thoughts than to think them out for oneself, and to live them is the most difficult of all.
Books, too, serve as guides if they are properly used, that is, if their limitations are recognized and if their authors' limitations are acknowledged. In the first case it is the intellect's own inability to transcend thought that stops it from realizing truth. In the second case it is the evolutionary status of the man's ego, and the accuracy of his attitudes--themselves victims or controllers of his emotions, passions--which matter. For if his mind cannot register the impact of truth, because of the blockage set up partially or even all around him, the author's work will reflect his ignorance. He cannot teach what he does not know; his own mental obscurity can lead only to the reader's obscurity. Yet such is the deceptiveness of thought, that a wrong or false idea may be received and held in the mind under the belief that it is a right or true one.
Book teaching is too general. It makes no allowance for individual differences, for the wide variation from one person to another. It is always necessary for the readers to adapt the teaching to their own sex, age, character, strength, and circumstances.
The very fine writings of philosophers and mystics of all times may bring into one's life some emotional inspirational and intellectual guidance, even, possibly, stimulating his power of will. Through the long, unavoidable years of struggle on the Quest, they can, to that extent, act the part of a teacher or guide. However, it must be remembered that some are infinitely more worthwhile than others, and it is essential for one to be able to discriminate between what is true and helpful and what is false and worthless.
These subjects are becoming more widely known and more studied than they were a half-century ago. There has been quite a flow of literature, original works, commentaries, and translations in our time making both mystical and philosophic ideas more available.
With the universal spread of elementary education, and the issue of cheaper paper-covered texts and translations, it is now possible for most earnest seekers living in the free countries to come into possession of the teaching.
If he cannot understand the more intellectual portions of these books he should not worry because they are written for different classes and those portions which he cannot follow are particularly addressed to highbrows and have to be expressed in a more complicated and scientific style.
If the literature on these subjects is so much larger today, the problem of choosing correctly what is most reliable is so much more difficult.
The writings of these Masters help both the moral nature and the intellectual mind of the responsive and sensitive, who are excited to the same endeavour, exhilarated to the same level, and urged to realize the same ideas. These stand out from all other writings because they contain vivid inspiration and true thought.
From these great writings, he will receive impulses of spiritual renewal. From these strong paragraphs and lovely words he will receive incitement to make himself better than he is. Their every page will carry a message to him; indeed, they will seem to be written for him.
One of the helps to kindle this spark into a flame is the reading of inspired literature, whether scripture or not--the mental association through books with men who have themselves been wholly possessed by this love.
With such books he will feel for a while better than he is, wiser than he is.
Every book which stimulates aspiration and widens reflection does spiritual service and acts as a guru.
A chance phrase in such an inspired writing may give a man the guidance for which he has long been waiting.
The words of inspired men are like a lighthouse to those seekers who are still groping in the dark.
Perhaps one prime value of a book is its power to remind students of fundamental principles and its ability to recall them to the leading points of this teaching, for these are easily lost or overlooked amid the press of daily business.
He will draw from such reading the incentive to keep on with his quest and the courage to set higher goals.
It may not be in the power of any piece of writing to guide a man all the way along this quest but it certainly is in its power to give him general direction and specific warning.
Let him study the literature of mystical and philosophic culture to become better informed about the Quest, about its nature and goal, and about himself.
By comparing what is described in the books with what he has so far experienced for himself, an aspirant may check and correct his course.
Those who were awakened by this reading could then look elsewhere for the personal guidance they seek.
Through a book help is given without involving the helper in the personal lives of the readers, but through a letter or a meeting involvement begins.
Issues in seeking a teacher
It is a man's own fault if, through his failure to seek spiritual guidance or understanding, none is vouchsafed to him. "Ask, and it shall be given unto you," said Jesus in this reference, which complements and is necessary to the assertion of the Chinese sage: "Those who know do not speak."
It is said, "When a pupil is ready, the Master appears." This means that such is the wonderful sensitivity of the mind, such is the reality of telepathic power, that when a man's search for truth has reached a crisis, he will meet the man who or the book which can best resolve that crisis. But the crisis itself must be filled with uncertainty and doubt, with helplessness and despair before the mysterious forces of the Overself will begin to move towards his relief. It should seem to him the most momentous consequence that it shall be brought to a satisfactory end, if life in the future is to have any meaning for him at all. There must be a sense of inner loneliness so acute that outer loneliness compares as nothing with it. There must be no voice within his world which can speak to his condition. This critical period must fill his mind with exaggeration of its own self-importance to such an extent as to blot out every other value from life. It will be at such an opportune moment, when his search for truth will be most intense and the required preparation for meeting its bearer most complete, that the bearer himself will arise and bring into his night the joyful tidings of dawn. The influence of such a man or his book at such a period is incalculable. Emerson gives its innermost meaning in his lines, "If we recall the rare hours when we encountered the best persons, we there found ourselves. . . . God's greatest gift is a Teacher." The seeker knows at last that even if he has not found the truth he is at least on the way to finding it. He has begun to find harmony with himself.
If the strong yearning for truth be absent, a man may meet a thousand masters of the quest but he will neither recognize them for what they are nor experience any exaltation in their presence. This yearning must indeed be as strong as the hunger of a starving man or the desperation of a traveller lost in the desert.
There has arisen too much harm and exploitation from the teacher-seeking attitude of some. Firstly, the request for a teacher should arise from a deep, sustained, and urgent sense of needing such help--not merely for the sake of having one.
In obedience to this inner urge he should take a path which will lead him to the friendship of the few sages living in his time and bring him to their feet.
The man who begins to feel this need in himself should seek out spiritual direction. He should find an authoritative source to instruct him in spiritual truth and to clear up his questions.
Contrary to common belief, the teacher is not found in the inner psychic life first and then the discovery reflected in the outer physical life later. He is met first in the flesh; but the discovery must eventually become a settled psychic fact before any real relationship can be established between the two. He must be found unshakeably established in the innermost depths of the heart as a presence and in the background of the mind as a picture.
His desperate need drives him to go in search of help wherever he can find it.
His Overself may lead him to seek and find another man who shall be its intermediary with him: its representative to him, its image for him.
A knowledge worth understanding is not less important than a teacher worth seeking.
If a seeker believes that he has achieved a certain extent of self-preparation and self-purification, if he is convinced of the desperate need of a master, and if he does not succeed in finding a worthy one, then let him pray for help in the matter.
It is not enough to try to follow the counsel given by prophets, mystics, and sages, to look within. It is necessary also to look deep enough and long enough to get really worthwhile results. This applies just as much to the search for help as to the search for truth.
The individual seeking a teacher must not be disappointed nor discouraged if he is not accepted as a pupil. Prayer and aspiration directed toward the Higher Self will bring the sought-for guidance from within. Moreover, he may have been given help of which he is as yet unaware and, eventually, this will come through into his conscious mind. He should not exaggerate the need for a teacher. Ultimately, his development will depend on principles rather than on personalities.
The seeker should resolve to appeal directly by constant aspiration and prayer to his own higher self, in the knowledge that it alone can help him if he is to work without a teacher. On the other hand, if his karma has decreed that he is to have a guide, his higher self will bring before him the mental image or intuitive thought of the Master. If this happens, he will not need to seek out the Master's physical person; the inner picture will bring results.
Although it is true that meeting with inspired men does arouse some persons for the first time to the need of a higher life, it is also true that deep probing would show to what a large extent previous events or reflections had already mentally led such persons to the verge of this need. The inspired teacher does not create it. He only indicates it. Fate brings him at the right moment into the other person's life to enable this to be done.
And somewhere, sometime, for every man who sincerely seeks there must come a Guide, merely because this personal opening of the gate is part of Nature's program.
At times it seems to him that the help promised him has not materialized. This is his opinion. But it may also be that his ego was so strong that the help could not reach him because the ego stood in the way too obstinately. In any case it should have been made clear to him in books and conversations that the advanced mystic is not a Master but only a fellow student. If he could not get the required help from such a one he must accept the fact that it simply was not meant to be.
Even when a teacher is found he may be a master of one path only and unable to guide aspirants properly along those with which they have individual affinity and for which they have the requisite mental or emotional or volitional capacity.
Another false idea is that the masters seek out disciples, make the advance towards them, whether "astrally" or physically. On the contrary, aspirants must take the first step themselves, must request acceptance.
With all my Western education and intellectual outlook, I am still simple enough to believe, with Eastern people, that it is worthwhile making a journey to get the blessing of a superior person.
But although philosophers do not engage in making proselytes or in starting crusades, the man who is attracted by any tenet of philosophy will sooner or later find someone who will be ready to explain or discuss it with him.
When it is said that the readiness of the seeker determines the appearance of the master, this applies to the first fundamental initiation of his spiritual life. It does not mean that a master will come into his town and seek him out, but that he will come into his life. And this may be brought about in various ways--as by the seeker himself being led, either by worldly circumstances or by his own seeking, out of his own town to the town or country where the master is living.
The location of his spiritual guide will in part be the accident of his own geographical situation, for he will obviously be limited in his selection to possibilities and reputations in his own country or nation or race. The sheer physical and financial difficulties of travelling throughout the world--not to mention the obstacles of personal circumstance, family obligations, and ignorance of where to search and whom to approach in foreign lands, combine to set this limitation upon his inquiry and hence upon his opportunity.
It is foolish to seek holiness geographically or holy men in particular places. I have found that one man may live in a Himalayan abode and be a scoundrel and another man may live in a Bowery slum and be a saint. Wherever they live, men always carry their own thoughts and their own selves with them. The Soul, which is the object of our quest, is within us. The Master, who is to guide us upon our quest, will appear whenever we are ready for him and wherever we happen to live--or else we will be led to him. There are men in the West, in Europe and America, not less wise and noble than any men in Tibet and India. If we have not met them, "the fault, Dear Brutus is . . . in ourselves,," primarily in our unworthiness, and secondarily in our incapacity to recognize what is beneath the surface.
It is not necessary in the modern West to follow the Oriental custom of living with or near the Teacher. However, it is advisable to try to arrange a meeting, even if only for a few minutes. When this is impossible, one substitute is to enter into a written correspondence with him--and to keep his photograph in a hallowed place where one's eyes fall frequently upon it and one is thus reminded many times a day of the need to work continuously at improving oneself and one's character.
The effect of the first meeting with a master fades off with time, like the effect of a mystical glimpse. When that happens it needs to be renewed by another meeting, and that again in turn still later by a third.
It is right and just that the ardent aspirations of a sincere candidate should eventually bring him a rewarding meeting in person with someone more advanced or in print with a qualified disciple. If he merits more, if he adds preparation to his aspirations, then a personal meeting with such a disciple may follow. But it is wrong and unjust for him to be too demanding. He should expect further meetings only as he works upon himself enough to be worthy of them, as well as only as the disciple has time to spare for them. And if he is so fortunate as to meet an adept, he should be satisfied with that single meeting.
Such a meeting always brings certain tests with it and usually leads either to a powerful enhancement of the relation or to an abrupt cancellation of it altogether. This is because the tests arise from the power of opposition.
The beginner who ventures out in quest of a teacher may have to stumble from charlatan to incompetent until he either finds the right one or abandons the effort as impossible.
In most of the other affairs of life we find it necessary to use the services of specialists. Just so, here. We surrender our body to the surgeon. We must surrender our mind to the spiritual guide. Both, if incompetent or unscrupulous, may maim us for life. It is of the greatest importance therefore to exercise right judgement in the choice of one or the other.
When Dillip Roy, a famous Bengali musician, first came to Sri Aurobindo for an interview, the latter said: "You must tell me clearly what it is exactly that you seek and why you want to do my yoga. Seekers approach yoga with diverse aims. Some want to get away from life. Others aspire after supreme bliss. Yet others want yoga power or knowledge or a poise impervious to the shocks of life. So you must first be definite as to what, precisely, you seek in yoga."
If he falls into the wrong hands, or if he lets himself be guided by an incompetent amateur instead of a wise and expert man, his way will be hindered and even the good he thinks he does get will turn out to be evil.
He should be determined to wait calmly for the assent of his whole being before he makes a decision which must necessarily and tremendously affect his whole future.
Most people react strongly to these gurus--either emphatic rejection straightway or infatuated acceptance superficially. A clear perception which is unaccompanied by sitting in judgement or rushing into acquiescence, which justly notes what is, unidealized yet unbiased evaluation, is rare.
The ordinary aspirant, whose intuition is not sufficiently developed, should test the man he proposes to accept as his master. This will require him to watch the other closely for a period of time. In some cases a week will give the answer, in others three months will be needed. In all cases, the aspirant ought not commit himself until he has had enough evidence that he is committing himself rightly.
Discrimination is of utmost importance in the selection of a spiritual path and Teacher. One must apply all his intelligence and intuition, caution and common sense to a decision of such consequence.
Those who lack the innate discernment or wide experience needed to detect the real character and true capacity of a master, should wait sufficiently long and seek outside advice before entrusting themselves to him.
The faith that the Overself is working through a particular man can be tested for its validity by watching, for a sufficient length of time, what happens to those who reject him utterly or respond to him ardently.
In their excessive eagerness to discover a master, they fail to practise discernment.
But to wait for the true master requires a certain patience and strength.
A true sage is hard to find. A false one, drooling his plagiarisms or his platitudes, is easy to find.
Just because a man happens to feel he has attained happiness or truth, is no sufficient ground for accepting that he has done so. He could get the same feeling out of the self-betraying attainment of the illusion of happiness and the illusion of truth. Hence we have not only to overcome the difficulty of finding honest and disinterested spiritual guidance but also the difficulty of finding competent undeceived guidance.
This problem of finding a master in what is almost a masterless world, is a difficult one. The only realistic suggestion which can be given is to select somebody in whom you have so far been able to place most confidence. But if such a person does not exist, then select the book which helps you most and make it your tutor.
The next best thing to studying under a teacher, if the latter is not available, is to associate with his mental image, where the latter is available through a previous meeting. If, however, even this is not possible then the seeker should study the teacher's writings. In this way the teacher takes the disciple by the hand through the medium of the printed word.
The seeker who is fumbling for the right direction to take should welcome the help of a competent guide. But where such a guide is not personally forthcoming, the best substitute is a personal disciple of his or, failing that, a book written by him.
The disciples' case-histories of a spiritual guide, like the patients' case-histories of a medical physician, are always instructive and significant.
As to the public teachers of the occult, there are none in the West really competent to lead people into truth, whatever their claims may be. The real teachers are so rare nowadays that it is almost impossible to find them. In these circumstances it is safer and wiser to confine oneself to the study of authoritative books rather than to associate with inferior sources of help.
The seeker who has gone unsatisfied from cult to cult for several years should waste no further time seeking God through such organizations or through self-named Masters but should strive earnestly to purify his heart of all lower feelings, such as anger, envy, irritability, fear, and depression, and work constantly on his character to improve it. After vigorously doing this for at least six months he may begin to pray daily for further guidance.
It is often said that when the pupil is ready the Master will appear. But I have not yet read anyone's additional statement--that he may be invisible and unhearable--that is, he may be entirely within you.
I do not say that finding the master internally in this manner is the best way, but that for many seekers it is the only way. Their own limitations combine with destiny to make it so.
If it is his destiny to find a master only in the mind and not in the body, if circumstances force him to search internally and not externally, then he will be wise to accept the leading and not rebel against it. For he will find that, faithfully followed, it will bring him to a vivid presence within, a voice that guides where there is seemingly none to guide.
In many matters it is needful to submit to the will of destiny. He should know, however, that by the right mental attitude, the inner contact and the inner meeting can be obtained even if the outer cannot. That inner meeting, after all, is the real one--more real than the physical. It is enough to have had a single physical meeting to receive ever afterwards the possibility of this inner contact.
The truth is that the Master may appear in three ways: first, inwardly alone for the whole lifetime; second, inwardly at first as "the Interior Word" and then later as the physically embodied human guide; third, as the embodied Master from the very beginning. The first two cases presuppose the practice of meditation and its development to a certain degree of intensity. The third case needs no prior meditation but it does require an attitude of search for truth, help, or guidance developed to as great an intensity as in the other cases.
The difficulty which you mention about finding a teacher need not be overrated. You have within yourself a ray of God, which is your own soul. If you pray to and beseech it constantly for guidance, it will surely lead you to all that you really need to know.
All seeking and finding of spiritual instruction through a spiritual teacher becomes real, in the end, on a mental plane only. Therefore he should direct his efforts in that direction with complete faith.
Those whose quest of the Overself through a master has failed them should take this very failure as instruction on the quest itself. Let them remember that God is everywhere present, that there is no spot where God is not. Therefore, God is in them too. This indwelling presence is the Soul. Let them turn to it directly, no longer seeking someone else to act as an intermediary, no longer running here and there in search of him. Just where they are now is precisely where they may establish contact with God through their own Soul. Let them pray to it alone, meditate on it, obey its intuitive behests, and they will not need any human agent. From this moment they should look to no one else, should follow the Buddha's advice to depend on their own forces. But since these are lying latent within and need to be aroused, the aspirants need to exert themselves through physical regimes that will provide the energies needed for this great effort.
If you can find someone whose person attracts you most, or whose teachings appeal to you more than those of others, or whose writings inspire you above all other men's writings, then make him your spiritual guide. You do not have to apply for his permission for it is to be done within the privacy of your own inner life. You are not dependent on his personal acceptance or rejection for the idea of him which you believe in and the image of him which you form to become alive and effectual. But, you will object, is not the whole process a self-deceptive one and does it not lead to worthless hallucination? We reply, it could become that if you misuse it and misinterpret its results, but it need not if you work it aright. For telepathy is a fact. Your faith in, and remembrance of, the other man lays a cable from your inner being to his own and there will flow back along it a response to your attitude.
Those who seek a teacher may be reminded that they may take anyone who appeals to or inspires them, and by their own mental attitude of faith in and devotion towards him, together with obedience to his published teachings, draw inner help and inspiration telepathically from him. Thus they create for themselves a mental relationship which, to that extent, is not different from what would have come into being as part of the regular teacher-disciple relationship. They need also to be reminded that even after a physical meeting, in all cases a teacher can be found only when they are sufficiently sensitive to have the capacity to feel his mental presence within themselves and when they are sufficiently developed to be ready for him. The most practical course for most seekers is to engage in the work of self-improvement.
What is the hope for those who are unable to enter the shrine of mysticism and have left the fold of religion? Are they to be abandoned to a bleak despair or a hard cynicism? Are they to become engulfed in the waters of moral wickedness? No, let them take the unseen hand of a personal saviour or spiritual guide, whether dead or alive--someone whom they believe to have attained adeptship in yoga, or sagehood in philosophy, and who has announced his intention to give his life to the enlightenment of mankind. Let him become their secret refuge. Let them ask and deserve his grace. The same help can be utilized by those who feel they cannot make the intellectual effort demanded by philosophy but wish to advance beyond the stage of ordinary mysticism in which they now rest.
The wise and good dead men who have left their examples for imitation or their words for germination, and any living men whom we have heard met or read about--all these are our spiritual guides; all these can become our masters if we only make them so. Why then should we narrow ourselves down to a single man with a single point of view?
If he cannot find entry into the society of a master, he can meditate upon the life stories of historic masters of the past. Let him take the significant situations and devotional attitudes of these great souls into his own thought and study, to analyse the one and imitate the other. Let him think often and long of their character and conduct. Let him also read and reread the written messages they have left us. In this way he will imbibe something of their quality.
Such is the rarity of qualified teachers that today it is no longer a question of selecting one who particularly or personally appeals to the seeker, but of finding one at all!
The search for a master is often fruitless and abortive. Why is this? The answer is first, that few such masters exist today and second, that few of the searchers are qualified to work with one.
Those who have this knowledge are not easily accessible nor, even when found, do they easily divulge it. They are exceedingly rare.
Not only are teachers more rare but the most sensitive seekers feel shyly inhibited from approaching them.
It is a claim at once irrational and unjust that no man is to be saved who does not approach a master in the flesh. For few men can find such a master nor, finding him, can they always know him except from a distance.
In ancient times there were few books to guide the aspirant and fewer still available to him. Consequently the need of a living guide was much greater than it is now. Even in ancient times such teachers were hard to find. "That Guru is rare who can bring riddance to his disciple from the sorrows which agitate his heart," says Skanda Puranam.
Men of the highest spiritual calibre are not necessarily waiting around for disciples to come to them. They know quite well that each man is his own teacher in the end.
If the aspirant is fortunate enough to meet a man or woman in person or writing who genuinely represents the true and real, no effort will be made to influence him; it will be left entirely to his own free choice whether he follow this light hidden behind a bushel or any will-o'-the-wisp masquerading as a light.
It is hard to establish human contact with a master, hard to get him interested in one's personal activities.
It is not the actual meeting with a master that constitutes its importance, but the recognition that he is a master.
There are men who come as ambassadors from heaven, and the writings or arts of men, which come as revelators. But unless the reaction includes recognition, the contact is fruitless, the meeting useless.
How shall he know who is really a master, and who is not? It is easy at a distance of a thousand years to put an estimate on those who have left the effect of their spiritual greatness on generation after generation, but it is hard to measure contemporaries who look like other ordinary mortals.
Sometimes an aspirant, a candidate, a neophyte, or a disciple will refuse the opportunity of personal contact with a master when it occurs, because he feels unworthy, shamefaced, or even guilty. It is a grave mistake for him to reject what a favourable destiny thus offers him. However sinful he be, there is also the fact that he aspires to rise above his sins, else he would not feel sorry for them. However pure the master himself be, there is also the fact that he blames no one, shrinks from no one, extends goodwill to the virtuous and the sinful alike. Of the master it may truly be said that the utter absence of pride or conceit leads to the utter absence of the thought that he is holier than another. The chance to meet him should be taken despite all personal fears of him or personal feelings of one's own lack of virtue.
Occasionally one feels he is not worthy enough to contact a spiritual teacher because he does not have a "clean heart." This is a wrong mental attitude. He needs assistance in getting this "clean heart" and there is nothing wrong in seeking such help.
You will walk a long time or visit many cities before you find another illuminate. Greet him well, therefore, and think of him well, that you may make something of this fortunate meeting.
It needs some humility and more discernment to approach such a man and ask him to give us the benefit of his knowledge, his insight, his experience, and his wisdom--all of which are unusual and rare.
If such a man's presence, face, bearing, and teaching show something godlike in him, we should not hesitate to give him the benefit of recognition as being inspired, even if we are not willing to give more.
Remember that the master is not likely to live as long as you are, since he is probably an older man. Take the best possible advantage therefore of his presence.
If he lets the chance slip by unused, it may not occur again.
He may secure valuable help from different sources that he meets on the way but he must above all find the teacher to whom he belongs by inner affinity and in whose school he feels most at home. Once found, he should stubbornly refuse to be drawn out of the teacher's orbit, for if he were to allow it to happen, he would lose precious years and encounter needless suffering, only to have to return in the end.
Do what he may, he will not be able to change teachers permanently. The spiritual guide allotted to him by destiny, as well as by affinity, is the one he has to accept in the end if not in the beginning. This is his real master, the one whose image will rise again and again in his mind's eye, obscuring or blotting out the images of all other guides to whom the seeker turned for needed temporary direction.
Among living mortals there is one with whom he may find this link, one whom he may never meet in the flesh but only through a photo, a work of art, a name uttered by someone, or perhaps through a piece of published writing. Among those who no longer live in the body, but with whom the link was made in former births, the echo will return and the idea itself will suffice.
What we can hope to find today is no longer a teacher to instruct our minds nor a master to guide our steps but an inspirer to set us aflame, to show us the world as the Overself sees it. There is for each seeker only one man in the whole world who can do that. He and he alone can work this miracle.
It is a strange mystery why destiny has decreed that these seekers after God should have to depend on this one man's lit mind and strong heart for the help they need more than on any other man's. Strange, because until they find him their search seems to have a great lack in it which almost brings them to anguish.
The attraction which makes a man select someone as his master and makes the master willing to help him is analogous to chemical affinity. It is not that they deliberately and consciously choose one another but that they cannot help doing so.
The master knows, automatically and immediately by his own intuition, whether a candidate for discipleship is in affinity with him or not, and hence whether to accept or reject the man or not.
If he is sensitive and aspiring, and if there is any real spiritual power in the other man, he will feel involuntarily an internal excitement and an intuitive expectancy almost from the first minute of their meeting. But if he is also at a sufficient degree of readiness and longing to learn, and if there is personal or prenatal affinity with this other man, then he will feel shaken to the depths of his being, captured in mind and heart. For he will feel the beginnings of discipleship.
With the meeting, the aspirant's supreme chance has come. When an aspirant comes into contact with an advanced soul, his own longing is like a magnet which itself spontaneously attracts spiritual force and thought from the other man. Thereupon he experiences an uplift and an enlightenment. If the meeting is a personal one this result is at its fullest. If through a book or letter written by the other man, it is still present but in a weaker degree.
Seeking the Master: Great possibilities attach themselves to the first interview between the student earnestly seeking direction, needing guidance, or requesting counsel, and the illuminate who has established communion with his own Overself. These possibilities do not depend upon the length of time it takes nor upon what is said during the actual conversation itself. They depend upon the attitude which a student silently brings with him and upon the power which the illuminate silently expresses. In other words, they depend upon invisible and telepathic factors.
Only when he is finally ready for a master will he find a true one. But to be ready the aspirant must bring his character to its highest possibility. When that is done then even at the first meeting the power of attraction will speak silently yet eloquently. Both will know, before that first meeting ends, that the other is the right one; there will be no doubts, no hesitations; they can exist only when judgement is wrong. He will know an affinity of soul that can and has previously been experienced with no one else. Affinity has its own clear language. It will put both men at perfect ease.
When a sensitive heart, a receptive mind, and a strong yearning for spiritual perfection meet a man who embodies such perfection to a large degree, there is or should be some recognition, some brief purification, some intellectual clarification, some emotional exaltation, amounting in all to a miniature mystical experience.
When the predestined disciple meets the master for the first time, he may feel either that he has known him before or else that he has known him always.
Sometimes we have the feeling on meeting a stranger for the first time, that we have known him long and known him well. The feeling on first meeting the destined master is much the same but greatly expanded and deeply intensified.
The feeling which is aroused on this contact--whether affinity or antipathy--must be his first guide to the choice of a master.
He may feel the force of a real attraction when first meeting his master, in most cases, but it is just possible he may not.
The man in whose presence your character rises to its best and your faith to its highest, is the man who can help you spiritually. Without this inward affinity it is of not much use to attach yourself to a guide, however reputed he may be.
The seeker whose preconceived picture of what constitutes a master is correct--but this is uncommon--will be able to recognize one at their first meeting. He will feel with positive certainty the inner greatness of the master. Yet it does not follow that this is his particular master. There must also be a feeling of personal affinity as well as an intellectual appeal of the doctrines taught.
Without this feeling of affinity, and the considerable satisfaction which derives from it, he would be prudent to look elsewhere and not accept this person as guru.
Take that man as your teacher whose character and mentality approach the ideal you have formed, and with whose doctrine and personality you feel in sympathy.
The meeting with a master is a rare opportunity which should not be missed but should be eagerly followed up. It may not recur again during one's own lifetime or during the master's lifetime. But it can be followed up only if the aspirant feels intuitively that there is a "ray of affinity" between them, through which the inner contact can be established.
Sometimes disciples attach themselves to a master with whom they have no basic affinity. They have been drawn to him by a partial self-deception about his nature or by a partial misconception concerning his teaching. After a period has elapsed when the harmony with him or his teaching has come to an end, and the usefulness of both is not sufficient to justify the connection, they usually leave and seek elsewhere for inspiration or help. But in those cases where, for some improper reason, they fail to do so, he may deliberately provoke an incident or arrange a circumstance which will prompt them to go away.
It often happens that seekers do not get the true master simply because they would not be attracted to him even when they met him. They naturally are drawn to one whose temperament, character, mentality, and actions are like their own. The unbalanced and the neurotic would be repelled by a sane and equable teacher, the hysterical by a disciplined one, the futile dreamers by an efficient and active one.
There is really no choice in the matter--only the illusion of a choice. That which draws him to a particular master is predestination. He may try again and again with someone else. He may not wish to come to this man, but in the end he must come. His head may argue itself out of the attraction but his heart will push him back into it.
It is said that a man will recognize in a moment the master with whom he has true affinity, when meeting his person or words. That is true, but the recognition may be so vague or partial or faint that a few years may pass before he will become aware of it, and hence before he takes any action about it.
It would be foolish for anyone to continue to follow a teaching for which he has no liking, or a teacher with whom he has no affinity. But it would also be foolish to judge either by merely personal and emotional reactions alone.
What is present in the surface consciousness as a mild interest may be present in the subconscious as a strong love. But, however long it may take, the disproportion will eventually be righted. When this happens, and as pertains to this particular matter, the man comes to know himself as he really is. This is why the meeting with an old Master or a new truth may not lead to immediate recognition, may indeed take some years to ripen.
A guru who is supposed to be an enlightened man but who awakens no feeling of kinship, awe, peace, reverence, or goodness in the person who approaches him may not be enlightened at all--or may not be the proper affinity for the seeker, who may take this as a signal to look elsewhere. But it would also be a signal to be patient, wait a little, look deeper, and really get to know what is in this man.
Something within seems to recognize the true teacher when he appears. This is not miraculous when one understands that the visible present has its root in the invisible past and that discipleship is a relation which reappears in birth after birth. However, the philosophic path does not depend only on faith or intuition but also on rational appeal and proved fact. Therefore, some time must elapse before one knows thoroughly that he has found the right path and the right teacher.
Another sign that you have found the right master is when you find that he is the one who inspires you to go more deeply into yourself during meditation than any other.
He will recognize his master not only by the feeling of affinity and the attraction of his teaching but also if, ever since the first physical meeting, the other man's face persistently keeps recurring to him.
He who has found his destined Master will know it well after a few months at most. For he will find that it is as hard to leave the Master as for helpless steel filings to leave a powerful magnet.
The blessing of peace or power which the seeker feels in such a man's presence, the fading away of all questions in his aura--these are indications of authenticity and spirituality.
Another thing to look for as a sign of the right master is that his way of thinking should be congenial to the seeker.
That person is best fitted to be a man's master with whom he is able to be his own best self.
Humility is required to recognize that here is a man whose wisdom is greater than one's own.
The kind of master he seeks will be a loving one--a master who is large-hearted enough to receive him, sins weaknesses foolishnesses and all.
Other things being equal, choose your teacher from among those approaching the end of life, or at least well into middle life. For they have the mature experience which younger people lack; they can give the tranquil counsel which comes from the acceptance of life, the adjustment to its situations, and the waning of physical desires.
The teacher is not to be measured only by his weaker disciples nor by his foolish ones. A juster measurement must take into reckoning the wiser and stronger ones also. What he has done for most of them has been done in spite of themselves, for the egos have thwarted or twisted his influence all too often. Nevertheless it is there and in twenty or thirty years it will still be there, inevitable and inescapable, awaiting the thinning down of the ego's resistance.
It is a discriminating seeker who responds only to what is wise and true and fine in a teacher, but rejects what is frail or fallible in him.
A student is often dismayed, anxious, or upset by the aura of apparent impersonality which surrounds the Teacher. Such reactions are natural but also must be checked--which can be done by learning to smile at oneself and be at peace.
Do not look for truth among the unbalanced, the ego-obsessed, the brainless, the hysterical and the unsensitive. Look for it among the modest, the serene, the intuitive, the deep-divers and those who honour the Overself to its uttermost.
Many take to an imperfect, half-competent or half-satisfactory teaching because no better one is available.
Incompetent instruction is undesirable but it may be helpful in some cases if it is stopped at the proper point.
The student may be certain that if there be competent guidance on this path there is no standing still. Either he must go forward and onward until he reaches the goal, or he must get rid of his guide.
How useless it is to go to a teacher who has only an intellectual--that is, a talking--knowledge of it, for help is clearly shown by an old Hindu story. Once upon a time a certain king developed a desire to obtain divine consciousness. He obtained a Brahmi pundit as his guide. For two months he received teaching but found that he gained nothing in the actual experience of divinity. He thereupon threatened the Brahmin with his royal displeasure. The pundit returned home in a sorrowful state of mind. He had done his best and did not know how to satisfy the king. His daughter, who was a girl of high intelligence, saw her father's distress and made him tell her the cause. The next day she appeared at the court and informed the king that she could throw light on his problem. She then asked him to order his soldiers to bind both herself and himself to separate pillars. This was done. Then the girl said, "O King, release me out of this bondage." "What!" answered the king, "You speak of an impossibility. I myself am in bondage and how can I release you?" The girl laughed and said, "O King, this is the explanation of your problem. My father is a prisoner of this world-illusion. How can he set you free? How can you gain divinity from him?"
If anyone who presents a world view really knows what he is talking about, there should be some noticeable vitality in his talk.
If a teacher empties the purse or wallet of his pupils, be sure he is a false one. If he demands servility from them, he is most likely a false one. If he makes no response to someone's approach yet has the stamp of authenticity, he may not be the particular one with whom that person can find affinity.
We have seen a number of spiritual teachers either arise in the West or come here from the East and each one seems to find a certain number of adherents. These teachers and their teachings are of varying quality and may be helpful to many of those who join them. But it is necessary to give a measure of warning against exaggerations made by the teachers about themselves or, if not, made by their followers. It is easy for untrained and inexperienced seekers to be taken in by confident claims to the highest enlightenment. It is better to look for the signs of humility and impersonality.
A weakness among these cultists is that they persist in seeing their leader with a kind of character and a height of consciousness which are not sustained by the facts. He is turned into an unerring superman or even deified as a living god. His virtues are either exaggerated or invented, his most commonplace words are pondered over as if they were oracles of prophecy or epigrams of wisdom. And if they do not gift him with cosmic omniscience and total prescience, he is gifted with something like it. The consequence is that the expectations of votaries, having been lifted too high, must fall too low when his personality is deflated and his shortcomings are exposed. Their disappointment inevitably follows. However, since not many spiritual seekers of the kind who join organizations are possessed of the qualities of discrimination and intelligence, the bulk of his followers cling to their idol. An honest and sincere leader would be alarmed at such exaggerated worship, and do his utmost in self-deprecation to bring it to an end. He knows that making a cult of a particular person will divert attention from the proper object of devotion.
The excessive importance given to the guru, the exaggerated devotion given to him, can only have value in the earlier stages of the quest. The point of view then present has so much ego in it that the aspirant would not be satisfied unless he had a guru. But it is still an attachment, this relationship, so it has to be let go later on.
This over-idealization of the guru, so widespread in India and so much copied now by Western seekers, could indicate an elementary stage.
We may extend great reverence to the person who is worthy of it--saint or sage--but we may bend the knee in worship only to the everlasting Spirit. No human being has the right to receive it, much less to demand it, and it is idolatry to give it.
He is a human being, after all, a person not a demigod. Worship of the man is not only irrelevant but also, in a sense, irreverent.
We may admire him for his fine qualities but that does not mean we have to agree with him in all his views.
Many Orientals suffer from the bad consequences of an exaggerated respect for their spiritual guides whereas the Europeans and Americans suffer from the consequences of an insufficient respect for them.
A superficial emotional approach to truth is less concerned with the message than with the messenger, with the ideas taught than with their human origin.
"So many teachers come to us with their doctrines. Who of them is right and who is wrong?" Gautama was asked. "Not because you think, `Our teacher is one to whom great deference is due,' should you accept a doctrine," was the answer.
It is not necessary for disciples to indulge in fulsome panegyrics about their master. This helps no one, for it raises extravagant hopes in their hearers; it lowers their own capacity to receive truth; and it embarrasses the master himself. They need to learn that his greatness can be far more sincerely appreciated by restrained description, that the grandeur of his inner being is better pictured, and more readily believed, by dignified statement of the truth as it is. If others can be impressed only by fanciful embellishment or foolish exaggeration, they are not ready for him and should seek elsewhere among the cults which cater to the naïve.
In their overpraise of the guru, the disciples prevent the careful inquirer from learning the truth. In their refusal to see the plain facts of the guru's human weakness or imperfection because they are committed by their theory to see him only as God, they alienate such an inquirer and strengthen his involuntary feeling that to become anyone's disciple is to abandon that very search for truth which is supposed to be the motive for doing so.
All this exaggerated praise tends to put off cooler and clearer minds, so that what is deservedly laudable tends to get minimized.
Why do they arbitrarily try to make the illuminate into a perfect and superhuman creature and not let him remain the human being that he really is? Why do they remain quite unseeing to his shortcomings and find glib excuses for his failings? Is there not enough genius or greatness still left in him to be quite worthy of our deepest admiration? Why not give him his due without this unnecessary act of deification, which merely drags the sublime down to the absurd? It is because they inhabit a plane where emotion runs high and fanaticism runs deep, where discrimination is absent and imagination all too present. It is because they have not attained the attitudes of, nor felt the need for, philosophy.
The practice is all too common in the Orient of presenting a guru to the literary public in a most fulsome and adulatory manner. Those followers who write as if their spiritual guide is a faultless person, never blundering in any way and ever angelic in all ways, do their guide a disservice. They deprive him of his humanity and others of the hope of attaining his condition. His reliability and competence, his trustworthiness and holiness, as a guide, are not diminished if his limitations and faults as a human being are acknowledged.
Their followers put these men forward as being flawless demigods, not knowing that by doing so they render a disservice to the men themselves as much as to the cause of truth. What is worse, they throw confusion into the path of all aspirants, who form wrong ideas as to what lies ahead of them and what they ought to do or be.
The traditional attitude of an Oriental towards a guru attains fantastic degrees of utter materialism. We have observed disciples drinking water in which the guru's feet were washed, and kissing the tail of the horse on which he rode. They are in part the result of the poor teaching they have received. They mistake servitude to a guru for service to mankind.
I distrust the legends which are told about most gurus by the disciples. They all exaggerate. Why? Because they have stopped seeking truth.
When a man turns belief in the superior knowledge of the guide into belief in the virtual omniscience of the guide, it is dangerous.
After having charted all the merits and capacities of the enlightened man, his devotees and disciples easily fall into exaggerations and forget his limitations, or ignore the simple fact that he remains a man among men.
The disciples exaggerate the master. They create a new deity. If later some among them inevitably discover that he has his minor faults and makes his little mistakes, there is almost an emotional collapse, a nervous shock. Why, with all his wonderful attainments, can they not accept him as a human being?
It is inevitable that they will demand continuing individual attention and it is just as inevitable that he will be unable to give it. Disappointment will ensue and negative thoughts will start breeding.
They associate him with omnipotence, if not omniscience, but when time shows up the extravagance and the exaggeration of their idealized expectations, their faith falls to the ground, deflated.
Nearly every professional who helps people intimately or mentally has to undergo certain tests or temptations or ordeals. When he deals with a neurotic patient of the opposite sex, the psychoanalyst, the physician, or the schoolteacher may pass through the same experience as the spiritual guide. If she is too emotionally affectionate or too physically sensual, or if she is starved of affection or sensuality, she may naturally fall in love with him for a time. I say "for a time" advisedly because the succeeding phase--equally known to the spiritual guide--is to become antagonistic to him. Psychology has identified this first phase and calls it "transference."
The same disciple whose exaggerated enthusiasm caused him to regard the master as an archangel, now, by a curious process of transformation, regards him as an archdevil!
The guide is up against the fact that most aspirants expect too much from him. Even if he warns them at the start, his words are given little weight or else are soon forgotten. They expect him to use some trick, whose secret he alone knows, to turn them quickly into illumined mystics or even powerful adepts. Consequently they react emotionally against him in their later disappointment.
When the discrepancy between the real man and the preconceived mental image of him becomes too obvious and too large, they blame him instead of themselves.
It is because followers place him in such a unique and exalted position in their hearts that they do real psychic injury to themselves when they believe it necessary to throw him down from it.
The first and last illusion to go is that any perfect men exist anywhere. Not only is there no absolute perfection to be found, but not even does a moderate perfection exist among the most spiritual of human beings. Hence, the atmosphere of personal idolatry is not a healthy one. It is right that the impact of an unusually outstanding personality should produce an unforgettable intellectual or emotional experience. But it is wrong to believe him a god rather than a man, or to lead others to believe it, for that is an excess which can only lead to the reaction of disappointment in the end, as sooner or later he will be reduced by further knowledge to human proportions. To ask that a spiritual master or a loved mate shall be perfect in every respect is to ask the impossible and the non-existent. In the case of a seeker, it is likely to result in missing the very opportunity he is seeking. In the case of one who is already associated with a master or mate, experimental straying away is likely to result in disappointment and a retracing of steps. Let us not turn them into what they are not. They are human, they make mistakes; they are not gods.
This desire to deify their teachers, which is so common among Indian disciples, can have no place among philosophic ones. We look upon the teacher as a man, as one who incites us to seek the best and inspires us to self-improvement and guides us to the truth. But he is still a man to be respected, not a god to be worshipped. He has his imperfections.
How honest was that reputedly wise man Socrates in saying what so few gurus have ever said. He had just answered Xenophon's request for advice on a certain matter and concluded: "But my opinion is only that of a man."
It is not my business to make known matters that would only stir controversy about past history quite uselessly. But it would be a serious omission of duty not to utter a warning that human perfection does not exist; that famous figures in history, politics, warfare, government, literature, religion, mysticism, and art have committed grave errors of judgement, impression, or teaching; that these errors are known only to a few in each case, and will probably never be known to posterity at all. A man may be successful in leading his people through a war to final victory but, on the way, he may have made blunders that were heavily paid for by others. A teacher may be spiritually enlightened but personally inexperienced; his opinions on unfamiliar matters may not have much value.
Where is such a master, such a faultless paragon of virtue wisdom strength and pity, to be found? Look where we will, every man falls short of the ideal, shows an imperfection or betrays a weakness. The ideal sage portrayed in philosophical (as distinct from mystical) books, has not come to life in our times however much he may have done so in ancient times.
The Master had his shortcomings or frailties just as we all have, but he also had what few of us have--a direct contact with the Overself.
Where is the man who is wise enough to give everyone else spiritual guidance, personal advice, marital counsel, and prediction of future? Who with a single look knows all about you as he already knows all about God and the universe? Let us not look for fantasies of wishful thinking but see humans as humans.
Let him not expect to find perfection in any mortal. Let him be satisfied to find someone who has so developed his spirituality that he is worthy to lead those who are still much in the rear.
There is no man without his defects: it is a dreamer's notion that the perfect human being exists on our planet. Hence the disciples who servilely copy their guru in all things may copy his defects too!
So long as a man is turned into a god and is worshipped as such, so long as he is regarded Perfect and without defects, so long are those concerned--both the man and his followers--kept outside the philosophic goal by their own deficiencies.
Behind the majestic phrases of most of these spiritual teachers, we usually find in the end of a searching investigation based on living with them or on the historic facts of their lives, that there stand poor frail mortals. Hence those few who emerge as being one with, and not inferior to, their teachings stand out all the more as truly great men.
It is misleading to put such a man forward, as so many Indians put him forward, as being faultless. His consciousness of the Overself may be perfect, but his conduct as a human being may be not. Is there anywhere a faultless man?
He may be wise but he may not be wise all the time. For history shows lapses of judgement, impulsive actions, and other regrettable happenings due to karmic pressures even where least expected.
There are many ways to undermine the student-guru relationship: if the guru is put upon an unreachable pedestal, if he is turned into a god and his humanness is denied, or if the guru is believed to be perfection itself. The possibility for perfection in any man is a debatable point.
There are no Buddhas in our age, only would-be Buddhas. Let us face the fact, acknowledging man's limitations, and cease bluffing ourselves or permitting ourselves to be bluffed by the self-styled Masters.
Too many seekers create a supernatural halo around the master's personality. Too many wrap it in dramatic and romantic garb. Too many expect too much from the first meeting with him. The consequence of all this is often a tremendous emotional let-down, an unreasonable disappointment after the reality of an actual meeting, and they lose their balance altogether. It is inevitable that a close-up view of the master will not prove so striking as a long-range one seen through romantic glasses. From a distance it is easy to bestow admiration and feel awe for a man they have almost turned into a deity. But drawn into close contact with him it is just as easy to swing in the opposite direction and turn the master into a man. They do not notice how brief is their firsthand acquaintance with him, how few are the appearances that constitute the data for their conclusions, how conceited it is for spiritual pygmies to think they understand a spiritual titan. Because what they appear to have found does not correspond with the mental image they have previously conceived of him, he is judged to be no master at all. Nor are these the only reasons for such a failure. Equally important is the fact that such a meeting, or the period immediately following it, becomes the signal for opposition by adverse force. Evil spirits may find their opportunity just then to lead him astray, mischievous ones may try to bewilder his mind, or lying ones may give untrue suggestions to him. His own weaknesses of character and faultiness of judgement may become greatly magnified and foist an absurdly wrong estimate of the master upon him. He may even feel personal antagonism toward the master. All this is of course a test for him. If he thinks he is judging whether this man is fit to be his master, life in its turn is judging whether he is fit to have such as master. Here then are some of the answers to the question "Why, if we concede that the adepts have a right to hide from the multitude, do they also seem to hide from the earnest seeking few?" The adepts are confident that those individuals who are really ready for them will meet them when the right time comes. They know that this will happen not only under the direct working of karma, not only under the impulsions of the seeker's own higher self, but also under the wise laws which govern the quest itself. These are high and hard truths. But they are the realities of life, not dreams for those who like to be self-deluded. Whoever rejects them for such a reason does so at the risk of being harshly shocked into awakening one day.
They approach such a man with a kind of awe, if not of reverence. It may or may not be justifiable: that depends first, on the man's quality and second, on his mood.
It needs clear eyes to see the truth about these spiritual teachers, eyes such as both their ardent followers and intolerant critics do not possess.
Most people are simply not competent to select a guru properly; they are too governed by outer appearances, physical impressions, and emotional reactions.
The search for an ideal master may obstruct itself through an excessively critical attitude equally as through a sentimentally romantic one. For however divinely inspired he may be in his best moments, the master must still remain quite human in many ways most of the time.
Those who form romantic grandiose exotic or miraculous pictures of what a master is like and of what they seek in a man before they can accept him as a master, doom themselves to frustration and assure themselves of disappointment. For they do not yet understand what masterhood really is, hence they are still unfit for personal instruction by a master.
If he is not connected with any religious association or mystical tradition, any institution or monastery, he is looked upon askance. For who or what is there to validate the "correctness" of his teaching and the credentials of the man himself? They look for a doctrine that is "official" and a revelator certified by "authority."
The man who seeks a master to whose cosmological vision, expressed thought, and behaviour he hopes to give perfect acceptance, seeks the impossible. He does not want a teaching which is liable to disproof by scientific knowledge, yet he does not want to limit himself merely to that knowledge.
He may seem cold and unapproachable by the sentimental standards of those who mistakenly regard him as a glorified clergyman.
If his preconception of a master is wrong, as is likely because of the ludicrous caricature in the pictures drawn by popular cults and books, he may not be able to recognize a real master even when he meets one. There will be an inner struggle instead. He will suffer the agony of mental or moral indecision.
He sees an image which he has himself created, not the reality of the other man. Only by close association with him under one roof will it be possible to find out how different the image is from the person it is supposed to represent. The first is a perfect but impossible creature. The second is a human creature.
It is understandable and even pardonable that the weak, the neurotic, the unhappy or the undeveloped, the innocent or the inexperienced should look for a father image who will carry all their burdens, material as well as spiritual. They are entitled to do so. But they should seek him within religious or mystical circles, not within the philosophic circle.
The mistake so many seekers make in approaching such a man is to demand that he teach them on their terms, in their way, and not his own.
If he has not got the appearance they think he ought to have or they expect him to have, that is another cause for offense. The reality is blamed--and not themselves--for disappointing the fantasy.
You do not see the master when you see his body. You do not know him when you know what he looks like. You do not love him if you are attracted only by his handsome appearance. The real master is his mind.
A man's spiritual status does not reveal itself immediately to anyone who looks at his physical body. Not only so, but if the latter is ugly, deformed, and senile, repulsion may misread his inner nature completely.
Those who reject truth because of the external repulsiveness of the truth-bearer, do so for the right reasons, that is, they are not ready to receive it. Those who accept truth because of the external attractiveness of the truth bearer, do so for the wrong reasons, that is, they have not received it at all. For in both cases it is not the mind or the heart to which appeal has been made, but the senses. It is not reason or intuition, sufficient experience or sufficient authority which has judged the testimony for truth, but bodily sight hearing and touch.
The personal traits of the spiritual guide may repel the seeker. Yet if no one else is available who has the same knowledge, it is the seeker's duty to repress his repulsions and enter into the relationship of a pupil. If he does not, then he pays a heavy price for his surrender to personal emotion and sensual superficiality.
A master would not necessarily be recognized as such if he were walking in the street, not even by those who are looking for one and have read all the books about him.
That a man wearing quite ordinary clothes whose face was clean shaven, whose hair was of quite average length, could be an adept is much less likely to be thought by most persons, than one who was theatrical-looking and conspicuously dressed.
In the worldly life a successful man usually seeks to give others the impression of his success but in the spiritual life an unassuming man may be a great master.
The aspirant is not ordinarily in a position to judge what illumination really is, and who is a fully illuminated man. He can only form theories about the one and use his imagination about the other.
Many will speculate on the teacher's motives. That they could be pure and selfless, seeking only to bring men closer to awareness of the Overself and to knowledge of the higher laws, only a few will perceive. To the others he will be a man like themselves, actuated by selfish motives.
Those who reject a noble message and sneer at its messenger, who pronounce him to be a false prophet, a deceiver of men, thereby pronounce their own selves to be falsely led and self-deceived.
To many blasé and worldly people, the teacher will be classed with ambitious charlatans at worst or regarded as self-hypnotized at best. But even to those who do not question his sincerity, the goal he points to them must seem so utterly absurd and distant from the commonly accepted goals and the path to it so oddly eccentric that few persons are likely to be attracted to them.
Those of his followers who expect him to behave with impeccable propriety and are ready to leave and follow someone else if he does not, will either be victims of, or gainers by, their own judgement. If the teacher is really unified with his Overself, any judging of him done by external standards will be only partly applicable. There is a point where neither his character nor his motives can be correctly measured by such standards, and beyond which they may be quite misleading.
The mystical and cultist circles which talk much about these matters use the name "Master" to trail such an accumulation behind it of falsified facts, superstitious notions, and nonsensical thinking, that it is needful to be on guard for semantic definition whenever this term is heard.
The mistake that some followers make is to fail to see that their demigod is recognizably human. The mistake that most non-followers make is to fail to see that he is, in his best moments, superhuman.
The excessively critical attitude which seeks to find a flaw in a holy man and soon succeeds is as foolish as the excessively devout attitude which pronounces him perfect and continuously faultless. The hostility of the one leads to imbalance; the naïveté of the other leads to expectancy. The holy man is still a man subject to the limitations of his species.
The Theosophic teaching that the master takes on the karma of his pupil is often misunderstood. So many students think that the master hesitates to accept a pupil because of this heavy liability of accepting his karma. The measure of truth in this belief is that the master does have some moral responsibility for the self-injuring mistakes committed by the pupil as a direct consequence of special knowledge entrusted to him or for society-injuring misuse of special powers transferred to him or aroused into activity within him because of special instructions given by the teacher--in either case before he was sufficiently strong morally and pure in motive. But the general karma of the pupil is not accepted nor can it be accepted by any master. That is the pupil's making and he himself must work it out.
The student is mistaken if he thinks the teacher ever places obstacles or temptations in anyone's way. He does not have to do that; it is done by life itself, or, more precisely, by the karma arising from the individual character and its special needs. The teacher may note them and act accordingly, but he does not create them. In the end, the student himself creates his own obstacles and his own temptations by his thinking, by his character, and by his karma.
He is not only an instructor but is too often called upon to play the role of mentor, to be a wise counsellor at all times and a trusted friend in difficult times, to solve personal problems and guide personal decisions. This ideal person is yet to be found, alas! But the wish for one is strong enough to clothe lesser men in imagined perfection.
Those who regard him as an unreliable visionary are not less victims of prejudice than those who regard him as an omniscient prophet.
Even the man who talks from the Overself's inspiration can convince only those other men who are ready. Not all are sensitive to his spell.
They equate man's powers with God's powers, blandly refusing to see that he can create nothing but can only provide the conditions which make some creations possible. They exaggerate what is true, that he possesses, potentially, certain godlike attributes, into what is untrue, that he can do what God does.
It is a self-deception to believe that the master can interfere in all sorts of miraculous ways in the disciple's worldly life or intervene in all sorts of arbitrary ways in his spiritual life. The master's true function, the most important role he can play in the disciple's career, is to assist the latter's efforts to withdraw into his inner self, to guide, strengthen, and protect his endeavour to practise meditation.
There is a common Indian belief--picked up by and transferred to some Western cults--that without submission to a leader, master, guru whose guidance is to lead them and whose power is to lift them into Nirvana, they can never win access to this goal. It is an exaggerated belief when it refers to authentically enlightened men and a false one when it refers to all others. Blind acceptance of it has precipitated a nervous breakdown in some cases, and much feeling of morbid frustration in most cases where seekers have failed to find a guru or, finding, have become disappointed or disillusioned afterwards.
There is no celestial witch-doctor, no angelic magician coming to change their characters overnight.
Those who do not understand that true development is self-development will look for, even demand, a guru's "magic," as they believe it to be. This will lead them to frequent his vicinity or even live in it permanently, in order to be more or less constantly under his mesmeric influence. Thus they come to depend increasingly on an outside source--another person--and remain ungrown.
The disciples exert so much pressure and encouragement on the guru to do what he cannot do for them that they go on believing their own desires in the matter, that is, their ego, rather than him. They think he can give them total protection against risks, perils, and falls on the spiritual path. That is impossible, said Ramana Maharshi. The guru is not omniscient and not almighty. He is still a limited human being. Why force him into accepting a false position?
The idea of a master as being some sort of free perfect and infallible counsellor in all the domestic personal and professional perplexities of life is an appealing one. If it were true there would be many more disciples. But it is only a romantic piece of wishful thinking.
Qualifications, duties of a teacher
To place oneself under another's spiritual tutelage is an act which may be dangerous or may be auspicious. It depends on the other--on whether his mind is really irradiated with the divine effulgence or whether it is darkened by its own ego.
Spiritual help cannot be given indiscriminately and at the same time given wisely. It should be conditioned by readiness, worthiness, and willingness to receive it. It should be offered only by those who are properly equipped, suitably qualified, and purely motivated.
Dr. Osborne Mavor, a Scottish physician, said: "Building up personality is a job for Socrates, Christ, and Confucius working in the closest co-operation. I should not care to entrust my personality, such as it is, to any individual of a lower intellectual and moral standard than that." This critique is also applicable to spiritual teachers, as well as psychotherapists, against whom it was directed.
I divide all teachers into two classes: titular gurus and real gurus. The former are quite common, the gap between their doctrines and their behaviour being noticeable, whereas the latter are rare indeed for they have achieved a conquest over the ego which reveals itself in their conduct and reflects itself in their lives.
The demand for inspired teachers is always insistent but the supply is wholly insufficient. Unless the teacher is an inspired one he will be of little help to the would-be mystic. By inspired, we mean either in communion with his higher self or fully united with it.
Few are the teachers, guides, priests, and leaders of men who do not put into their work the false opinions and favoured prejudices that they themselves have been taught or have acquired. Few, also, are those who have scrupulously striven to become as free from these things as they possibly could be.
Such teachers are unable to free themselves from the relativity of their own position. Hence they give instructions which are pertinent only to those who wear the monk's cowl.
The appeal of a teacher will depend upon the depth of his own inspiration, and the appeal of his teaching will depend upon how well it fits in with the prevailing thought and the pressing need of his epoch.
The modern teacher should be a man of the world, not a man of the ashrams. He should be one who does not practise a fastidious asceticism, does not frown on human frailty. Such a man begins his teaching by making other men feel that wisdom is priceless and holiness is beautiful.
He must so manage the two tendencies that they balance each other. Insofar as he deals with the eternal verities, he can utter only the old, old truths. Insofar as he belongs to his period he must restate them in a contemporary way.
The possession of such power and influence, although it is directly limited to spiritual matters, is indirectly manifested in worldly matters too; for men have to live and act in the world. He will gain more esteem as a teacher, and certainly as a leader, who is known to be honourable, conscious of his responsibilities and obligations, whose character is well-balanced and whose promises are solid, whose statements are backed by facts and whose doctrines are worthy of trust.
He is a true messenger who seeks to keep his ego out of his work, who tries to bring God and man together without himself getting in between them.
Such a teacher would not claim to be an intermediary with God but rather a counsellor with man.
No master who is a true channel for the divine life will accept the adulation of others for himself. Their flattery will never be allowed to fool him. Instead, he will always transfer it where it belongs--to that life itself.
He will accept none of the homage for himself; he knows it is not due to him, but to the higher power which intermittently uses him.
He is not a leader anxious to appear infallible before the members of his cult.
If the faith of such a man stimulates those who receive his message, they in turn stimulate his own. If they feel inspired by the contact with it, he feels awed and humbled by its power over them.
The man who lets himself be warmed by sunshine will be able to radiate some of its effects to others. But they ought not to claim in consequence that he is the sun! He is not the originator of those effects but only their mediator.
"My son," said an old sage to me, "the ocean does not rise any higher when streams flow into it, so the true master does not swell with pride when many disciples attach themselves to him. He takes it as a matter of natural course; for he knows that they come to seek out the true Light, not merely his body."
Humility will not let a man teach others until he knows himself what he tries to teach them.
Patiently and perseveringly, the true teacher established himself in awareness of the truth before offering to lead others into it.
The guide under whom he studies, who watches both his progress and his lapses, can minister to him competently only if he himself is a liberated and inspired individual with an aptitude for such service.
He who is to act as a spiritual guide to others should himself have reached the goal toward which he proposes to lead them.
He who has found authentic peace within himself is in a position to assist others who are still seekers, but he who has not yet transcended mere theories and erudite studies about peace can only give them some more thoughts to add to the burden they already carry.
Only that man who has overcome the lower nature himself can help others to overcome it in their turn.
The capacity to receive truth is one thing; the power to communicate it to other men is another. Moreover, only he who has himself lived near to our own experience of the quest, our own falls and slips and tumbles, who himself remembers how he struggled step by step along it to reach his present height, can best help those he has left far behind him.
Only he who has securely established his own realization can safely guide others to theirs. Automatic progress on the quest can be guaranteed by nobody. Like all human enterprises it is subject to ups and downs.
He who is unhappy in himself, or whose home is discordant and unhappy, can show the way to happiness only out of intellect, not out of experience.
If his counsel is to be effective enough to help others, it must spring from a mind which has faced and resolved the same problems within itself. But it need not necessarily have done so in external conduct. It may have done so in imagination or in intellect only. The quality of the mind will measure the value of such a course.
The true teacher assists his disciples to find their own spiritual feet so that they can walk increasingly without leaning on him or anyone else. It is the duty of an honest disinterested spiritual guide to point out to his followers that their dependence on him is a weakness to be overcome, not a virtue to be cultivated. The false teacher, seeking to profit in some way by the situation, makes them utterly dependent on him.
The true teacher seeks to bring his disciples to learn how to guide themselves. So he patiently explains and willingly discusses his own counsel where the false teacher leaves it wrapped in obscurity and involvement. The true guide directs them continually toward that place where in the end they must realize the truth--within themselves--for there is its only source.
He is a proper guide who gives each disciple a chance to develop according to his own individuality and does not try to make him a copy of the guide. But such a tutor is rare, and would not even call anyone "my disciple."
Just as the ego-led teachers seek publicity so the egoless teachers seek anonymity.
A true teacher will practise the utmost self-abnegation and will seek and work for the day when his influence or interference are brought down to nothing.
The ordinary kind of guru points to himself, his necessity and importance; but the rare kind points away from himself, to the seeker's own higher self, its reality and availability.
If the true master imposes no obligations toward himself on those he helps and demands no rewards from them, this is because he wishes to retain his freedom, his independence, his detachment as much as it is because he gives out of compassion and goodness.
He desires not to win disciples but to lose them! He wants them to seek find and follow not mortal man but the light that burns serenely within their own hearts.
The sincere teacher seeks to wean his disciples at the earliest possible moment. To succeed in doing so, he will promise nothing as a gift but will emphasize how necessary it is to apply the teaching to their personal lives honestly and continuously.
The Master Jalaluddin Rumi did not allow disciples to have constant contact with him. At a certain point he dismissed them. They had henceforth to work alone upon the foundations laid down. He was an original Teacher, and a successful one.
Every text and every guru must in the end, and better from the beginning also, point away from themselves. But this will happen only if full authentic enlightenment is present.
Such a teacher looks for no adoration but rather directs it toward the disciple's own Soul.
It is only the half-baked, half-finished masters who have this craving for power over others, whose little egos need a following of adoring disciples. The fully developed ones--and they are quite rare--remain unaffected but not indifferent. For they recognize in each person who comes to them a heeding of the inner call, a response to the pulling power of their own divine Source.
Emerson conquered the most subtle temptation that can beset a man of his type. He was openly a teacher, and the teacher's natural tendency is the wish to be looked to for continual guidance. But Emerson was too pure a soul to show the teacher's egotism. He wished to set others firm on their own feet. Mr. Woodbury tells us how, finding himself differing from his revered master, he went and stated his case. Emerson deliberated, then, with his bright kindly look: "Well, I do not wish disciples." It was a shock, but a healthy one. It shook the pupil off from his support, but thereby he learned to walk alone.
The man who can sometimes make other men aware--however momentarily--of their divinity is a true master.
The guide will not only point out the way to spiritual maturity but also will encourage the pupil to follow it. He seeks no other recompense than your loyalty, no better payment than your faith, no superior satisfaction than your own spiritual progress.
The true mentor will possess a penetrating insight into his pupils' needs.
Such a guru seeks neither money nor personal power.
He will be able to perceive from what source a man draws his life, whether from the impulsion of the ego or from the inspiration of the Overself.
The instantaneous and adequate nature of his replies to all questions shows a deeper understanding than the merely intellectual, hence must be intuitive, inspirational, or realizational. On such a basis a man's fitness for guruship becomes more evident.
The role of spiritual guide involves a code of ethics, a special moral responsibility on the part of the guide.
The appellation of spiritual teacher should be given only to one who not only can communicate spiritual truth intellectually but who also lives it fully.
The teacher must not only provide instruction; he must also set an example of how to live and act in the world, and he must not only do both of these but he must also provide a profounder influence than other men by virtue of his own attainment, as telepathically revealed by his mere presence.
The perfect teacher is he who lives up to the teaching itself. The semi-perfect one tries to live up to the teaching. The imperfect one does not even try: avoid him.
Actions, deeds, are the final test of the spiritual man or guru. The life he leads must be a pattern.
The spiritual guide who asks his disciples to practise self-discipline and remodel their characters, will seem to them to be offering impossible counsels of perfection unless he himself is willing to do or has already done what he asks. However sound his theoretical guidance may be, it will fail in persuasive power to the extent that it is not at one with his own experience.
What the Hindus call a spiritual dispeller of darkness, what the Eastern Christian Church calls a Spiritual Father is not only holy himself but is also an experienced teacher of the way to holiness for others.
He who takes upon himself the task of guiding disciples should possess sure-footed experience gained by years of work with the most varied kinds of apprentices.
To be a guru is to accept a responsibility. For this, one needs the capacity in oneself and the mandate from the higher power.
Only when a man is permanently and consciously established in the higher self may these occult powers be safely acquired and these relations with disciples be safely entered into. Only when other planes of existence are accessible to him and higher beings from those planes are instructing him can he really know how properly to live down here and be able to competently instruct others to do so.
Nobody is entitled to wear the mantle of a master merely because he has received teaching from a master. He is at best only a transmitter of information and not the originator of it. For he may transmit knowledge which he does not himself understand, which is far over his head or which he is even capable of misunderstanding and therefore likely to lead others totally astray. How can such a person be called a qualified master? Let us therefore make a sharp differentiation between those who are competent to be called teachers and those who are merely transmitters of teaching.
It is all right for a teacher to have only a partial and limited knowledge of his subject so long as he recognizes it as such, and so long as it is not applied in cases where complete knowledge is essential.
So long as some of the truth--perhaps some vital aspects of it--remains hidden from him, so long must he be stern with himself and reject the temptation of setting up as a master.
The disciple who poses as a master is a fool. The master who poses as a disciple is a sage.
A professional lawyer or surgeon accepting clients is expected to have certain qualifications before he undertakes to serve them. A spiritual prophet who sets out to guide others needs certain qualifications too. He needs the intellectual capacity to explain teach and clarify, the temperamental patience to put himself in their shoes, and the altruistic compassion to work for their benefit. Moreover, given the innate facility, it is easy to teach ethics to others and hard to live those teachings oneself. He needs the ability to set a right example for imitation in his own conduct.
It is quite wrong to conceive of a spiritual guide in a highly sentimental way. He would reveal his incompetence and bungle his work for you not less if he were to pamper as to nag you, not less if he were to be emotionally too solicitous about your personal life as too authoritarian. For he would make you more egoistic and less disciplined, more dependent and less self-reliant, more incapable of achieving real progress and less informed about the factors concerned in it. He would, indeed, make you a flabby parasite instead of an evolving entity.
He is a man whose perception goes farther, whose awareness goes deeper than the rest of his fellow men. It must go so far and so deep that it rests durably in the "I Am" of the Overself. Without this he does not possess the first, the most essential and most important of all the credentials needed for communicating to others the art of attaining the Overself. The second credential, and admittedly a lesser one, is the compassionate desire to effect this communication as much as possible. The third is that he have special power to teach others what he knows.
He understands the feeling of love which a disciple expresses and he accepts it on the level of the same feeling which he himself gives in turn to Those who are his leaders. The attraction is inevitable. But in the case of female disciples, it must be kept on a high level and never allowed to mix with lower emotions. It must be pure and, in a certain sense, even impersonal. The teacher walks the path of life outwardly alone and uninvolved with any "person" as such. The only way anyone can come closer to him is to approach the attainment of union with his own higher self. Do not expect the adept to behave as ordinary human beings, with their desires and emotions, behave. He has committed suicide in that direction. It was the price demanded of him for what little peace he has found.
He must live in freedom and not in dependence, whether outwardly or inwardly, on followers or disciples: therefore he keeps them at a distance that they in turn may find and experience the truth within themselves. His work ends at pointing the way.
He cannot submit to the pressures and claims of a personal relation without falsifying his status and adulterating his service.
His help is provided by what he is--the power of example--and by what he teaches--the power of suggestion.
What a guide may be able to do in certain cases is to facilitate the awakening of higher consciousness and to make easier the entry of higher truths.
It is possible for one who has mastered his own mind to affect that of another person, whether the latter is in propinquity to him or is placed at a great distance from him. This fact becomes especially evident where there is an attempt to learn and practise meditation.
What the master can do for a disciple is limited. He can stimulate the latter's natural aspiration, guide his studies, and point out where the pitfalls are; but he can do little more. He cannot take on his own shoulders responsibilities which the disciple ought to take.
It is the will of a higher power that he, whose own inner eye is open, shall be instrumental in opening that eye for others wherein it is closed.
He has the power to awaken the Glimpse-experience in other men, but not in all other men. He can succeed with those only who are ready enough or sensitive enough.
It is usually quite impossible for the average aspirant to determine who is a fully qualified master. But it is sometimes quite possible to determine who is not a master. He may apply this negative test to the supposed master's personal conduct and public teaching.
If a man claims to have attained the fullness of his higher being, we may test his claim by the moral fruits he shows. For he ought constantly to exercise the qualities of compassion, self-restraint, nonattachment, and calmness on the positive side and freedom from malice, backbiting, greed, lust, and anger on the negative side.
He who takes up the vocation of spiritual service should do so only if he be sufficiently prepared for it morally--only if he be destitute of ambitions and greeds, detached from women and the thought of women, isolated from personal motivations, liberated from the lower emotions.
A master issues no command and requires no obedience. Others may do so but not he.
He will bear no grudge if his advice is rejected.
The guru who performs the Oriental potentate to his court of disciples may be unconsciously playing up to their desires or expectations but also playing down to his own desire for power. It may help to keep them in juvenile dependence on him but also keep him within the ego and thus reduce his capacity to serve them.
Even if he were not ethically more sensitive and hence more scrupulous than most people, his own spiritual dignity and personal self-respect would alone forbid his taking advantage of the credulous, the inexperienced, or the unbalanced.
The spiritual guide who is not himself free from passion is a dangerous guide for those who are still struggling in the grip of passion. The teacher who has not utterly subdued personal egoism is unfit to assist those who seek liberation from it. He should learn to solve his own problems before he can safely venture forth to help solve the problems of other people.
The true teacher identifies himself with his student and does not sit on a Himalayan height of self-esteem.
A guru who thinks of himself as having disciples has attachments. The ego is present in him. They are mentally held as possessions.
A man who is privileged to carry a message from the mountaintop down to his fellows should feel no envy of other messengers, no emotional disturbance at their success or his own failure. If he does, it means that the ego has inserted itself into his work and poisoned it. On the contrary, he ought to be glad that some more seekers have been helped to hear truths which they could not hear for themselves. He ought to rejoice at their blessing, otherwise he is still worshipping himself and not God. A true messenger will not look for followers but for those whom he can help.
Exposed to flattery and obsequiousness though he will be, he will nevertheless keep quite free from pomposity and vanity.
The teacher has to bear patiently with the defects and weaknesses of his students. He could not do this if his insight were too limited, his compassion too small, and his calmness too superficial.
The teacher whose own mind rests in the serenity of the Overself will feel no concern over the slow advance of any of his disciples. He has submitted this in advance to the care of the Overself, just as he submitted his own in earlier days. Yet this detachment will not in any way abate the constant flow of counsel, guidance, encouragement, and inspiration which will go forth from him to those disciples.
If the truly advanced mystic ever gives the impression that he frowns on any person who has erred, a totally false impression has been received. For he knows that it is through that small part of evolution which is devoted to free will that we learn and grow. He who has himself learnt and grown in this way never frowns at the mistakes of others, but, instead, forgives them.
Helping others to understand the art of proper living is itself an art. A man may be good and yet not a good teacher.
Wise teachers try to harmonize the contradictions. They use practical scientific ways along with mystical interior ones.
The man who is fluent and articulate makes a better teacher so far as communication is concerned; but the man who has had divine experience, who knows what he is talking about, is still the best teacher of all.
If he knows in experience as in theory, and if he possesses the ability to communicate this theory, then the impressions left will not be vague but quite distinct.
A teacher who gives a well-argued discourse about the Truth helps us, but so does the teacher who announces the Truth in non-discursive terms. Both are needful in their place.
The guru is one who not only knows the truth but can teach well what he knows--and not necessarily in words, for silence can also be used as an effective medium.
The spiritual guide must be someone to be trusted more than any man, to be looked to for guidance, knowledge, hope, inspiration, and warning.
He respects every confidence that is reposed in him and keeps all confessions in the hidden archives of memory.
Whatever confidence he receives during the interview, the other person may feel sure that it will not be betrayed.
The man who professes to guide others spiritually and to inspire them with higher ideals cannot escape being watched. If he resents the ordeal, his service to them will be impaired; but if he accepts it, he shows thereby that he is not looking for self-glory.
Contempt and slander will be the unequal reward some will pay him; miscomprehension and minification will be received from others. He will accept them all unconcernedly.
No true master will take money for his services.
Such a man could not charge others for his time, his counsel, or his trouble, could not commercialize his work, could not bring himself to make money out of truth-seeking wanderers. His service to them is a holy thing, unpriced and unpriceable. For it is done at the dictate of his higher self.
We must recognize a sharp, clear-cut distinction between spiritual teaching as a duty and spiritual teaching as a business. The one expresses his true relationship to the disciple, the other seeks financial return from him.
Spirituality is no commodity to be bought and sold in the marketplace. It must be worked for step by step and won by personal effort. This still remains true even though in the end it is conferred by Grace, for without such preparation the conferment is unlikely, nay almost impossible. This is not less true if the efforts may mostly be buried in the history of past lives. If any religious organization or cult-leader even mentions a price, a fee, or even a contribution as a prerequisite to Grace, initiation, or higher consciousness, then the devotee is being deceived by imposture.
It is an ancient tradition that such instruction should be given free and that a teacher is degraded by receiving payment.
The Overself is costless. It is, as Jesus pointed out, as free as the wind which comes and goes. Whoever has realized it will gladly teach the way to anyone who is ripe and ready for his teaching. If any man puts a price on it and offers to sell it to you, be sure he is offering a false or shoddy imitation.
If he accepts gifts or contributions he will probably be asked for, or expected to allow, concessions of his time, attention, and even grace which others may not hope to receive. The intensity of devotion rather than the value of offerings must always govern the master's response.
A guru has an official position, which is accompanied by appropriate duties. They include: (1) taking a personal interest in the disciples' inner welfare and growth; (2) instructing them in the truth, and in the way to its attainment; (3) inspiring them telepathically with glimpses of the higher states; (4) encouraging them to persevere in travelling along the way; (5) warning them against the pitfalls and obstacles.
The teacher's duty is to give direction, provide knowledge, warn against pitfalls, correct errors. It is not his duty to save the pupil necessary efforts of will and thinking.
The master powerfully removes the sluggishness of the intellect of his disciple; clarifies his ideas about what is eternal and what is perishable, what is real and what is unreal, what is material and what is mental; and opens to him the realm of truth slow but unmistakably by constant appeal to his reason.
The first service of the Master is to point out the way, both inwardly and outwardly, to the disciple. This shortens his journey by several lifetimes, which would otherwise have to be spent in wanderings, explorings, gropings, and searchings.
It is to expound truth and correct errors, to place an example before the others, and to purify them by his company that such a teacher appears in the outer world.
Another phase of his work is to stimulate the yearning for higher attainment where it exists, and to inculcate it where it does not.
It is his work to show them what they cannot see for themselves—-their own higher possibilities.
His function is to interpret man--and more especially spiritual man--to himself.
His task is to make known to other men their godlike possibilities within themselves.
His mission is not to bring men pleasure, but to raise them to appreciate truth.
The teacher assists his students to attain a degree of concentration beyond that which they are able to achieve by themselves.
He detonates the higher potentialities of each disciple, breaks the closed circle of his senses, and leads him towards a moral and mystical regeneration.
The duty of any spiritual teacher is to lead the seeker to her own Higher Self, to find her own source of inner light and strength and thus not to lean on outside human beings.
A guru who is quite competent does help the learner: he shows the way, illuminates problems, untangles knots, dispels confusions, explains meanings, and encourages effort. Tutelage has its place.
He who directs anyone's wakening spiritual faith is that man's teacher.
If he guides us to notice hitherto unobserved truths, if he leads our thought and faith away from hitherto strongly held errors, then a teacher fulfils a useful function.
His services include the unveiling and exposing of psychic or mystic experiences which are merely self-suggested or mainly hallucinatory.
He cannot do more than help them find and fulfil their own ways to the goal, but it is enough.
The teacher has to be firm at some times, gentle at others.
A spiritual guide's duty to an erring man will not be fully carried out if he only arouses the man to recognition of the necessity of taking a new road.
It will not be enough to show them the path. He must also keep them steadfast on the path.
He who would appear publicly as a religious prophet or mystical teacher must deal with the people of his century as he finds them, must speak to them in a language which they can understand. But even though he thus tries to conform to the requirements of those he has come to help, he cannot give them the intuition, the sensitivity, and the intelligence needed to understand his message, nor the aspiration and reverence needed to appreciate it.
Some teachers do not have a single disciple--they merely help a few people in a friendly way.
He who teaches well, learns himself.
He who has dedicated his life to this kind of service will find before long that others come to him--perhaps a few at first, but later many more--to pile on his sturdy shoulders the burdens and sufferings, the perplexities and gropings which they find so difficult to deal with themselves.
There is a kind of guru active in East and West alike who hungers for followers, is eager to acquire disciples, plays the dictator to his little circle, and not infrequently tries to get money from them. His teaching may be quite plausible, his promises quite attractive. But he is self-appointed, not God-appointed.
When he lets his followers regard him as a demigod and will not accept the slightest criticism from anyone, it is a sign that his personal ego is active.
Certain teachers develop an unhealthy lust for power, imposing their personal will on hapless disciples.
Many seekers through following such self-styled teachers have either remained stationary or gone astray altogether.
If his following of the quest is wrong it may also be because he has chosen for guru a man with an enlarged ego making exaggerated claims.
The peril of incompetent guides is not lessened when, as so often happens, they are sincere. For they may be, and usually are, utterly ignorant of their own limitations.
The teacher whose motives get mixed up, whose desire to help and serve others twines around his desire to gain money, prestige, influence, or power is one who begins to teach before he is ready to do so. Both he and his disciples will have to pay the price for his premature activities.
When the heart has ardendy cherished the wish for a master and the mind has consequently entered a highly suggestible state, the chance meeting between a would-be follower and an over-eager spiritual Fuehrer is foolishly regarded as a divinely ordained event.
It is better to have no teacher at all than to have one who has psychologized himself into the delusion that he has reached the God-realized state, who mistakes self-deception for self-realization.
The man who constantly tries to make other persons over into a copy of himself, who tries to change their living habits or thinking-ways into the same as his own, who seeks zealously to proselytize their religious beliefs, is too often merely asserting his own ego and practising a subtier, more self-deceptive form of egotism. If he really felt love for them, as he often professes, he would leave them their freedom to choose what suits them.
The kind of spiritual guide that most people want is one who pats them encouragmgly on the shoulder, flatters them constantly in speech or writing, and habituates them to refer all their personal problems to him for solution. The kind of guide they really need is one who will critically point out their faults and weaknesses and who will unhesitatingly throw them back on their own resources. It is better to encourage men in good conduct than to pamper their neurotic religiosity.
The aspirant comes to the philosophic teacher with a mind filled by error and ignorance. He comes to the philosophic life with a character filled by egoism and prejudice. Thus he is the largest stumbling block in his own path. He himself prevents the spiritual consciousness from ap- proachuig him. So the first duty of a teacher is to show him all this error, ignorance, egoism, and prejudice for the ugly things they are and make him aware and ashamed of them.
He must cast aside much of his carefully heaped-up pile of knowledge and begin afresh. To make a man teachable, you must first convince him of his own ignorance. And the master will show him that he really knows little of his own self.
It is an important part of his task to show men what their personal lives look like from an impersonal standpoint. Hence he points out the fallacy of their egotistic actions and the foolishness of their egotistic purposes. @center<478> Whatever he says or suggests to his disciples is said or suggested with a view to their ultimate good. Therefore he may sometimes recommend a course of action which brings unmediate pain or self-denial or self-discipline.
He may gently chide one man for errors and shortcomings, or firmly warn another man against sins and lapses.
It is hard to bring a man from a wrong point of view to a right one, not only because he may not be intellectually or intuitively capable of making the transition, but also because he can make it only by losing some of his emotional egoistic self-esteem. This is true of general propaganda among the masses as it is of the preliminary correction of pupils by a master.
The first task of a genuine guide is not to flatter the seeker but to criticize him, not to let him remain ignorantly in the grip of his unrecognized weaknesses but to point them out relentlessly to him.
Let him not think the teacher brutal for pouncing on his faults.
One of the first duties of a spiritual guide is to correct the beginner, show where he has mistaken his way, and expose his fallacies of thought, feeling, and conduct. A competent guide will be quick to perceive and fearless to point out these matters however unpleasant a duty it be and however unpalatable to the pupil.
It is part of the task of a spiritual director to point out tactfully but firmly the faults and deficiencies of his disciples, to make them more aware of what is needed in their moral self-correction.
The spiritual director who is over-severe in his correction of the aspirant's faults, needs correcting himself.
The paternal spiritual guide who coddles his bleating disciples renders them a disservice.
It is a common experience with abbots of monasteries in the West and with gurus of ashrams in the East that attention given to one disciple may rouse the ego's conceit in him and the ego's envy in the others.
The guide who refuses to appease the ego of those who approach him, may nevertheless be eager to help them. Yet they will resent his counsel and feel rebuffed! They do not see that he is trying to help them in a wiser way by showing them how to help themselves. Only longer time and further experience may bring them to their senses and show them the logic of his advice and the prudence of his attitude.
The spiritual leader who is always soft and sentimental may help some of his pupils but he would help them more if, at the same time, he were also hard and firm. The first attitude will attract more to him, but without the second to balance it neither he nor they will get the proper view of life.
A true teacher must warn his followers against false expectations and irredeemable promises.
One of the first tasks of a philosophy teacher is to restrain the missionary fervour of his younger pupils and to impress upon them the need of caution, discrimination, and even secrecy in this matter.
It is not enough that he has the penetration to perceive the truth; he must also have the courage to tell it to his disciples, even though he knows it will shock them.
The guru whose ego still harbours vanity will find it flattered by every new disciple, will be endangered afresh by every widening of his personal influence.
He finds that the disciples come to him for their emotional comfort, they do not come for their ego's emotional quietus. They want to remain enclosed in its little circle, not to be taken completely out of it.
The kind of master needed and sought after by those who are on the religio-mystic-occult path is one who will take a keen interest in their personal life as well as spiritual welfare, one who is always willing to help them with any and every problem, one who by virtue of residence or correspondence is always and quickly available to them. The philosophic master is not like this but of a different kind.
He is not a missionary telling others that they must follow the Quest but an educator telling them that they may follow it if they so choose.
The title "leader" implies its corollary "follower." But a spiritual leader of the kind here described does not want a mass of followers trailing behind him in a partisan spirit. It is enough for him to give others a few inspirations, ideas, insights, and yet leave them free to work on the material as they wish, unobligated to join any movement.
It is needful for you to understand that a philosophic teacher never really wants anyone to follow him but only to follow Truth. Socrates humorously described himself as practising the same vocation as his mother who was a midwife--the only difference between them being that whereas she helped women to deliver themselves of infants, he helped men to deliver themselves of the true ideas with which their minds were in labour. His business, like that of all genuine teachers, was not to impart truth as something new and foreign but to assist the student to elicit it from within himself. Every genuine teacher tries in his work to lead the student's mind in such a way that his thinking gradually changes without his becoming conscious of the fact at the time, although he will recognize it in retrospect later. He makes students think for themselves; stimulates them to solve their own metaphysical, personal, and emotional problems; periodically gives an inner mystical impetus to their meditation practice; and points out the pitfalls and fallacies which lie in their life-path. Because his outlook is so disinterested, because his primary purpose is to liberate and not limit them, to give and not get, such a teacher's services can never be bought by anyone--although they may be claimed by those who are prepared to cast off the shoes of conventional prejudice at his door and who are willing to refrain loyally from imposing upon him their preconceived notions of what characteristics the teaching, the teacher, and the quest should possess. Thus if he will not shackle them, they in their turn must not shackle him. Such would-be disciples are rare, but such teachers who practise what they preach are rarer still.
The method of a philosophic teacher is not to make the decisions of the pupil for him but rather to lead him to make them for himself. The teacher will outline the process of arriving at the correct conclusion, but he will not deprive the pupil of the responsibility of trusting that process and accepting its outcome. The teacher may even make available information which will be helpful to the student in arriving at a decision, but beyond that he cannot go if the student is to arrive at independence and maturity. The relationship which we find in mystical or Oriental circles, which leaves the pupil completely or continuously dependent upon his guide and causes him to come constantly running to and fro for advice as to what he should do next, will only increase the helplessness of the pupil. The philosophic way is to help him develop his own ability to dispose of problems and confront situations effectively. The philosophic method is to lead the pupil to the point where he requires no teacher. The mystical method is to lead him to the point where he cannot do without the teacher.
The teacher who demands blind obedience from his pupil belongs to a vanishing age. The teacher who strives to make his pupil's own mind understand each step of the way he travels belongs to the coming age. The first often ends by enslaving his followers, whereas the second ends by liberating them. The first is a dictator, the second a companion. The first creates nonentities, the second, men.
A wise teacher will not lecture to his students, will not try the superficial way of telling them every detail of truth. But by discussion questioning and encouragement he will help them to elicit it for themselves and thus enable them to make it deeply and lastingly their own.
The right way to teach men is to propose truth, not impose it.
A philosophic teacher often prefers to let the student make his own discoveries on the basis of clues provided rather than lead him into rigid imprisoning dogmas.
The true teacher should stimulate thought and not stereotype it. If an aspirant is fortunate enough to get direct and personal guidance of this kind, he is fortunate indeed.
The master gives a candidate the seeds and teaches him how to cultivate them: how to water, nourish, and tend the plants which sprout up from them.
The highest type of teacher does not want and will not encourage a blind unquestioning acceptance of his own views.
The true teacher interprets the divine will for his disciple but does not impose it on him. Such a guide may proffer advice and tender suggestions but he will never issue orders and dictate decisions. Instead of trying to deprive the student of his capacity to intuit truths for himself, the disinterested teacher will try to create it.
A genuine teacher will not seek to dominate the soul of a student, will not strive to impose his own will upon him. For the teacher desires to see a natural and not a forced artificial growth, to free men and not to enslave them. The real master spiritualizes his disciple but does not debilitate him.
The guru who does not want to enslave disciples, will guide them to do what they themselves ought to be doing, but are weakly and foolishly expecting him to do for them.
A prudent master prefers not to help people but to help them to help themselves.
It is merely mockery to admonish a weakling to become strong if you do not put into his hands the knowledge and equipment wherewith he can acquire strength.
It is the teacher's duty to foster his disciple's creativeness, not his imitativeness--to encourage the disciple to develop his own inspiration.
The average teacher takes from his own personal experience what helped him most or what his own teacher led him to, and passes it on to the student as being "the Path," the only way to God, the sole method of arriving at truth--whether this particular way or method suits the individual type or his degree of development or not. He almost forces it on the student, even if it is contrary to the latter's entire temperament or need. The poor student finds himself imprisoned and locked up in his teacher's personal opinions and practices, as if nothing good existed outside them.
The wisest master lets the disciple develop in his own way, according to his own individuality.
Such a teacher will be the student's motivating influence while, paradoxically, encouraging him to preserve his independence.
What the wise teacher does is to wait for the right situations to develop in which his own efforts can be most fruitful.
He has waited for years, reserving the full expression of his powers until the crucial hour when the aspirant is ready to receive him. Until then, he must conceal his identity.
His wisdom in refusing to influence the students' decisions will not be apparent at first. Indeed it will be regarded as unwisdom--and his attitude will be felt as unsympathetic.
It is not the business of a master to save the disciple from suffering so much as to save him from the faults in himself which create suffering. He may suggest and advise but never impose his will upon yours. He turns a lamp upon your problems but leaves you free to work them out for yourself.
A master's work is not to issue commands which must be obeyed by enslaved disciples, but to formulate principles which must be understood by enlightened ones. It is not to create belief but to strengthen knowledge.
The philosophic teacher leaves to the individual pupil how he shall apply these principles to his own life, and does not try to chalk out the precise details of such practice for him.
His unwillingness to give specific advice on practical personal matters should not be construed as unwillingness to help, or as lack of interest in them. It is only that he wants the solution to come straight out of the student's own being, so that the growth will be the student's too.
Only the inexperienced over-enthused novice will want to share the whole of his knowledge with others, will want to let them into all its secrets without delay. The prudent expert guide is much more restrained. He carefully refrains from giving more than the others are ready for, holding the rest back for a later time. It is not only prudence which warns him against yielding all his secrets at once: Nature, in her own operations, likewise lets the mind of her animals grow by degrees through a graduated process of development.
It is the mark of a well-qualified teacher that he adapts his advice to fit each disciple individually. If everyone is recommended to practise the same method irrespective of his competence, his personal history and temperament, his grade of development and capacity, his character-traits and tendencies, in a number of cases it will be largely ineffectual.
His long-range work is to lift the disciples to his own level, but his short-range work is necessarily concerned with their levels.
His refusal to give everything out to everyone must be judged by this light, this recognition of the fact that there exist various levels of understanding, and hence of readiness to learn these things.
A teacher of spiritual culture, ideals, principles, and practices must think of the intellectual level of those he seeks to instruct, and address his message to that. @center<528> Because there are different levels of aspirants, different levels of teaching are necessary.
He takes the view that these multiple teachings are successive steps leading in time to the highest truth and that it would be harmful or unwise to present this truth at too early a stage.
There are three methods of approach used by the teachers, depending on the level of the people they have to deal with. They are: first, terrorizing the lowest type by fears; second, coaxing the better evolved ones by baits and lures; third, giving a fair, balanced statement of the truth for those people who are mentally and morally on the highest level.
A competent teacher puts himself behind his pupil's eyes, inside his pupil's mind, and starts his instruction from what he finds there.
The prudent teacher will reveal what will best help people, not necessarily what they like to hear or all that he knows. He must give people what is best for them, must first evaluate how much truth they can take in. It is utterly impracticable and imprudent to give all people all the spiritual truth at all times.
The prudent teacher will give out only slighty more than the seeking enquirer is able to receive.
To explain such subtle teachings in all their fullness to anyone who will not be able to understand them or to feel as interested as the student does, would be foolish. Nevertheless, he is not the proprietor of them so he cannot keep them solely for his own use; nor is he so separate from others that their inner fate is not his concern. If someone comes who asks questions sincerely or needs comfort spiritually or seeks guidance in bewilderment, the student must give what he can. But he must give it prudently, not pouring out one drop more of his knowledge or power than is needed for the particular person at this particular stage in evolution. There is no necessity to keep truth jealously guarded, as in medieval times, nor to rush to the opposite extreme and give everything to everyone.
The message will reach him only when it can re-educate his understanding.
All spiritual progress is individual. Each man grows by himself, not as part of a group. Therefore, if instruction is really to be effective, it should be individual instruction.
The outer teacher's prime duty is to lead the aspirant to his own inner teacher. But if he leads the aspirant towards ever-increasing attachment, dependence, and submission to himself--that is, outwards and away from the inner teacher--then he only exploits him rather than directs him, and there is only false progress.
Real progress will be the fruit of their own endeavours, not of the goodwill of others. It is one of the obligations of a true spiritual guide to make aspirants feel that they have the power to achieve it and to encourage them to take their spiritual destiny into their own hands.
He formulates precisely and expresses definitely an idea which a number of minds are moving toward but have not yet produced. They recognize it when he gives it to them, and thus become the willing receivers of it.
The teacher passes some of his own consciousness and force into the disciple, thus enabling him to realize the truth of what might otherwise be but theory. Moreover he provides "truth-words" for the disciple who, by constantly ruminating over these, attains intuitive knowledge.
The question of helping students more individually is a question of practical functioning. The teacher wishes to keep his own freedom and at the same time leave them free too.
The aim of a teacher is not to create a philosophical elite for its own sake but for the larger sake of mankind.
The starting of a cult to gain a personal following would be abhorrent to the spirit of any truly selfless spiritual guide, but the creation of a school for spiritual development and philosophical learning he might consider helpful to many earnest but bewildered students of life.
The true master is to work for the few. There are several agencies who will spread their activities thinly on a wide surface but his will penetrate to a deeper level. Theirs will be more showy but his more effective.
Adepts not only seek the few who seek them but they also seek the fewer still who are qualified for them.
The teacher does not lift the veil of Isis for everyone he meets in the street but he will always lift it for those who ask aright.
He cannot help all the millions of mankind. He can help only the seekers among mankind. Nor can he help all the seekers. He can help only those who come into sympathetic and receptive contact with him or with his work.
To be someone's disciple is to go farther in relationship than to be his student.
If men call themselves disciples sharing his views, two paths become open to them. The first is to become lay disciples, who limit themselves to intellectual sharing only. The second is to become full disciples, who go all the way with him into the philosophical discipline and life.
One great advantage of the path of personal discipleship is that it requires no intellectual capacity, no special gifts of any kind, to get its profits and make progress along its course. What could be simpler than remembering the master's name and face? What could be easier than mentally turning to him every day in faith, reverence, humility, and devotion?
The advantage of having a living master is immense. Man is so sense-bound that it is easier for him to follow an embodied ideal than a disembodied one, easier to understand truth in action than truth in the abstract. Should anyone have the good fortune to be taken under the wing of a sage, his progress will go forward at a far quicker rate than would otherwise be possible. It is not a little thing that he has someone to turn him in the right direction or that his movement in this direction is guided by an experienced pioneer.
Although the master cannot do the disciple's work for him, he can put the disciple in command of the special knowledge derived from long experience which can help him do the work more efficiently and more successfully.
The master will teach with love what the student must learn with reverence.
As the Master brings the disciple to clarify his own thinking and knowledge and awareness, the latter turns his attention to what it is that he really does believe.
The zeal of the Master will by slow degrees permeate the heart of the disciple.
Under the sunshine of this encouragement, inspiration, and stimulation, the inner life expands.
Only those who have themselves felt it can understand how he is able to exert such drawing power and arouse such fervid devotion in disciples.
There is intimacy in the fellowship between teacher and disciple which is unique. There is an impersonality in this most personal of human relationships which is equally unique.
No other relationship, whether familial or friendly, can compare with this relationship in depth or beauty or value.
There is no tie so strong, no attraction so deep as that between Master and pupil. Consequently it persists through incarnation after incarnation.
It is a special kind of relationship, one which is less dependent on physical conditions than any other human relationship. If they never meet again, never see each other again, it remains unchangeably the same to the end.
The average aspirant does not find the true teachers because he would not behave himself correctly with them if he did. Sooner or later he would abuse the lofty character of the relation of discipleship and seek to force it to become a half-worldly one. It is probably true to say that even imperfect teachers, who are all that the public is likely to know, often receive from their followers frantic appeals for this or that personal intervention or frenzied outpourings concerning this or that personal material problem for which immediate help is demanded. But even when the aspirant has linked himself up with an embodied master or invisible adept, a scriptural personage or his own higher self, he may start to assume that the higher power or person is henceforth going to settle all his personal troubles without his own exertions being called for. This is a piece of wishful thinking. The very purpose of evolution would be defeated if he were to be deprived of the opportunity of tackling his problems and troubles for himself: it is only so that his capacities can stretch out and his understanding enlarge itself. We may sympathize with the need of troubled disciples, but a wrong notion of what constitutes the teacher-disciple relation will not help them. It will lead to false hopes and the anguish of subsequent disappointment. For what is it that they are really trying to do? They are not merely using the teacher as a spiritual guide, which is quite correct, but also as a material guide, leaning-post, and father-mother, which is quite wrong. They want to shunt their own responsibilities and shift their personal burdens onto the back of a master or at least to share them with him. Such a conception of discipleship is a wrong one. Also it is an unfair one. Instead of using the master as a source of principles and inspirations to be applied by themselves in practical life, they try to exploit him, to avoid the responsibility for making their own decisions by saddling it upon his shoulders. The master cannot solve all their personal problems or carry all their burdens. This task rests with the disciples themselves. To seek to shift their responsibility for it onto the master's shoulders is to demand the impossible, the unfair, and the unwise. If successful, it would defeat the very purpose of their incarnation. It would rob them of the benefit of the experience to which they have been led by their own Overself. Such excessive reliance on the guide makes them more and more incapable of independent thought and judgement. But it should be the object of a competent guide to help them develop these very things and grow in spiritual strength, as it should be the aim of a sincere one not dictatorially to rule their conduct but suggestively to elevate it. If they are to advance to higher levels, disciples must learn to rely on their own endeavours. No master can relieve them of this responsibility. It is not the work of a philosophic teacher to save students from having to make decisions for themselves. It is, on the contrary, his duty to encourage them to face up to rather than to flee from the responsibility and profit of working out their own solutions. The prudent master will leave them to work out for themselves how to apply philosophy to their personal situations. For him to manage their lives, settle their problems, and negotiate their difficulties might please their egos but would weaken their characters. Hence, he does not wish to interfere in their lives nor assume responsibility for forming decisions on those personal, domestic, family, employment, and business problems which they ought to arrive at for themselves. At best he can point out the general direction for travel, not supply a definite map; he can lay down the general principles of action and it is for them to find out the best way of applying these principles. The agony of coming to a right judgement is part of the educative process in developing right intuitions. Each experience looked at in this way brings out their independent creative faculty, that is, makes them truly self-reliant. The principles of such solutions are partially in their hands; practical horse-sense must be harnessed to shrewd reason and guided by ethical ideals and intuitions.
It is not right for the would-be disciple to take the new relationship as an excuse for releasing himself from all personal responsibilities, all personal decisions. He should not expect the teacher to take entire charge of his entire life for him. Nor is it right for a teacher to accept such a position, to play a role consisting of father and mother and God combined into a single person toward an individual who has reached adult life. It will not help a disciple to let him evade his responsibilities and shirk his decisions. If the atmosphere between them is surcharged with emotion alone without the restraining balances of reason and common sense, this is the kind of situation which is likely to be brought about. A wise teacher will try to meet disciples upon the proper ground between accepting such helpless dependence and rebuffing it brusquely altogether. Any other meeting would be unhealthy emotionally and unsound intellectually.
Emerson: "Why insist on rash personal relations with your friend? Why go to his house, or know his mother and brothers and sisters? Why be visited by him at your own? Are these things material to our covenant? Leave this touching and clawing. Let him be to me a spirit. A message, a thought, a sincerity, a glance from him I want, but not news nor pottage. I can get politics and chat, neighbourly conveniences from cheaper companions. Should not the society of my friend be to me poetic, pure, universal and as great as nature itself?"--These words are just as applicable to the disciple.
Whoever entrusts himself to a master or his mind to a teaching, cannot escape his own personal responsibility for what he does. This is not to absolve either the guru or the author of the teaching from their own responsibility, which they also have, but it is to make clear that the followers share it too.
The disciple's reverence for the Master can still hold room for sight of the latter's failings and imperfections. If he gets enough inspiration from the Master to help his spiritual life, it would be a foolish decision to leave him because of those failings and imperfections.
In primitive tribal times it was the custom in most places to measure knowledge by the length of the beard. Today it is found that many of our cleverest atomic energy scientists are comparatively young and certainly beardless! It is as sensible to follow the primitive custom nowadays as it is to measure virtue by the beauty of the face. Yet it is not an uncommon attitude for self-styled truth-seekers to follow one spiritual teacher because his facial appearance pleases them and to reject another teacher because his physical figure displeases them! Says Sören Kierkegaard in Concluding Unscientific Postscript. "He (Socrates) was very ugly, had clumsy feet, and, above all, a number of growths on the forehead and elsewhere, which would suffice to persuade anyone that he was a demoralized subject. This was what Socrates understood by his favourable appearance in which he was so thoroughly happy that he would have considered it a chicane of the divinity to prevent him from becoming a teacher of morals, had he been given an attractive appearance like an effeminate cithara player, a melting glance like a shepherd lad, small feet like a dancing master in the Friendly Society and in toto as favourable an appearance as could have been desired by any applicant for a job through the newspapers, or any theologue who has pinned his hope on a private call. Why was this old teacher so happy over his unfavourable appearance, unless it was because he understood that it must help to keep the learner at a distance, so that the latter might not stick fast in a direct relationship to the teacher, perhaps admire him, perhaps have his clothes cut in the same manner? Through the repellent effect exerted by the contrast, which on a higher plane was also the role played by his irony, the learner would be compelled to understand that he had essentially to do with himself, and that the inwardness of the truth is not the comradely inwardness with which two bosom friends walk arm in arm, but the separation with which each for himself exists in the truth."
If you as the student choose him as your guide, and if he as the teacher accepts you, what will follow? You should not have mistaken or exaggerated notions about this relation, should not imagine, for instance, as so many have imagined, that within a week of acceptance you will have supernormal experiences, magically attain the transcendent insight, or receive hour-by-hour watchful care from him. The path is a lifetime one; it may well run into several lifetimes. For the first and second things to happen is to run contrary to the laws of nature. His own work is so widespread and so surprisingly varied, his correspondence so large, his writing labours so important, that it is physically impossible for a teacher continuously to pay personal attention to the several hundred individuals seeking his help. What help then may you legitimately expect from him? You may expect help in the three branches of this path: the development of philosophical intelligence, the practice of mystical meditation, and the living of a wise and virtuous existence. Concerning the first item, your intellectual difficulties questions and problems will be cleared up through advanced disciples or through the post or, less frequently, at personal interviews. Concerning the second item, you will be given a practical initiation at a personal meditation with him, which may even be repeated a number of times if possible. In addition you may be given the same privilege with his advanced disciples. But beyond this you must travel your own path. You must faithfully study the needful books, carry on the regular meditations, and try to adjust your actions to your ideals for yourself and by yourself. You cannot omit any part of this work and then rightfully expect the teacher to carry you forward to successful achievement of the goal. He may be there to direct, inspire, and encourage your work, but that does not absolve you from doing the work itself. When Buddha was asked by critics if all his disciples acted according to his teaching, he frankly answered: "Some do and some do not." The critics exclaimed, "How is it that even your own disciples do not follow you?" So Buddha explained, "My task is merely to show the path. Some tread it and others do not."
The master must have the continued co-operation of the disciple, if he is to do his best.
The expectations of disciples, their high estimate of his character and notion of his outlook, may help to make him what he is.
The disciple who does not follow the path pointed out to him, who obeys only when it is easy or convenient to obey, commits fraud and does insult to his master.
The student's delight in learning must be matched by the master's delight in giving.
The student's faith must meet the teacher's patience and the teacher's knowledge and integrity must be such as to inspire confidence in the student.
It is better in every way that the teacher should belong to the same sex as the disciple.
The attitude of the student towards his teacher is of great importance to the student, because it lays an unseen cable from him to the teacher, and along that cable pass to and fro the messages and help which the teacher has to give. The teacher can never lose contact with the student by going to another part of the world. That unseen cable is elastic and it will stretch for thousands of miles, because the World-Mind consciousness will travel almost instantly and anywhere. Contact is not broken by increasing physical distance. It is broken by the change of heart, the alteration of mental attitude by the student towards the teacher. If the attitude is wrong, then the cable is first weakened and finally snapped. Nothing can then pass through and the student is really alone.
Trust lays the cable and trust keeps it in place. Doubt severs the cable and mistrust destroys it altogether. Therefore it is prudent and proper for a would-be disciple to clear his doubts and answer his questions before choosing the teaching which he is to approach as his faith, and not after the choice has been made.
It is essential for aspirants to realize that in such a relationship it is the mental attitude, especially the faith and devotion--rather than outward association and physical contact--that is of true importance.
Osmosis, the principle of absorption as a result of being with or near a thing or a person, is active here as elsewhere.
It is not only needful to link up with the guide in a general way by a right attitude of faith and devotion towards him but also to link up in a special way by a daily meditation which seeks to put the disciple's mind in rapport with the guide's.
His silent influence can lift up the other man's inner being much more easily if the disciple sits relaxed in body and emptied in mind.
A master may give out his teachings, methods, and instructions. Sooner or later some among his followers--if not his opponents--will twist them, reinterpret them, modify them, or even deform them. This process even starts during his lifetime, but becomes considerable and important only after that--when he's no longer present to attend to needed corrections. This shows that not all who hear him understand what they hear, and that there are different levels of capacity among the followers.
The spiritual counsellor who takes personal advantage of the dependence placed upon him or of the trust shown in him, thereby renders himself unfit for such a high position. Therefore in his dealings with disciples it is best for him to maintain an independence in practical affairs and worldly relationship as well as a cool detachment in social contact and personal intercourse. It is inevitable that the disciples should feel hurt at such impersonality and such objectivity, but therein lies a protection both for themselves and for the teacher until such time as they are more developed, better balanced, more controlled, and farther seeing. Then and then only is it possible for the teacher to revise the relationship and make it not only a warmer one but even a more personal one, with safety to both sides. Disciples who are not well-balanced and are somewhat neurotic often try to get the teacher personally involved in their lives. For they want to be set free from the need of developing themselves, the duty of improving their characters, the burden of accepting their responsibilities, and the painfulness of working out emotional problems which are merely the result of their own egoism. If the teacher succumbs to their appeals, then they remain unevolved and the relationship itself remains unpracticable. But if he firmly resists them he may, by such resistance, force a change in their attitude and consequently an increase in their wisdom. In doing so however he courts misunderstanding on the part of his disciples, who may first become bewildered and later resentful. Affection may turn to anger for a time, and the disciple may even withdraw altogether. If they are so foolish as to do this their development will not only be stopped but also, what is worse, set back for months or years.
Possessive love is natural. We want to have and keep what we love. But when its object is another human being, there is an inevitable desire for the return of our love, for the restriction of their affection to us alone, so that what we give is not given in purity but in extended selfishness. Hence when others love you they want to deprive you of your freedom. But when the disciple loves you, he must give you your freedom.
It is also an error to believe that one disciple must necessarily associate with the other disciples of the same teacher. Only where there is real temperamental harmony and personal affinity should disciples associate together. Where these are lacking, it is much wiser and safer not to do so. For then the evil forces take advantage of the chance to develop disharmony, quarrels, ill-feeling, and even worse. This spoils the progress of both.
The real business of any disciple is with the teacher, not with the other disciples. Such a situation cannot be helped and must be accepted. Human beings are all born with different characters and dispositions. Only the sage can harmonize with all; others must recognize limitations.
If one cannot be happy with certain students, he must wish them well and then go his own way. He must never allow himself to be drawn into quarrels for then the evil forces become active.
The relationship between them is a beautiful but free one. If the disciple takes a possessive attitude and tries to annex the teacher, if he betrays jealousy of other disciples or demands as much attention as they get, he substitutes an egoistic for an impersonal relationship, fails to understand its distinctively and uniquely free nature, and thus spoils it.
He must insist on getting the same freedom from his disciples that he allows to them.
Whether physically together or physically apart, that is a true relationship between master and disciple, husband and wife, friend and friend, which refusing to be tightly possessive or personally demanding, is satisfied by the silent fact that the other exists at all.
No guru can lead anyone to enlightenment if he himself is attached to the role of guru, nor can any disciple ever receive enlightenment if he wants to play the role of disciple forever. Both are suffering from attachments which prevent enlightenment. This is why the whole thing becomes a stage play, whether serious or comical, in which the actors are performing their personal parts. Even if they babble about the necessity of not getting attached to the world, they are still attached to what they are supposed to be, that is, questing. A truly enlightened man has no such attachment and unless he is invested by the Higher Power with a special apostleship, or with a special mission, he would not consider himself a guru, nor anyone else as a disciple.
The way of leaning upon a guide, or being carried by one, is a way which of itself can never lead to the goal. It can only lead in the end to the superior way of struggling to one's own knees again and again until one is strong enough to walk to the goal. The master must not stand in the way, must not direct attention to himself unduly and at the expense of seekers' own attraction to his central inner self. Sören Kierkegaard writes in Concluding Unscientific Postscript, "A direct relationship between one spiritual being and another, with respect to the essential truth, is unthinkable. If such a relationship is assumed, it means that one of the parties has ceased to be spirit. This is something that many a genius omits to consider, both when he helps people into the truth en masse, and when he is complaisant enough to think that acclamation, willingness to listen, the affixing of signatures, and so forth, is identical with the acceptance of the truth. Precisely as important as the truth, and if one of the two is to be emphasized, still more important, is the manner in which the truth is accepted. It would help very little if one persuaded millions of men to accept the truth, if precisely by the method of their acceptance they were transferred into error. Hence it is that all complaisance, all persuasiveness, all bargaining, all direct attraction by means of one's own person, reference to one's suffering for the cause, one's weeping over humanity, one's enthusiasm--all this is sheer misunderstanding, a false note in relation to the truth, by which, in proportion to one's ability, one may help a job-lot of human beings to get an illusion of truth. Socrates was an ethical teacher, but he took cognizance of the non-existence of any direct relationship between teacher and pupil, because the truth is inwardness, and because this inwardness in each is precisely the road which leads them away from one another. It was presumably because he understood this, that he was so happy about his unfavourable outward appearance."
The relation between a pupil and his teacher can be based upon complete submission and dependence on authority, or it can be based on a reasonable freedom and moderate self-reliance.
The belief common in India and the Near East that a guru must take over your mind and your life is welcomed by the weak or misinformed here too. But it forms no part of philosophical teaching, practice, and training.
The rule of absolute submission to a master may be as unsafe to follow as the rule of absolute independence from a master.
The problem is one of reconciling the giving of complete faith to the teacher and the keeping alive of one's inner freedom to think for oneself and to receive intuition from oneself.
No master has the right to ask any candidate for discipleship to surrender himself absolutely, to place himself unreservedly in the master's hands and to obey unquestioningly the master's orders. The trust demanded should arise of its own accord by progressive degrees as the relationship proceeds and develops, and as the master proves by his conduct and effectiveness to be fully worthy of it.
Because he gives the master devotion he does not also have to give him idolatry.
His disciples are taught how to unite independent thinking with loyal feeling in their attitude toward him. This satisfies them both.
There are those who think that he neglects to answer his mail. Because he leaves their letters so long unanswered, they conclude that he means to drop them out of his life. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is true that his mail accumulates for long periods of time. But it is equally true that he lacks the staff needed to handle it, that the pressure of work like writing and meditation and research notes leaves him little remaining time. However, those who have met him personally and call themselves his disciples often cannot understand his behaviour so he gives this published explanation. Once inner contact is established by a single physical meeting it is not necessary to have further ones with the guide although they may be helpful. Sri Aurobindo granted only a single minute to each individual at his first or later meeting with a disciple or a candidate for discipleship. Thus it is evident that he does not consider more than sixty seconds really necessary to establish it. Not only are further physical meetings not necessary but even further personal action on his part, such as writing letters to the disciples are also unnecessary even though they may be helpful. Thus a spiritual guide does not need to do anything physically or write anything personally to keep up the internal contact, it being kept up by the student's remembrance, devotion, faith, and meditation.
No disciple can be effectively trained by the long distance method of an occasional exchange of letters. He needs personal supervision, personal contact, and personal discussion of his special problems. No conscientious teacher will ever undertake to give instructions by mail and declare it sufficient. It gives too meagre a basis for accurate understanding on the disciple's part or for an adequate communication on the teacher's part.
Then again he cannot accept the position of personal counsellor under the guise of being spiritual teacher. That is not his work. Most students who keep on failing to recognize this fact against all previous and present warnings and who send letter after letter with every fluctuation of their personal moods and fortunes, in an attempt to wrest advice or intervention from him, may force him to break the external contact with him until such time as they do realize what the true situation is. If he were to adopt a counselling position and to agree to show students how to apply the philosophical teaching to every change of their own personal life, he would soon have no time to give out those teachings at all. Consequently he must refuse to respond to all these attempts often openly but sometimes hidden, often naïve but sometimes cunning, to get him personally involved in the life of the seeker or to mix both their personal problems together. So many of his correspondents try to force him into this highly personal guru-student relationship, and thus to impose their own responsibilities upon his shoulders, that he has to fall into lengthy periods of silence to protect himself. Moreover, if he were to respond to the emotional or worldly problems in the way such response is desired, it would only mean the downfall of both of them and the breakdown of their pure relationship. To maintain this purity, to safeguard the relationship itself, and to protect the master as well as the seeker, the proper teaching must be given from the start and that is: the teacher must be regarded as a symbol, not as a person. He is to be considered merely as an agent for that which he represents, not as just another human being entering into a human relation with the disciple. Often the beginner, finding that the teacher does not fully respond to his emotional craving for continuous personal attention, soon becomes disappointed. This feeling may develop until it reaches a critical stage where one of two things may happen. Either he will fail to pass the test, for so it becomes, and will withdraw altogether from the relationship--perhaps even maligning the guide--or he will continue his trust, gain a new point of view, and make the needed change to a higher attitude in the end. If, however, he allows his egoism or emotion to lead him into disobedience of this rule, he will only endanger the relationship. If he persists in this disobedience, he will even find it brought to an end for a time. So few understand what is really involved in this relationship, so many misunderstand it and are therefore disappointed by it in the beginning or along the way, that the teacher prefers with rare exceptions of well-advanced cases, not to enter into it outwardly at all but instead to offer a little friendly help without obligation.
No real master is ever afraid that he might lose any particular disciple. He takes possession of no one and leaves everyone as free as he found them. He understands quite well that the man's need or search and his own higher self's gracious response brought the master into the picture as an indirect medium through which the response could operate. He understands, too, that all the instruction and advice, the uplift and help which he gives the disciple originate ultimately and really within the man himself, as the latter will one day discover when he has developed his own direct access to them, and therefore refuses to regard the relationship between them egotistically.
Qualifications, duties of a disciple
There are inexorable laws, not of his making, which govern the opening of a spiritual relation between a master and a would-be disciple, however much his devotion and loyalty are appreciated. The chance remains open to him on a probation only, which is necessarily of a limited number of years. If during that period they are able to make personal contact, it will be helpful for the disciple's progress in understanding the teaching, and he can then profit by it to clear up misconceptions and weed out faults.
He may be generous enough to accept them as they are, with their weaknesses and mistakes, but the law of karma is above all human emotions, whether they be generous or ingenerous. It demands full payment and distributes to them the consequences of their actions.
The master did not formulate these laws governing the quest and, however urgent the plea of his disciple, he cannot do away with them.
No aspirant has the right to seek personal discipleship with a genuine teacher before he has sufficiently developed himself for it, any more than a child who has not learned to read and write has the right to seek entrance into a college.
The immediate presence of a teacher acts as a catalyst upon the student. His defects, no less than his virtues, cannot then be hidden for long, and circumstances will usually so arrange themselves that these qualities will glaringly reveal themselves in time. Hence this is necessarily a probationary period. Tests will come not through any arbitrary act on the part of the teacher but through the ordinary events of everyday life and also through persons met. They are not alone tests of a ethical kind--after all, we are all sinners until we realize truth--as of his devotion to truth rather than its counterfeits. The student will be tested first to observe how far he can remain personally loyal to the teacher--because the latter stands in symbolic relation to truth--despite the efforts of critics and enemies to put a plausible face on their opposition. The most elementary condition of spiritual instruction is complete confidence between the teacher and pupil. All sorts of blind critics and malicious enemies will appear from time to time to attempt to disturb that confidence. They are unconsciously or consciously the instruments of the adverse elements in nature. He will be tested, too, by surface shocks to his prejudices, preconceived notions, and expectations. He will be tested to reveal how far he is willing to go in the unselfish service of humanity when such service comes into conflict with his personal interests. It does not follow that if he does not know when and where he is being tested the test is unfair. It is for him to use his intelligence at such times as at others, and to consult his pledge whenever doubts arise and difficulties occur. These tests will sometimes be plainly evident and therefore comparatively easy to pass through, but there are others which are more subtle or disguised and therefore more difficult to pass through. However, all tests have one object alone--to detach him from the path towards truth. If he keeps this clearly in his mind, it will help him to understand them, and those who emerge with unwavering confidence despite all the oppositions encountered will receive their reward. If after the probationary period is over--and its length cannot be fixed for it will vary with each individual--those whose feet still follow the teacher unhesitatingly and completely will naturally find the interval of time between probation and acceptance is much shorter than will those in whom doubts still linger and hesitation still arises.
From the time when he begins to take instruction from his teacher, the disciple also begins a period of probation in his inner career and of separation from his inner weaknesses. The probation will enable him gradually to show forth all the different aspects of his personality and will indicate how receptive he really is to the teacher's influence. During this process, qualities which are lying latent beneath the surface will arise above it; situations will arrange themselves in such a way as to force him to express them. In short, what is hidden will become open. Thus he will be given the chance to look to his moral foundations before he advances to the intensive mystical training which places hidden power and hidden knowledge in his hands. Without first getting such a foundation, he who gets possession of these powers may soon fall into overpowering temptations, with disastrous results to himself and others. The inner conflict which results from the probation will force him to face himself, to look at the weaknesses which are present within him and to try to conquer them. If there is no other way to get him to do so, then he will have to take the way of suffering their consequences so as to have them brought home to him. Such a phase of the disciple's career will naturally be filled with strains for himself and with misunderstandings about himself. The term of probation is a period of severe trials and strong temptations. However, the principle of probation is a sound one. Out of the vortex of its tests and stresses and upheavals, he has the chance to emerge a stronger and wiser man.
His probationary period is concerned with the general purification of character from egoism and animality as well as with its sensitization to intuition and instruction. Without such a basis to work upon, it would be dangerous for him to venture into mystical work or public service. Nor would the teacher permit him to do so, as there are inexorable laws, not of his making, which govern the matter. He must be on guard and not mistake psychism for spirituality, pseudo-intuition for the real thing, mix personal motives with altruistic service, nor lose himself in dreams and fantasies instead of finding himself in inspired action. These faults are common to most mystical aspirants. The Quest is deadly serious and demands so much. It is far easier to go astray from it than to keep on it.
An aspirant who approached a Zen Master in Japan was refused personal instruction. Nevertheless, he waited around in the vicinity for half a year. Then, tiring of the lack of success, he abandoned further solicitation, resolved to depend on his own efforts, and arranged to depart. But on the very eve of departure the master sent for him and agreed to teach him.
It is not the custom of a true master to accept personal students externally and formally from among those who apply for the first time, but only from those who have been in touch with him for some years at least and hence have had sufficient time to make sure that this is really the teacher they want. Such a teacher would not desire and ought not to accept those pupils who do not belong to his orbit by inward affinity. He would be foolish to accept a candidate whose true call is with some other teacher, unwise to permit a passing enthusiasm to waste his own time and disappoint the enthusiast's hopes. It is easy in transient moods of enthusiasm to make a mistake in this matter and to find that he is not, after all, the kind of man they originally believed him to be or the kind of teacher that best suits them. So for their sake no less than his, it is better to look elsewhere unless they have the patience to wait a few years before making such a firm and final decision. For every teacher will naturally possess his own notion of the qualifications for discipleship which he values most and seeks most. He always places more stress upon deep loyalty than upon any other virtue. He would not even mind so much that his students should drink alcoholic liquor to excess as that they would fail him in this regard. Fidelity is the finest of virtues in his eyes. Disciples who lack this will soon be dropped. But if he asks for loyalty he does not ask for slavishness. He will be perfectly satisfied to be taken for an ordinary mortal without being turned into a perfect, unerring god. He is the last man to wish to be set up for what he is not. Nor will he demand from anyone that blind servility which does duty with most aspirants in place of the genuine loyalty that ought to be offered. Externally and formally, however, there is nothing to stop anyone meanwhile from appointing himself, if he so wishes, a student--mentally, secretly, and internally. For discipleship is self-created by the mental attitude of devotion which by reaction spontaneously brings him interior help. He will not then really need the external signs of acceptance.
He will be handicapped to some extent by a consciousness of the difficulty of securing adequate loyalty to a teacher who refuses to surround himself with all the paraphernalia of ashrams and all the trappings of guru-worship--both of which are repugnant to him. There are excellent reasons in the student's own interest--and perhaps to some degree in the teacher's, too--why in this case such personal loyalty must be emphatically insisted on. The pupil's allegiance will sooner or later be subjected to the unexpected strain of severe tests. The adept possesses far too sensitive a temperament and far too strong an independence to endure with indifference the telepathic reflections of this strain, which are invariably produced when the relationship effectively exists with the profound obligations on both sides which it entails. He may be philosophic enough to smile at misunderstanding or desertion but he will also be human enough to be sensitive to them. For even were a student to break with him he could never break with the student. His own conception of loyalty embraces a wider stretch than the frail seekers are likely to understand. Some indeed have been so deceived by the compulsions of personal karma and the logic of mere appearances as to imagine that he is devoid of human sympathy and indifferent to human feelings.
The Master is well aware of the bitter and painful lessons the aspirant must learn before attaining maturity and balance, and wishes it were possible to stretch out a helping hand. During these difficult times, outer lines of communication should be kept open for they are helpful and, indeed, are necessary until the individual becomes sufficiently intuitive. The Master never closes the inner lines, but they need maintenance on both sides if they are to be effective.
He may wonder why he receives so little direct help and personal encouragement from his teacher during the first few years of their relationship. He has to reach a certain point in his mental development first and this cannot be until he has experienced events which are like tests.
Two such individuals as Master and student are linked together by ancient ties. Much may remain to be done in the future as it was in the past. If, in a previous incarnation, the student attained a higher phase of development than at present, this must again be achieved before results can appear in consciousness. In such a case he should work especially hard to make progress.
In Pythagoras' school at Crotona, the pupils passed through a series of three grades, and were not allowed personal contact with Pythagoras himself until they reached the highest or third grade.
If the Master had no patience with his disciples, he and they would soon part. If he had no belief in their eventual evolution, he and they would never join.
If a man has hitched the wagon of his spiritual effort to the star of a competent and worthy spiritual guide, it is nonsensical to object that he surrenders his freedom whenever he surrenders his own personal judgement to the guide's or even whenever he obeys a command from the guide. For who chose the guide? He, himself. By the exercise of what faculty did he make such a choice? By the exercise of free will. Therefore the initial act was a free choice. It was also the most important one because it was causal, all his other acts as a disciple being merely its effects, however long be the chain which extends from it. It is because he respects the larger wisdom of the guide and trusts his disinterestedness that the disciple follows him in thought and practice, not because he has become a puppet.
The aspirant who believes that he can come to a master for a few days or weeks and glean the teaching will glean only a sample of it. It will take him all his life not only to receive what a master knows but to be adjudged worthy of and ready for it. If he lacks this patience and humility, he will fall into self-deception.
Plato has pointed out in his seventh epistle that the philosophical wisdom "requires long continued communion between pupil and teacher in joint pursuit of the object they are seeking to understand, and then suddenly, just as light flashes forth when a fire is kindled, this wisdom is born in the mind and henceforth nourishes itself."
Faith in the master is the first step, obedience to his injunctions is the next one, devotion toward him is the third step, and remembrance of his presence, name, or image is the fourth. Such following of the master and practice of his teachings will bring his graces.
In the earlier stages of their relation, the disciple needs to attach himself more and more closely to the Master. He is still learning what the quest is, still weak-willed, uncertain, and undeveloped. But in the later stages he should release his hold on the master, discipline his feelings, and let go of what has become so dear to him. For now he should increasingly depend on making for himself the direct contact with his higher Self. (Memo to P.B.: use this para as the key to rewriting essay on spiritual self-reliance.)
He should constantly look forward to the time when he will be independent enough to steer his own course. It is not meant that he should be left with nothing but his ignorance and weakness to guide him, nor that he should face all his perplexities by himself, but that he should face many or most of them as he can and that he should carry to the teacher only those which seem too hard to understand or bear. The teacher may occasionally intervene to help on his own initiative but only if and when he deems it desirable and necessary to do so. In this way the object will be fulfilled of leading the disciple to increasingly correct thinking and more careful behaviour.
It is naturally strongly repugnant to a developed mind to allow another to have such great power over his own, whereas it is strongly attractive to an undeveloped one.
Excessive guru-worship provokes a reaction, a critical, sometimes sceptical attitude from which there must also be a recoil. Only after that can an honourable, honest, and true relationship be established. He should rather object to anyone's making a cult out of him. Why not respect his wish and let him remain what he is--a researcher?
For anyone to try to lose his personality in someone else's, even in a guru's, is a desertion of his own divine powers. Nevertheless, in the case of beginners it cannot be helped--where they are seeking a guru's assistance. But the sooner the guru makes them ready or instructs them to stop this practice and to lose their personality in their own higher self, the better for them. It is a question of direction. In merging in someone else's personality they are going outside of themselves; in merging in their own higher being they are going inside.
Those whose temperament is innately submissive and dependent make better disciples than the others. But they are less likely to advance farther than the others.
But if the teacher must have the capacity to point out the right way, the student, in his turn, must have the capacity to travel every step of it in thought with him.
There are some tremendously difficult problems involved in the highest Quest. The key to these problems must be placed in his hands by the teacher. The wisest plan for him, therefore, is to work out in detail and patiently the few hints given by the teacher, to study the books suggested and to plod on the path doggedly, thinking of it as a period of patient preparation for the karmic time when he will assuredly receive what he is seeking. This he will get if he has the right mental equipment, if he has expressed the desire for guidance in the right quarters, and also if he recognizes the necessity of serving humanity.
If a teacher must put into finite phrases every communication from his inner being to a pupil, if he must use material means for every transmission of his own thought, then the man is not yet ready to be a disciple.
The disciple who has to depend on constantly receiving letters from his teacher is ready only for inferior teachers. The disciple who imagines that, because the teacher has not written him for two or three years, he is no longer interested in helping the disciple or has forgotten him or is disappointed in him is utterly mistaken.
If he becomes so dependent that every problem as it arises is at once put before the teacher for solution, the consequence will eventually be an utter helplessness before all problems. The capacities for independent judgement, for taking the initiative, for showing creativeness and forming decisions, will decay and even disappear.
Becoming a satellite and revolving around a guru may be beneficial to a man. But the harm begins when this revolution becomes a permanent one, so that he is never again able to move into a fresh orbit and fulfil the evolutionary intention secreted within his own being.
It is absolutely indispensable for the disciples to learn how to live their own lives.
It is better to have a few earnest students who willingly work hard for their self-improvement than a mass of students who do nothing more than read books and talk among themselves.
"Rare is the true disciple," says an old Asiatic text.
The guide must not only be competent to do what he proposes to do, but the disciple also must be qualified to take advantage of it.
The kind of student he likes to see, but unfortunately rarely does see, blends a fine moral character with good intelligence and sound practicality, all topped by profound mystical intuition and a proper sense of reverence. Such a one is thoroughly dependable and reliable, his words are not the mere froth of emotion to be quickly forgotten.
When a seeker's determination to follow the quest becomes tough enough not to be deviated by adversity or by luxury, he is ready for a teacher.
This eagerness to become a disciple and learn truth is the first necessary qualification. Without it nothing can be done; with it everything will come naturally in automatic response from the Overself.
It is not enough that the would-be pupil is ripe. He must also be able easily to enter completely into sympathetic relationship with the particular teacher to whom he applies.
Reverence for the master is based on the belief that the Overself is working through him. Any lack of this quality deprives the disciple of available help.
He must first feel humble before the master's high achievement.
The would-be disciple must supply faith and loyalty, obedience and practice, along with the aspiration which brings him to the teacher.
If a hearer receives the master's words with joy, that is one indication that he is ready.
When he entrusts himself to a teacher's care he should cultivate patience and not seek immediate results. It is a serious matter to break away from a teacher and it should not be done in haste or it may bring bad results.
It is not necessary to display frenzied fervour in order to be a devoted disciple.
If the disciple feels personally humiliated or becomes hysterically tearful at the teacher's well-meant fair and constructive criticisms, he is not only suffering needlessly but also rejecting the expert help for which he came to the teacher, even though the form it takes is unexpected and disagreeable. Good advice is still good even when unpalatable.
Nobody need remain long puzzled if he will come humbly and converse frankly with his teacher in any difficulty, instead of proposing to regard himself as fit and qualified to sit in judgement upon his teacher. His humility will always be met by kindness and his frankness by an equal frankness. The teacher is ever ready to help him clear up these difficulties, but he is not ready to assist any to the slightest degree who come with a mind already prejudiced to distrust, or who do not come at all but assume their fitness to understand the teacher or his doctrine prior to initiation and acceptance.
A genuine teacher who is sincere, competent, kindly, and illumined will know this truth--that groups of the same grade reincarnate together--and, knowing it, will himself expect and accept only his "own." For if, through sentimental soft-heartedness, he yields to the importunities of those who are not in inner harmony with him, then either the flow of events or the disharmony of the student will break the relation and separate them. Similarly, an earnest aspirant who feels that his inner life belongs to a particular teacher will, if he is wise, desist from making experiments or from wandering to other hearths, and remain loyal to this teacher. For if, through emotional enthusiasms or through misunderstandings arising from his own limitations, he strays elsewhere, then the ultimate sense of inner dissatisfaction or the unexpected pressure of outer disillusionment will turn his feet homeward again.
The seeker who has found the path proper to him and the teacher in affinity with him should waste no more time in the experimental investigations of other paths, other teachings, and other teachers. If he is to get the full benefit of his association he must remain absolutely loyal to his guide. If he is to make the quickest progress in the shortest time, he must cease wandering about and remain on the chosen path until he arrives at its goal.
If in the beginning he is to cast his net so widely as to search for truth in every corner, in the middle of his course he is to narrow his world until he has no ear for anyone else except his teacher. Only so can concentration be achieved. In the beginning, width; in the middle, depth.
The belief of ignorant seekers that by visiting a number of teachers they will accumulate a stock of knowledge and help, is sheer self-deception: on the contrary, they will end in confusion. A disciple may study the teachings and follow the practices of masters other than his own without harm provided first, that they are not discordant with the latter's and second, that his sense of personal loyalty is not weakened.
It is permissible to have various teachers for lesser subjects, including Yoga, but is impermissible to follow more than one Master in the Quest of Higher Truth.
If it be true that a man cannot desert this Quest without being forced back onto it by life itself sooner or later, it is also true that he cannot desert the Master of the Quest without having to return to him sooner or later. For just as pursuance of the Quest will become inseparable from the happiness that he seeks, so devotion to the Master will become inseparable from the salvation upon which that happiness depends. Why this should be so is one of the mysterious workings of Destiny which can only be illuminated when and if it be possible to illuminate the earth lives of his far past.
The Master says to a straying one: "I take you into my heart. You are now my accepted pupil. But profit by the lessons of the past mistakes made by you and remain resolutely with me. Whether you return only in heart or also in body, is not of material consequence to me, but it will be to you."
Although guidance and teaching from other sources should be gladly welcomed as enrichment or supplement, as completion or rounding-out, the inner affinity is so personal, so intimate, so deeply felt, that no one else is really able to take the place of the karmically destined guru.
The aspirant must not seek counsel from anyone other than the teacher, or he may be unwittingly led to a path which, while permissible for others, would be inadvisable for him.
Many aspirants are volatile in their loyalty and mercurial in their beliefs. They change gurus as they change clothes and denude themselves of earlier teachings when new ones appear. However there may be some good in this as well as bad. If they change from an inferior to a more advanced guru, or from an imposter to a knowledgeable person, or from a commonplace platitudinous belief to a superior and original one, obviously the change is for the better. In this way they may in the end and during many years study several facets of the truth. Others simply move from one phantasy to another.
Where a teacher genuinely derives his authority from the higher self, reverence and obedience, love and respect should surely be his deserts.
Of all the many forms of work which a man can find to do, of all the several ways in which his active functions can express themselves, there is none higher than this, that he guide men out of illusion into reality. It is not wrong therefore to give his office great reverence and himself great devotion.
Our debt to these spiritual teachers is unpayable. This is because that which directs the body is more important in the end than the body itself.
We ought to be grateful and respectful to all those great lights of the race who brought it truth, whether they be dead or alive, Occidental or Oriental. Yet at the same time we ought to be specially grateful and specially respectful to the particular one who brought us to see the truth more than any other did.
The quality which will endear him most to the teacher, and which will carry him farthest on the Quest, is loyalty. Yet this same good quality will be the biggest obstacle in the way of the seeker who is so gullible, so superficial, and so poor in judgement as to attach himself to an unworthy or incompetent teacher.
Few are ready to pay the entrance fee of lifelong loyalty and steadfast service which are demanded, for this payment must be made in actual practice and not in lip movements alone.
The disciple should trust and walk unwaveringly at the Master's side even when understanding cannot keep pace, and his fine loyalty should shine out like Sirius in the sky.
The Very Reverend W.R. Inge has rightly pointed out that Christ chose his twelve apostles not only because they were naturally and extremely religious men but also because they were loyal enough and brave enough to live and die for their Master.
To find many candidates for discipleship is easy but to find a few disciples is hard. There is much enthusiasm over a newly gained master, but little sustained loyalty to an old one.
Unthinking mystics still praise this quality of servile obedience which primitive gurus demanded from their followers. Thoughtful mystics no longer do so.
A guide who can understand his disciple's character and stimulate his intelligence, who can open to him the gates of higher worlds and newer views, does not need to hold him by the bonds of blind obedience.
Without a passive and humble attitude of the mind, a devotional and reverent feeling of the heart, the profits of meeting a man who has come close to the soul are largely missed. Criticism erects a barrier.
To listen properly to a guru, is not to bring in the ego with its interpretations. To read correctly from an inspired guru's book is to keep out the common tendency to put in one's own personal meanings. In short, let the mind Be Still and know the Truth!
It would be useless to place oneself under the guidance of a teacher if one were not prepared to obey him.
"You are full of your own opinions," said a modern Japanese master to an inquiring intellectual. "How can I show you Zen? First empty your cup."
If the master's exposure of his weaknesses is offensive to him, then he unfits himself for further discipleship and will receive no further advice.
If a man is strongly egoistic and arrogantly self-opinionated, if he lacks humility even when he approaches a Master, then not only can he not follow the path but he must circle around looking for its gate. Such a man, uneducable and unteachable, is unfit for the path of discipleship. Life is the only teacher he is ready for. It is intelligent enough to bring him exactly the kind of experiences he needs--crushing disappointments, frustrations, humiliations, and disasters.
If this stimulation by contact with a master makes him assert his little ego, because he thinks he has become more "spiritual" than others, then the good done him and the inspiration given him are endangered by the conceit bred in him.
When a man who is still in his pupilage deems himself to be wiser than his master, he is being led astray by the cunning flattery of his ego.
If the disciple does not obey the regime laid down by the teacher but follows his own ideas as to what he ought to do, then he is not truly surrendering his ego, but is thereby showing his attachment to the ego. Consequently he will not get the hoped-for results. When disappointment follows he should not blame the ineffectiveness of his teacher for this but rather his own obstinate egotism.
The teacher has an immense task when he is asked by the ordinary seeker to accept him as a personal pupil. For the latter unconsciously seeks confirmation of what he already believes and therefore has come to teach the teacher! Consequently the master is compelled to refuse him. For the seeker comes to him filled with his own ideas of what constitutes truth and in what direction the path leads, what the teacher ought to say and how behave. All these modes of thought are mere encumbrances from the teacher's standpoint, and all these prejudices are heavy shackles. To ask the seeker to abandon these obsessions with the past immediately will meet with failure in almost every case--only in the rarest type of seeker is there likely to be an immediate obedience. With others there is not even the desire for release from these intellectual and emotional patterns which imprison the man, these habit-mechanisms in which he has allowed himself to be caught.
While waiting to find a trustworthy spiritual guide, the best thing to do in the meantime is to constantly discipline his character and endeavour to gain inner tranquillity so as to provide improved conditions for the reception of Grace. Let him search out the defects of character and exert himself to get rid of them. Let him examine his life every day and see where he has done well and where he has failed in this matter.
Too many aspirants waste their time in trying to follow the path of discipleship when they possess too little qualification even to permit their entry. They are unprepared. It would be more profitable for them to bestow upon the improvement of their own psyche the thought they bestow upon the quest of a master.
If a man insists on asking for the attentions of a personal teacher before he is sufficiently prepared to benefit by them, then his rash importunity will be punished. For he will find a false teacher, a guide to untruth and darkness rather than to reality and light. Enough work should have been done on himself and by himself in mental and emotional discipline, in moral striving, in intellectual preparation, and in meditational practice to justify his request for instruction. Otherwise he may be really actuated by egoistic ambitions which are secretly hiding beneath his spiritual aspirations, or he may be too unbalanced emotionally to accept in his heart the serene impersonal wisdom even when it is proffered him.
Even if there are no adepts who could give the necessary inner assistance to quicker progress on the Path, this need not deter him from continuing efforts towards spiritual realization and thus making himself ready for a guide when Destiny permits him to have one. The inner work which he alone can perform consists in the unremitting efforts to develop a high moral character, together with religious aspiration and mystical contemplation. The ideal of altruistic service should also be held in mind, combined with intelligent judgement and practicality.
Despite the absence of a teacher, it is still possible to intensify his efforts. His surroundings offer part of the material for study; his personal history can be explored for a greater awareness of the meanings of his past and present experiences; and every situation offers an opportunity for a more objective observation of himself.
Students who fail to do the work on themselves yet look for a master, waste their time.
Instead of searching vainly for a teacher or waiting idly for one, he should take the teaching he already has, follow the injunctions already laid down, use the knowledge already available.
Continuous and honest effort in self-study and self-observation, an objective analysis of past and present experiences when subjected to the light of higher understanding, daily practice in meditation, and an ever-present attitude of faith and devotion certainly will improve the student's possibilities for the opportunity of meeting with the Master.
Work on oneself is most important. When one has purified his character, cultivated discrimination, achieved some measure of balance, finally understood the lessons of past experience, acquired a certain degree of self-control--mental, moral, and physical--and developed the necessary aspiration to lead a truly spiritual life, then, and then only, will he be in a position to benefit from instruction from a Master.
It would be well if young aspirants would take a sufficiently long time in a general survey course in comparative religion and metaphysics before they settle down to some kind of a choice. They should first come to such a clearness.
The badly balanced, the wildly hysterical, the unadjusted and unintegrated personality, the neurotically self-centered, should not trouble a teacher for higher development when they have yet to attend to, and finish, their ordinary development as human beings. They have not the right to claim entry on a path which demands so much character and capacity from its very beginning.
Most of the aspirants who want to associate themselves with a master do so prematurely. Consequently they fail to find him or else find only pseudo-masters. What they really need is to associate themselves with a psychological counsellor or with a broad-minded wise clergyman, with someone who has effected a good solution of his own personal, emotional, and relational problems and is competent to help them solve theirs. Only after his work is done, only after he has cleared the way for a higher activity, only after he has prepared them to respond readily to the guidance of a master, should they seek such a one.
It is needful at times to remind a man that he--and not those to whom he has entrusted his soul and spiritual destiny--is responsible for it. The belief that he has passed on its care is illusory.
It is not the teacher who can sever the disciple's attachment to worldly life, for a man's heart is his own most intimate, most private possession. The disciple must do it for himself. It is he who must realize the necessity of renunciation and it is he alone who must change his feelings accordingly. Such a change requires constant thinking about values and incessant disciplining of tendencies. Who else but the disciple is to think these thoughts and exercise this will if the result is to be shown in his character? The teacher cannot really help him in any vicarious sense, cannot save him from the stern task of working upon himself.
The reason why the master cannot remake another man miraculously is because no man can think for another one. Each can do it for himself alone.
We must gain our advancement through our own personal efforts and by our own merits. No master can do our walking for us nor hide our weaknesses from the inexorable laws which govern the quest. Flattery helps little. It is the duty of the guide clearly to perceive and frankly to expose to the disciple the evil parts of his character and the weak places of his consciousness.
He may give the correct technique but he cannot give its ineffable result. That, you must earn for and by yourself. He cannot even promise you a successful outcome of your own endeavours. That is bestowed only by the grace of God.
"No one can purify another," asserted the Buddha.
No master can or will do for a man what he is quite unwilling to do for himself.
No master can take away from a disciple his failings and weaknesses.
No man can really be responsible for another man: each makes, and must accept, his own karma.
Even in the ancient Egyptian mysteries, the disciple who attended the college temple after having successfully passed the initial test which gave him entry had to learn this same lesson of self-reliance. Edouard Schure, the French writer on this subject, says: "He was left much to himself, so that he might become rather than merely know, and so he was often surprised at his teacher's coldness and indifference. To his anxious queries came the reply: `Wait and work.' Doubts came to him at times, frightful suspicions of his teachers, but they would pass."
It is impossible for any proclaimed master to give lasting illumination to any disciple, however fervent, since it is impossible for the latter to establish completeness of development and the balance which follows it automatically, except by his own inner activity.
Despite all delusions to the contrary, no master can pick up a disciple and transfer him at a jump to the goal--permanently.
In the presence of an illumined man, we have the chance to become different for a while, to reflect some of his light into ourselves. But the reflected light, being borrowed, will fade away. We cannot find exemption from the labours necessary to generate our own merely because we have found association with someone whose own labours are finished.
No one can teach you how to realize your own true being, that is, no one except yourself, for the realization has to be yours. The revelation leading to it will have to be yours, too, and the understanding which will lead up to the revelation comes from your own effort. This is why I often say that it is an exaggeration on the part of the Indians to say that salvation is impossible without a master. He may help us to correct our thinking, encourage and inspire us, but the work has to be done by ourselves. No master can give the full realization to another person--impossible.
Spiritual awareness is not like a landed estate which can be handed down as an heirloom to another. Those who want it must create it for themselves.
This consciousness cannot be got from another man by transfer (although its presence in him may be felt by sensitivity) but only by one's own hard toil.
It is the common way to demand entry into enlightenment through someone else. This renders it needful to make clear that nobody, not even the best of gurus, can bestow final and lasting realization--a glimpse is the most he can possibly pass on and there are not many with that capacity. Even in such cases, his disciples must work diligently and win it themselves.
People approach the saint-type primarily to get what is called in India a darshan. This may be variously translated as a glimpse, a spoken blessing, a sight, a view, an initiation, or a silent benediction. He is a phenomenon and they stand at a distance to gaze at him, to admire him, or to be overwhelmed with awe by him. The few minutes or days or weeks or months or years taken up--the duration is immaterial for extension in time does not change the nature of the happening--leave the devotee with the same character, the same consciousness that he had before the meeting. Its service is to portray the goal, not to bring him nearer to perfection in any way. The delusion that the longer they stay with him the farther they travel on the road to perfection remains a delusion still. The darshan leaves them with their weaknesses and faults, their egoism and animality untouched. The work of getting rid of these things is theirs to undertake and no darshan-magic can be a substitute for it.
The belief that a guru will do for him once and for all what in the end he has to do for himself belongs to the untutored masses and the sectarian mystic circles.
Only the self-deceived or the charlatanic will offer to save you. All others will offer only to guide you. "You must labour for yourselves," warned the Buddha. "The Buddhas are only teachers."
The right action done in the wrong way becomes wrong in itself. Although it is right to look towards a teacher for guidance and inspiration throughout the course of his quest, it is wrong to become over-dependent on that teacher.
The services of a spiritual director in correcting errors, providing instruction, stimulating aspiration, and fostering intuition are immense; but they are only a prelude to the services a student must render to himself.
Those who leave their spiritual future totally in the hands of their guide, lose the years which could be spent in developing themselves.
The teacher can only help one to help himself. Ultimately it will be by his own efforts alone that the student uncovers the wisdom and beauty he is seeking--and which are even now within him. Such efforts, in order to be successful, must be courageous and continuous: repeated failures should serve only to stimulate deeper determination.
It is the guide's duty to hold up a lamp on a dark path but the disciple must decide for himself the speed and distance of the journey along that path. No command is laid upon him, for it is he who must estimate the strength within him and the opportunity without. He is given full freedom in making his decision. It is unfortunately the case that many emotionally unstable persons are attracted to mysticism, with the result that they spend years with their dreams of mystical achievements but do nothing to convert those dreams into realities, or else flit from one dream to another.
If the student responds sufficiently to the hints given him or the counsel bestowed on him, the teacher will be encouraged to go farther.
It is not enough to receive a teaching from someone else. The truth of the teaching must be tested by personal experience, the worth of it should be measured by personal knowledge.
In the end each seeker has to become his own teacher by putting all his experience, his beliefs, his ideas, to the test.
It is possible to bring this truth within the mind's sight but not within the will's reach; in this matter each man must do his own work. Whoever offers him a free redemption plays God.
The disciple will learn in the end, by experience, that he must look to himself alone for salvation. The last words of the dying Buddha, addressed though they were to his own disciples, have been a useful guide to me: "Look not for refuge to anyone besides yourselves."
Do not be satisfied with being a disciple. Try to become like the master.
If you wish, call it self-making--this process of using one's own mental powers, one's own emotional energies, to actualize the new being that is his best self. It does not seek like a mendicant for free transformation by another person, a guru. It makes use of the highest kind of imagination, a deeply relaxed suggestive visualization. Whatever is called for to bring on enlightenment exists within himself already, but it is latent and undeveloped. By study, exercise, and practice the aspirant can be his own teacher. Sooner or later he will have to take this work into his own hands. The notion that someone else can or will do it all for him is delusory, the belief that a guru can absolve his duty is adolescent wishful thinking. If the result is to have any lasting value, it must be self-wrought or in the end the aspirant will have to start again, use this approach, and throw away the negative thought that he is helpless without someone else who must be sought and found. The kind of teacher who is really useful will put no emphasis upon himself but upon the aspirant's own work, and then see him at intervals only. Once the materials needed are pointed out, the student should teach himself; and this he can do only through self-practice.
You must play the teacher to yourself. He cannot tread the path for you: you must walk and work by your own effort. The mother cannot grow up on behalf of the child, no matter how greatly she loves it. The adept cannot do your growing-up for you. Nature's laws must prevail. He has shown you the way: use your will to follow it. But devote a little time each day to keeping open the channel of communication with him and thus receive his impetus, his inspiration to help you. So although you must strive by your own use of free will, do not imagine that you need strive unaided.
Working along the line that the teacher found suitable for himself, slavishly and artificially trying to produce a copy of him, will in the end not even produce that but a caricature instead. For only the teacher's bodily acts will be imitated; his Spirit is invisible and therefore cannot be imitated.
Why should any one copy another's artwork? Why should Whistler paint pictures in the same way that Gainsborough did? Whistler remained loyal to his own conceptions. Why then, going further, copy another's lifestyle? We may honour a master's inspiration but yet express our own in our individual way.
It is true that followers have no right to burden the teacher with their personal problems, that they should learn manfully to shoulder their difficulties and not pass them on to him. Yet human nature is weak, the teacher kindly. What they may do without taxing his strength is to place the problem before him in a prayer, thought, or meditation silently, and not in letter or interview. If they will keep their distresses, troubles, or indecisions to themselves in this way, such reticence will not be to their loss. It is indeed a sign of neuroticism when an aspirant plagues a teacher too frequently or on too trivial matters. Such conduct is quite suited to children but not to adults. It reveals too egocentric a person, one who is unwilling to bring the stage of novice to an end because the dependence on another person is more comforting and much easier than endeavouring to settle his own little problems.
Too many disciples commit the fault of being too demanding and too possessive in their attitude towards the teacher. In the end they become a burden, a liability, or even a nuisance to him. They ought to give him devotion, yes; they ought to think often of him for inspiration and guidance; but they ought not to turn themselves into emotional parasites who are unable to live on their own vitality at all.
The eagerness to surrender every responsibility, every decision, every care to a spiritual guide--which is so prominent in India--is only praiseworthy in some cases. In others, it is neurotic and infantile, an attempt to secure indulgent pity, protection, and gregarious support despite the fact that childhood has been physically outgrown. To take it as a sign of advancement, and to use it as an excuse to evade pressing work of self-reform and self-discipline, is deplorable.
A calm trust in the man's leadership is one thing, but a hysterical clinging devotion to his personality is another.
He who turns himself into a burden to his teacher by shirking his own responsibilities and throwing them on his teacher, is being selfish as well as weak.
Whoever does not understand that the guide must lead him to where he will seek his own way, will go on endlessly looking for teachers, one after the other, or else become a spiritual hypochondriac, a semi-invalid needing the guru-doctor to dance constantly in attendance on his ego-centered symptoms.
It may be that the effort to imitate his master will enable the disciple to excel himself.
If you are willing to accept the gift of Grace, which a true teacher is forever bearing, through your prior willingness to give him your faith and devotion, and to give it not because he wants it or anything else for himself but because he is a purified channel for your own Overself's power, then you may expect to see the past wiped out as sins are forgiven and the future made brighter as new energies are born in you.
Cultivating the inner link
The way of discipleship means that there is to be constant endeavour to live in the master's mental atmosphere. Of course this can be done very feebly and only occasionally at first. Success depends not only on the pressure of perseverance but also on the sensitivity to thought-transference.
The aspirant who comes into the presence of someone who functions on a high moral and mystical or philosophical level--and feels the attraction, charm, spell, influence, or force of his personality--can, after a sufficient time or association, be stimulated in development quite markedly. It is the case not only of benefiting by the other man's words and copying his example, but also of directly experiencing the telepathic working of mind upon mind.
If they believe in the genuineness and reality of telepathy--as they must if they believe in philosophy at all--then they must accept our declaration that inner communion renders unnecessary the outer communion, that the sense of inner presence of the guide renders unnecessary his letters, visits, and other external signs.
We know that the mind can both project and receive thoughts. Telepathy becomes more and more a scientifically recognized fact. Where affinity harmony and preparation exist, the spiritual guide can project calming, uplifting, and spiritualizing mental waves to the spiritual aspirant.
The silent wordless and unprepared hypnosis of a subject is a factual pointer to the understanding of the silent wordless and telepathic influence of a disciple by his guide. As the power of suggestion becomes dynamic in the hypnotist, so its higher octave, the power of grace, becomes dynamic in the spiritual guide.
That mental waves can be transmitted from master to disciple, that spiritual peace can be reflected from the mind of one to the mind of the other, is not merely a new theory but really an old practice. It has been known and done in the Orient for thousands of years.
The master's work is carried on by word-of-mouth, by written statement, and by personal example. But it cannot end with these methods, for they are all external ones. So it is continued by telepathic impulses, by inspirational impact, and by mental osmosis. These are internal ones.
Such communication between the teacher and student might be called "Telementation."
The Master may add his spiritual vitality or inspiration temporarily to the disciple's by merely wishing him well. If this is done during the Master's prayer or meditation, the disciple's subconscious will spontaneously pick up the telepathically projected flow and sooner or later bring it into consciousness. If, however, something more precise and more positive is required, he may consciously will and focus it to the disciple while both are in a state of meditation at the same time.
The projected ideas and concentrated thoughts of a man who has made a permanent connection with his Overself are powerful enough to affect beneficently the inner life of other men. But even here nature requires the latter to establish their own inner connection with him in turn. And this can be done only by the right mental attitude of trust and devotion.
The conscious personal mind of the teacher may know nothing of the help that is radiating from him to one who silently calls on him from a long distance, yet the reality of that help remains.
This internal quickening and intense telepathy between the master and the disciple can only occur if the requisite conditions exist.
Like the message of the Overself to a meditating mystic, the help which comes from such a teacher is above thinking but it translates itself into terms of thinking. In this process of translation, it is seized on by the ego and interfered with.
Again and again the novice falls into mistakes about the telepathic communications which he feels he is receiving from the master. He regards them as such when they are nothing of the sort, or he interprets them in too material or too egoistic a manner. The master sends a thought-current to him which is intended to lift him up to a diviner, hence more impersonal level. He, however, drags it down to a lower, more egocentric level.
The telepathic impulses which he sends out to others during these times of prayer or meditation are most often received quite subconsciously. Only later is their effect felt or their origin suspected. His disciples may not be aware of any new reception of truth or beatitude at the time. But increasing clarification or growing liberation may slowly change their course.
It is also possible to take any revered person as a master and, in one's own mind, make him the teacher. Even though no meeting on the physical level may occur, one's attitude of attention and devotion in meditation will draw from him a reaction which will telepathically give whatever guidance is needed at the time.
Just as the glance, the touch, or the spoken word may carry the ardour of mutual desire from man to woman so may it also carry the initiatory blessing or the spiritual gift from master to disciple.
Even at the beginning of probation the seeker will often be given a hint of what awaits him later through mystical experience resulting out of the contact with the teacher. But whether he gets it or not, from the moment of acceptance there will come to every student a sense of peace, and above all, an inner stability and certitude which will become one of the greatest assets in his life.
The guide may send his blessing telepathically only once but if it is powerful enough it may work itself out through a hundred different experiences extending over several years. Because he identifies himself with the timeless spaceless soul, his blessing may express itself anywhere in space and anywhen in time. Moreover he may formulate it in a general way but it may take precise shapes unconsciously fashioned by and suited to the recipient's own mentality and degree of development.
Some critics reject the idea of Grace and declare its impossibility in a world governed by strict cause and effect. The meaning of the word suggests something or anything of an immaterial moral or material nature that is given to man. Why should not the Master who has attained a higher strength wisdom and moral character than that which is common to the human race, give aid freely out of his beneficent compassion for others struggling to climb the peak he has surmounted? He certainly cannot transmit his own inner life to another person in its fullness. But he can certainly impart something of its quality and flavour to one who is receptive, sensitive, and in inward affinity with him. If this too is denied then let the objector explain why both the feeling of and the sense of the Master's presence pervade the disciple's existence for many years after his initiation, if not for the rest of his life.
The master, by a process of telepathic transfer, enables the disciple to get a glimpse of what the realization of his own spiritual possibilities can lead to.
The pupil who has been allowed to sit in meditation with a master should be able to carry on with this impetus, even though it happened only once. It is really an initiation.
During this initiation meditation, the disciple may actually feel a stream of power flowing out to him from the master, but it is not essential that he do so.
What the master reflects and radiates into the disciple's deeper mind at this sitting, will necessarily incubate for a period of time which may be measurable in minutes, days, months, or even years. No one can predict how long it will be, for not only are the disciple's readiness, capacity, and affinity determining factors but also his destiny. Nor can anyone predict whether the result will appear slowly, gently, little by little, or suddenly, with violent jolting force.
The master is forever after present in the disciple's heart, whether the disciple sees him again or not.
From the hour of this initiation the master will be much in his thoughts and the sense of affinity will be often in his heart.
The experience which the candidate has at the initiatory meditation with the master is often (but not always) a herald and token of his possibilities of later attainment under this particular master.
He must work harder than ever on his character and, by crushing his ego, sensitize his mind for the reception of the spiritual Grace that is to come during initiation.
It seems as if the Master has come into his consciousness and thereby changed its quality and area. If the change is necessarily for a brief while only, it is still a memorable one.
The number of meetings needed with the initiator into meditation will naturally differ in different cases.
When he tells the candidate of some great truth, looking straight into his face, something may happen over and behind the mere words.
A look from Jesus was enough to make some men renounce their worldly lives and follow him. Such is initiation through the glance.
The power which lies in a pen is only intellectual, thought carried from one mind to another. But the power which shone out of his eyes was spiritual, beyond thought. Gaze met gaze throughout that period; mine blinking and flickering often, the rishee's never once faltering. There are some lines of an American Seer which I would like to wind around this evening of which I am writing. They occur in the essay on "Behavior" by the inspired American optimist. Emerson's words run: "The eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul. What inundation of life and thought is discharged from one soul into another, through them. The glance is natural magic. The mysterious communication established across a house between two entire strangers, moves all the springs of wonder. . . . The eyes will not lie but make faithful confession what inhabitant is there." I verified the truth of these sage words to the full. And since mine was a feeble and stunted growth, it gave way and was overpowered by that of the other man.
The aspirant who wishes to become the student of a particular teacher must remember that, should he be accepted, he will receive no formal outward acknowledgment of the fact. This is because the way to find a Master is invariably an inner process. When the student has developed the necessary moral qualifications and mental receptivity, the Master's presence will be inwardly felt and recognized. Once this has been experienced, he will find that simple devotion and adherence to the path the Master points out--and to himself as a symbol of that path--is all that is needed to ensure progress. Thus, the student finally realizes that all outer teachers, all paths and initiations are mere theatrics compared with this.
The true master does not call disciples to reside in any ashram but to unite with himself. And he is, in his own sight, a mental and not a physical being. Hence they can find and meet him in thought anywhere. The necessity of living in an ashram with him is an illusory one. All that is requisite is a single meeting between him and the disciple. Physically such a meeting can achieve its purpose in a few minutes. Thereafter both may remain permanently apart physically and yet the inner work can continue to develop all the same. For the relation between them is primarily a mental, not a physical one. Even in ordinary life we see that true friendship and true love is mental affinity and not a mere neighbourhood of fleshly bodies. The disciple's intense faith in and emotional veneration for the master, however far distant they may be from each other, plus the necessary mystical ripeness, will telepathically create true association. But without them, his grace is like a spark falling on stone, not on tinder. Furthermore, by the higher powers of his mind, the adept can really help devotees at a distance even though they may never attend his ashram. Those who live in an ashram can get from him only what they can absorb in their inner being. But precisely the same can be done by those who do not live in one. His thought-presence will be found by them to be just as effectual as his bodily presence.
In the end, the only way the earnest seeker can find a teacher is to find himself. The deeper he penetrates into the mysterious recesses of his own spiritual being, the closer he comes to the ever-present master within--the higher self. The longer he looks, the more powerful will be its attraction, the more magnetic its spell over him. This is true for all students generally, but it is especially true for those students who have had the good fortune of coming into personal contact with a living teacher. It is not by their physically seeing him or personally speaking to him or corresponding with him that they enter into real contact with such a teacher, but rather by finding his presence within their hearts in thought, feeling, and imagination, by responding passively to the intuition of such a presence, and by accepting the guidance of its prompting to a more spiritual existence. Thus not only is man's soul within him and must be found there, but even his living embodied teacher is within him, too, and must be found there likewise. It is not by living in the same house with a teacher that discipleship becomes a fact. It is not by sitting year after year in the same ashram with him that devotion is shown or the path is followed, but by seeking him intuitively and obeying his inward leading away from the surface of the ego to the deep centre of the soul. When this is realized, it will be realized that a distance of seven or seven thousand miles will not be long enough to separate a pupil from his master. An absence of seven years will not be enough to weaken the sense of his presence and of inner contact with him. The sooner the aspirant recognizes this truth, the quicker will he make progress.
The tie with such a master sustains him in many a dark experience.
A wise teacher imposes no dogmas upon his pupils; the latter may believe or doubt as they wish, so long as they follow the path he has pointed out. Discipleship is really spiritual union. It is not academic remembrance of words. It is a placing of oneself in such a receptive attitude that the spirit of the master may enter in. No speech is necessary to effect this and in silence it is more readily achieved; anything else is only giving instruction, which is not the same as proffering discipleship.
As the disciple is slowly led onwards along this difficult path, confidence in the teacher is replaced by consciousness of the teacher, that is, he finds as an inner presence the mental atmosphere of the teacher and thus comes to know him much better.
Once both the meeting, however brief, with the master and the parting from him have taken place, the candidate's next and hardest task will be set him. And this is to learn to accept the Idea of the master as being not less real than the body of the master. The disciple must learn to dwell mentally in the sacred presence as satisfyingly as if he were dwelling physically in it.
To take these great masters into one's life merely to worship them outwardly and not to worship them deep in one's heart as the Ideal to be faithfully imitated, is to fail in becoming their disciple.
It is not merely that knowledge is passed on or instruction is memorized. The student is required to do something more. He has to introvert his attention earnestly and keep himself passive to the subtler feelings which now tend to form themselves within him, to submit resignedly to their sway and to merge into union with them.
The Master is always there, behind the disciple, always ready to give him stability, guidance, inspiration, peace, and strength. If the disciple does not find these things coming to him from the Master, the fault is in himself, the blockage is self-created, is somewhere between the two, and only he alone can remove it.
If the disciple becomes responsive enough, if his mind is harmonized with the master's, there will be a feeling of his presence even though a continent's width separates them. The master's nearness will sometimes seem quite uncanny.
Yet the deeper we travel, the less need have we of thoughts and words, for all multiplicity collapses in this marvelous unity. We can neither think nor talk of this sublime state with any accuracy. Hence the only medium whereby we can properly represent it is--silence!
Hence the competent teacher gives his best teaching not through lectures, talks, or books but through this magical, mysterious, yet effective silence wherein the higher initiations are wrapped.
To sit with such a teacher in the right receptive attitude for a single hour of meditation may bring more than ten years of previous self-effort could bring. For he can telepathically carry the other's power of attention to a depth in the stillness which is habitual with him but which is rare or unknown to most. Thereafter one of the veils is torn aside and one can more easily penetrate to the same depth alone.
He should ask himself whether he is attracted by the teacher's mind or body, whether he is devoted to the teacher's thought or flesh. If he can answer correctly he should grant that real discipleship exists only when the sense of the teacher's physical form is absent and his spiritual being is present. And this indeed is the case. The outer relation is only a beginning, a slight foretaste of the richness possible in this inner relation, this union of heart and soul. Then the disciple finds that the teacher's nearness to or distance from him is not to be measured in miles, is not an affair of what can be seen sensorily, but of what can be felt mentally.
Sat-sang, or inner affiliation with the master, is regarded as more important than outer association with him.
Just as the proximity of an electrified wire coil can induce a current of magnetism in a bar of soft iron, so the proximity of such a man can induce some of his own inner stillness to appear in a disciple.
There are two ways whereby help is given by a master to his disciples. The first is a conscious one whereas the second is not. And it is the second, the apparently less important way, which is really the commonest one. Just as the sun does not need to be aware of every individual plant upon which it sheds its beneficent life-giving growth-stimulating rays, so the master does not need to be aware of every individual disciple who uses him as a focus for his meditations or as a symbol for his worship. Yet each disciple will soon realize that he is receiving from such activities a vital inward stimulus, a real guidance and definite assistance. This result will develop the power unconsciously drawn from the disciple's own higher self, which in turn will utilize the mental image of the master as a channel through which to shed its grace.
What the master gives by way of personal example and verbal precept is only the beginning and not the end of what he can give. The silent inward transmission is even more important.
To the extent that a teacher helps in the growth of a disciple's inner life, he shares in it.
Teacher and student share each other's world.
When the impact of his physical presence is absent, the power of his spiritual presence may become plainly evident.
The gracious image of the master will reappear constantly before his eyes. And he would rather have its magical presence, together with the rebuke that may come with it, than not have it at all.
He feels vividly at some moments, but only faintly at other moments, that the master is in the background of his life.
He will not only feel the master's personality as if it were somewhere near or close together with him, but will also absorb inspiration from it and add some of its peace to his own.
He draws into his very being these noble influences emanating from the master.
Wherever he may be, the intelligent disciple can create inner contact with his master by finding the latter's mental image within himself as a deep vivid and actual presence.
Mystic Union of Master and Pupil: The best way to follow a teacher is to possess yourself of his spirit. The rest will take care of itself. When the disciple's maturity meets the teacher's grace, the path to spiritual attainment is really opened up.
The disciple is bound to the guide with a tie of inner attraction which, without the consent of destiny or the guide himself, he cannot break!
Master as symbol
The soul will lead him by stages to itself. Hence it may lead him to reverence for some scriptural personage or to devotion toward some living master and then, when these have fulfilled their purpose, away and beyond them. For the quest is from the world of things and men to the world of Mind's void; from thoughts and forms to the thought-free formless Divine.
The attraction to a teacher, which often happens involuntarily, is due in part to the fact that the seeker does not know God and has never seen God. But he can know and see this human being, the teacher who does know God.
To the groping aspirant, a true Master must ever be both the symbol of the divine existence and the channel of its power.
The Infinite Power seems too inaccessible and too exalted to be mindful of human needs, whereas the Messenger or Prophet or Master, being human himself, seems much nearer and more approachable, more likely and more willing to take an interest in those needs.
The notion of pure spirit or even of the higher self is too vague for most aspirants, and hence too difficult as a theme for concentration. The mental image of an inspired man gives their thoughts something concrete to fasten on and their aspirations something immediately recognizable to turn towards. Here, then, is a prime value of having a human ideal.
The master is a visible and manifested presence and therefore one that he can more easily recognize, more quickly get help from, than the invisible and unmanifested higher self within him.
Here arises the need of a Symbol, to which his heart can yield loving devotion and on which his mind can practise intense concentration.
Because so few can even detect their true self, or hear its voice in conscience, or sense its presence in intuition, the infinite wisdom of God personifies it in the body of another man for their convenience, inspiration, and aid.
The master is the symbol of the Higher Power for everyone who feels affinity with him.
The vivid actuality, the personal freshness of a living and once-met Symbol can never be equalled, for most people, by the historic actuality of a dead one or the mental freshness of a distant but never seen one.
The Master embodies the disciple's conscience.
Jesus described himself as the Door; the Bab of Persia referred to himself as the Gate. What did these prophets mean? The average seeker needs a symbol, a form through which he can pass to the formless. Such a form then becomes a door or gate for him. The mental image of the prophet who most attracts him provides him with it.
Although there is no need to follow the herd into fanatical guru-adulation there is a need to regard him properly for what he is--a channel for higher forces, an instrument for the higher power--and so deserving homage and reverence.
To see what such a man is in bearing and conduct is itself a silent form of instruction.
The fact that the spiritual guide has a human form gives something for the disciple's imagination to take hold of and keep firmly concentrated on. A properly controlled, wisely directed imagination can be a powerful aid in mystical exercises.
Another value of a master is that in his person we can verify under everyday conditions the fact of a superior state of his and the practical importance of the philosophic ideal.
If he has such faith in and devotion to his teacher, he should make use of this attitude not to rest until he himself is all that his teacher is. The latter can be used as an example of what can be done by the human being who is determined to live as he is meant to live, and to be as he is meant to be.
He is to keep the Ideal ever before his eyes, and to recognize that it over-limns the personality of his master.
The picture of the Ideal is held in his subconscious mind all the time and becomes the pattern to be imitated, the invisible Master to be followed with faith and with love.
It is affiliation to the master's mind, not propinquity to his body, that will bring these benefits. But where both are possible, the result will be better.
It will not be until a late stage that he will wake up to the realization that the real giver of Grace, the real helper along this path, the real master is not the incarnated master outside but the Overself inside his own heart. What the living master does for him is only to arouse his sleeping intuition and awaken his latent aspiration, to give him the initial impetus and starting guidance on the new quest, to point out the obstructions to advancement in his individual character and to help him deal with them.
What he feels about the Master's power may be true but it is a sign of his elementary state that he places it outside himself.
The true meaning of a master to the disciple's understanding should be as the presence and force, the revelation and voice of his own inmost spiritual being.
Let us be more concerned with the quest of right principles rather than impressive persons, for this will put our attitudes to all events on the right plane. Because this simple truism was forgotten most of the religious and mystical movements have gone astray.
The proper attitude is to regard the Master as a symbol of the higher power, so that the veneration and devotion proffered are directed towards that power. To look upon him as an intermediary, between the disciple and God, is to fall into the error of looking outside his own self for that which, when he finds it, will be within him and nowhere else.
Think more deeply than the conventional mass of guru-followers dare to do and you will come to perceive that in the end there is only one Teacher for each man, his own Overself; that all other and outer gurus are merely channels which IT uses. "It is He who lives inside and speaks through the outer guru's voice," declares a Tibetan text. Why not go direct to the source?
The higher self is the ultimate spiritual guide whom he is to revere and the real spiritual helper on whom he is to rely.
When disciples follow a teacher, what is it that they really follow? Suppose the master advocated cruelty and preached selfishness--would the disciples still continue to follow him? Obviously, they would not. This is because their own inward feeling would reject the teaching. It shows that they are really following the teacher within themselves, the voice of their own Higher Self. It is this Higher Self within them which makes them seek out and respond to a true teacher, for he is really an outward embodiment of this Self.
The outer objectified master is not the real one but only a shadow cast by the sun inside. His disciples too often make the mistake of relating themselves to his body, and placing overmuch emphasis on that visible relationship, when what really matters is relating their mind to his mind. This can be done only within themselves. Only in their own higher self can they meet and know their master.
Those who interest themselves in personalities take the wrong path. A master's ideas are the best part of him. Let students take them and not trouble themselves about his appearance, career, traits, and habits.
We must make a distinction between a doctrinal principle and the human personality who serves as the vehicle for such a principle. The principle will live when the personality is dead. Our absolute loyalty, therefore, must be bestowed on what is immortal, not on what is mortal. The human disseminator of the principle should receive only a conditional allegiance. The pure Idea may incarnate itself in the man but he may sully, betray, or pollute it with his human error, prejudice, or selfishness.
The embodied master, being human, will have some or other of the human imperfections. Sooner or later the disciple will note and become critical of them or disturbed by them. But the inner Light is perfect and will rouse only admiration, devotion, and satisfaction.
I have never said that the disciple should not feel love for the teacher, for that inevitably arises of itself and is indeed the basic force that draws the one to the other. Without it there could be no discipleship. But it is necessary to understand that the love is really felt for the divine presence which is using the teacher. It is not felt for the guru (teacher) as a person. That is the correct condition. If, however, it is diverted to the guru's person, then it is spoilt, rendered impure, and the true relationship is broken. In fact, idolatry sets in. The emotions of attraction and reverence which are felt need not be given up, but they should be directed to the true source, the higher power which is using the teacher, and not towards his personality at all.
The human symbol under which the devotee receives his inspirations and illuminations in vision or feeling is, after all, personal to him. It is not a universal one, not for all mankind at all times and in all places. Consequently his onward progress will one day demand of him that he transcend it. However useful and even indispensable it has been, it will best fulfil itself when he is able to forget it.
It is rarely and reluctantly that a true master will give personal interviews. He finds that so many enquirers come either with an idealized preconceived picture of what he looks like (or ought to look like) or with certain prejudices which are activated when they see him, that in many cases the good work done by his writings may be nullified by the disappointment consequent on the meeting. This is because few persons are sufficiently nonmaterialistic to look behind physical appearances for the mental reality of the man interviewed. Most come carrying a preconceived picture of some perfectly wonderful, perfectly handsome, perfectly saintlike Perfect Friend. The ideal is not realized. They leave the meeting disillusioned. It is better for their sakes that he remain behind the barrier of written words and not let them meet him face to face. How many prefer pigmentation to proficiency as a standard of spiritual wisdom, as shown by the numbers who cannot accept a dark-skinned Indian for teacher! How many are held prisoners by their preconceptions! How many reject both a teacher and his truth merely because they dislike the shape of his nose! What hope could a bandy-legged master have to find any disciples? Of course, the seeker who confounds him with his body is really still unfit for philosophy and ought not be given any interview until life and reflection have prepared him to take proper advantage of it. It is unfortunate that this human weakness is so common. This is one of the lesser reasons why the philosophic discipline has to be imposed on candidates for philosophy as a preliminary to be undergone before its threshold can be crossed. The real teacher is hard to behold. For he can be seen partly with the heart, partly with the mind, but rarely with the eye of flesh. He is the invisible man, whom they can recognize only by sensing, not by seeing him.
The duty is laid upon a master to show the value of his virtue by his conduct and to attract men towards it by his example. It is not the man that we are to reverence but his noble attributes and his inspired mind.
In the final reckoning we are not the disciple of this or that man but rather the disciple of the Overself.
Gautama saw much evidence among the Hindus of their traditions of guru-worship and their cults of personal adulation. To prevent this arising among those who accepted his teaching, he commanded that his own person was to remain unpictured in art, ungraven in image. But this was too much to ask of sentimental, devotional, and emotional humanity.
Jesus tried to turn the minds of his followers from the man to Spirit, from the body to Overself but, like Muhammed, Buddha, and Krishna, failed. He told them not even to call anyone Master, nor even to call him Rabbi. But history shows how greatly they disobeyed his instruction.
Even if the Symbol were a man devoid of spiritual power and light, its effects would still appear beneficially within his life. This is because he has imagined it to be powerful and enlightening and the creative power of his own thought produces some benefit. If however the Symbol were an evil and living man, then the effects would be more or less harmful. This is because a subconscious telepathic working exists between the two minds through the intense devotion and passive submission of one to the other. But if the Symbol were a genuine living mystic, then the devotee's thought could draw from him--and without his conscious will or knowledge--benefits greater than in the first case. It is possible to get still greater benefits if the seeker attaches himself to and becomes the disciple of a living genuine sage. For to the above-mentioned effects will be added the latter's deliberately given help and blessing.
Despite popular superstition and wishful thinking it is true that no master can bestow his own enlightenment on others as a permanent gift. But does this make his attainment valueless to them? No, for it proves to them both that the Overself is and that man may commune with it. The few who are more sensitive or more perceptive gain more from personal contact with him--either inspiration for their quest or, if more fortunate, a momentary glimpse of the far-off goal.
The Master as Symbol: All this talk of master and disciple is vain and futile. You yourself, when attracted to a certain man in whom you have faith, set him up as a master in your own mind, keep him there for a number of years, and eventually drop him when you no longer feel the need of a human symbol of the Infinite. All this time it is your own higher self which is guiding you, even when it is using the mental image of the guide you may have selected for the purpose. All this time you were moving in the direction of the discovery of your Overself inwardly even when you seemed to be moving towards an external master. If you find ABC a helpful symbol, use him as your master, but do not ask him to confirm this usage for the choice was yours. No confirmation from him is called for. Why doubt the guidance of your Overself? If you accept the master in full faith, by that very act you are showing faith in the leading given you by the Overself. Your obedience to it is enough. It has accepted you or it would not be drawing you inwards, as it is. ABC is one with it. Therefore how could the master refuse you? But do not lose sight of the inwardness of the whole process by going to him for an outward sign. Do not materialize it. Make use of him if you wish to, and if he is what you believe him to be, your faith will not be wasted. Your act of mental creation will not lead to hallucination so long as you know that the true ABC is not his body but his mind.
The humble appeal of the seeking soul direct to God (or one's own Overself) will in time bring direct help without the intermediary of any human being. If anyone believes that he has entered into realization solely through the blessing of a master, then there will surely be a disillusionment one day. The real duty of a master is to point out the correct path at each different stage of the aspirant's life, to keep up his faith until he knows the truth for himself and not through somebody else's words, to inspire him by his own example and encouragement never to desert the quest and to show that its benefits are worthwhile, to give his grace in the sense of taking a personal interest in the student's progress and telepathically to keep the student within his own consciousness.
If discovery of Truth is the discovery of the answer to "Who Am I?" then what better Master can there be than the "I" itself--the unknown Knower rather than the familiar, known ego? Yet so few seekers have taken it on trust: nearly all venture it in dependence on some other man. And what can that Master do in the end better than teach his disciple to see his own divine face?
"A visible Murshid (Master) is a gateway unto the Unseen Master and a portal unto God, the Unknown. But yet, in the end, neither God, Master, nor Murshid appear in the `I Am'*t"--Mayat Khan.
The argument as to whether a living master alone can "save" men or whether a dead one can also do so, is a fallacious one. No man is saved by another man. His own soul is his real saviour. When he believes that a master, living or dead, is saving him, his own soul is actually at work within him at the time but is using the mental image of the master to serve as a focus-point for his side--that is, the self-effort side--of the process. Thousands who never knew the living Jesus have felt the real presence and dynamic power of Jesus enough to convert them from sinful to Godly lives. It was the idea of Jesus which they really knew, not the man himself, as it was grace of their Overselves which was the true presence and power they admittedly felt. They concentrated their faith on the idea but the reality behind it was the unknown Overself. They needed the idea--any idea--as a point in their own form-time-and-space personal consciousness where the formless, timeless, placeless, impersonal soul could manifest itself to them.
There are hands in every country, among every people, outstretched to God for inward help. The responsibility to answer these prayers rests therefore primarily with God. Any man who apparently gives the needed help is only an intermediary. Neither the power nor the wisdom which he manifests is his own. If he perceives that fact, he will be humbled by it.
The true teacher acts by proxy, as it were, for the aspirant's Overself until such time as the aspirant himself is strong enough to find his own way. Until that moment the teacher is a shining lamp, but after it he will withdraw because he does not want to stand between the seeker and the latter's own self-light which gradually leads the disciple to dispense with him!
With the thought of the higher power, an image will spontaneously spring up in his mind. It will be the image of that man who manifests or represents it to him.
The philosophically correct attitude is to cherish the deepest reverence for him, to remember and commune often with his kindling interior presence, and to control the lower self by the ideal pattern he affords.
If he rejects praise it is because he wants it bestowed where it really belongs, and not upon himself to the denial of that source. It belongs to his master or to the Overself; the power behind all his praised activities is not the ego's. For by such properly placed credit, the world may come to know, or believe, there is that higher power.
"He who sees the Teaching, sees me."--Buddha
Much emotion-born fallacious writing and consequent belief prevails in Western and Oriental mystical circles. The question must be asked: if a dead master is just as good or, as one South Indian ashram now claims, even better than a living one, why do any masters trouble to reincarnate at all if they can exert their influence or give their training just as effectively by staying where they are? And this question applies not only to the minor lesser-known teachers of small groups but with equal force to the major prophets like Buddha and Jesus.
Here is the point at which part of the confusion and much of the fallacy arise. People generally have been led by society, including their parents, to adopt and follow one of these major Prophets. This is done partly in the belief that he is still in touch with them from a heaven-world, partly out of unquestioning acceptance of his revelation, and partly because of the social necessity of belonging to the membership of some organized church. The revelation and the church continue to survive the prophet's death and thus continue to be available for the help of followers born in later centuries. But the vehicle through which he himself was able to communicate directly, the intellect and body--that is, the ego--have ceased to exist. There is no further possibility of such communication. Where it seems to occur, the mental image of the prophet has been assumed by the Higher Self of the devotee to satisfy his demand and need. The usefulness of a living teacher to those who have no such experience or to those who are uncommitted to a deceased one, is obvious.
When the master dies, the disciple will find that there is no one to take his place. Such an affinity cannot be duplicated. But what he gave the disciple will live on inside him. How can he be like the unthinking hordes who yield to their passions without compunction?
When a master is no longer living in flesh and blood, what will be the effect upon his relations with others? Those who are willing to use their reason rather than their sentimentality upon the matter can fall upon the fact itself. For those who are still in the elementary stages--which usually means the mass of his followers--he is no longer operative.
Some persons, deprived of their guru by a sudden change of circumstance, or by death, have found themselves bewildered, at a loss, or even have collapsed with a nervous breakdown.
What he leaves behind is not himself but the revelations he received, the instructions he gave, and the techniques he favoured.
Whether it is really those who publicly and loudly proclaim how close they were to the Master who were so, or those who silently and secretly practised what he taught, the world is often in no position to judge.
If there is a genuine inner relationship between them, then he will feel that a part of the master has never left him, even though the master is himself long dead.
If he is still alive, the personal help of a master is certainly valuable. If he is not, his spirit is too remote from the physical world to be helpful to the ordinary aspirant in any other than a general impersonal way. His influence is then carried by writings left behind, by the thought-forms he left during his lifetime in the mental atmosphere here, and by the few disciples closest to him in the inner sense. Otherwise, only an advanced yogi, able to raise his consciousness by meditation to the same plane as the master's, could get any contact at all. It is as necessary to his disciples that he leave them deprived of his guidance as well as of the consolation of his presence as it was earlier necessary for them to have them while he was still on earth. After all, it is their own Overself that they are seeking. They must begin to seek it just where it is--within themselves and not in someone else. The time has then come when, if they are to grow at all, they must cease drawing on his light and strength and begin drawing on their own. The very hour of his departure from them is appointed in their destiny by the infinite intelligence, which has sufficient reasons for making it then, and not earlier or later. If they must henceforth strive for direct touch with the Infinite and no longer lean on the encouragement of an intermediary, this is because they are at the stage to make better progress that way, whatever their personal emotions may argue to the contrary.
If the life of Jesus be viewed symbolically--as the lives of such divine men often are in part--the same necessity, at a certain time, of physical separation from disciples to bring them into mental nearness, appears. Jesus told them: "I tell you the truth, it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you. When He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth."
The question whether a rejection of the guru is a necessary stage in order to find the Truth for oneself can be immediately answered. It is not at all necessary for anyone to reject the guru at any stage. But--at a certain stage it may be advisable to withdraw physically from him. That is a matter for guru or disciple to decide, and also the length of time for such an absence.
"In time when the relationship is sufficiently established between master and pupil the pupil has to continue on his own," wrote the Sufi Master Insar-I-Kamil. This is important but insufficiently known.
The teacher is a support needed by the disciple to help him progress through successive stages of the quest, as they are stages of thinning illusion. When he stands on the threshold of reality, then the last and thinnest illusion of all must be left behind, the support of any being outside himself, apart from himself, for within him is the infinite life-power.
It is written in the Hindu texts that by living in the company of a guru, saint, or sage one acquires a measure of his enlightenment, holiness, or wisdom. How widely different this measure can be, how ever little and how very large, only exceptional personal experience or a long, comparative study of the records can tell. Side by side with this text, to amplify or correct it, ought to be put, and well mused over, a little incident I once observed in South India, in which the principal character was a very earnest young monk, Swami Dandapani. He had lived for five years, on and off, as an office assistant in the ashram and as a devoted follower of Ramana Maharshi. One day he was expelled forthwith and ordered to leave within twenty-four hours. At night, when everyone had retired to sleep, he went to his guru to inform him of the expulsion and to take farewell. At the end of this occasion he wept. The Maharishee restrained him: "Don't be a fool! You should know that this physical Sat-sang [personal company in an ashram] is only for beginners. When one advances to a certain stage it is better to go away if further and real advancement is to be made. For then one is compelled to seek, and find, the inner guru, within the mind and heart. Even the little birds have to get away from their parents' nest when they have grown wings: they cannot stay always in it. So too the disciples have to practise away from the ashram what they have learnt here, and find there the peace they found here." I followed the Swami's further history as he was a good friend. Years later he became a guru in his own turn, acquired a number of disciples, and settled in his own native village in his own ashram. My own observation, farther afield, is that some seem to acquire nothing at all, whereas others acquire a great deal, from Sat-sang. Whether this acquisition comes about by a kind of osmosis, or by instruction and discussion, or, more likely, by a resultant arising from all three, the necessity of looking within oneself, working with oneself, and depending on oneself cannot be evaded.
Sri Ramakrishna told seeking newcomers: "Keep on visiting this place." But he also told them: "It is necessary in the beginning to come here off and on." I once heard Sri Ramana Maharshi tell a young Indian disciple who wept at being forced to leave him: "Living in ashrams is only for beginners. The more advanced have to go away and develop from there. You have been here five years. If you want to progress you can now do so best by going away from here."
The animal which at a certain age deserts its offspring to force them into self-reliance is like the rare guru who tells the overstayed learner it is time to leave.
But the law of life is growth. Is he to remain a passive receiver of someone else's teaching in perpetuity? Can he stand still under another man's shadow or is he to emerge out of pupilage into the light?
The true teacher so develops his disciples that they can come closer and closer to the time when they can find their way without him. All his service is intended to lead them toward graduation, when he himself will no longer be needed.
No disciple does his master adequate honour until he himself is able to stand and walk alone.
The man in whom intuition is well-developed or who is able to practise meditation sufficiently to hear the Interior Word, can manage without a master.
If he has found the correct path and has travelled with a teacher as far as this stage, thenceforth he may travel by himself. He is now free for he is now able to guide himself.
In the end he must free himself inwardly from all things and, finally, both from whatever teacher he has and from the quest itself. Then only can he stand alone within and one with God.
Whether or not it is historically true that there was the battle mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita is unimportant to us of the twentieth century. But the psychological interpretation of it as meaning that Arjuna was ordered to fight not his parents and relatives but his attachment to them, is important. It is the same teaching as that of Jesus' hard saying about the necessity of taking up the cross and denying father and mother. All this we can understand even where we cannot follow it into practice. But it is bewildering to be told that a time comes in the disciple's development when attachment to the teacher must also be broken. He must free himself from the very man who has shown him the path to liberation from every other form of attachment. His liberation is to become total and absolute.
In the last verse spoken by Arjuna in the Gita, he declares that all his doubts are gone and that he has gained recognition of the true Self. Hence all his questions cease. His enquiry into Truth has come to an end. Nothing more is said either by him or his teacher. Both enter into a state of silence and this silence is revealed as the highest, because the spirit is beyond both the agitations of intellect and the babble of speech. It is best felt and known, understood and communicated, through such inner stillness.
Do not stray into waters that are too deep for you. Do not try to grasp the mystery of your master. You cannot do it and you will never do it, for if ever you came to the very edge of succeeding in doing it both you and he would disappear from your ken. Do not seek to touch the untouchable. It is better to accept him for what he is and let it go at that than to indulge in useless speculations and erroneous fancies. It is not that your are to repress the faculty of enquiry, but that you are to exercise it in the right place and at the right time. Your task now is to understand yourself and to understand the world. When you have come near the close of completing those two tasks, you will then be faced with the further task of comprehending the true character of your master but not till then. For then only will you be able to comprehend him correctly; before then you will only get a wrong notion, which is far worse than no notion at all. The last lesson of these words is: trust him where you cannot understand; believe in him where yours.