Having Trouble Following the Guru’s Advice

Question

I was initiated years ago by a Guru in the Shri Ramakrishna tradition. However, for reasons not clear to me, I am unable to follow my Guru’s instructions though I want to. In my eyes my spiritual life is in ruins. I need help but know not where to turn to.

—Ankur, India

Answer

Dear Ankur,

It would help to know the nature of your guru’s instructions: personal or general? Health, mental or spiritual?

Perhaps this distinction will be helpful: In India the term “guru” applies, as I understand its use, to any spiritual teacher. Paramhansa Yogananda (“Autobiography of a Yogi”) instructed us to use the term in respect only to the “sat” guru: the true guru whose relationship is to our souls and who is destined to lead us to freedom in God.

Yogananda also taught us that Sri Ramakrishna was such a guru: a sat guru (indeed, an avatar). But lesser teachers, disciples of such a guru, must be seen more as guides and counselors. We should learn to respect their counsel but if they are not our true guru and are not fully liberated from ego, we must be careful to accept their counsel wisely and cooperatively, but not blindly.

You do not say if your inability to follow the instructions is due to resistance or inadequacy. Since you state that you would like to follow that guidance, may I suggest several things:

1. Talk to him and explain your difficulty. Perhaps he can make some modifications or suggestions.

2. Consider what parts of his instruction you can do right now and begin working with that. Lahiri Mahasaya used to often say, “Banat, banat, ban jai!” (doing, doing, soon done). Do what CAN do at this time. With practice, you will be able to do more over time.

3. Pray for guidance. If you are sincere and desire to do what is given to you and if you try to do your best whether all or part, God will guide and support you. But you must BEGIN do the first part!

4. Develop WILL POWER. Do you do yoga? Every day challenge yourself to do something you have never done before. Discipline your body and your senses in practical ways: small at first.

5. Mix with others who are doing the kinds of things your guru has instructed you to do. At an ashram, temple, or in a home: practice your sadhana; study the teachings; serve your community or neighborhood; support the work of the guru. Be actively calm and calmly active in your spiritual efforts.

6. Think of God before acting; while acting; and when the task is finished. Thank God every day for the gift of life, love, family, friends and for true spiritual teachings.

“Nothing can stop my progress! Move all ye mountains that stand in my way! I am strong in my Self; I am complete in my Self!” Let this be your daily affirmation-mantra.

Blessings and light, strength and vitality!

Nayaswami Hriman

Seattle WA USA