Teaching and non-teaching illuminates
There is a widespread belief among questers that a man who becomes enlightened automatically becomes a teacher and attaches followers to himself for instruction. This is not inexorably so. He may, or may not.
Few have penetrated the secrets of being, fewer still have revealed them to others.
Not everyone who is illumined becomes a spiritual teacher of humanity. Only one whose previous tendency, general character, constant aspiration, allotted destiny, or personal capacity fits him for that function becomes a teacher.
It is not every spiritually enlightened man who is called to hold his lamp in mankind's darkness, or is required to be a teacher of others. This is a special art and requires special gifts. Those who attain enlightenment fall into two grades: the first, mystics who are possessed by the Overself but who can neither show others the way to this state nor expound in detail the truth they have realized; the second, sages who can do both these things.
To be a teacher, to be able to educate others in philosophic doctrines, to prepare pupils for the wise life, requires qualities which knowledge alone does not necessarily confer.
Every sage must be a teacher because every sage must wish to promote the enlightenment of mankind.
Not all those who attain sagehood necessarily become teachers in the personal sense. Such a one is entitled to choose anonymity. Unknown to the world at large, he still by virtue of that very attainment is a benignant presence mentally.
There are two kinds of masters: Inspiring masters like Ramana Maharshi, and Teaching masters, like Gurunathan. The first have greater power to inquire; they can show the goal but not the path to it; the second have a greater capacity to lead aspirants step by step along the path.
All qualified teachers are illumined but not all illumined men are teachers.
He could not tell others how to struggle out of the depths if he had not himself done so, how to realize the soul if he himself had not realized it. But this is only his first qualification. His second is that he has cultivated the special virtue of compassion for others throughout the whole course of his mystical life. Consequently he becomes its fullest embodiment when that life flowers into bloom. That is why he is a teaching sage rather than a cold self-centered mystic.
The men who have seen deeply into the hidden meaning of life are the men best qualified to guide us in matters of conduct and motive.
Only when truth already exists in the mind and heart of the teacher can he convey it in his teaching to the student. If it does not, then he is merely indulging in a piece of pantomime.
Whoever has attained this stage can pass on to the proper persons both a foretaste of mystical experiences which lie beyond them and an impetus to their quicker self-development. If he is only a mystic he may do so quite unconsciously, but if he is a philosopher he will give this wordless instruction quite consciously.
The enlightened man who has to deal with those who are not sensitive enough to receive clearly in the silence that which is his best communication, meaning most people, must then give it in a more familiar and easier form--words! But here the illuminate may himself be at a disadvantage. He may lack fluency and have a limited vocabulary--be inarticulate. Here others will be better served if the illuminate has wide command of good language; if he can teach in sentences that are clear, beautiful, powerful; if he is eloquent.
He whose course embraces a mission of spiritual service to others is invested with a greater power and enlightenment than he has actually earned. This does not make him greater than he is. But as the excess of inspiration gradually uses him as its channel, it becomes gradually integrated into his own character little by little over a period of several years.
We may sit before the saintly phenomenon and enjoy the peace issuing from him. But when we leave him, the peace leaves us too. We may have no such dramatic experience when working with the teaching Master. But he will guide our feet each step of the way; he will listen to our difficulties, problems, or questions and give us his wise counsel. That is the wide difference between these two types of illumined men.
It is true that many of those who attained enlightenment gave some of their wisdom or counsel to others but did so only incidentally or occasionally and to a limited extent. Others made it their chief and whole-time mission in life to teach others and preach truth. Those who did so had better capacities for teaching and preaching than those who did not. Moreover, they had to leave an example of conduct in their own lives worthy of being imitated--a duty which was not incumbent upon the non-teachers and was sometimes disregarded by them.
There has occasionally been a man who entered into awareness of the Overself without the help of a teacher and without the laboured struggles of most other men. He is like a horse which has crossed the river by swimming and without touching the ground. Such a man does not usually go out of his way to teach the path to others or try to help them individually, or even to announce the truth to the world. He is satisfied with his own place and with the knowledge that "God is in his heaven all is well with the world." He is an inward-looking mystic who has a perfect right to enjoy his attainment.
There are two types of illumined men, of those who have attained spiritual perfection. The first have sought the goal for their own sake alone and are satisfied to rest on their labours with the attainments. The second type does not accept this rest, for their very search was made with the intention to share with others. The first type have been called in the Orient, Silent Masters, also Isolated Masters. The second type have been called Preaching Masters, also Teaching Masters and Compassionate Masters. In the case of the first type, the renunciation of the world is usually abrupt and sudden, though the period spent between renunciation and the attainment of Enlightenment may be long and weary. It is possible for one to become a Silent Master while yet a layman, but, in this case, the marks of a layman, such as the clothes he wears, immediately disappear. The spiritual attainments of a Preaching Master and those of a Silent Master are alike; but in the case of the latter, though he attains to supreme and perfect insight, yet his enlightenment is individual. His enlightenment is of benefit to himself alone; he does not proclaim to the world the great Truths discovered by him. He cannot instruct others "effectively"; his realization of the Truth is "like a dream seen by a deaf-mute." "Silent" is unsatisfactory because they do preach to those who come to them, though their preaching is restricted to admonitions regarding good, righteous, and proper conduct. They even have personal attendants whom the world may regard as disciples, but they give no instruction other than ethical instruction.
There are men of enlightenment who cannot throw down a bridge from where they are to where they once were, so that others too can cross over. They do not know or cannot describe in detail the way which others must follow to reach the goal. Such men are not the teaching-masters, and should not be mistaken for them.
The man of enlightenment who has never been a learner, who suddenly gained his state by the overwhelming good karma of previous lives, is less able to teach others than the one who slowly and laboriously worked his way into the state--who remembers the trials, pitfalls, and difficulties he had to overcome.
The Master has found his way to the Overself; he daily enjoys the blessing of its presence; he has passed from mere existence into significant living, and he knows there is peace and love at the heart of the universe. He wants now to help others share in the fruits of his discoveries.
The Master, who is a dedicated teacher also, wishes ardently for others on the Path to attain the goal and share its bliss.
If qualified disciples are few, competent masters are so rare as to be almost unfindable.
He who is to direct the steps of others along this path needs not only to be high in character and consciousness and teaching ability but also to be learned in the comparative history and comparative doctrine of mysticism.
Without inexhaustible patience and pedagogical talent, the mystic can hardly engage with satisfactory consequences in the task of instructing others. He may be highly inspired but, lacking these two things, he will do better for those who approach him by silence than by speech.
It is true that nobody can get sufficient data to determine the solution of the riddle of a single man's status, nobody can penetrate fully into any man's motives. I do not judge anyone and I ought not to judge. Nevertheless, his teaching alone is insufficient to testify to the true worth of a man; he himself is a testimony of equal value.
It is said in the old texts that the perfect Master feels not only for his disciples but for all those who are devotedly following the Quest, an affection similar to that of a cow for her calf.
If he has both inspiration and technique his message will carry authority, power, enlightenment, and hope to those who can receive it.
Advice, warnings to would-be teachers
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.
A master whose experience and training enable him to detect the signs of what psychoanalysts call "transference" should be immune to any displays of undue affection from a disciple of the opposite sex. If he is not, if he feels he is only human and cannot remain satisfied with spending his life being a big brother to everyone, then he should descend from his pedestal and join his disciples in search of another--and stronger--teacher.
Beware of assuming the Master's role too prematurely. If you are not ready for it you may not only misguide your pupils but, as a Tibetan text says, fall into the ditch with them.
Do not pretend to be other than you are. If you are one of the multitude, do not put upon yourself the proud robes of the Teacher and pretend to be able to imitate him; unless you stick to the Truth, you can never find it. To put yourself upon the pedestal of spiritual prestige before the Master or God has first put you there, is to make the first move towards a humiliating and painful fall.(P)
The true adept does not sell either the secrets of his knowledge or the use of his powers. There are several reasons for this. The most important is that he would harm himself for he would lose the link with the very source of his knowledge and power. He does not possess them in himself but by virtue of being possessed by the Higher Self. From the moment that he attempted to make them a means of worldly profit, It would gradually begin to desert him. Another reason is that he would lose his privileged position to speak the pure truth. To the extent that he had to rely upon purchasers of it, to that extent he would have to shape it or conform it to their tastes and prejudices; otherwise they would refuse to have it. He would have to use his powers to please them. He would have to accommodate his knowledge to their weaknesses. He could succeed in the profession of teaching truth only by failing in his own duty of realizing truth. For the truth being the one thing he got without price, is the one thing which he must give without price. This is the law governing its distribution. Anyone who violates it proves by this very violation that he does not possess truth in all its shining purity.(P)
A writer, teacher, preacher, or spiritual guide who gives out high ideals ought to be the first man to follow them himself.
It is inadvisable for the spiritual director to bring in his own personal experiences of the past and relate them to a student with the hope of making the student feel that the director has passed through similar situations and sympathizes with him. This brings in the personal element and annuls the detached impersonality which gives the director his authority and influence. Any stories of experience which have to be told can be given anonymously or in the third person.
The teacher's work will have to endure the malice of satanic human instruments and the misunderstanding of the superficial and ignorant.
When he becomes humble enough to recognize that it is not he that touches, guides, inspires, heals, teaches, warns, or leads others but the infinite power of the Overself, that he is only a medium for this power, then all his motives change. He no longer seeks to serve his ego but rather the Overself. And the better to do this, he tries to cleanse and refine his ego.
By what right can he guide others who himself prays daily to the Infinite Being for guidance? The answer is that it is not he who guides them, but the Infinite itself, which uses him merely as a medium, whose only virtue lies in being pliant and submissive.
If he is to tell them what is the matter with themselves and to tell them successfully, he will need tact, intelligence, patience, calmness, and courage. Nor will it be enough merely to possess these qualities, they must also be possessed to an infinite degree. Without that, he had better relapse into silence--for he would then only arouse their egos and introduce discord.
The man who is to be a true mouthpiece of the Overself, whose teaching or writing or preaching is to be intrinsically valuable for its revelation or inspiration, must forsake both the animal and the ego in him.
The man who goes around pointing out people's mistakes to them becomes unwelcome and unpopular. Even the spiritual guide is not an exception, for his criticism is received with treble force by those who worship him. A prudent guide will soon learn, by experience, that it is better to shut his mouth than to tell his disciples what they do not want, and do not like, to hear.
The self-centered neurotic especially, but also various other types, will pressingly invite you to become involved in his personal affairs. If you accept, you merely postpone the day when he must learn to handle them for himself. This does not mean that the wise counsel, the kindly word, may not be dropped here and there, now and then. But there is always the danger that pressure will be put on you to repeat yourself constantly, to live in his ego and in his past, present, or future with your disciple.
"Whoever gives advice to a heedless man is himself in need of advice," admonished Saadi of Shiraz (thirteenth-century Sufi master).
The danger of the ego accepting an homage which belongs only to the Overself, provides the successful teacher with his next test. To let disciples make his personality all-important and overlook the Overself which uses it, is to fall into error. Humility is here his only safeguard.
It is easy to be humble when obscurity, poverty, personal ugliness, or menial position forces it upon a man or woman. But to show this quality when every visitor bows low before him--that is the test!
One danger to a guru is that he may become surrounded by sycophantic followers, who will nourish and strengthen whatever undesirable egoism may still remain behind in him because his training was never completed. Another is that he may attract dilettante followers, who will waste his time and create needless useless disputes of interpretation among his more serious disciples.
That Javanese custom whereby a guru does not humiliate a seeker by scolding him for an error in outlook but tells him an anecdote from which the seeker can himself infer that he is wrong, is worth noting. A positive approach gets better result than a negative one.
If you wish to help a man, you can do so only by exposing him to the truth which refers to his level. To venture onto a higher one is perilous. He may even be hostile to it.
Teaching must begin with oneself if it is to become effective. The teacher must spiritualize himself and integrate his own personality before his words and silences can really be significant.
Lao Tzu says there will be no end to the work of reforming the world. Now since a man is part of the world, the same conclusion applies to the guru who would reform a disciple.
Do not be over-critical with students. They need help, which is best given through positive affirmations, Short Path joy, and radiant fulfilment.
He has to be more than careful of the way in which he speaks to his disciples. A single sentence could fill one of them with utter exhilaration for a whole day: another sentence could fill a second disciple with frowning melancholy for just as long.
The following points have to be learned if one hopes to fill the office of a spiritual teacher:
(a) Weaknesses of moral character must be mercilessly sought out and uprooted. No task should be undertaken which might induce their return.
(b) Whatever form of service is given must be accompanied by spotlessly pure motives--never out of desire for reward or expectancy of return.
(c) When the work of teaching involves one in no personal expenses he cannot meet out of his ordinary professional earnings, he should not accept emolument. This is considered bad karma.
(d) When the work of teaching brings one in contact with the opposite sex, he must not take advantage of his influence to have any but the purest, spiritual relationships. To break this rule is again to invite bad karma.
(e) One should not meditate haphazardly with anyone and everyone who comes to him.
These are serious dangers to which the would-be teacher must be extremely attentive. It is partly to help counteract these dangers that I have explained the philosophic discipline and emphasized the need of cultivating reason in my last seven books.
When it is useless to tell him the truth in words then don't: tell him in the Silence. But if he is to hear you, then you must already live from within.
When a spiritual teacher does not take precautionary care to keep from colliding with those establishments called churches, governments, and colleges, he runs the risk of being crucified. If he is to utter truth, he will find it hard to ignore the plain fact that they stand for dogmatic closing of the mind, for timid clinging to outworn threadbare and useless doctrines.
To become an open channel for that high power, its servitor in this darkened world, its messenger in this bewildered epoch, is honour but also burden and privilege and responsibility combined.
The true master is he who points the way to the recognition of one's inmost self, not to the adulation of his own personal self.
He who takes on the role of a spiritual counselor must be prepared not to lose patience too soon.
He may like to see those near and dear to him share the same faith and undergo the same disciplines. There are ways and means whereby he can utilize prayer, meditation, and personal example to promote this end. But all the same he will find himself up against the hard fact that, by its very nature, spiritual growth in another is not to be forced.
It is well to remember that the revealing god is also the concealing god.
No attempt to enlighten an individual should go more than a single step in advance of that individual's mental power and moral stamina.
A spiritual teacher who wants to work publicly must concede ground to orthodox religion and should conciliate the feelings of orthodox ministers.
Give the man what he really requires at the moment, not what he may require if and when he reaches a higher stage of development.
A teacher, to be most effective, should present his teaching in a dress and colouring appropriate to the age in which he lives. He must "tune in" to the needs and hopes, the thoughts and sentiments, the lives and surroundings, of the people of his age.
Only one who has reached the degree of competency and the state of purity requisite for such work, may rightfully teach others or enter into the spiritual counselling relation with them.
To play the role of spiritual adviser to any person is to accept a grave responsibility.
I would revise an oft-quoted sentence so that it reads: "When the master is ready, the pupil appears!"
Let not the guru get in the way of the student when the latter is ready to try his wings, make the first flight of a grown-up, and begin to be an individual.
Value of a qualified teacher
If he can find a Master-Inspirer, he will find his greatest help in the Quest.
It is essential to find a reliable guide who can indicate the higher studies which should be pursued; knowing this, the sage will gladly give his services to those aspirants who seek him out.
The benefit of approaching a master as a disciple is that he provides inspirational stimulus and aspirational uplift. He pours a current of power into the disciple who then finds renewed strength to continue the Quest in a general sense. In the special matter of practising meditation, he is able to go into it deeper and to sustain it longer.
The contact with a true teacher is always significant, always fruitful. Old perplexities will be illumined for him and new avenues will be opened for him.
There are plenty of teachers to cater to the surface-seekers of this world. The true master does not choose to be one of them. He can be of service only to those who comprehend that the object of life is not to stand their bodies on their heads but to put the truth into their heads. But such seekers are few. For the one feat is spectacular and dramatic whereas the other is silent and secret. The real teaching work will be noiseless, without show, and in the background--behind the scene and not before the curtain.
The great teacher leaves his impress and exerts his influence upon his disciples without robbing them of their capacity to grow into their own individual freedom.
A true teacher will teach and guide but only to the extent that the pupil can absorb the teaching and is ready for it. In that way he will leave the pupil his independence and not order and command him. He will make him realize that his own endeavours must be looked to for advancement and his own strength must liberate him.
It ought to be the guru's task to get his disciples to act nobly or discipline self not because he orders them to do so but because they feel it is what they want to do of their own accord. Such subtle inner work is uncommon for such gurus are uncommon.
The old Oriental way was to tell the student to perform certain exercises blindly, to follow certain rules unquestioningly. The modern Western way is to give him the reasons for what he is told to do--so that he can work consciously and understandingly.
The sage tries both to do his disciples' thinking for them and also to provoke them into thinking for themselves. Nevertheless the statements he makes are suggestive and not controversial.
One of the great errors propagated by these swamis is to suggest that because Ramakrishna could transmit his spirituality by a touch of the hand to a few persons, he could therefore transmit it to everybody in the same way. He would assuredly have done so had it been possible, for he wanted to serve humanity. But as a Tamil proverb says: "Though one teaches an ass by speaking in his ears, we obtain nothing but braying." That, after all, only a tiny handful of persons were so "saved" by Ramakrishna is enough evidence to refute this senseless suggestion.
The teacher ought not to be looked upon as someone with whom to consult in every personal difficulty as it arises. His function is to teach the general principles of philosophy and it is the disciple's function to learn how to apply them to his own individual life. So long as he carries every personal trouble to the teacher, so long will the term of probation fail to come to an end.
The guide is successful partly to the extent that he makes the disciple aware of his own subconscious resources.
The master expounds truth to the disciple, telling him again and again, "You are THAT reality which you seek: give up the ego and know it." This holy message echoes itself repeatedly within the disciple's mind and eventually he too realizes its truth in his turn.
It is the Master's business to lead his disciples to make their own discovery of the hidden track to the Overself.
A primary duty of the teacher during the phase of self-purification is to tell the disciple about his weaknesses, show him his failings. This is a disagreeable duty, but any teacher who evaded it would fail in his responsibility.
It is kinder in the end to tell an aspirant quite candidly the truth about his shortcomings than to keep his illusions alive. For they are the true cause of his misery, the root of his sorrow; why not let him look them in the face? If he is to grow at all, the shock of discovering them is inescapable anyhow. A teacher's duty is not to keep him emotionally comfortable, not to keep silent because it is easier to do so than to reveal what the seeker needs to know. The easy way renders a disservice. The hard way is the right way in the end. The sooner he attributes his troubles to some fault in his own character, the sooner are they likely to come to an end.
To counsel those in trouble to adopt escapist forms of relief does not really help them, even though it may seem to do so. This is often an easier way out for the counsellor than compelling them to face unpleasant truth about the inexorable necessity of working on themselves to remove the cause, when the trouble is only an effect, likely to be repeated in the future.
The expert teacher encourages aspiration, instructs truth-seeking, and guides meditation.
The guru gives his service both in monition and admonition, both in strengthening conviction and fostering aspiration.
He is a messenger come from a far place to tell people that there is a reality, and that truth awaits them; he points out the direction where they are to be found, and how.
If he is to serve them well, rather than merely serve them, he must be aware of the conditions under which they actually have to live, the capacities they actually have, and the needs which are most immediate. Then, when he attempts to show them the way to an inner life which is potentially theirs, when he points out the higher needs which those conditions seemed to blot out--perhaps because they were ultimate--he will be better able to relate the teaching to them.
The response depends upon what level a man's mind is functioning, upon how much he is held down by his own past, upon what kind of outlook his experience and reflection have brought him to, upon the company he keeps and the surroundings in which he dwells, upon the condition of his body, upon the balance within himself and in his relationship with the world, upon what intuitions, counsel, visions, revelations, and instructions in the higher laws he has received from other men--if dead, through their writings or, if alive, through hearing their talks or lectures.
Such a concept of life is too precious to die out even if it is precious only to a scattered few. Be assured that they will take the greatest care to preserve its existence within the mind and memory of their race. And they can do this in two ways: first, by recording it in writing; second, by training disciples.
A true guide will surely serve his disciples, sometimes without the title of teacher, certainly without the pay of one who works for self. He will teach a small number so that, after attaining a certain degree of mystical understanding and practical advancement, they in turn may become helpful guides of others.
He has to give out what those whom he is addressing can understand and not outstrip their development. He may, for this purpose, either simplify the teaching or keep back the more advanced portions, those dealing with the transcendental mysteries.
What is the use of giving instruction which is unsuited to those who are instructed? Will it avail them to give instruction which is suited only to those who are far more advanced, far more ready, far more receptive? Whoever does this either lacks discrimination or shows vanity, that is, he needs to learn either wise prudence or true humility.
Such is the World-Mind's grace that it inspires men of the most different types to arise and help their fellows, men as widely apart as General Booth, who founded the Salvation Army, and the late Lord Haldane, who sought to translate his philosophical vision into unselfish public service. Thus, even in the darkest epochs someone eventually appears to help the most ignorant, the most sinful, and the most illiterate, even as someone eventually appears to guide the virtuous, educated, and intellectual. Inability to comprehend the highest truth or inability to live up to the loftiest ethics is not made by true sages a bar to bestowing help. They assist the undeveloped from where they now stand. And such is the wisdom of these sages that they know just how much to give and in what form it can best be assimilated, even as they know when it is better to convey material assistance only and when ethical, religious, mystical, or philosophical instruction should also be given.
The capacity to receive truth is limited by the moral, intellectual, and intuitional limitations of the receiver. Hence the sages put their teachings in a form proportionate to the receptivity of their audience. They keep silent on what it is unprofitable to mention because impossible to grasp.
The first work of the sage is to plough up the field of his pupil's mind, to make it fit to receive the fresh seed.
He has no desire to get men interested in his own personality, to have them turn to, and rely on, himself but would rather turn them toward their own higher nature.
The master who gives truth is a greater creator of values and contributor to humanity than the greatest music composers.
When eloquence is united with enlightenment, we may expect sentences which pierce us with their rightness, which are rich in truth and stimulating to goodness.
His statements make truth clearer, his declarations are like a sparkling drink.
The Master can help the aspirant with the benefit of a lifetime's experience on the Quest and with the Grace he has attained from having to endure the vicissitudes, ordeals, temptations, and tests which mark the way. From such a one, the aspirant can learn painlessly in a short time what another has to learn through years of suffering and blundering alone.
For the earnest seeker, a master will not only provide all these helps, he will also give assistance in the art of meditation so that it will be more easily and quickly learned than could otherwise have been possible.
The help provided by a master during a joint meditation period is provided by his simply being there! His presence may help to deepen the student's own meditation.
He who has awakened his own super-physical energy, intuited his own higher knowledge, can develop a skill beneficial to others whenever they come within his orbit. For he can inform them of what they can do to themselves for themselves and how they can do it.
To receive instruction from an inspired teacher or from inspired books has been the most common way in most cases resulting in enlightenment. This, of course, has been accompanied by following the practices, doing the exercises, making the studies, and undergoing the purifications required by the teaching. But there have also been a few cases where enlightenment has come by itself, spontaneously, without either the help of a teacher or the labour of a training. Such men can thereafter radiate their grace as much as the others but, not having travelled the path to enlightenment, cannot properly or adequately or satisfactorily engage in teaching and act the master.
It is not for a master to make his disciples' decisions for them.
His statements may or may not be justified by argument and certified by documentary quotations for he leaves it to others to take them up or not as clues, hints, suggestions, to be tried experimentally on the way.
He cannot tell with certainty whether he is on the right path. It is then that he needs a guide.
The master will benefit his students not only by his verbal or written instruction but also by his example and counsel.
He does not insist, like lesser men, on making his disciples into facsimiles of himself, subject solely to the influence of his personality.
Those who expect him to work some spiritual sleight-of-hand to turn their lower nature into the higher one instantly will not find fulfilment of their expectation.
The help which the master gives is intended to bring the disciples to the point where they can help themselves--or he is no true master.
His work is to tell men what they have deep inside themselves.
It is not only on the stage reached in growth that the kind of teaching given a man must depend, but also on his temperament.
The adept's external moods are infinitely variable, simply because humanity is infinitely variable, and he changes his conversation to suit the mood of his hearers. It is never his aim to appear wise by giving out ideas beyond the understanding of his audience. Always he adjusts his teaching to meet the needs of his students. He is quite unmoved if others think from his variability of behaviour that he knows not Brahman.
By refusing to divide his mental life, by stubbornly holding to this higher level of statement however much it bewilders, repels, puzzles, or dismays undeveloped audiences, by rejecting all compromise of principles, convictions, or doctrines, the teacher of nonduality stirs and shakes the seeker into the beginnings of new experience and forces him to stop and discover his own inadequacy and think out afresh his position, outlook, or beliefs.
Anyone who expounds this, the highest of all metaphysical positions, puts himself and his audience in a paradoxical position. Those who say they are his disciples obviously do not understand his teachings, for if they had mastered them they would know that there is only the One; that the disciple-teacher idea insinuates plurality. Indeed, there would then be many egos surrounding another ego, many little illusions surrendering to yet another illusion.
Seeking the sage
"Association with the sages happens partly by merits and partly by devotion to God, but always as if by accident like a fruit suddenly fallen from empty void."--Tripura Rahasya
It is a fact which wide experience confirms that a spiritual guide, one who has himself realized the goal, one who has both the willingness and competence to lead others individually step by step along the path, is hard to find.
If you want to meet such a man, it will not be by seeing his body with your eyes nor by hearing his speech with your ears. It will be by sitting with him in the deep silence, whether of your own mind if you can achieve it, or of his if you cannot.
The would-be disciple must feel strong affinity for a master and the master must feel strong sympathy for him before any lasting relationship can be set up between them.
There is one master to whom the seeker is predestined to come and before whom he is predestined to bow above all others.
When the first meeting with the destined master takes place, the seeker will experience an emotion such as he has had with no other person before. The inner attraction will be immense, the feeling of fated gravity intense.
He may have a strange feeling of having always had this affinity with him and being destined to have it always in the future. This arises partly from association in a previous reincarnation and partly from the destiny of this present one.
The sympathetic accord between a piano and a tuning fork is like the affinity between a silently blessing sage and a devoted person.
With him one feels that one can talk and be heard and be understood, whereas with so many others one can only talk and be heard.
He may not be a perfect master, he may commit grievous errors of judgement and display regrettable deficiencies of personality, yet still, he will be your master. No one can take his place, no one else can arouse the feelings of affinity and generate the harmony which he does. If because of his defects or lacks you reject him for another man, you will be sorry for it again and again until you return.
It sometimes happens--although uncommonly--that the feeling of inner affinity with a certain illuminate exists deeply and strongly in striking opposition to the attitude taken up intellectually towards him. The desire for personal independence of thought, movement, and self-expression may prevent external submission. The attitude of self-reliance may be so ingrained that one is reluctant to become dependent on another. There may be a marked difference of doctrinal view. The physical actions or arrangements of the illuminate may be disapproved. Yet the subtle inexplicable mystical attraction may be overwhelming. His wisest course is to recognize that this is his divinely ordained spiritual godfather, to confess his sonship, and to accept the relationship rather than resist or reject it. No label need be affixed to it, mysterious though it be and certainly not the conventional master-pupil one. He will humbly be outwardly free but inwardly tied.
The process of differentiation must inexorably take place and nobody can stop it even if one wanted to. For a teacher has to find his "own." Those who belong elsewhere will sooner or later leave him, but those who belong with him will stick on through storm and sunshine. How foolish then to try and hold followers against their wish; what a waste of time and emotion to seek permanent discipleship where in the very nature of the case it is impossible.
Those who are fit to follow him, who are bound by ancient and unseen ties will continue to do so; but the others--whom he accepts through soft heart and soft brain rather than right judgement and ripe understanding--will sooner or later avail themselves of the opportunity to walk another path and follow another light.
Many are too modest to venture to seek his acquaintance personally, although charmed by his teaching, and so miss the possible chance while he is still alive.
If he wants desperately to talk to the adept, let him throw his thought on paper and send it in, today or twenty years later--it matters not. Nothing can change between them if God has appointed the adept to a spiritual relation with him. It is above earth, time, and space. It will be fulfilled only in the kingdom of heaven.
He ought to make the most and the best of such a chance.
Approaching the sage
Unless an adept is approached in the right receptive spirit, he will reveal nothing of what he is or what he has to give.
We must enter their presence as humble heart-open seekers; we must be teachable if we would not return empty-handed.
The prospect of having to meet such a man frightens some persons, although when it is actualized the fear melts away in the benign aura of his kindliness. It is the reminder of their own weaknesses, their own dishonesties, which the meeting seems likely to create, the possibility that his clairvoyance may penetrate the ugly side of their character, which instigates their hesitation.
They are somewhat over-awed by his reputation, or his status, and so often leave his presence with unvoiced questions.
His reticence is not invincible. He will break it, and gladly, if your interest or hunger encourage him to do so.
If he has to meet someone who is regarded as a sage, he may quickly feel the stillness surrounding the man. If they sit down together and he feels disinclined to break the silence, it would be better not to do it but to take it as a signal to flout convention and let the initiative be taken by the sage himself.
The aspirant need hide nothing from such a man, for the depths of human sin and misery as well as good and joy are alike open to his understanding.
One enters his presence with humility--for here is a man immeasurably greater than oneself--and with relief, for it soothes and calms as nothing else does or can.
Enquirers can get from meeting a Master a benefit proportionate to the attitude they bring to it: if faith, devotion, humility, they open his door to the same extent; if scepticism, doubt, coldness or suspicion, this door remains shut.
The student may have reached a crisis in his inner life when he met one so much more advanced than he. The other may foresee that there will be repercussions on the physical plane as a result of the inner changes taking place. The student should not fear to follow the intuitive urge which he will feel and he should be told that he must not remain enslaved by his past.
After a meeting with a master, it is more prudent to go straight home and meditate upon it than to go hither and thither on any other business. For that day is a serious one, that event a momentous one, and forces can then be released to the receptive, stilled, and waiting mind that are shut out by the busy indifferent one.
Qualifications for discipleship
The sage is not eager to welcome those whose chief qualification is only an ephemeral enthusiasm. To admit the wrong class is to bring eventual disappointment to the student and eventual loss of time and energy to the teacher. Hence he must avoid contacts likely to prove unprofitable to the candidate and unsatisfactory to himself. The only way to make a success of his tuition is to choose his students, not merely to be chosen by them. Every candidate must be adequately qualified before admission to his intimate circle, and must pass through a probationary novitiate before acceptance as a regular full-fledged student. He cannot afford exaggerated optimism about human beings. Hence those who are silently enrolled as pupils must first serve a term of probation, to be weeded out if proved unfit and to be rejected if proved unreliable. The proof of their fitness will therefore come from themselves.
Discipleship under such an adept is a privilege which can never be bought. It is a truism that almost everything in this world has its price in gold. Here, however, is one thing which can be bought only by the price of personal qualification.
There are certain qualifications which a candidate must possess before he can be accepted as a personal disciple. This is the old tradition in the Orient. It is considered a waste of time for anyone lacking such fitness to seek initiation, which would bring confusion to himself and danger to others. Consequently, although an Oriental master may give advice, grant interviews, or correspond with hundreds of persons, he will personally instruct or train very few of them.
The candidate for admission into a Japanese Zen training community was at first strongly but courteously refused admission. If he was half-hearted about the matter he departed and was not heard of again. If however he was wholeheartedly keen, he returned again and again but still met with refusals, ending even in being forcibly thrown out! But if he applied once more after this happened, he was cordially welcomed and put on probation.
He too has the power to be a master. But he himself must evoke it.
Too many are wholly unprepared to become the pupil of a master and tread the way of discipleship. Instead of asking for what they have neither the strength to endure willingly nor the balance to pursue safely, it would be wiser and more prudent to prepare themselves first.
Discipleship imposes certain responsibilities upon the disciple also. It is not a one-way street. Not only is correct instruction on the teacher's side needed, but conscious effort on the disciple's also.
The teacher is compelled to restrict his help to those seekers who have already made the necessary elementary efforts in their own behalf.
It is impossible to avoid the happening that a number of persons will persistently attach themselves to a teacher of philosophy and, out of compassion, he will let them remain, although they are only capable of absorbing and following religio-mystical doctrine. In most of these cases, the persons will--after having gained a certain amount of benefit--feel that the philosophic path and goal is somewhat beyond them, and so retire from it of their own accord. In other cases, after this period of benefit has elapsed, the teacher may shake them off by some act or remark which hurts their ego or shocks their preconception. Those who still remain despite these tests will be treated with especial care thereafter and given the blessing of his grace.
The custodians of this teaching judge their responsibilities well when, in view of the power which is released by its secret exercises, they are extremely careful in accepting a candidate and even then admit the accepted neophyte only after a period of probational training and discipline.
No one, not even an adept, can help another when that other lacks the capacity to recognize help when it is brought to him. This is why the wisest men have been so guarded in their contacts with the masses, so reserved in their publication of the truth, so seemingly detached from their fellows.
If they cannot comprehend his quality intuitively by his silent presence alone, words will be useless.
When a spiritual teacher is asked to accept a student, he tries to discourage the seeker, because he knows by personal experience what a long and painful road it is. One has to learn to crush his own personal feelings. This is doubly difficult for a woman because nearly all women are more emotional than men. The essence of this path is the giving up of the "I," the ego, which means that in a crisis the heart must weep tears of blood. Deep wounds are made, which only time can heal. They will be healed some day and when the storm of hurt feelings goes completely, a great peace arises.
Whoever wants to seek for Truth will learn more if he sets up as a standard: Nothing but the best--why settle for less?
No man can function as a spiritual counsellor for long without sadly noting how few finish the grade, how many slip into a smug complacency.
Buddha said: "Seeking the way, you must exert yourselves and strive with diligence. It is not enough to have seen me! A sick man may be cured by the healing power of medicine and will be rid of all his ailments without beholding the physician. He who does not do what I command sees me in vain. This brings no profit. Whilst he who lives far off from where I am and yet walks righteously is ever near me."
The teacher is expected to put the candidate on a probation of testing period for a whole year if possible, for six months if not, for three months at the very least, before accepting him as fit for instruction.
He can leave his wisdom to his disciples only in the form of words, which are merely its shadow. They must work on themselves, gain it afresh if they want it.
Any more than a parent can pass on all his experience to his children, the sage cannot pass on what he has learned to those who are unready for it.
If they are initiated into the secrets of this hidden teaching, it is because they were well equipped to study it. It is not a privilege arbitrarily given to a select few.
The great helpers and prophets have made little more than a dent in the total volume of human misery and human evil. God offers time and guidance but man must supply his own effort and his own aspiration.
Master-disciple relationship, general
In the annals of wisdom it is said that hard it is to find a true master, but harder still to become accepted by him. For the relationship between pupil and teacher develops into a grave one, with certain self-sinking duties on the former's part and certain self-giving responsibilities on the latter's.
We know that Plato regarded his birth during his master's lifetime as better than all the good fortune that aristocratic birth had bestowed upon him. And yet Socrates himself declared that he had no regular disciples and that anyone or everyone was free to hear him.
It is better for both master and disciple if their times together are short and well-spaced apart. For then the master will be better regarded, more respected, and found mentally, while the disciple will be less manacled, more independent, less imitative, and more correctly related inwardly. In brief, the actuality will be more commensurate with the expectation.
Their relationship must have a solid foundation on which it can be built. It must have love, affinity, and trust.
The disciple who was most constantly in attendance on Buddha was Ananda. The disciple who followed him about for more years and for longer journeys than any other was Ananda. Yet the disciple who was among the last of all to attain Nirvana was also Ananda. The lesson is that if a disciple gets attached to a competent master his progress will be facilitated, but if he gets over-attached to the personality of his teacher, then his further progress will be hindered. For his ultimate task is to free himself from all attachments and to learn to stand resolutely on his own feet.
His personal career and domestic decisions have to be made independently of the teacher's advice as long as he is still on probation. Only after formal acceptance and the final sealing of the inner relation could any spiritual teacher accept the responsibilities involved in helping a student form decisions. Until then, all experiences, whether pleasant or unpleasant, will be helpful because either the student will learn from the results of his own decisions if he analyses them impersonally, or he will show what is in him by the manner in which he faces the tests and ordeals of this probationary path. Of course, in perplexing circumstances it is quite difficult to make his own judgements. But every difficulty causes an inner struggle which has its evolutionary value from a long-range point of view.
Some men are cast in too independent a mold to become any other man's disciple. Whether this is for their benefit or loss, depends on the individual case.
With the passage of time the disciple should be led toward more and more self-sufficiency, if he is to realize the goal one day. Yet we find too many of the Oriental disciples showing less and less of this quality the longer they stay with a master. This is evidence of his failure to lead them aright, and of the fact that a man may be an illumined soul and yet not be a competent teacher.
All this heavy leaning on a master is a kind of secondhand experience, a living and copying of someone else's life, an imitation and not a realization.
Those who depend too much on a master violate one of the principal conditions of yoga, which is solitude. The yogi is to isolate himself not only physically but even inwardly from all other persons. This is because he is to turn to God alone.
It is not merely an association but an active collaboration.
The disciples are enslaved to their Master, the Master is enslaved by his disciples. A real relationship between them, with true spiritual profit, can begin when both sides can give and receive in utter freedom.
The advanced mystic appreciates the genuine and sincere statement that he has been taken by someone as a guide. However, if he does not set himself up as a teacher and consequently does not give personal instruction, the student must be reminded that his guide is a fellow student only. Nevertheless, if the student feels that it helps him to do what he has done, and if he understands fully what his position is, he should continue; and the advanced mystic to whom he has turned will remember it, let him not doubt that.
Master is symbol of Overself
Those disciples who can see their master only in his physical body and find him only in his monastic ashram see and find only his illusory appearance, not the real master. He can be seen and found only in themselves. The other and outward manifestation is a substitute who exists for those who are unable to understand mentalism or are unwilling to take the trouble to do so.
It is the mystic's ego which constructs the image of his teacher or saviour, and his Overself which animates that image with divine power. This explains why earnest pupils of false teachers have made good progress and why saviours dead for thousands of years still seem to help their followers.
The man who creates a new movement, pioneers a great reform, brings a better faith to a nation, or marches a victorious army across a continent is the burning lens of the new idea that is to appear. There must be a definite centre on the physical plane; there must be a human focus through which a new concept can shine out upon humanity. In the same way, there is needed a human teacher through which the Infinite can move the unawakened out of their apathy, give forth its light to instruct men's minds and its heat to inspire their hearts. Such can be no ordinary teacher, of course, for he must carry credentials brought down from heaven.
Every circumstance and environment, every fresh experience and personal contact is an instruction sent by the one unseen Infinite Mind, who should be regarded as the real Master.
The shortest way from ego-consciousness to the higher self's is represented by the master, by devotion to his person and following of his precepts. For he alone is, at one and the same time, both visibly outside us as a physical being and invisibly inside us as a mental presence.
"The Orientals believe that the Teacher is sent by God to seeking humanity. We believe that the Overself within them draws him to them. He is then used as a medium to help them until they can become conscious of their own Overself. If the fullness and depth of the Godhead are inaccessible to all, its intermediary within is not. This--the purest, deepest, quietest part of them--is the Overself, and this is where the Teacher really lives when he withdraws from outer activity. At other times his presence acts as a link for those who would otherwise have to construct their own."
In the end, it is no external person who can save us but only the internal soul itself. The master may point out the way to discover that soul, he may even be useful in other capacities, but he cannot do what it is ultimately the business of the divine in us to do.
Only when well-advanced does he learn that the help he thinks he got from a guru came often from the Universal Being. It was his own personal thoughts which supplied the guru image, but the power which worked was from that Being.
Speaking loosely, almost figuratively, it may be said that in a kind of way, the master localizes the Infinite Being for those who cannot reach it directly. This is actually true during the long period of discipleship and quest, for that is still the period of illusion. The final attainment puts an end to illusion, and then the sense of infinitude which was felt with the master is found to have its source within the disciple himself.
It is their own action which brings them into the relation of disciple; it is not anything of his doing. What is his role? Certainly not the one which fits the common idea of a guru, the religio-mystic one. He only makes them aware by his mere being, silent presence, or by speech or writing, of a higher level to which their response is aspiration, to which they add discipleship.
He calls them his students; they call themselves his disciples. The difference is wide and significant of their respective standpoints.
A relationship which has not been started, cannot be terminated. A sage who, in his own view, attaches no one to himself is free of responsibility for anyone, however much others insist on calling themselves his disciples. But such sages are the rarest among the three kinds.
When he knows that it is useless to seek real being anywhere else than within himself, he knows aright. No distant place, no other person, is needed. "A fool seeks for the Buddha," wrote the Ch'an Master Hui Hai centuries ago, "not for the mind. A sage seeks for Mind, not for the Buddha."
When you come to see that his presence is not required to keep you close to the truth, that it is with you, in you, and a part of you and so his coming or going is really irrelevant, you will begin to feel an indestructible peace.
He knows well enough that he has no power to exalt a man spiritually or to change him morally. When that seems to happen, it is really the man's Overself which is the effective agent and which has been using his destiny to prepare the man for the event long ahead of its actual and visible occurrence.
The Master's purpose is to bring the disciple into the same condition as that which he himself enjoys; and because it is an internal condition, the disciple can make his efforts to find it effective only by approaching even the Master himself internally also, and not externally.
The worship which is directed on a physical level toward the figure of a fallible human being, must be deflected on the philosophic level toward the impersonal Overself of the worshipper. He will continue to honour the man but only for what he really is, not as a god.
The true disciples seek to attach themselves to no embodied master; how can they when freedom is the goal? They will honour and consult such a man but they will not desert the disembodied Principle within themselves for him. The inward freedom which opens the way to It must be matched by an outward one.
Your idea that the Teacher is the Overself is rarely found among Westerners but often among Orientals. But how can this be possible? What is the Overself? Answer this correctly and you will comprehend how impossible such an idea must be.
Go back to the hidden Ground of everything, the passive Mind or pure Being, the First, the unconditioned Origin of all. This is utterly inconceivable and unknowable. The very concept of it, this infinite mystery of mysteries, is so awesome that the little mind of man hesitates and trembles when it even approaches it in the deepest meditation. It is beyond the capacity of that mind to penetrate the reality behind the concept. A mediating principle is necessary here. This exists in the Overself, which is nothing more than a germ of that same infinite M I N D, although to the adventurous mystic it seems the unlimited End of all.
If this were not present in man, not only would mystical experience be impossible for him but all religious intuition would be mythical to him. This is the divinity within him, but it is only a spark. The fullness of the flame is with the Godhead alone.
This is why philosophy repudiates the Oriental notion which merges the human individual in God or the Occidental notion which identifies Jesus with God. In the first case, the merger is actually with the Overself. In the second case, his inner life took on a divine flavour; his mind entered a deep intimacy with the Overself. He was always conscious of the sacred presence in his heart. But even though Jesus came so much nearer to God than has the rest of mankind--with the exception of the other Masters--he still remained within the limits of human organization. Where Christian religion goes beyond such a claim it is the result of a mixture of unseeking ignorance and deliberate imposture. But in the earliest Christian circles, which had some pretense to culture, the truth was known. The name "Christos" or "Christ" meant man's higher self and was used in the same way that the term "Overself" is used today. "Jesus Christ" meant that the man Jesus had been "Christed" by becoming consciously fused and unified with his Overself.
Hence you may correctly say that the Teacher, Prophet, or Guide is a medium for the Overself. While he is still embodied, still using an intellect and body (an ego), he can only be a medium, not more. He is the Overself but working through, and therefore necessarily limited by, a human individuality. It is true that in the deepest rapt meditation he can divest himself of this individuality and become the pure Overself in awareness, but that is an unusual state and you must consider him as he is in ordinary life.
It is the practice of a holier mediumship than that which, among spiritists, commonly passes by this name. The spirit which takes possession of him is no human one but Divine Power in him itself, the Overself.
He is a human agent of the superhuman grace.
He is a transmitter, or a carrier, of divine forces, radiations, and states of being.
Forget the teacher's person, remember the teacher's doctrine.
He is the gate through which his disciples pass to reach the higher power.
He is symbolic of the Overself's reality as well as an expression of its power.
A complete surrender of will and reason to any teacher is risky--for both persons. Only a truly great soul can afford the risk. In any case the final submission should be made to God alone, or rather to the god within, the Overself.
Since the connection between him and the Universal Spirit is a direct one, any submission of his inner being to another man--even if for the ostensible purpose of realizing his connection and attaining fuller awareness of it--would not be a help but an interference, not a continuance of the path travelled towards this objective but a deviation from it.
When he has fully learned this lesson he will look to no other human being for that which his heavenly Father alone ought to be looked to.
True relationship is internal
The Sufis consider the relation between teacher and disciple as a sacred eternal tie that can never be broken, as the mystical union by which two souls become so close by the telepathic link as to live and feel almost as one.
Between the two there is an impalpable bond which keeps them spiritually in contact. There is an intangible cable along which messages are conveyed and through which communion is made.
It is a privilege to come into the company of a great soul, but even more so to come into intuitive affinity with him. This is far more necessary than coming into geographical propinquity with him, for when that happens the link will not be severed by death, but his unseen presence will continue to be a vital thing.
Either at acceptance or later, the disciple experiences an ecstatic reverie of communion with the teacher's soul. There is a sensation of space filled with light, of self liberated from bondage, of peace being the law of life. The disciple will understand that this is the real initiation from the hands of the teacher rather than the formal one. The disciple will probably be so carried away by the experience as to wish it to happen every day. But this cannot be. It can happen only at long intervals. It is rather to be taken as a sign of the wonderful relation which has sprung up between them and as a token of eventual attainment.(P)
This silent wordless unavowed bond holds him far tighter and ties him far longer than any emotional vocally expressed one could do.
The true initiation proceeds in perfect silence. No words are needed.
It was a lifting-up into his mind when you had reached the very edge of your own mind.
From that moment the master's presence will be felt constantly as close to him, not leaving him but remaining with him. They will be together in a tender indescribable relationship.
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.
In the case of initiated disciples, suspicion cuts off the force inside the inner cable at once, while doubt renders it only intermittently effective. In the case of persons who approach him from the public outside, these attitudes yield consequences which depend partly on the master's own attitude toward them and partly on their karma.
Because the master knows and regards his own self to be impersonal and immaterial, mental and not physical, the aspirant does not have to meet him personally in order to get inspiration from him. It is enough to meet him mentally by faith, remembrance, and devotion to get the desired result. Indeed, unless the aspirant makes inner contact with the master he does not become a disciple at all. No outer contact and no verbal communication will suffice to give more than a pretense of discipleship; the reality can be given from within alone. The truth is that no one becomes the disciple of an adept merely by verbal intercourse; he becomes so only when he has attained enough purity and developed enough power to meet the adept telepathically in meditation. Until that time he is still in the outer court of the temple.
The mere physical proximity of teacher and disciple does not constitute their association. Unless the lesser man catches by empathy and cultivates by effort something of the greater one's thoughts and feelings, he does not associate with him at all, whatever his body may be doing. It is not the person of a master but his Idea that is important.
There is no distance in Real Being. Therefore the disciple living in one place on this planet is as near to the master as the disciple living in another country. The belief that his personal proximity in a physical body is better than his mental proximity in spiritual development is a human and understandable illusion.
Where the disciple is attuned and devoted, the master genuine and compassionate, there is, there can be, no failure in communication between them. The master's presence will remain with the disciple, will not desert him, and will remain fresh even when a thousand miles in space and two hundred weeks in time separate them.
The mysterious feeling of the presence of his spiritual guide will come unsought at some times but it must also be deliberately cultivated at most, if not all, times. This is done by holding his mental picture before the mind's eye.
The inner contact with the master may variously express itself in vision or in feeling, either separately or both together. With the advanced disciple it will not matter how it is expressed, for the result in contact and communion will be the same.
The disciple must feel that he is living inside the teacher at times and that the teacher is living inside him at other times.
He will find, by actual personal experience, that the master's words are true, that the master's inward presence is often near him in ordinary hours and sometimes startlingly vivid in meditative hours.
He has to catch the mental radiations from his master and transform them into intuitions and inspirations as a radio set catches electrical waves from a broadcasting station and transforms them into sounds.
The disciple who believes himself to be in continual contact with a master unconsciously projects his own influence, limitation, and suggestion into the figure he sees, the message he receives, or the intuition he feels.
To achieve this frequent inner contact with the spiritual counsellor telepathically, the disciple must relax his mind from everyday affairs and concentrate upon the quest anew, must separate it from its burden of cares and desires and doubts, must let everything else go except the thought of the counsellor with whom he seeks to re-establish the consciousness of inward contact. He must abate the everlasting dominance of the personal ego and come as a humble child into the presence which he seeks to invoke.
When this personal purification has been undergone and inner contact has been established, the disciple will find his master ever present and recognizable when called upon, ever responsive to the obeisance of his thought and feeling.
The response from the master flows back to the disciple quite automatically every time he fulfils the required conditions for establishing inner contact.
The response from his guide will be automatic and telepathic. The latter does not need to be aware of what is happening, and in most cases will not be.
It is not often the master himself who thus personally communicates with, helps, inspires, or uplifts the student; but it is more often his unconscious influence, his unconscious power.
Just as magnetism is actually transmitted to a piece of inert steel by its mere contact with a magnet, so spiritual inspiration is transmitted to a disciple by his physical or mental contact with a master.
The impact of such telepathic blessings upon the disciple's mind may be instantaneously felt. Or it may first start a subconscious process working which will produce the same result more slowly and less certainly.
Although there is always this general response to each of the disciple's turnings towards his master, there is also the special response deliberately made on the master's own initiative at special times and impressed on the disciple.
There will come moments when a serene peace and an impersonal joy well up without external cause and quite suddenly within his being. They may or may not be accompanied by a mental picture of the Master, but he will intuitively feel that they derive from him and instantly connect their arisal with him. He will not be wrong. For whether at that moment exactly, or at an earlier one, the Master has indeed remembered the disciple.
An important part of the process used by a master is to hold the mental picture of his disciple continually inside his own heart. Inevitably, this draws forth the pupil's affection and creates desire for union with his master. The effect will be like the sun holding a tiny seedling continually within its rays. The seedling cannot escape natural growth through the action of the sunlight nor the inevitable seeking for and love of the sun itself. In the same way the pupil, who is thus given an adept's grace, may depart from or desert him but in the end will have to recognize the presence of the adept, the efficiency of the adept, and spontaneously love the adept again. To complete this process, the pupil should keep the mental picture of his master continually in his heart, too. This directly helps himself and enables the master to help him inwardly more effectively. If the latter did nothing more than this, its power would be enough to advance the disciple a long way. But of course he does so much more by way of pointing out the path, clearing intellectual doubts and difficulties, encouraging, inspiring, and so on.
The help is given telepathically and the student will begin to sense during quiet periods and at odd times the current of peace flowing toward him.
It is not the human thoughts which the teacher sends out, so much as the spiritual power within the disciple which is aroused by those thoughts, that matters.(P)
We are asked why, if thought-transference be a fact, the hibernating hermit should not still represent the loftiest achievement, should not in fact be as antisocial as he superficially seems. He may be hidden away in a mountain cave, but is not his mind free to roam where it likes and has not its power been raised to a supreme degree by his mystical practices? We reply that if he is merely concerned with resting in his inner tranquillity undisturbed by the thought of others, then his achievement is only a self-centered one.
There is much confusion amongst students about these yogis who are supposed to sit in solitude and help humanity telepathically. It is not only yogis who sit in solitude who are doing so. Nor is it needful to be a solitary to be able to do so. The truth is that most yogis who live in solitude are still in the student stage, still trying to develop themselves. And even in the rarer cases where a yogi has perfected himself in meditation, he may be using the latter simply to bask egotistically in inner peace for his own benefit and without a thought for others. It is only when a man is a philosophic yogi that he will be deliberately using his meditational self-absorptions to uplift individuals and help humanity for their good. If the mystic is using his mental powers for altruistic ends, if he is engaged in telepathically helping others at a distance, then he has gone beyond the ordinary mystical level and we salute him for it.
The Adept will not try to influence any other man, much less try to control him. Therefore, his notion of serving another by enlightening him does not include the activity of proselytizing, but rather the office of teaching. Such service means helping a man to understand for himself and to see for himself what he could not see and understand before. The Adept does this not only by using the ordinary methods of speech, writing, and example, but much more by an extraordinary method which only an Adept can employ. In this he puts himself in a passive attitude towards the other person's ego and thus registers the character, thought, and feeling in one swift general impression, which manifests itself within his own consciousness like a photograph upon a sensitized film. He recognizes this as a picture of the evolutionary degree to which the other person has attained, but he recognizes it also as a picture of the false self with which the other person identifies himself. No matter how much sympathy he feels for the other man, no matter how negative are the emotions or the thoughts he finds reproducing themselves within his own being, it is without effect upon himself. This is because he has outgrown both the desires and the illusions which still reign over the other man's mind. With the next step in his technique he challenges that self as being fearful for its own unworthy and ultimately doomed existence, and finally dismisses the picture of it in favour of the person's true self, the divine Overself. Then he throws out of his mind every thought of the other person's imperfect egoistic condition and replaces it by the affirmation of his true spiritual selfhood.
Thus, if the Adept begins his service to another who attracted by his wisdom seeks counselling or by his godliness seeks his inspiration, by noting the defects in the character of the person, he ends it by ignoring them. He then images the seeker as standing serenely in the light, free from the ego and its desires, strong and wise and pure because living in the truth. The Adept closes his eyes to the present state of the seeker, to all the evidences of distress and weakness and darkness which he earlier noted, and opens them to the real, innermost state of the seeker, where he sees him united with the Overself. He persists in silently holding this thought and this picture, and he holds it with the dynamic intensity of which he only is capable. The effect of this inner working sometimes appears immediately in the seeker's consciousness, but more likely it will take some time to rise up from the subconscious mind. Even if it takes years to manifest itself, it will certainly do so in the end.
We know that one mind can influence another through the medium of speech or writing: we know also that it may even influence another directly and without any medium through the silent power of telepathy. All this work takes place on the level of thought and emotion. But the Adept may not only work on this level: it is possible for him to work on a still deeper level. He can go into the innermost core of his own being and there touch the innermost core of the other man's being. In this way, Spirit speaks to Spirit, but without words or even thoughts. Within his innermost being there is a mysterious emptiness to which the Adept alone gains access during meditation or trance. All thoughts die at its threshold as he enters it. But when eventually he returns to the ordinary state and the thinking activity starts again, then those first series of thoughts are endowed with a peculiar power, are impregnated with a magical potency. Their echoes reverberate telepathically across space in the minds of others to whom they may be directed deliberately by the Adept. Their influence upon sympathetic and responsive persons is at first too subtle and too deep to be recognized, but eventually they reach the surface of consciousness.
This indeed is the scientific fact behind the popular medieval European and contemporary Oriental belief in the virtue of an Adept's blessing and the value of an Adept's initiation. The Adept's true perception of him is somewhere registered like a seed in the subconscious mind of the receptive person, and will in the course of time work its way up through the earth of the unconscious like a plant until it appears above ground in the conscious mind. If it is much slower in showing its effects, it is also much more effectual, much more lasting than the ordinary way of communicating thought or transmitting influence. In this way, by his own inner growth he will begin to perceive, little by little, for himself the truth about his own inner being and outer life in the same way that the Adept perceives it. This is nothing less than a passage from the ego's point of view to the higher one.(P)
The picture of bringing a disciple to God for inspiration, improvement, purification, or blessing belongs to an inferior mode of working. The superior one is to shut him out of consciousness, along with his defects, and let in only the presence of God--nothing else. This is nonduality.
The master's presence has a paradoxical effect upon disciples. While with him they feel that they amount to nothing, that the contrast between his inner greatness and their inner littleness is tremendous and they are humbled to the dust in consequence. But soon after they leave his presence an opposite reaction develops. They feel that they do amount to something, that they are approaching the verge of spiritual attainment, and they are stimulated and excited as a result.
The fact that a teacher does not permit a physical meeting, even after some years of waiting, does not mean that he no longer regards you as his disciple.
Discipleship is a mental relationship that needs only a single meeting on the physical plane to become established. The student should remember that in such a relationship it is the mental rather than the physical contact that counts.
Deprived of the physical presence of his master, he is forced to seek and find the mental presence. At first he does this as a substitute for what he cannot get, but later he learns to accept it as the reality.
It is not really necessary to have more than one physical-plane meeting with anyone whom he chooses as a spiritual guide, because after that the inner current of help can be found on the mental plane. Such an inner link is much more real than an outer one and will in the course of time provide him with all the help he needs.
The image of the master will afterwards come back to the disciple again and again after this first meeting. They may never have a second one on the physical plane, yet its inner relation, the mental contact, will never die.
Several years may pass without a single meeting between them, and yet it will make no essential difference in their tie, or in the love which the one feels and the compassion which the other gives.
It must be pointed out again that a single meeting on the physical plane is usually quite enough to start the current working which provides a contact and draws spiritual help. The real help is inward and mental, and it is drawn partly to the degree of his faith in the source of that help and partly to the degree of his obedience to the practical teachings.
Through the use of memory and imagination in recapturing the picture of a first meeting, he may maintain the inner contact.
The spiritual help which he may be in a position to receive, will come just as effectively on the mental plane if he has enough faith in the principles of mentalism to believe that it can come this way.
The master not only becomes the inspirer of his interior life but also the symbol of it. When time and distance separate them, it is enough for the remembrance of his name to find his presence, and sometimes even his power, within the disciple.
The best remembrance, and the one which will please the advanced mystic most, is a renewed effort at self-improvement, and the renewed determination to eliminate evil qualities from the character.
He will come to the belief that, at certain times, the master is actually beside him, inspiring or warning him.
So vivid and intense are these experiences that the disciple believes he is holding genuine converse with his master.
The disciple who wants to "tune in" to his distant master's meditation should note the hour at which the latter usually sits for this purpose each day or night, and then find out what local time in his own district corresponds to it. If he himself will then meditate at this hour, he will have a better chance to "tune in" than at any other one; but of course a fixed inner contact will always help him to do so anyway.
The human embryo gets its earliest nutrition in the mother's matrix by absorbing it from the fluids which surround it; this process of nourishment by osmosis leads to its growth and development until the first of its organs, the heart, is born. Then, with the later appearance of blood-tubes, the little creature begins to pump blood and feed itself. Osmosis is a process which may help us to understand its parallel--Sat-sang--in the disciple-master relationship.
The guru and disciple sit in meditation, the one drawing the other to this divinity within.
It is a mingling of minds, a contact of hearts, where waves of peace pass from master to pupil, stilling restless thoughts and healing the world's hurts.
He will draw strength and imbibe calm from these meditations. These qualities, drawn from the master, will infuse themselves in a mysterious manner into his own being, remaining vivid for hours, sometimes for days.
Such experiences of a seemingly divine inflow are not imaginary ones but are the genuine reception of grace. Help is being given even when there is external silence. Do not measure its volume against the volume of physical communications.
Why does he sometimes see the guide's photograph emanating light and charging him with spiritual power? A photo, after all, is a light-phenomenon charged with the electromagnetic ray connection of the person photographed. When the guide tries to help, his auric mental energy immediately expresses itself through the picture and affects the seeker's mind as its percipient. However, at a certain stage of development, when that energy of the Overself which the Indians call kundalini is being awakened so as to enable him to do what is then put into his hands to do, the photo carries something more than mere thought; its mental radiations are actually transmuted into light-radiations and so it may at times appear to be suffused with light. And, needless to say, the most sensitive points in such a picture are the eyes; the help given will therefore affect these points most.
The person who is distracted by the Master's physical picture and by the attraction or repulsion it exercises on his personal feelings will not be able to attend intuitively to the Master's mental picture and spiritual aura.
The teacher feels that some advanced students are bits of his own self functioning, however imperfectly, at a distance, so loyal are they to him and so devoted to the same cause.
Because this ever-and-everywhere-present Mind has become the basis of his life, even when he has travelled to the other side of the world, he always has a curious feeling of never being absent from his pupils and of his pupils' never being absent from himself. And because of the intimate telepathic communion which is constantly going on between both, they also will have occasional flashes of the same timeless spaceless feeling concerning him.
The power of the higher Self is such that he who becomes its channel can affect others--if Grace be granted them by their own higher Self--by the mere thought alone. He will need neither to be near, to touch or to speak to them.
The illuminate can transmit his grace directly from mind to mind or indirectly by means of the visual glance, the physical touch, the spoken word, or the written letter.
He finds that, by the strange magic of telepathy, he can pass on to certain other minds something of the lustrous beatitude which pervades his own heart.
To those who reject the idea of a Master's grace and declare their disbelief in its possibility in a world governed by strict cause and effect, the answer is: 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? And to those who deny that he can transmit his own inner life to another person, the answer is: In its fullness he certainly cannot do so; but he certainly can 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 deniers explain why both the power of the Master and the sense of his presence pervade the disciple's existence for many years after his initiation if not for the rest of his life. Finally, it is a fact, but only personal experience can prove it, that inspiration may be felt coming strongly from a Master who is not physically present but far away. What is this inspiration but something added to the disciple which he would not otherwise have had--that is, grace!
Those who turn to an illumined man for inspiration have the possibility of getting it, no matter how large a number they may be. They can attune themselves to his mind by sympathy, faith, and devotion--conjoined with sensitivity. Even if they all turn to him at one and the same moment, the inspirer can come into direct inner touch with them through the medium of a telepathic mental bridge. This is done automatically, spontaneously, and subconsciously.
With a Teacher, it is the inward relationship that matters. What, then, is going to happen when there is only one Teacher and many thousands of students? How can all the wishes, dreams, and thoughts reach him, yet leave him time for his work? Obviously, it cannot be done. So Nature steps in and helps out. She has arranged a system very much like a telephone switchboard. The incoming "calls" are plugged into the subconscious mind of the Teacher. The "line" itself is composed out of the student's own faith and devotion; he alone can make this connection. Then, his wishes, dreams, and thoughts travel along it to the subconscious of the Teacher, where they are registered and dealt with according to their needs. In this way, they do reach the Teacher, who can, at the same time, attend to his own work. Sometimes, Nature deems it advisable to transfer a particular message to the conscious level. In such a case, it may be answered on either the conscious or subconscious level. Occasionally, too, the Teacher deliberately sends one out when he is guided to do so.
Discipleship is for those who make the quest of the Overself the deep underlying aim of their existence, who take a live and keen interest in the particular form of it outlined by P.B. in his own books, who are critical enough to understand the unique value of his teaching and grateful enough to proffer its disseminator their abiding personal loyalty. Disciples naturally look for discipline, but P.B. neither seeks the first nor stipulates the second. Discipleship is for the few because while there are many who read the books, there are but few who follow the quest, there are many who will take the first few steps but few who will take the last ones, many who can swallow fables but few who can swallow facts.
It is for those to whom the quest has become their life, their goal, their refuge, and their strength.
The true relation of discipleship cannot be established by any merely vocal asking for it and being vocally accepted. Nor can it be established by any formal outward rite or ceremony. Nor by mail order, that is, by a written request and a certificate granting it. It can be established only when it becomes first a mental fact, an inward relation, a telepathic link, and when second these things are based on the disciple's side on complete faith, devotion, loyalty, and willingness to subordinate his own little ego, his own limited intellect, should they ever find themselves opposed to the master's guidance.
This last must not be confused with blind slavish obedience. It is a realization of the need for superior guidance until that glorious moment arises when the guidance can be dispensed with, when the master himself is transcended by union with the disciple's higher self.
In other words, there must be internal evidence of the relationship's having been established, for then alone does it become a reality and a certainty.
This relationship is very rare in the modern world because most people are too materialistically minded to contribute proper efforts towards its making. They think that by associating with a master and by seeing his physical presence they have found him. This is not so. They must find his mental presence within themselves before they can begin to say they have really found him. The relationship is also rare because few such teachers are to be found in the world. For a man may attain the heights of self-realization and yet neither his characteristics nor his karma may permit him to perform the work of teaching along with his realization.
All this is the true explanation of the word "Sat-sang" (that is, association with the illumined, or with a Master) which is so often mentioned in Indian mystical circles as being the first condition to be sought for to make discipleship effective. But in present day India Sat-sang has been materialized into a physical association only, so that aspirants think they have only to go and live in some guru's ashram in order to become that guru's disciple. But this is only an imitation of Sat-sang, and the false belief partly accounts for the disappointing results noticeable in so many ashrams in that country. It also partly explains the melancholy warning given by the master K.H. in the book entitled The Mahatma Letters, wherein he laments the fact that so few of the pilgrims who set forth on the ocean of discipleship ever reach the longed-for land of attainment.
No man is so secure that he can afford to walk the path entirely alone, or so sure-footed that he does not feel it necessary at times to call to his aid those who are qualified to help him negotiate the difficulties.
Why is it that so many--if not most--seekers feel the need of a personal spiritual teacher? Beyond the obvious need of intellectual instruction, practical guidance, and emotional inspiration, there is a further, a profounder, and sometimes an unconscious need. The formless Infinite is a conception the human mind can hardly comprehend, much less hold for any sustained period. But the name and form of another human being who has himself succeeded in comprehending and holding the conception constitute an idea and a picture easily within mental reach. Reverent devotion given to him and imagination directed towards him set up a telepathic process which eventually elicits an intuitive response from the devotee. For in this process there is an interchange of vibration between the two whereby something, some mysterious quality of the sage's mind, is drawn into the devotee's mind and gives the devotee a feeling, however imperfect, of what the Infinite Spirit is really like. The mental image of his master can be carried by the devotee anywhere and everywhere and provides his own mentality with a definite resting place, without which it would be yearning vaguely and struggling aimlessly. But because such a relationship depends on two factors whose reality has not yet been fully granted by the educated world, it may be laughed at as an imaginary one. These two factors are telepathy and intuition. Therefore only those who have themselves experienced it can say how utterly true and intensely real it is. This is why the Bhagavad Gita says that out of love for his devotees, God the impersonal assumes the form of a personal guide. This is why Jesus proclaimed himself to be the door. If so many students are running hither and thither in search of a master, it is not only for the commonly given reasons that they do so, but also because of their need of a personal symbol of the impersonal God, their need of a human gate to the gateless Void. But let us not forget that this need is really a manifestation of human weakness. There are some seekers who can draw from within themselves the guidance they need, the light upon their path, and the intuition to comprehend the Absolute. They can get along quite well without a master. Indeed it is better for them to work in lonely independence for they have the best of all masters, the Higher Self. But such souls are fortunate and blessed, and those others who do not come into their category need and must find a spiritual leader. First they must find him in the world without. Later, with more understanding and increasing development, they must find him within themselves.
The service of such a guide in helping seekers to understand spiritual truth and in sustaining their interest in it is necessarily great. He will equip them with sound metaphysical knowledge and impart to them the primary elements of the hidden teaching. It is essential to pass through a course of systematic instruction involving the highest discipline before this knowledge can be got. His own informed mind will enlighten theirs and his inspiring words will stimulate aspiration. He will be to them the voice of research and meditation far beyond their present capacity. Also he enables them to conserve their interest after the first flush of enthusiasm for the teaching has inevitably lost some of its emotional intensity amid the pressures and oppositions of a sceptical world.
Even when whatever is good and true from amongst current notions in different schools of thought is selected and sifted, and a compact doctrine is formed from the results, the tremendous vitalizing power of a master is often needed to make such truths tangible.
The teacher examines the aptitudes and trends of aspirants and prescribes accordingly. The disciple is not told directly what to accept, but is so guided that he is given the chance to perceive the facts, follow the reasoning as if it were his own, and to reach for the conclusions apparently by himself. In reality throughout this process he is aided by the teacher, yet so subtly that in perfect freedom he develops his own capacities, for it is the aim of the true teacher to put the red corpuscles of self-reliance into his pupils.
The adept opens up a line of communication between his disciple's conscious mind and the secret conscious spiritual self. Thus in due time, the disciple receives from his master the full truth of the world.
The wonderful influence which a true sage exerts upon a receptive student is well-exemplified by the statement of Alcibiades about his former master Socrates: "At the words of Socrates," he says, "my heart leaps within me and my eyes rain tears when I hear them. And I observe that many others are affected in the same manner. I have heard Pericles and other great orators, and I thought that they spoke well, but I never had any similar feeling; my soul was not stirred by them, nor was I angry at the thought of my own slavish state. But this Marsyas [Socrates] has often brought me to such a pass that I have felt as if I could hardly endure the life that I am leading; and I am conscious that if I did not shut my ears against him and fly as from the voice of the siren, my fate would be like that of others--he would transfix me and I would grow old sitting at his feet. For he makes me confess that I ought not to live as I do, neglecting the wants of my own soul, and busying myself with the concerns of the Athenians; therefore I hold my ears, and tear myself away from him. And he is the only person who ever made me feel ashamed, and there is no one else who does the same. For I know that I cannot answer him or say that I ought not do as he bids, but when I leave his presence the love of popularity gets the better of me. And therefore I run away and fly from him, and when I see him I am ashamed." (from Plato's Symposium)
The relationship between the spiritual counsellor and his disciple must first find an inward harmony as its basis. After that harmony there will emerge a telepathic reception on the part of the disciple. There is often much misunderstanding about this type of communication. Let it be stated categorically that whatever the counsellor communicates it would necessarily deal with the general rather than with the particular, with the higher emotions to be cultivated rather than with the things and happenings of this world, with the spiritual qualities to be unfolded rather than with the material affairs and special situations of the external life. It is common enough, however, for the seeker's ego to mistranslate the character of the help given to him, to turn the impersonal into the personal, the lofty into the lower, and even the pure into the impure.
It is rarely understood here in the Occident that where spiritual help is given telepathically, it is given as a general inspiration to remember the divine laws, to have faith in them, and to follow the higher ideals. It is not given as a particular guidance in the detailed application of those laws, nor in the day to day outworking of those ideals. The teacher gives by radiation from his inner life and being, and the disciple draws it into his own mind by a correct approach and mental attitude towards the teacher. What he receives, however, is impersonal. His own ego will have to convert it into a personal form and will have to apply the ideals instilled into him. Another misconception is also very common: "Is it not the master himself who helps me at such moments?" is a question asked in astonished surprise by those disciples who feel his presence keenly, see his image vividly, and converse with him personally in experiences which are genuinely telepathic in character. The answer is that it both is and is not the master himself. The minute particulars of the pictorial experience, or the actual words of a message are supplied by the disciple's own ego. The mental inspiration and moral exaltation derived from it and the emotional peace which surround it are drawn telepathically out of the master's being. Both these elements are so commingled and diffused with one another in the disciple's mind, and so instantaneously too, that inevitably he gets only an unclear and partial understanding of his experience. The truth is that the master does not necessarily have to be conscious of the pupil's telepathic call for help in order to make that help available. Nor does he personally have to do anything about it in order to ensure that his help is transmitted. Just as it is said that the cow's idea of heaven is of a place eternally filled with grass, and that a man's idea of God is a magnified human being, so it may be said that the uninformed aspirant's idea of a spiritual guide is often only an improved and enlarged version of himself. The master is pictured as being filled with oozing sentimentality, however pious, vibrating with personal emotion, and fluttered by his disciple's changes of fortune--as being almost always on the verge of tears with sympathy for others, as fretting over every little fault and change of mood in his disciples every hour of the twenty-four, every day of the week, every week of the year. It is imagined that the master seeks only to influence pleasurable experiences towards his disciples and to divert painful ones--as though pleasurableness were the only good and pain the only evil. It is easy for people to open the doors of a weak sentiment or to gild the bars of the cage of selfishness and forget the living prisoner within. To them the Illuminate is a paradox of conduct. For the same law which stays his hand from giving promiscuous relief also bids him render unto each man his due.
If he places himself in the proper attitude the disciple may be ten thousand miles away from the master and yet receive not less fully and not less adequately the bestowal of Grace, the telepathic awareness of a higher presence, the divine renewal of his inner life.
The mental image of his absent master may come before him bearing any one of several different suggestions, reminders, inspirations, or consolations.
But it is for the pupil himself to cultivate perfect poise between the two extremes of utter dependence upon a teacher and complete reliance upon himself. Both extremes will obstruct his advance upon this path. Nor will it be enough to find the mid-way point between them and adhere always to that point. The definition of poise will vary at different stages of his career. At one time it will be absolutely necessary for him to cultivate self-reliance, whereas a couple of years later it may be equally necessary to cultivate a mood of dependence. What is proper at one time or period may not be proper at another. Which phase is to be uppermost or when both are to perfectly balanced is something which can be decided only by a mingling of inner prompting, logical reflection, and other circumstances.
"To the real enquirers after knowledge, the master's words will enable one to know his own self. A teacher's Grace, if it becomes en rapport with his disciple, will of itself in a mysterious manner enable the disciple to perceive directly the Brahmic principle within. It is impossible for the disciple to understand how Brahman is prior to his direct perception. It is indeed very rare to attain that state without the help of a Guru."--Yoga Vashista.
The master flings his divine grace direct from his own great heart into the heart of the disciple--this is the true initiation.
"The master who has completed his quest commences it anew with every disciple"--The Persian Sheikh Gazur-i-Elahi the Sufi
There are always the few who respond to the master's voice more quickly than others, and hence receive more fully. When he finds querents who are completely unready to grasp the subtle truth which he expounds to those more familiar with his philosophic ideas, he takes up the view point of the questioner and gives him a lift upward from his present state.
If some complain that he is inaccessible, this is because real intercourse with them is impossible, because they can meet him only on surface levels where all that is said or done vanishes futilely in the air. But if anyone comes to the master as a seeker to discuss the higher purposes of life, he is quite ready to do so. The fact that he seldom gives himself to others shows only that so few come to him in such a spirit. And for those who do he cannot eliminate the long search for truth, but he can shorten it. The intuition of the seeker which brought him into touch with the teacher has, however, to be put to the test during the probationary period. If during this contract time the seeker allows nothing, no outward appearance or inward doubt, to break his loyalty to the Guide, then the day will surely come when he can enter into full discipleship; but if, judging by intellect alone and deceived by superficial circumstances, he falls away from faith in his guide, then the rare opportunity will pass and be wasted. In that event he will spend the years groping amid semi-darkness for the entrance to the path which he has missed, but to which his teacher would gladly have led him in due course.
The master's Grace and guidance abides with this disciples so long as they abide inwardly with him.
At the moment of death of a disciple, the teacher will always be present spiritually to help him pass out of the body in a peaceful state of mind. If, as should be, the disciple places his last thoughts and faith in the teacher, that will call to the teacher wherever he may be, and he will appear to the mind's eye of the dying disciple.
And a master who has led even one chela some distance on this path will never be content to let him reappear on this earth without the hope of finding further guidance, further support, and further teaching. The master will never be content with the passionless peace of Nirvana the while his former students struggle in the maze of passions and suffer thereby. He is no master of the true doctrine that all beings are oneself in reality who could desert his students to gain his own ease. The awareness of his identity with ALL will surely and compulsorily arouse his profoundest compassion with those earnest seekers who know not whither to turn for genuine help during their groping amid the darkness. And this will lead to a single and certain result: that at the moment of dying he will WILL his own rebirth again and again until his flock are brought safely through the narrow gate which leads to the kingdom of heaven. Therefore it is said, for such is the mysterious reality of his telepathic power, that the birth of the guru sends forth an echoing vibration within the universe, which acts as a call to his unborn chelas to incarnate with him, and as a command to the principle of rebirth to make effectual the event. Thus he sacrifices himself for the salvation of his chelas.
Discipleship. Seeking the master: The word "guru" is sacred throughout India. Although a Sanskrit term, it has been incorporated into most of the varying tongues and dialects in the different provinces and is even used in several books written by Tibetan mystics.
Guru means teacher; and a teacher who has realized his responsibility and tested his views, who has proved his competence and established his trustworthiness, is very hard to find.
If a seeker cannot find himself, let him find a teacher. If he cannot find such a one, let him find a disciple. If he fails in that, too, let him find a book written by a teacher.
We are affected by our associates; he who keeps company with criminals is apt to descend into crime himself; he who seeks the spiritually minded as friends is apt to ascend to spirituality.
There are various teachers in the world, but each can only teach according to the experience he has had. Because we believe that meditation has a place and a purpose in life, this is no reason why we should raise every idiot who practises it to the stature of a sage, nor why we should esteem every charlatan who plays with it, as a saint.
There are several self-styled spiritual guides who can guide their flocks into all kinds of queer experiences, but they cannot guide them into the Kingdom of Heaven. That territory is barred to them. Consequently it is barred to those who meekly walk behind them. The reason for this is quite simple. Jesus explained it long ago. The lower ego with its baggage of desires is too big, while the door leading into the Kingdom is too small. In all their activities, these teachers fail to achieve a truly spiritual result because they are thinking primarily of themselves rather than of what they are supposed to be thinking. In some cases the process is an unconscious one, but in many it is not.
The difference between a false teacher and a genuine one is often the difference between a dominating dictator and a quiet guide. The false teacher will seek to emasculate your will or even to enslave your mind, whereas the true teacher will endeavour to exalt you into a sense of your own self- responsibility. The teacher who demands or accepts such servility is dangerous to true growth. In the end, he will require a loyalty which should be given only to the Overself. The true teacher will carry your soul into greater freedom and not less, into stabilizing truth and not emotional moods. The true teacher has no desire to hold anyone in pupilage, but on the contrary gladly welcomes the time when the disciple is able to stand without help from outside.
But because talk is easy and redemption is not demanded except in the distant future, these false teachers thrive for a while. Many of them are but students, yet find it hard to take the low places where humility dwells. Hence their gravity; hence the laughter of the gods at them. Could they but laugh at themselves awhile, and perhaps at their doctrines occasionally, they might regain balance, a sense of proportion--but greatest of all true Humility. They are not necessarily deliberate misleaders of others, these self-appointed saviours, but their mystical experiences have given them false impressions about themselves. Their authority is fallible and their doctrines are false. They find it easy to deliver themselves of lofty teachings, but hard to put the same teaching into practice. These gurus promise much, but in the sequel do not redeem their word. These self-styled adepts appear to be adepts in circumlocution more than in anything else.
Those who openly court worship or secretly exult in it cannot possibly have entered into the true Kingdom of Heaven. For the humility it demands is aptly described by Jesus when he describes its entrance as smaller than a needle's eye.
Would-be disciples who are so eager to fill this role that they are swept straightaway into enthusiasm by the extravagant promises of would-be masters, usually lack both the desire and the competence to investigate the qualifications of such masters. Consequently they pay the penalty of their lack of discrimination.
If a nation accepts and follows a wicked man as its leader, then there must be some fault in it which made this possible. And if a seeker accepts a false guide on his spiritual path, then there must be some false intuition, false thinking, or false standards which made this possible too.
There are various ways of appraising a teacher at his true worth. We may watch his external life and notice how he conducts his affairs, how he talks and works, and how he behaves towards other men. Or we may dive deep into his interior nature and plumb the depths of his mental life. The latter course presupposes some degree of psychic sensitiveness. The best way is to combine both, to penetrate the unseen and to observe the visible.
Nanak, founder of the Sikh faith, uttered this warning; "Do not reverence those who call themselves guru and who beg for alms. Only those who live by the fruits of their labour and do honest and useful work are in the way of truth."
Spiritual knowledge is not to be bought and sold. Indeed it could not be. That which could be got and given in this way is only the pretense of it. It is utterly impossible for a man who has entered into communion with the World-Mind to sell his powers for money. The very act would of itself break his connection with it, leaving for his possession only those undesirable lesser powers which come from contact with the fringes of the nether world of dark spirits.
I dislike, and shall always dislike, any attempt to cash in on the spiritual assets of a teacher or his teaching. Those who begin to hawk the things of God, however indirectly and remotely become nothing but common hucksters.
The aspirant who expects a guru to be like himself, only somewhat better, a guru made in his own image, rejects the teacher who does not fit in with his preconception and goes on looking for the impossible.
The ideal sage is not the wandering sadhu but the working one, he who works incessantly to relieve the sufferings of his fellows and to enlighten them.
There are too many aspirants who are hoping, like Micawber in Dickens' story, for something to turn up. In their case it is a spiritual master who will not only take their burdens and responsibilities off their shoulders but, much more, translate them overnight into a realm of spiritual consciousness for evermore. They go on waiting and they go on hoping, but nothing turns up and no one appears. What is the reason for this frustration of their hopes? It is that they fail to work while they wait, fail to prepare themselves to be fit for such a meeting, fail to recognize that whether they have a master or not they must still work upon themselves diligently, and that the harder they work in this task of self-improvement, the more likely it is that they will find a master. They are like children who want to be carried all the way and coddled while they are being carried. They are waiting for someone to do what they ought to be doing for themselves. They are waiting to receive from outside what they could start getting straightaway by delving inside themselves.
Because of bad karma and inherent insensitivity most people fail to recognize the master as such, and therefore fail to take advantage of the opportunity offered by his presence among them.
Only the master's body can be perceived by the physical senses. His spirit must be received by intuition. If acceptance or rejection of him is based on the physical senses alone, then only a false master will be found, never a true one. If the idea of him is predetermined by conceptions about his appearance, and if he is accepted only because he looks handsome or speaks well, and rejected because he is lame, blind or diseased, then the true master will never be found, only charlatans and imposters.
He who says, "I want no mediator between myself and Truth," has the right instinct but the wrong attitude. None save self can make the divine discovery for him, but this is not to say that an adept who has attained the inward light cannot come to the one stumbling in darkness and give a guiding hand. As a matter of fact the true teacher does much more than this. He even gives that stimulus which carries us over the quest so steep and difficult, so beset with snares, and so often clouded over that a guide who has travelled the path already is more necessary than we dream. It is he who points out the direction when all are uncertain, who encourages when our pace slackens, who strengthens when our will weakens, and who becomes a bridge as it were between our present standpoint and a diviner one.
The oracle of wisdom must find a seat, the stream of divinity must find an outlet. Hence the need for a teacher.
If it be asked are the great Adepts accessible by the masses and willing to bestow help upon them, the answer is that they are not. They leave the masses to the infallible workings of gross Nature, which influences and develops them by its general internal evolutionary impetus; they leave even ordinary aspirants to the guidance of more advanced ones. In one way they stand like helpless spectators of the Great Show, for they may not interfere with but must ever respect the freewill of others, whose experience of embodied life is regarded by them as sacred. For this experience incarnation is taken, and its lessons are a fruit of which not even the Adepts may rob any man or woman. They reveal themselves to, and shed their aid upon, the few who can win their own way to their presence by preparatory self- purification, mystical methods, and philosophic understanding. Their duty is to guide such as have earned the right to their guidance and who can inwardly respond to them. From the foregoing statements it should now be obvious that the teachers who accept any and every applicant, themselves belong to the lowest rung and possess an imperfect character.
There is a craze for Messianic revelations. The weak and credulous will always worship the bold. Hence any man who has seen a corner of the veil lifted can come forward as a god who has seen all the veil lifted, and he is sure to collect an obedient flock. Such men are very apt at creating personal fantasies. They appear in their own eyes as God-sent guides and liberators.
It is a strange but saddening thought that all these would-be Christs are conscious of a world-wide mission which they have to perform, whereas the real adept is unconscious of having any mission whatever. The Infinite is embodied in him and carries out its work perfectly without calling up his own separate ego-hood. Since the latter has been blown out like a candle he cannot be conscious of having a mission. Only those who are still under the delusion of separateness can harbour such an idea.
The conclusion is that instead of wandering about looking for Christs to come, we should be better employed wandering inward looking for the Christ there, the Christ within. Such a truth is our best Saviour and the surest Avatar of our time.
To practise meditation on the way of discipleship is always simple, and often easier than all other exercises. It is to repose physically, let the personal life subside mentally and emotionally, think reverently and devotedly of the master, and thus surrender the ego to him.
The same technique applies to the connection with the guru. After he is "seen," you should take the plunge and try to "feel" his presence as the next stage. Later you should transfer to yourself as your own that which was formerly the characteristic of his presence, and this you can do only by dismissing him. When the teacher disappears for you in personal emotion, it is because you see him from the Atmic standpoint, impersonally; later the love will return as intensely as before, but you will find yourself free. You will not be attached.
Initiation cannot be conferred as lightly as many seekers imagine. It must be gained by one's own unremitting effort to understand; it must be attained by fitting oneself through constant reflection. It is the fruit of growth, not only the gift of a teacher. Not that the teacher is not needed: his guidance, instruction, and counsel are prerequisites of its attainment. And it should be observed that what he leaves unsaid is at times as important as what he says.
It should also be remembered that if visions arise of a deceased saint or a living guide it is because there is the conscious or unconscious wish to have them. This does not mean they are without reality or without truth. It means that the form in which spiritual help is expected contributes to the actual shaping of that help. It means that each individual receives his spiritual experience in terms which have the most meaning for him and which therefore make that experience most useful to him.
It is very hard to concentrate attention upon something which has no visible points, and that is the nature of the pure Spirit--formless and shapeless. The easier way is to form a mental picture of someone who represents the incarnation of your highest ideal, and to whom you are deeply attracted because he makes this ideal real for you, and then to strive in imagination for inward unity with him. When the living presence is felt, it is like meeting a friend; when the vision only is perceived, it is like seeing his painted portrait. Then meditate on the attributes of a divinely inspired character, on the qualities of a divinely guided life. Later, the time will certainly come when the mental picture will disappear of its own accord and will be replaced by the consciousness of pure Spirit which the master has represented for you.
In the Tibetan systems of meditation, at a certain state the worshipper of a god has to think of himself as being the god.
Discipleship. The disciple's work. Difficulties, Errors:
It would be wrong to believe that the attainment of a high degree of initiation into mystical truth makes any man or woman absolutely infallible in personal judgement or absolutely infallible in personal character.
He who is only a disciple himself has no right to become responsible for the inner life of another. But within the degree of both his understanding and his misunderstanding of truth he may cautiously, judiciously, offer a helping hand to others who may be even more precariously placed than himself. Both he and they should do this with a clear understanding of their situation, without exaggeration on his part and without fanaticism on theirs.
It is easier for women to follow the path of devotion, for men to follow the path of discipline. And the easiest form of the first path is to choose, as an object of this devotion, some individual who reflects the divine qualities. More women than men are usually to be found circling around a prophet, a saint, or a guide. They are drawn instinctively to personalities, where they cannot so easily as men, absorb principles. This is all right so long as they do not lose balance. But unfortunately this is what they often do. The relation between them and their leader then tends to become unhealthy for both and enfeebling for them. The noble devotion to him which they may properly show becomes frenzied attachment or foolish deification. This enlarges personal egoism instead of dissolving it, and real spiritual development is hindered by the very thing which ought to help it.
Eventual graduation of disciple
In an adept's presence, as in the sun's presence, things begin to happen of their own accord. People feel a spiritual quickening and begin to call him master and themselves disciples. The whole institution of discipleship is nothing but a convenient illusion created by people themselves and tolerantly permitted by the adept for their sakes. He himself, however, is aware of no such thing, has no favouritism, but sends out his light and power to the whole of mankind indiscriminately. Yet this is not to say that the disciples' illusion is a useless or baseless one. It is indeed very real from their standpoint and experience and affords the greatest help to their advancement. Ultimately however, towards the final stages of the path, they discover him entirely within themselves as the infinite reality, not disparate from themselves, and the sense of duality begins to disappear. Later they merge in him and "I and my Father are one" may then be truly uttered.
The realized man leaves no lineal descendants to take over his spiritual estate. Spiritual succession is a fiction. The heir to a master's mantle must win it afresh: he cannot inherit it.(P)
Emerson could not be deceived by common theories in the matter when he wrote: "When a great man dies, the world looks for his successor. He has no successor."
When the concept of the ego is put aside, all those other individuals who are associated with it will be put aside with it. This will apply not only to family and friends, as Jesus taught, but even to the spiritual master.
Ernest Wood, Practical Yoga: "There was a tradition in some occult circles that when the pupil reached the highest initiation, he had to kill his teacher. The meaning is simple--the master is not the form that appears and speaks words. In nine cases out of ten that form is created by the pupil even when the words speak truth. The master in the pupil thus speaks to himself. And inasmuch as the pupil has come to life, he must perform that meditation in which the form vanishes and the life alone shines forth. Akin to this is the tradition that the personality of a Master is an illusion."
Only when he has reached a point where he no longer thinks of the Master as another person but as the core of his inner self, can it be said that the Master's work for him is done. When Jesus said that he who eats His flesh and drinks His blood abides in Him and He in him, he meant no theatrical rite of purely ceremonial order such as is performed outwardly through the Eucharist today. He meant this inwardly achieved union here described.
The guru is useful at a certain time and for a limited time, to help us rise from level to level in our spiritual life. But since the aim of evolution is to bring us to ourselves, to Atma, unless we drop the very guru-idea itself at a certain stage, we shall stop our further growth.
If the disciple is held too long in dependence by his guru, it may prevent him finding out his powers.
It is a good master who is ego-free enough to recognize that his work is done, and it is a faithful disciple who will accept the fact and let him go. The master knows that however helpful he himself was in the past, his presence will henceforth be a hindrance. The disciple knows that it will now be better to depend upon his own intuitive self and work out his own salvation.
There is a right time for all things. The symbol which has been such a grand help must now go. It has served him well, but to cling to it always will be to stop on the way to his great goal. The reason for this is quite simple. The Real is beyond all individualization, all ideation, and all picturization, because it is beyond all form, all the senses, and all thought. While anything--any particular human image or idea--occupies his mind, no matter how exalted it may be, he is giving himself up to that thing, not to the ineffable Real itself. Unless he frees his mind from it, he will miss aim. Hence he must withdraw attention from the concrete symbol and bestow it henceforth on the lonely formless void which is then left. Nothing and nobody must then be permitted entrance therein. Most aspirants naturally shrink from this step, shrink from deserting what has been such a faithful helpful friend in the past, but it is one that cannot be avoided.
This last stage, where the presence and picture of the Master are displaced by the pictureless presence of the disciple's own spirit, is accurately described in the words of Jesus to his disciples: "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." Any other interpretation of them leaves them without reasonable meaning.
When a man has at last found himself, when he has no longer any need of an outside human Symbol but passes directly to his own inner reality, he may stand shoulder to shoulder with the teacher in the oldest, the longest, and the greatest of struggles.(P)
The adept is happy indeed when a student comes into the full realization of the Kingdom of Heaven for whoever finds it, naturally wants to share it with others.
There are untouched forces back of self which we seldom include when we reckon up our mortal accounts. One of these is that aspect of God in man which we denominate Power. Once found it makes us feel greater than we seem. When the divine will works through our hands, we may go forth into the world and master it. Strong in this consciousness of Power, we can advance without fear, asking favour of none, yet conferring it upon all we meet.