The Guru/ Discipleship Relationship
A Sacred Apprenticeship
Decades ago, I, like many others was on a spiritual quest for truth and yes, enlightenment.
Everything I have learned subsequently we value in life has a price tag to it, and is not without sacrifice of some sort.
My spiritual yoga path began formerly as a young mother. (my mother had introduced me to yoga and “Autobiography of a Yogi” as a teenager)
It was as a mother that I began to contemplate how I would move out in the world, especially after being a stay at home mum until my kids started school.
Karma had driven me and my then husband to California from the UK, and the freedom to think in a pioneering way in Silicon Valley became intoxicating to me. I began to notice symbols that kept me returning to the unbroken line of teachers in the Kriya Lineage that Paramahamsa Yogananda had introduced to America in the 1920’s.
Strangely enough the branch I attuned to was not on my doorstep in Mountain View, CA where I lived in an Ashram with my boys for 10 years after my divorce, but in Chicago at the Temple of Kriya Yoga under the guidance of Goswami Kriyananda.
Now to clarify, Goswami is not Swami Kriyananda of Ananda, California. They were spirituous cousins with different personalities and priorities. The simplest visual clarification I offer some people is that the Ananda Kriyananda was clean cut and had a strong theatrical lilt and ‘my’ Kriyananda looked like Gandalf the white. (an observation from my youngest son), and was more of a mystic.
As an ardent student I would travel to Chicago several times a year to be on retreat and listen to his wisdom and share meditations and sangha with like minded souls. The only thing he ever requested of us was to think for ourselves. He did not object when I asked many very blunt questions privately or in public.
Something profound about the way my brain was opening up to philosophical and spiritual concepts meant that I was never going to be the same again. I became quite evangelical however, the more ‘spiritual I thought I was becoming, but Kriyananda’s down to earth barometer for spiritual growth was “How well are you getting along with everyone else?” which eventually put me on what could be viewed as the ‘middle path.’
The problem we are seeing so commonly now by exposing ‘guru’s (men) behaving badly, is actually refreshing because it is ripping the band aid off of people misusing the trust of their students.
The guru/discipleship relationship has become so ‘mainstream’ but misunderstood that it perhaps is time to air some ideas on what that actually means. It is not Blind Faith and believing everything you are told or should not be, but really based on the dualistic natural function of the Chakras which open or close. (Think of expanding or contracting one’s consciousness) The guru according to the ancient Gayatri Mantra is supposed to allow us to attune to our Divine potential and help us to expand our consciousness.
Om Bhur Bhuvaḥ Swaḥ Tat-savitur Vareñyaṃ Bhargo Devasya Dhīmahi Dhiyo Yonaḥ Prachodayāt
“O thou existence Absolute, Creator of the three dimensions, we contemplate upon thy divine light. May He stimulate our intellect and bestow upon us true knowledge."
“The Gāyatrī mantra helps the spiritual community access this method of knowing by “becoming like” the exemplary luminosity of the sun.” (Gāyatrī: The Mother of the Vedas Sarah Mata)
We are supposed to emulate the good, or our highest vibration. Do the most amount of good and the least amount of harm.
Goswami put it like this in one of his teachings
“The mind, the mirror the dust………………. rub, rub, rub. No mind, no mirror, no dust…. What is this?”
It is a coon and designed to make us think.
Yoga has many paths but 4 main ones which are;
Karma yoga -Selfless service
Bhakti Yoga – yoga of devotion
Jnana Yoga – Yoga of wisdom
Raja Yoga - Yoga of meditation
If an ardent aspirant takes the path of the Bhakti, then this I feel is where many problems of giving up one’s own free will becomes a concern, and this was a major concern of Goswami’s with his disciples and students whilst he was living. I remember one time sitting with some 100 or so students and disciples and becoming frustrated as an initiated French disciple swooned and moaned like she was possessed and really got in the way of him teaching. So much so that he had to stop the lecture and retire to his room with instruction that she was to practice mouna or silence in her room for a period I think which extended a few days. Clearly, he was not impressed.
To clarify, a devotee or student is not necessarily an initiated disciple and in order to become a disciple there needs to be a transmission of consciousness in the same realm. In other words, the living Guru meets the student in person (and this can be just once)
Here are some of the guidelines that were taught on the guru/disciple relationship which is not necessarily the same as the guru/student relationship which is much more lax.
The guru’s blessing;
Awakens the memory track of the disciple to remember our kinship with life
Adhi-kara happens when a spiritual aspirant is ignited by the guru or living flame. (this could be a touch at the sun center between the eyebrows which often because it is a ritual is a very powerful and tangible experience but equally could be non-eventful initially. It is a transmission in consciousness from one mind to another if you like and in the Kriya tradition and is akin to lighting an inner candle. Guru should, be the dispeller of darkness or ignorance to one’s own nature.
The disciple needs to prepare the mind to master emotions.
The guru should give advice only when asked and when guidance is sought after.
‘Upa gurus’ or little support gurus or teachers in specialty fields that the guru may not be versed in is recommended. (for example, the aspirant may want to learn a musical instrument or Ayurveda and the guru may not have that skill set)
Techniques may be given to help the aspirant live and cultivate greater wisdom and balance.
The concept of the gunas (qualities) tends to allow us to unfold spiritually in 3 stages.
Inertia or non-activity (Tamas)
Passionate activity (Rajas)
Compassionate activity (Sattwa)
It is the role of the guru to help the aspirant move towards Sattwa. For some people who are experiencing non-harmonious karma, then detachment is even more vital. It requires adopting patience and learning how to respond and not react to circumstances.
Discipleship should cause us to examine our own lives and Goswami indicated 4 stages to discipleship.
Time in from isolation from the guru for self-questioning
Preparation for death and with it an opportunity to act now while conscious. He referred to it as a second chance, I assume to get our own house in order before we leave the physical plane.
Ultimately, he instructed something that must be remembered at all times.
Love the teaching and not the teacher!
In the Kriya Dharma