Category: Guru-Disciple Relationship
How Should We Relate to Spiritual Authority?
June 27, 2014
How should we relate to spiritual authority?
I’ve always considered Swami Kriyananda to be Paramhansa Yogananda’s chosen messenger.
Master told Swamiji that he would not be merely a teacher, but that he would have spiritual responsibility for people. And an essential part of our relationship with him involves understanding how to relate to his spiritual authority.
I like to think of the spiritual realm as a kingdom, where the king appoints a prince to be in charge of a certain province. The fact that the prince isn’t the king doesn’t give him any less authority to rule in the king’s name. Nor are his subjects more in tune with the king when they ignore the prince.
In the subset of Yogananda’s spiritual family that is Ananda, Swami is the one whom Yogananda gave the responsibility of speaking for him. If we relate to Swami with that kind of respect, it facilitates the flow of dynamic spiritual energy between us. But if we refuse to hear Swami as Yogananda’s representative, thinking “I don’t know who you are, I only know I love Yogananda,” the system breaks down, and our spiritual progress is weakened.
In a Catholic monastery, each monk’s superior becomes the voice of Christ for him. Of course, the Church pushed the concept too far, when it insisted that the superior can demand blind obedience.
Many people don’t understand how to relate to spiritual authority. Often, they think they have to relate to the teacher mindlessly, like the monks in a Catholic monastery, and that they can’t think and evaluate for themselves.
It’s very important to remember that God can reach you more effectively if you’re sincere about wanting to be reached. If you act from faith and devotion, from common sense and discrimination, then the people whom God has given spiritual authority in your life will be empowered to help you, through your faith and humility.
Any relationship works better if you’re respectful, and if you’re attentive and trying to tune in. This is especially true in the relationship of the teacher and student, where we’re trying to let ourselves be guided.
Sister Gyanamata, who gave us the most extraordinary example of a disciple, shared many wonderful instructions from her life with Paramhansa Yogananda. She said, “You can say anything you want to the guru, as long as you speak with detachment and respect.”
I’ve given Gyanamata’s words a lot of thought. And of course they’re true about our relationship with the guru, but they’re also true in our relationships with the other people in our lives.
You can say pretty much anything you want to anyone, as long as you speak with detachment and respect. It’s when you’re not detached and respectful that things start to go awry. As long as you’re impersonal, bringing forth your ideas with sincerity, and being respectful of the person you’re talking to, not sneering and putting him down, that communication can flow.
Many years ago, Swamiji told me, “You don’t express what you really feel, but you’re not fooling me.”
I had been working hard on holding the right attitude – too hard, in fact, so hard that I wasn’t allowing myself to have my own feelings and think my own thoughts.
Swami has always said that he much prefers an honest argument over a mindless “yes.” A mindless yes is not a yes; it’s a firecracker waiting to go off. An honest argument is the process of coming to the truth you’re looking for.
Years ago, just after Swami published one of his books, a woman kept calling me with incredibly convoluted, niggling objections to what he’d said in the book, paragraph by paragraph.
She was a bright woman, and I couldn’t understand her objections. Finally, I got so tired of talking to her that I said, “What are you doing?”
She said, “If Swami isn’t wrong, then I have to listen to him.”
I said, “Oh, I get it. Okay, we’re talking about fear. We can have a real conversation about fear.”
She had been exhausting us with her attempts to discredit him, so that she wouldn’t have to face the real issue, which was that he might be right and she’d have to accept his spiritual authority.
I’ve always treated Swami as if he were Master, because I consider him to be Master’s representative, and he’s always spoken to me in that way. I’ve always felt that what he said to me carried that level of authority. He’s been, and continues to be, an extraordinary channel of Master’s for us all. But God can only inspire us to the extent that we’re receptive. If you’re praying, and you sincerely want to hear the answer to your prayer, then the truth can come into your mind.
I’ve had the experience of people asking me for advice, and I found I couldn’t think of anything to say. And I realized the person didn’t actually want me to say anything, because they were afraid of what I might say, and as a result I drew a blank.
Several times, I asked Swami for advice in such a way that we both knew I wasn’t going to be able to follow whatever advice he gave me. At those times his answer was always, “I have nothing to say.”
People say to me, “I like coming to church, and I like what you say, but I don’t connect with Kriyananda.” And I tell them, “You’re connected with nothing but Kriyananda. You just don’t know it yet. You have called it as you see it, but you don’t yet understand the source of the power.
“Everything that you experience through Ananda is created by Swami Kriyananda. Everything that I’m saying comes from Swami. Rarely do I give you an idea of my own. So if you like any word that I say, you really like Kriyananda without realizing it. I encourage you to go beyond me to the source, to Swami and through him to Yogananda, because you might as well climb the highest mountain.”
Swami Kriyananda wasn’t fully liberated until the end of his life, but he was highly attuned with Yogananda. He was, and continues to be, a pure channel for Yogananda’s energy.
In Master’s Joy,
Apart from teaching of our beloved guruji Paramhansa Yogananda I found the meditation technique "transcendental meditation(TM)" of Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and "sudarshan kriya" breathing technique of Sri Sri Ravishankar very useful. Can I practice these techniques? Is it useful??
There are many different spiritual paths. A true spiritual path will lead you to oneness with God.
Once you have found your guru and taken a vow of discipleship, you should follow his spiritual path with all your heart, mind and soul.
Paramhansa Yogananda gave a complete set of spiritual practices to lead you to God. If he is your guru, you need to go deeper and deeper into the different practices that he gave, read his teachings, practice them in daily life, and give all your devotion to Him. The more you will immerse yourself with the spiritual practices that he gave, the more you will feel their power and you will be transformed.
In that case, it would be best to set aside any other meditation techniques from other teachers, and dive into the wealth of what P. Yogananda gave.
Living with Master
March 13, 2014
Hello and a very Happy New Year to all the 1,000 or more saints at Ananda! My question is what is the best way to offer everything I do at the feet of God and Master this year (and all years)? How can I be more devotional in thought as well as action? What should I do to stay focused on this resolution without falling into moods and tamasic character despite “the crash of the breaking worlds” and pour out the energy I need to stay closer to my Beloved Lord? A Great year to all there!
Thank you for writing — your enthusiasm and energy are evident in your question itself! The practices and attitudes you list are crucial to spiritual growth: self-offering, devotion in thought, devotion in action, focus, and energy. In a way you’ve answered the question: developing these qualities in yourself more. As Sister Gyanamata (Yogananda’s most advanced woman disciple) said, when asked what she would have done differently in her life: “More and better.”
You’ve made reference to Master (Yogananda), and I assume you are his student or disciple. You’ve asked, “What is the best way?” The best question is — as I think you understand — “What is the best way for you?” Without knowing you better, I couldn’t make any specific suggestions. But Master can! I would say the best way to accomplished your goals above is to deepen your attunement with Yogananda, so that you hear God’s voice whispering him to you, guiding you. As Master taught us to pray to God: “I will reason, I will will, I will act, but guide Thou my reason, will, and activity to the right course in everything.”
Grow in your ability to hear Master whispering to you through your thoughts and feelings. In a way this is like cheating: whenever you’re stuck on a tough question, just ask him to give you the answer! How to hear Master better? Maintain, and deepen, your meditation and devotion.
God bless you, Kailash, and good luck!
Do You Need to Surrender to a Guru?
September 21, 2013
Do you need to surrender yourself to your guru, physically also, to the living guru?
Joy to you! Swami Kriyananda was asked a similar question and his answer was quite surprising to me. He said, “NO!!!” you don’t have surrender your self to a guru, unless…you want to find God. If your goal is to merge into the Infinite then you would want to surrender your tiny ego to the Infinite Bliss of a Self-Realized Guru. Otherwise, you could spend lifetimes enjoying chasing your tail — until one day you realize that all fun and effort you would put into chasing your tail got you very little in return.
A person could teach them self to play a piano quite well. But, eventually, it would behoove them to learn from a maestro — if the goal is to play music at your highest potential. Learning from a Divine Master would be like having a map while driving in a new town. You don’t need a map if you’re in no hurry to get to wherever the wind takes you. You could quite an adventure driving around for hours, days or longer. But if you want to get to where you want to go to a specific location in a timely matter with ease and comfort, you want to use a map. A true Guru (one who lives in a God Consciousness) will get you through the ocean of life like being on a luxury cruise liner compared to being on a raft in the middle of the ocean.
It is said the soul loves being in Guru’s Grace. The soul’s wisdom recognizes it can’t do much without Guru’s Grace. The ego wants little or nothing to do with a Guru. It believes it can do it all by itself. The soul knows and understands the value of the Guru’s wisdom. So it would be extremely wise to surrender to a living Guru. To have the touch of a true Guru would mean one has must have very, very, very good karma. It would be an outstanding blessing!
Know a true Guru’s spirit has no limits. A true guru, like a Yogananda, or Jesus, passes their God-filled vibrations to anyone they choose. Most likely someone who has dedicated their life to serving a true Guru’s work would be endowed with the Guru’s grace and that person could pass that grace onto a devotee effortlessly. And if the devotee is open and willing to attune their self to the Master, the Grace would flow into the devotee like a river. And the blessings would be filled with tremendous bliss, love, and joy. One would know perfect peace. And one might experience their own Higher Divinity supremely. And there is nothing on earth that is more soothing to the soul as Guru’s Grace. The more one call surrender their ego the more grace can fill the void. And the grace is bliss beyond compare.
I pray this missive helps,
Attunement and Obedience to the Guru
July 18, 2013
As chelas, I know we are to be in constant attunement with & obedience to the Guru, so he can mold us God-ward. Yet I also read from Yogananda, “There is no law of God preventing you from being what you want to be and accomplishing what you want to accomplish.” It seems confusing; when I am in obedience-mode, then I feel paralyzed to take initiative in my life — when I take initiative, I feel like I don’t need Guru’s (or anyone’s) go-ahead. Personally I prefer the latter. Any thoughts?
Our habits and ingrained tendencies, which we have created through many lives, prevent us from becoming the best that we can be. This is why we need a guru.
Yogananda gave us a great affirmation: "I will reason, I will will, I will act, but guide Thou my reason, will and activity, to the right path in everything".
You are making a false dichotomy, between initiative and obedience. They go together on the spiritual path. When we do one without the other, we become either passive, or ego driven. Obedience to the guru is actively tuning in and dynamcially acting on what we percieve.
It takes time to recognize the way the guru guides you personally. You will make mistakes, but gradually you will refine your ability to recognize how the guru is guiding you individually. A helpful book to assist you is Intuition for Starters, by Swami Kriyananda. http://www.crystalclarity.com/product.php?code=BIS
How Do I Find a True Guru?
September 20, 2012
I need a guru but alas I am a 19 year old with no money. I want to know God. That is slowly becoming my only desire. I want to just find a self-realized guru and learn under him/her for years at an ashram. Can anyone give me advice on how to find a true guru? And do gurus take students free of charge?
Dear Friend and Fellow Chess club member,
Perhaps you have heard the old "saw," "When the disciple is ready, the guru appears!" At age 25 I sold everything and went to India for the same purpose, but, like Dorothy and Toto in the Wizard of Oz, I, too, came up empty handed, only to find my guru upon my return.
In my case, Paramhansa Yogananda had long left this earth (1952) but I met Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple. He wouldn't accept the role of guru, but he is a wise spiritual teacher and a true, divine friend.
So, I suggest to you that you seek a spiritual path and spiritual teacher. Let the concept of "guru" work itself out. For, after all, if you find someone, how will you know he or she is a true guru and not just a spiritual teacher who is magnetic and intelligent but still subject to human emotions etc.?
Begin with books, then to classes, and then to a spiritual family. Bit by bit as you refine your intentions and deepen your commitment by self-effort, being always open to divine grace and guidance, your true guru will appear: whether in human form or through the disciples of a true guru.
Steady, steady, soon done! Meditate daily, read truth teachings, find others of like-mind, think and act with right attitude and right action. The magnetism you develop through devotion, wisdom and spiritually centered action will draw to you the grace you need each step of the way to final freedom.
As to the subject of money, see money as energy. It takes great energy to become God-realized and free. Spiritual teachings only cost money owing to the practicality of what it takes to attract and share them with those who are sincerely interested. But for the devotee's part, we must understand that it is we who must sacrifice all for the pearl of great price. So don't judge spiritual teachings by whether they are "free." Nothing worth having is truly free in the highest and best sense. No guru is going to zap you with cosmic consciousness for the mere asking. We have to earn spiritual freedom just as we have to earn our livelihood to take care of ourselves and render grateful service to humanity.
Avatars and Their Human Roles
August 16, 2012
I, of course, believe Yoganandaji to be an avatar. However, it brings up several questions in my mind.
When Yogananda met Sri Yukteswar, he made him promise that he would reach God realization within this lifetime. But if he was an avatar, did he not already reach this state?
Also, after his guru died, he said that a blackness had polluted the river of bliss that had been flowing in him. How could this be so? I do not understand, though of course I still believe it to be so.
Those are good questions, ones that thoughtful devotees tend to stumble upon. We see similar instances in the lives of many great souls, avatars. So how can we reconcile their perfection in God with their humanity?
Well, I suspect in ways not unlike our own, just a difference of degree. As you can be noble and high minded in one instance, but perhaps irritable or frustrated by circumstances in another, and yet still be the same soul, so, too, an avatar who willingly assumes the garb and limitations of human form, must deal resopnsibily with the humanity in which he participates. Yogananda could be sweet or he could be strict, neither would necessarily affects his inward state of consciousness.
This does not mean, however, that the avatar acts from ego affirming desire, but that an avatar participates in normal and appropriate human feelings and interactions. Thus, for example, Lahiri Mahasaya, or Lord Krishna, were married and had children. This did not stem from personal desire but was appropriate to their divinely appointed role.
Often an avatar acts out their role (with sincerity, of course) in a way that sets an example or gives a spiritual teaching to others. Just so, Yogananda asks his guru if he will reveal God to him. It seems that in the lives of many avatars they go through a period of searching and have, sometimes, a moment (or period) of awakening to their higher state of consciousness. This is the sacrifice some make in returning to human form.
When Yogananda lost his mother, as a child, or later, his guru (in the example you give above), he felt the human sense of loss that is normal and appropriate. Yes, he could have accessed a non-dual state of transcendence, but such a one can play the role without being touched inwardly and does so, one imagines, for the benefit of others. In the case of grief and loss, inasmuch as the emotions are very real, we must own them before we can transcend them (rather than denying or suppressing them).
Nonetheless, I'll be the first to acknowledge that the ways of God are at times mysterious but the, upon reflection, is this not so for myself? For you?
Does the Guru Kiss the Initiate's Right Ear?
June 18, 2012
For Nayaswami Gyandev - read with interest your comments on listening to the sound of AUM from the right ear. Have you ever heard of a Guru kissing an initiate on the right ear? If so, it's meaning. Thanks.
I've never heard of a guru kissing an initiate on the right ear, although I suppose it may have happened. Perhaps it's even common in some lineages. It's not, however, a part of Paramhansa Yogananda's lineage.
So I can't speculate on the ear-specific meaning, other than the obvious thought that it would be an additional offering of the guru's spiritual vibrations to the disciple. One would hope that the disciple would receive such a gesture in a spiritually healthy way.
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