Attitudes of a disciple toward the Guru


What are the key traits, tendencies, or attitudes of a true disciple towards his Guru?

Thank you. :)

—Jason, Beverly Hills


Entire books have been written about this subject, so it’s difficult to summarize! I’ll add some further resources at the end of my answer.

Paramhansa Yogananda and Swami Kriyananda have emphasized one aspect of the disciple’s part in the Guru/Disciple relationship over all others: attunement. Yogananda often spoke to his close disciples about attunement to the Guru. Swami Kriyananda recently stated that meditation and yoga technique are secondary to attunement and discipleship to a true Guru.

So answering your question from the perspective of attunement is the best way to understand what are the key traits, tendencies, and attitudes of a disciple. I’ll touch on a few key ones, but there are many more.

One is receptivity – to the Guru’s consciousness, vibration, spiritual help, and guidance. Most important in this regard is to follow Yogananda’s advice to spend time in meditation tuning in to the Guru. He gave very specific advice to Swami Kriyananda once to end one’s meditation by visualizing and meditating on the Guru.

In conjunction with that is devotion – when the heart is open to the Guru, he can enter and take charge of our life. Swami Kriyananda wrote in Conversations with Yogananda that:

I had been thinking that the inner change was due primarily to the long hours I’d been spending in chanting, praying, and meditating. Then someone said to me that the Master had told a few disciples in Encinitas, “Look how I have changed Walter!” I then realized that, whereas my own efforts had been important, it is ultimately God’s power alone, through the Guru, that makes any real change in the disciple. The disciple’s part is determinedly to open his heart to the inner flow of divine grace.

Also important is to follow the Guru’s advice. If you are a Kriya Yoga disciple of Yogananda, for example, practice his teachings just as he gave them. Do his Energization Exercises every day, and study all of the techniques so you are acting in attunement with the Guru. Lahiri Mahasaya once said that practicing the techniques of Kriya Yoga, as taught by the Guru, attracts the Guru’s blessings.

Service to others is another very important trait. A disciple can’t be selfish and keep the Guru’s blessings and teachings just for themselves. Help to spread the Guru’s teachings through service, prayer, and donations that help spread Yogananda’s teachings.

A disciple of this path once had a dream where he saw a heavily burdened man trudging up a steep road on a hot, dusty day. He rushed to help the man with his weighty load, and was surprised to see as he got close that it was Yogananda! He immediately understood that the Guru needs instruments, and those who serve as an instrument are deeply blessed.

Satsang, or spiritual fellowship, with other disciples is also extremely important. We gain through vibration and magnetism by being with other longtime disciples.

We are also helped by satsang in another way. It can be very convenient to have a ‘direct’ relationship with the guru, and mistake our own rationalized delusions for the guru’s ‘advice’. Having the ‘reality check’ of other disciples can help us get back on track, and stay on track, when we stray from the path.

There is much more. For a disciple, this subject can and should be a lifelong study. Here are some further resources:

  • Part III of the Art and Science of Raja Yoga, The Path of Kriya Yoga, has wonderful lessons on the Guru/Disciple relationship. These lessons will be in book form in a few months. For now, you can order Part III of the Ananda Course online.
  • Here are some articles on the Guru, from the Ananda website – scroll down to the heading “How the Guru Helps Us”.
  • The next time you read Autobiography of a Yogi, read it from the perspective of the Guru/Disciple relationship. You might be surprised to see that the very first sentence of the book, the very last sentence, the longest chapter, and many of the stories directly address that relationship!
  • Finally, spend some time watching the many videos of Swami Kriyananda that are on the Ananda website. My greatest understandings of the Guru/Disciple relationship have come from years of watching that direct disciple of Yogananda – one who has completely given over his life to loving and serving the Guru.