The Law of Love
Paramhansa Yogananda said that the purpose of life is to find God. We may similarly say that the purpose of life is to:
- Find your true Self
- End the long exile of the soul
- Find the way back home
- Return to the heavenly joy once known but lost
All of these aspirations involve a special law that leads us on the journey homeward—The Law of Love. Nobody reaches the Divine Goal by himself or herself. Love is required and it is the love of One who has already reached that goal. That One is an enlightened person—the guru. The guru is our link to God-union. We will not get there without him or her. The guru is God’s instrument of Love for you. That love, that Divine Love as we shall see, is completely beyond the concept of human love or our ordinary relationships.
Paramhansa Yogananda highlights the essential keys of discipleship. He explains that friendship on the human plane is the purest form of God’s love. Friendship is higher than romantic love and the highest expression of friendship is the Guru-disciple relationship. The Guru-disciple relationship is love in its purest form. It is the love of God manifested here on Earth.
In short, the Guru-disciple relationship is a holy bond of mutual, unconditional love and loyalty that gradually anchors the disciple in the Infinite. Even if we misbehave and are stunningly imperfect, the guru still loves us. The relationship nevertheless must be a two-way relationship. Just as the guru offers his unconditional love, so the disciple must also offer unconditional love.
Yogananda describes this celestial love between himself and his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar.
The swift Indian twilight had dropped its half-curtain before my master spoke again. His eyes held unfathomable tenderness. ‘I give you my unconditional love… Will you give me the same unconditional love?’ He gazed at me with childlike trust. ‘I will love you eternally, Gurudeva!’ ‘Ordinary love is selfish, darkly rooted in desires and satisfactions. Divine love is without condition, without boundary, without change. The flux of the human heart is gone forever at the transfixing touch of pure love.’ He added humbly, ‘If ever you find me falling from a state of God-realization, please promise to put my head on your lap and help to bring me back to the Cosmic Beloved we both worship.’ (Autobiography of a Yogi)
The sacredness and beauty of that meeting can also be seen in Yogananda’s poem “My Guru,” in Whispers from Eternity, read by Swami Kriyananda:
Swami Kriyananda describes a similar conversation in The New Path when he became Yogananda’s disciple:
Gazing at me now with deep love, [Yogananda] said, ‘I give you my unconditional love.’ Immortal promise! I couldn’t begin to fathom the depth of meaning in those words. ‘Will you give me your unconditional love?’ ‘Yes!’ ‘And will you also give me your unconditional obedience?’
After a brief exchange, Kriyananda answered, “I give you my unconditional obedience!”
Why did Yogananda ask for obedience? The disciple in India is often called a chela, meaning child. The spiritual parent loves his child but also knows that he/she needs guidance, discipline, and help to grow. That is why the guru out of pure love asks for obedience.
Yogananda explains in Autobiography of a Yogi (AY):
[Sri Yukteswar] directed their minds and lives with that careful discipline in which the word “disciple” is etymologically rooted. The ashram residents loved and revered their guru; a slight clap of his hands sufficed to bring them eagerly to his side. When his mood was silent and withdrawn, no one ventured to speak; when his laugh rang jovially, children looked upon him as their own.
It was, as we can clearly see, a relationship of great respect, of discipline, but also of spontaneous love.
The kind of love that only wants to receive without any desire to give is cheap and egoistic. The loving disciple automatically yearns to serve his guru in any way — perhaps by helping him in practical ways with his mission, or by being a channel for his vibrations in the world, or financially.
Likewise, the guru’s wish is to give, not to take. He transmits invaluable spiritual power, wisdom, and God-union.
A Special Kind of Love
The love of discipleship is a contract from soul to soul. It has little to do with two personalities, or egos. If he detected in a disciple a personal attraction or attachment, Yogananda became hard as iron or cold as ice.
Daya Mata, one of his close disciples learned this lesson the hard way. At first, the Master treated her lovingly, like a daughter. Once her feet were planted firmly on the path, however, he suddenly became aloof with her, even stern. It was a tough moment. Tears flowed. She was confused and prayed deeply, finally reaching a firm resolution: “Divine Mother, from now on I will love only Thee. In beholding him, I will see Thee alone in him.” Later she knelt before Yogananda for his blessing. This time he greeted her gently, saying, “Very good!”
The love of discipleship while being intimate is also impersonal. A true guru will make you feel that you are a close and dear friend, yet an aura of remoteness will ever be around him. You can only truly reach and be near him in the formless Spirit.
In other words, the disciple needs to learn to love God or attain Infinite Consciousness through the guru, not his personality. The guru is God’s pure instrument. A true guru does not have an ego that acts but is rather more like a clean window through which the sunlight can fully shine. Just as we love the sunlight in our house, not the window – in that same way, we should love God in the guru, not his outer personality as Yogananda always explained:
I am not the Guru. God is the Guru.
The guru holds this same attitude about and toward us. He is little interested in our ego and personality but sees and tries to awaken God in us. We are not this little body and the guru knows it. He loves and sees the Divine in us because that is who we really are.
Yogananda and his foremost disciple, Rajarshi Janakananda exemplified the elevated love of the guru/discipleship role. Yogananda wrote him the most endearing letters, addressing him as, “Most Blessed Beloved One,” or “Dear Little Divine Prince.” They could frequently be seen walking hand in hand. Swami Kriyananda explained that such outer closeness was possible only because Rajarshi knew how to love from soul to soul. It was God loving God.
The same holds true for Sri Yukteswar and Yogananda as we read in Autobiography of a Yogi. Yukteswar invited Yogananda to sleep next to him in his bed. This was a gesture of Divine Love. Had there been the slightest hint of human attraction, Sri Yukteswar would have never permitted or allowed it.
Loyalty of Discipleship
We have only one guru, just as we have only one mother; though there are many wonderful mothers your mother is yours. In the same way, if there is true love, there will never be the thought of looking for other gurus, mixing teachings and vibrations. The attitude is simply this: “I am yours, Master, completely. And you are mine.”
The central key of discipleship is attunement. What is the most important key for that attunement? It is loyal love. You will be naturally attuned to whatever you love steadfastly. Love is the cosmic force that unites. Therefore, it is faithful love that will unite you with the guru, like nothing else. The guru receives your love and answers in his own way.
Developing the Love of Discipleship
A devoted disciple of Yogananda, Brother Bhaktananda, once started to repeat mentally: “I love you, Master.” When next they met, Yogananda answered his silent offering: “I love you too, Bhaktananda.” This is the essence of discipleship.
Some may wonder if such a loving relationship is possible with a Master who is not in the body anymore? Certainly, it is. It is even easier because it has to take place on a soul level. Yogananda promised:
My body is nothing. Whether I am in the body or not, for those who are in tune I shall stoop down from Heaven to make them realize the love of my Father. -Kamala, Priceless Precepts
How then, can we love the guru more? How can we keep him or her in our hearts? We can love Guru more by making him our very best friend, by including him in every aspect of our lives. We can include him in our most wonderful and most difficult moments but also during the normal and uneventful situations of the day. We can share with him our troubles and joys, our needs, our victories, and our failures. We can sit with him in meditation and, most importantly, we can ask him to use us as a channel in whatever we do in our daily lives as mother, father, partner, etc. The guru can use us wherever we are — at work, at the supermarket, with friends, or at home.
There is a marvelous chant by Yogananda in the video below to help us develop the devoted and elevated mood of discipleship:
What Discipleship Truly Means
Discipleship is a chain and continuous bond of love between the disciple and guru. When you have finally reached your Goal – your oneness with God – you, yourself will become a guru, an instrument of God’s love for certain souls. No one can reach full liberation without helping others.
However, for now, our task is to learn to become good disciples — opening our hearts more, deepening our love, developing humility, wisdom, strength, depth, and expressing our soul qualities, not the ego.
Practically speaking, here are the duties of a disciple:
- Meditate regularly, using exclusively the guru’s techniques
- Study the guru’s teachings and try to apply them as best as you can
- Nourish true devotion for the guru as his chela, or child
- Serve the guru in some way
- Endeavor to grow toward God-union
The closer you get to the Divine Goal, the more your path will be filled with pure Joy, with bliss. You shall sing from your heart, “From joy I came, for joy I live, in sacred joy I melt again.”
The Heavenly Peak of Discipleship
Love is the heart of discipleship. That relationship dissolves into a cosmic union. When you reach the penultimate stage of discipleship, there will be no more love because love requires two. Instead, there will be only oneness, complete union as Sri Yukteswar so beautifully reveals to Yogananda in the AY:
You and I shall smile together, so long as our two forms appear different in the maya-dream of God. Finally we shall merge as one in the Cosmic Beloved; our smiles shall be His smile, our unified song of joy vibrating throughout eternity to be broadcast to God-tuned souls!