A guru is a teacher. In general parlance he can be a school teacher, someone high up in the financial world, or somebody looked up to as an authority in virtually any sphere of activity. The original meaning of the word, however, derives from the Sanskrit, gur: ‘to raise or uplift.’ In ancient spiritual tradition,guru means more even than a wise teacher. In the highest sense, it refers to the satguru: one who has reached oneness with God, is empowered by God to bring people to Him, and is specifically commissioned to bring you to Him. A true understanding of what it means to be this kind of guru is exemplified in Paramhansa Yogananda’ s Autobiography of a Yogi.
Yogananda announced, toward the end of his life, that he was the last in his line of gurus. There was plenty of precedent for this statement. When an avatar comes on earth, he plays a special role, and will continue to do so, for ages to come, in the lives of his spiritual descendants. Krishna, for example, is still viewed by many Hindus as their Supreme Guru. Buddha stands above all the saints in Buddhism who have appeared since he lived. And Jesus Christ is accepted even now, after 2,000 years, as the Supreme Savior of all Christians. Thus, Yogananda’s announcement that the line of gurus he represented would end with him was neither startling nor unprecedented.
The Bible says, ‘Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples.’ (John 4:2) Master’s disciples often initiated people into Kriya Yoga on his behalf, and at his request. I myself did so on several occasions. And, during the last two years of his life, it was I who accepted most of the male applicants into the ashram.
Thus, that Paramhansa Yogananda should be the last of our line of gurus is fully consonant with ancient tradition. All the masters in his line were avatars.
Other statements Master made to me personally must be taken into account also, however, if we would understand fully what he meant by that statement. The official claim his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society (SRF/YSS), makes is that, among all his spiritual descendants, there will never be another guru. I am completely certain this was not at all his intention.
Statements he made to me personally, and also in my presence to several disciples, contradict that claim. Yet it has evolved over the years since his passing into a firm dogma, a fact which poses a dilemma that, if it is left unresolved, can only worsen as the years go by. I know he uttered the statements to which I am referring. Between them, and what has already become accepted as a dogma, there is a yawning chasm. If this chasm isn’t bridged, the consequences for the Master’ s work will be far-reaching and drastic.
Master said to me one day when we were alone together at his desert retreat, ‘There has to be, in the present life, at least one physical contact with the guru.’ I have italicized that one phrase as crucial to this statement.
He told me also, ‘One must free at least six others before becoming finally liberated, oneself.’ This statement obviously needs clarification, for if ‘freeing’ six others means giving them final liberation it can only signify, further, that those six won’t be finally liberated until they, too, . . . Well, surely you get the point. What Master meant was, ‘free them from earth karma,’ at least, and perhaps also, ‘bestow on them nirbikalpa samadhi‘ : the state from which one will never fall again.
Again, after Sister Gyanamata passed away Master told a group of us monks, ‘I saw her sink into that watchful state [final freedom, and complete soul-union with God].’ Sister, as he called her, had suffered enough, he said. Never again would she return to this realm of manifested existence. As I heard him utter those words, the thought crossed my mind, ‘But what about those six others she must have freed, first?’ Master caught my thought and answered: ‘She had disciples.’
History tells us that certain Christian saints, too, had disciples ‘ in Christ.’ I was told that Master had said (I never personally heard him say this) that those saints themselves also had gurus. All Christians, of course, including both those saints and their disciples, have always considered themselves disciples above all of Jesus Christ. Many Hindus, similarly, consider themselves disciples of Krishna.
On the other hand, I have known gurus in India (Swami Muktananda, for example) who claimed that once a guru leaves his body, he can no longer guide his disciples. This statement, at least where great masters are concerned, is simply not true. A true guru constantly helps his disciples, even long after he leaves his body. Many a master has materialized to his disciples, as Jesus did, after death. Paramhansa Yogananda himself has appeared in physical form to several of his disciples. And I can attest that I myself have received help from him many times, including important guidance when I needed it. Without his help I could never have accomplished much of what I have done in this life.
Once, at his retreat in Twenty-Nine Palms, I asked him, ‘Will you be as close to us after you are gone as you are now?’ His answer came unhesitatingly, ‘To those who think me near, I will be near.’
The solution to the dilemma I’ve presented is perfectly clear. Paramhansa Yogananda was an avatar, a state much higher than that of ‘ordinary’ sainthood. The other gurus of our line also, including Jesus Christ (who first requested Babaji to send this teaching to the West), were all avatars. It is quite appropriate even for future saints on this path to accept disciples themselves in the name of our line of gurus.
To insist, instead, that after Yogananda (as the last of our line) there will never be another guru in this work, demonstrates a serious misunderstanding of his intentions. Sooner or later, were this dogma to continue to be declared officially, the doubt must inevitably arise in people’s minds that these teachings are not spiritually valid. It is a fact, after all, that teachings are truly spiritual only to the extent that they can take people to God.
Let us consider again the evidence I’ve presented:
First: Master told me personally that direct contact with a living guru is necessary for one who would find God.
Second: to have a guru means that the disciple must have at least one direct, physical contact with him in this life.
Third: No one can attain final liberation until he, himself, has freed at least six others.
Fourth, and finally: If Master’s most advanced woman disciple, Sister Gyanamata, had disciples of her own, that fact alone negates the claim that there can be no future gurus in, rather than of, our line. Were the present dogma valid, there could never be on this path, in all futurity, an enlightened saint. No one, after Yogananda, would achieve even the state of jivan mukta, what to speak of becoming a param mukta (one who has attained final liberation, as ‘Sister’ in fact did), for there would be no living guru to raise him to that state.
Were Yogananda really the last of the gurus in our line, it would mean that devotees of this teaching would be able to seek spiritual guidance now, only or primarily, by studying printed lessons, and perhaps also from letters (which, usually, come only after a delay of several months) from the headquarters of SRF/YSS, written by disciples of uncertain authority themselves since many of them are neophytes on the path. If any saint should appear on this path, now or in the future, he would not be officially permitted to have even the minimum six disciples required for advancement toward final liberation.
Actually, the divine law must prevail, despite any and every ‘institutional convenience.’ Any saints, therefore, who appeared in the work would no doubt attract disciples anyway, though (just as probably) they’d be officially branded as heretics. Such, for example, was the fate of that great Christian saint and mystic, Meister Eckhart, in Germany, whom the Catholic Church excommunicated (fortunately, for his sake, after his death).
At the first Kriya Yoga initiation I attended (in 1948), Master announced, ‘Of those here today, there will be a few siddhas (fully liberated souls), and quite a few jivan muktas.’ The conclusion is inescapable: Based on his own statements, there will simply have to be true gurus, whether officially recognized as such or not, among the large numbers of his spiritual descendants. There can be no other resolution to the dilemma I’ve posed.
To summarize, then: Those who are highly advanced on this path will of necessity have to free others themselves. They will inevitably, in that case, begurus also. This is not to say they will merit placement on the official altars of our line of gurus. They will be gurus, rather, to their own groups of disciples. In other words, they will be gurus in, but not of, Master’s work.
Spiritual truths transcend every mere organizational convenience. It may beconvenient for organizations to claim that, since they were founded by a true master, they have become themselves, now, the ‘living guru.’ Alternatively, it may be convenient to say that his writings (if he left any) have, since his earthly passing, become the guru. Convenient, maybe, but for all that, untrue. In no way does it resolve the dilemma I’ve posed.
By no anguished stretch of the imagination can any organizational structure be justified in assuming the role of guru. In no religion on earth is there any tradition that endorses such a claim. The role of the disciples at an institution’s headquarters is, of course, defined by the organization itself, which expects them to serve above all the organization itself. Such disciples cannot themselves act as guru-substitutes, even if the organization they serve is supposed to act in that capacity. Those who work at answering letters in the main office may, as I’ve said, be newcomers on the path; it is by no means unheard-of for them even to forsake their spiritual calling, in time. The ancient claim in Christianity’ and a major
reason, I suspect, why Master coined the word, ‘Churchianity’ ‘ is that the Church is the ‘body of Christ.’ (Protestant Christians speak of the worldwide congregation of worshipers as his ‘body.’ This is in a sense a more valid claim, though it is really little more than a poetic figure of speech.)
There can, besides, be no validity to the claim that Master stated, whether actually or in effect, ‘The lessons will be the guru.’ This claim has been, and is, made officially by SRF/YSS. Master said to me personally, however, ‘No scripture can be the guru. If you question a scripture, it cannot answer you. If you quote passages from scripture in support of some wrong direction you may be contemplating, scripture will not correct you. Only an enlightened, living guru can guide you rightly, answer your questions, and warn you if you are about to make a mistake.’ (He didn’t add something I already knew very well, that only a guru, whether in the body or not, can change his disciples’ consciousness from within.)
What did Master mean by saying one must have a living guru? Putting together his several utterances on this subject, the conclusion is obvious: He will continue to be the guru, through his living disciples.
Even in India, there are people who insist that their scriptures are the guru. Can any mere written document really be so? In the deepest sense, never. A scripture may rightly be revered, of course. Direct instruction, however, can come only from a living teacher. Indeed, many, even among those in India who claim scripture as their guru, actually have human gurus of their own.
Daya Mata, during the time we spent together in India in 1958′ 59, was promulgating the doctrine that Master was the last guru for this path. She also insisted that Master had said, ‘The lessons will be the guru.’ He may actually have said that (or something similar), but certainly he did not mean it in the sense she wanted to be accepted. It was not, so to speak, an eternal truth carved in stone. What he can only have meant was, ‘My words are there. They will state the teachings authoritatively.’ In India, Daya Mata heard about those Indians who hold a comparable belief, and seized on this fact as the justification she’d been seeking, since it reinforced her resolution to officially declare the lessons themselves, now, the guru.
After a great master passes away, claims often get made that require careful and objective scrutiny. That scrutiny ought to include the following questions: Might a claim have been made with an ulterior motive, institutional convenience, perhaps? Did the guru really, himself, make every statement that is now being circulated by his followers? Might he have said something different, and even contradictory, to those statements? To what extent is he being quoted correctly? And, finally, might something he said to one person have been applied by others in ways that he never intended?
I recall an episode when his meaning became immediately, and obviously, distorted. Master had said something to Oliver Rogers, one of the monks, in the presence of several of us. Rogers,’ he announced, ‘you will have clear sailing!’
Some of those present wondered, quite naturally, ‘What about me?’ Master caught their thought, and, not wanting to leave them ‘hanging,’ added (but with rather less conviction), ‘And you will all have clear sailing, if you remain loyal to the end.’
Afterward, several of the monks exulted together, ‘Did you hear that? Master said we’ll all have clear sailing!’
Need I point out the obvious? Their enthusiasm was a structure raised on the quicksand of wishful thinking! Indeed, not all of them, as it turned out, remained ‘loyal to the end.’ Oliver Rogers (Brother Devananda) did.
Another point needs to be taken into consideration also: A master’s words may sometimes need editing. Our own Guru made no bones about it where his own writings were concerned. He wanted his meanings to be presented as clearly and exactly as possible, suitably, of course, to his own style of expression, and not clumsily or pedantically. He himself went primarily by intuition. It was something of an ‘obstacle course’ for him to enter into the clumsy process of careful reasoning, necessary to the process of conscientious editing. I’ve compared the job of editing, elsewhere, to plumbing: a process primarily of shifting words and phrases about to improve their flow, and painstakingly seeking just the
right words for exact meaning, clarity, rhythm, and harmonious resonance.
Master once, for example, said to me, ‘The dreamer is not conscious of his dream.’ That sentence obviously needed editing, since if the dreamer is not conscious of his dream, he can’t be dreaming at all!
The editor of his first published book of sayings, The Master Said, tried to clarify that statement by making it read, ‘The dreamer is not cognizant of the hallucinatory fabric of his dream.’ (Does anyone ever speak like that?) In a book of his sayings that I myself edited years later, I changed that sentence to read: ‘The dreamer is not conscious of the fact that he is dreaming.’ Surely my version is simpler, clearer, and closer to what he actually said. I offer this example to show that a guru’s statements may not only need editing sometimes, but that this fact introduces the danger that they may also get changed in the process as to their actual meaning, a possibility Master himself was particularly concerned about. It is important, therefore, that a guru’s writings be edited only by his close disciples, those who are at least more likely to understand his subtle nuances of thinking, and that the editing not be done by people merely whose English is good, but who are not familiar with these nuances. (Indeed, some of the Master’s early editors actually intruded into his writings philosophical concepts of their own!)
This is especially true of statements he may have made’ as everyone does when speaking casually, without taking into account any possible misconstruction of his meaning, and that might become misquoted, or quoted in the wrong context. Indeed, Master stated, of the four Gospels of the Bible, that a master’s disciples are not likely to be infallible in quoting him, even if they are completely conscientious. A person can express only those thoughts which accord with his own level of understanding. There is also the danger of misquoting when some special’ usually institutional’ agenda exists.
In those statements of Master’s I quoted above, I’ve repeated his words exactly, without editing, and without the slightest ‘hidden agenda.’ I cannot say the same of every statement I’ve heard quoted.
There is a claim that has been made by some of Yogananda’s disciples that he prophesied all future presidents of his organization would be Self-realized. Can he possibly, really, have made such a statement? It goes against all logical probability. This is another example of quotations that need to be carefully weighed and scrutinized, for common sense rejects it out of hand. If nothing else, there is no precedent for it. This claim has all the earmarks, in fact, of ‘Churchianity.’ That is to say, it sounds suspiciously like a boost for the institution.
For anyone to be promoted to the top position in an institution, he or she, clearly, must be qualified for that job, which, apart from any other consideration, is administrative in nature. The skills demanded of a president are quite separate and distinct from the qualifications a devotee needs for spiritual development. Managerial skills may, of course, exist side by side in the same person. Reason tells us, however, that this is likely to be so only very rarely.
I myself, moreover, for ten years after Yogananda left his body, held several high positions in that organization. I became, toward the end, the first vice president and a member of the Board of Directors. I was an insider, in other words, as fully ‘in the know’ as it was possible to be. I make the following statement, in other words, from first-hand knowledge:
I am perfectly certain Master never said anything of this nature. I certainly never heard him so quoted with anything like authoritative support. He never made such a statement about all future SRF presidents. He did say that Rajarshi Janakananda was already Self-realized, but that was not a prediction: It was a statement of Rajarshi’s actual present state. The fact that this supposed prophecy never surfaced during the ten years I was on the scene after Master’ s passing means that any claim that has surfaced since then must be treated as fiction.
I do remember Tara once making a statement at a Christmas banquet which might have become distorted, over time. I was present on that occasion. What she said was, ‘Master predicted that no future SRF president would ever fail to live up to his ideals.’ Even this statement had, to my mind, a certain ring of ‘institutional convenience.’ Indeed, I remember Tara as someone who was not always averse to altering Master’s words, when a change in them might serve an institutional end. One such change, indeed, dates back to my own years in the organization. I remember it particularly, to my subsequent embarrassment, for she made it in consequence of a suggestion I myself had made!
At the Christmas banquet to which I’ve referred, the statement she quoted (which I couldn’t help questioning, anyway) was the only one I can imagine that might conceivably have evolved over time, and with frequent repetition, into the belief that all future SRF presidents would be Self-realized.
High position in a spiritual organization is no guarantee of profound spirituality. Abundant proof of this fact may be seen in the history of the Catholic popes, not all of whom were even worthy of that title. In my book, Revelations of Christ, Proclaimed by Paramhansa Yogananda, I made this point. What I said there was that spirituality depends primarily on a person’s purity of heart, whereas high position in an institution depends primarily on one’s secular abilities. To be the president of an institution, one must be above all a good administrator. Many of those ‘lowest on the totem pole’ may, in fact, be the true saints. Sainthood cannot reasonably, in other words, be even considered a necessary qualification for the presidency, or for any institutional position. True saints, indeed, may not even find themselves on that ‘totem pole’ at all.
There is another thought in need of clarification:
A member of SRF, a woman who lived near Encinitas, kept a photograph of Dr. Lewis on her altar. One of the nuns saw that altar, and told the woman she shouldn’t keep anything there but the pictures of our gurus. This occurred while Master was still alive. The woman, since she was particularly devoted to Dr. Lewis, made it a point to ask Master for a direct ruling in this matter. He told her, ‘On your own private altar it is fine to keep other pictures. It is our church altars that should be confined to the pictures of our gurus.’
Master’s ‘ruling’ on this point raises an important issue: We are sometimes asked at Ananda, ‘Why have you removed the picture of Krishna from your altars?’ Our reply is, ‘We didn’ t remove it! SRF added it to their altars, sinceMaster’s passing.’
This inclusion of Krishna is another thing Daya Mata herself did after her 1958 visit to India. One assumes she did so out of concern lest Hindus in India complain’ as they understandably might, at Jesus Christ, without Krishna, being central on our altars. Evidently she thought, ‘Well, since Master said Babaji is an incarnation of Krishna, and since he actually led us in prayers to ‘Babaji-Krishna,’it seems all right to place Krishna centrally there also.’
A problem results from this decision, however. Even though the teachings of Krishna were certainly an important part of Master’ s message to the West and to the world, Krishna, as Krishna, was not responsible for launching this message. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, as himself requested Babaji to have this message sent to the West. By placing Krishna on the altar, the message conveyed is that Jesus was only a great master whose teachings we revere, along with those of Krishna. This message neglects the central role played by Jesus himself in our Gurus’ lineage. Krishna did inspire Master’s teachings. Jesus, however, was responsible for actively sending them. The fact that Babaji is an incarnation of Krishna, as Babaji has himself said, must be balanced against the fact that Master, who understood
every aspect of this issue, never placed him as Krishna on our altars.
For this reason, I have kept Master’s original design, with only the five gurus there, and with Jesus at the center. In India, as a concession to Hindus, I’ve had an artist paint a picture with Krishna positioned behind Jesus Christ as if blessing him. This painting emphasizes Christ’s central role, without in any way denigrating Krishna. Krishna lived centuries before Jesus Christ, moreover, and is certainly a fundamental inspiration behind our teachings. It was, as I implied, Krishna’s later incarnation as Babaji that, in concert with Christ, launched this message for the New Age.
This may seem to some people a trivial point. In any case, it underscores something that I consider important: I have always tried to be completely orthodox to my Guru’s stated wishes.
Finally, the question may arise: Why have I written these thoughts? I’ve done so for two reasons. First, I can think of no one else who could write them even if he wanted to. Second, it is important for these thoughts to be expressed, lest in future the dogma of Master’ s being the last of our gurus becomes so firmly established in people’s minds that any teacher to whom people looked as a representative of this path would soon come under a cloud of official suspicion and might even, perhaps, find himself excommunicated.
For years while I was in SRF I thought, indeed, I was conditioned to think, of my job of teaching and lecturing, which Master had assigned me, as serving only the purpose of bringing people to him. Once students were on the path, it was, I thought, my duty to turn them over to him, my officially sanctioned idea being that any guidance they needed from then on was the concern of letter writers in the head office at Mt. Washington. It was easy for me to renounce further responsibility in the matter, for my first thought has always been to please my Guru. If this was what he wanted, as I’d been assured it was, I was satisfied to let my efforts stop there.
I came gradually, however, even while I was still in SRF, to realize that people need ongoing, direct guidance from someone they know personally, rather than from shadowy figures ‘off-stage,’ so to speak, residing at headquarters. I realized, moreover, that it wasn’t fair to tell students they could get their more important guidance only from Master, in meditation. Observing people over the years, I came to realize that those who insisted on going straight to him, without the help they might have received in person from disciples of long standing, never went very deeply into the teachings. Often, in fact, I noted that they wandered off sooner or later to other teachings altogether. Were the dogma to be fully established that Master is not only the last of our line of gurus, but also the last one who could guide or inspire anyone spiritually, it would mean that no one on this path could or should ever take special pains to offer spiritual help to people. Such a prohibition would raise doubts as to the very authenticity of these teachings. Sincere spiritual seekers would wonder if they might not do better to seek elsewhere, from teachers who offered more sympathetic counsel.
This suggestion is not fanciful. Such a situation actually occurred, years ago, in the case of Yogacharya Oliver Black. I personally heard Master say, of this disciple, that he was highly advanced spiritually. During a visit to Mt. Washington, Yogacharya Oliver made a reference to certain persons he was guiding personally. This ‘heretical’ statement drew stern criticism from the nuns there. Daya Mata herself, in conversation with me, referred critically to that statement. It is clear to me, even from this single example, that were the prevalent dogma extended into future generations, any personal guidance people received from teachers on this path would be looked at askance by higher officials, and would even be officially repudiated.
Such is the reality. It cannot but leave many students of this path feeling like beached whales. The truth Master left us, however, is very different. It is therefore vitally important for all disciples of Master to understand that their responsibility is to share not only his teachings, but his spiritual grace, his inspiration, even his blessings with others to the fullest extent they are able. It is wrong for them to remove themselves altogether from the scene of service.
Daya Mata tells people, ‘I don’t presume to bless anyone.’ Her practice, in consequence, is to stand quietly before people and, perhaps not even touching them, ask Master to bless them. That she should do so is understandable. After all, she spent many years in Master’s company, and remembers vividly the many times he blessed her personally. Not surprisingly, she finds it difficult to see herself acting similarly in his place. Her memory, however, is particular and very personal. Considering the matter impersonally, it must appear to everyone she approaches in this way that, even while she prays to him for his blessings, she is already blessing others, personally. Moreover, though she asks Master to bless them, they themselves cannot help seeing her as Master’s instrument. They accept what she does as a blessing from him, through her.
It would be well, in fact, for all Master’ s disciples, both those who knew him and those who have become his disciples since he left his body, to see themselves as not merely praying for others, but as blessing them in his name.
A Further Dilemma
What I have written so far calls for serious consideration. Our real duty, as Master’s disciples, is to try to act as channels for his blessings.
My own way, when writing or teaching, has always been to try to bring the discussion down from abstractions to the individual reader or listener and ask, ‘What does this mean for you?’ Again, my practice is to ask, more generally, ‘What does it mean for all of us?’ In the present essay, I’ve so far kept the discussion on an impersonal level. Now, I must bring it down to the personal.
What does everything I’ve written mean, then, for you? You may have wondered already, ‘What can I do about these important issues?’ You may have wondered also: ‘Now that we no longer have Master with us in the body, and because there may be, after all, other gurus on this path in future, who is a guru now? Is Daya Mata herself a guru? Are you, Kriyananda? Is anyone else? If no one on this path is entitled to serve in that capacity, what hope is there for the rest of us who never even met Master?’
The first and most urgent question is quite personal. As I said, What about you? Master’s divine mission wasn’t only to bring a teaching. When he told me, ‘To those who think me near, I will be near,’ he was promising to be near to those disciples not only who lived near him physically, but those also who lived at a distance, those who had never met him, and those who would continue to come to him in the future.
I said earlier that, in my experience, those who never met Master, but who believe they can develop attunement with him on their own, without the association of other disciples who may have been on the path for many years, that such persons have seemed to lack something. They’ve shown a different quality in their eyes, a kind of ‘ in this world, and also of it, consciousness. Can this difference be attributed to anything outward? Does it exist because long-term disciples make Master, by the example they set, in some way more real? Is it because they somehow reflect his personality, his mannerisms? Surely, if there is a difference it must be rather because sincere disciples transmit some of Master’s actual consciousness, energy, and blessings. Even those who never knew him physically, provided
they are in tune with him inwardly, serve to a greater or lesser degree (depending on their own development) as channels for the divine grace which flows from him, through them, to others.
The second explanation is the obviously correct one. I myself do frequently feel Master’s grace flowing through me, and I can’t really say to what extent, if at all, my mannerisms reflect his personality. True, I am kinder, more supportive of others, more loving than I used to be. (When young, I could sometimes be rather caustic.) These are not mannerisms, however, though they reflect a different manner of behavior. I am a very different person from what I was in my youth. The change has come, however, from an inward change of outlook and consciousness, consequent on my inner attunement.
It is normal for me to try to project to others the love and joy I feel from Master in my heart. How can I not do so? I feel his presence like a divine aura, within and around me. Kriyananda seems to me hardly more than a shell. My inner life is what is being defined more and more by my awareness of his presence within me.
There is one important difference, however: Master asked me to give him my obedience, and I gave it to him unconditionally. I for my part, on the other hand, have never requested obedience of anyone. The reason is simple: I am not spiritually ready to do so. I consider myself everyone’s spiritual brother, and nobody’s teacher.
Master’s statement that he was the last of our line of gurus meant, in a more personal sense, that he would continue to work through all those who dedicate themselves to deepening their attunement with him. Teachers in Master’s work who sincerely try to develop spiritually, whether or not they have achieved Self-realization, can be channels for our line of masters. Our Guruworks through all, though of course, as I said, to varying degrees, who are open to him. The requirement is that they follow him and his teachings humbly and sincerely. He can work best, also, through those who sincerely want to help
others in his name.
And, of course, he can help best through those who are in tune with him. People may ask, ‘How can I attune myself to Master?’ The answer he himself gave was, first, to gaze deeply into his photograph, especially concentrating on the eyes. Then visualize those eyes, as you meditate, and call to him mentally, ‘Reveal thyself! Reveal thyself!’ Try, next, to feel his response in your heart. The answer, when it comes, will bring a distinct awareness of his presence and vibrations.
Everyone who, in this spirit, shares Master’ s teachings with others has a duty to take personal interest in helping others. More even than serving them, he should love them and want the best for them. The love he expresses for others should never be personal. He should never think, ‘It is my love I am giving to you.’ Such an ego-constrictive thought will raise within oneself those supreme barriers to spiritual development: outward attraction, and attachment. Love God and Guru in all, then, as children of God.
One thing I have found helpful is to ask Master to expand my aura that it fill any auditorium in which I am speaking, or to encompass any group I address, whether small or large. Indeed, I feel this expansion. When I meditate with a group, also, I try to feel him expanding my aura that it touch all present. People tell me that this, more even than whatever words I utter, is what reaches them. I’ve made this suggestion, too, to our choirs and singing groups. It is, I think, deeply important.
My own particular way of loving is to see Master in my audiences when I lecture, and in the individuals I try to help. A fellow disciple once, after reading this statement in a diary I’ d been keeping, protested, ‘How can you see yourself as teaching your own guru!?’ She had missed the point. Trying to see Master in everyone is like trying to see God in all. For Master is not only aguru: he is one with God’s infinite love and bliss.
I used for a time to pray to him, ‘Help me to love you as you love me.’ He subtly corrected me one day. Glancing at me, he asked rhetorically, ‘How can the little cup hold the whole ocean?’
Once he addressed me even more clearly on this point. I had questioned him about an experience I’d had the previous night. Master surprised me by requesting details. What occasioned my surprise was that he himself had been an important part of that experience. ‘Sir,’ I asked him, ‘ didn’t you know?’
His reply seemed almost impatient. (My question had shown superficial understanding.) ‘When you are one with God,’ he remarked dismissively, ‘you are God!’
What I mean, then, in saying that I see Master in the people I serve when teaching or counseling, isn’t that I look upon them as my teachers! I am of course happy to learn from anyone, for I consider all whom I meet as potential sources of understanding for myself. God can teach us, moreover, even through ‘the mouths of babes.’ What I try to do, then, is see God Himself manifested in all whom I try to serve. The point is to see others not in terms of their egos, but of their souls, of the divine Self residing at the center of everyone and everything.
I have been hinting at a further and very important point. As, in a relay race, the baton gets passed on from runner to runner, so Master’ s power is especially passed from one disciple to another. This, then, is another point that needs clarification for students on this path. They should also, in addition to receiving printed lessons, try to get these teachings from one who has himself received them directly. They should try to see Master as especially present in those who teach in his name, and in attunement with him.
Yogananda can and does work through his loyal disciples. Who, then, are such disciples? They are all those who have received the ‘touch’ from some other, true disciple, and who deeply accept Master in their hearts as their guru. By no means everyone who attends lectures and classes on these teachings has achieved the level of inner acceptance. And by no means everyone who gives lectures and classes on these teachings is, for that reason alone, able to pass on the ‘baton’ to others. When a teacher thinks of Master as residing in those he teaches, however, he invites Master to bless those people inwardly. This thought increases the likelihood of his recognizing the divine presence within himself. And when
those who listen to him see him as a channel for the Guru, they will receive more from Master than they could if they thought of Master more remotely, as if in the third person.
Can those who are ready for a guru be brought to God through those disciples of our Guru who, in their hearts, are deeply attuned to him? Will anyone find God through those disciples? The real question is, Will Master be able to bring them to God through his disciples? The answer is, Yes. Of course, and obviously, it depends also on how deeply in tune with him they themselves, and also those disciples, are.
There is another important point to be considered here: Certain realities change, or perhaps I should say, expand, in the case of masters who come to earth with divine dispensations: the avatars. They come with the divine power to lift many souls, even limitless numbers of them. Though a few saints say that a guru cannot continue to guide people after he leaves his physical body, they evidently have not experienced the power that flows, even after he leaves this world, through an avatar. Avatars have far more power than any lesser saint to bless, uplift, and even bestow salvation on countless disciples long after they leave their bodies. Their usual way of functioning, however, is through disciples who are in tune with them.
Finding one’s personal guru is a matter between the devotee and God. What Master was saying when he spoke of himself as the last of our gurus was, first of all, that he would continue always to work through disciples who are in tune, and who teach humbly in his name. Thus, if anyone feels drawn to this path, he can be guided by our line of masters, and especially by Paramhansa Yogananda (as the one who brought these teachings to the modern world),through a successive line of disciples.
Are there any enlightened souls presently in Master’s work? I don’ t know, though I’m sure there must be. It is vitally important, however, for students on this path not to get into an ‘enlightened teachers sweepstakes’ : ‘This one is more enlightened than that one.’ ‘Oh, you don’t know anything! Can’t you see, this other one is leagues ahead of that fool!’ ‘ and so on. If Paramhansa Yogananda is still the guru (and he, especially, is whom we ourselves, his followers, look to), then it is his power, primarily, that every faithful disciple transmits. The ‘official’ statement is that Daya Mata, as the SRF president, and as the present example of Master’s supposed (but never uttered) promise regarding all future presidents, is acting in Master’s place as at least a sort of ‘substitute guru’ for everyone on this path. She herself
makes it clear, however, that she doesn’t see herself as a guru. Indeed, several years ago, when speaking with me, she forcefully repudiated this notion. She also states (as I said earlier), ‘I don’t presume to bless.’
If what I have expressed so far is the truth, namely, that Master blesses people through his sincere disciples, then the sort of competition I’ve seen already among students of this path may be dismissed as mere sibling rivalry: petty, and not worthy of serious attention.
Unfortunately, human nature generally insists on making distinctions. Rivalry exists between the followers of the various great religions. It exists within every one of those religions. Rivalry in Master’s work has raised its dragon head among Master’s own direct disciples. I would not be writing this essay were it not for the fact that I perceive a great need to correct certain serious errors in the statements made by my fellow disciples. And although I would greatly prefer simply to leave the reader with what I have stated so far, I have in fact been obliged for many years to defend myself against charges of being, myself, beyond the pale, a traitor to the very Guru whom I worship as God Himself. That story is not one I’ll go into here. Those who have read others of my writings, particularly my book, A Place Called Ananda, will understand to what I refer. If I seem here to be treating lightly a very sad episode in my life, it is because what happened, with God’s grace, actually released me to do the work my Guru had given me to do. It was no light ordeal for me at the time, however. These things, as I say, simply happen. I don’ t suppose anything can be
done about them.
Is Daya Mata, herself, Self-realized? If the answer to that question is perceived as pertinent to any discussion of this matter, then it demands an answer. On this point, however, I can only give my opinion. I haven’t seen in her any sign of that omniscience which comes with Self-realization. I won’t take the subject further, for I believe she is in any case not only capable of serving as a channel for Master, but is more capable of doing so than the great majority even of Master’s direct disciples. Let us do our best, then, to avoid unflattering comparisons. They are, as we’ve all heard, ‘odious.’
On, then, to another question, one that is perhaps more pressing: To what extent is it important even to know whether a disciple is Self-realized? Master is our guru. His disciples can serve as his channels to others. This is how things are, and will continue throughout futurity. All who consider themselves Master’s disciples should do their best to perpetuate not only his teachings, but also his special ray of Divine Grace. [The ray, itself, is what matters, and is even more important than the teachings. I once read the statement in a newspaper in India to the effect (I am paraphrasing): ‘There is no need for gurus nowadays, since education has become nearly universal, and most people can read timeless truths in books that are available at every bookstore.’ The writer of that article had overlooked, indeed, evidently was ignorant of, the fact that many true gurus are ‘maunis‘ observing a vow of perpetual silence.
A certain disciple, many years ago, decided to leave Master and follow another teacher as his guru. Master accepted the man’s decision without demur, stating simply, ‘Very well then. I withdraw my ray.’ And so it happened. Virtually overnight, the disciple seemed to become almost a different, and much lesser, person.
I have seen the same thing happen in other cases, when disciples forsook this path. Usually the results were deleterious. Even had they not been so, however, that is to say, if the student chose as his guru a different but goodteacher, it would no longer have been Master’s ray, but a different one, that infused the disciple.
In Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda states, ‘Thoughts are universally and not individually rooted.’ All of us express whatever ray of universal consciousness we accept into our lives. Delusions, too, have a cosmic origin. This deep truth, which I’ve described in Revelations of Christ, Proclaimed by Paramhansa Yogananda, underscores also the Bible’s teachings on Satan.
The divine ray, then, when it is experienced inwardly, is even more essential for the truth seeker than any intellectual teaching. If a seeker is a follower of Paramhansa Yogananda, it is the Master’s blessing he must try to experience, especially as it flows through his disciples. All sincere seekers who accept this truth, and who try to act in attunement with it, will themselves be able, in time, to transmit Master’s ray to others. Any disciple, by contrast, who announces, ‘I am your guru,’ can only be speaking from ego-consciousness. Such a person is not a true disciple. Master declared many times, of himself, ‘I am not the
guru: God is the guru.’ He too, you see, was simply transmitting a special divine ray into
this world, as God willed. The difference is only this: Yogananda was fully conscious of
serving the particular ray of Divine Grace he represented.
I asked Master one evening at his Twenty-Nine Palms retreat, ‘Sir, will I find God in this life?’ He answered, ‘Yes, but don’t think about it.’ He added that, meanwhile, I had much work to do. ‘Your life,’ he told me, ‘will be one of intense activity, and meditation.’ Later he predicted to me, ‘God won’t come to you until the end of life. Death itself is the final sacrifice you’ll have to make.’ I might add that all these statements were made when we were alone together. Indeed, I can sincerely say that I do feel Master’s blissful presence with me, almost always. And the more wholeheartedly I embrace the ‘intense activity’ he ordained for me, the more joyful I become inwardly. I have not yet experienced samadhi,
but I can’t help thinking that, were I in that state, I would not feel anything like the strongurge I feel to help others.
I recently saw a movie on DVD, What Dreams May Come. Much of the action took place in an astral heaven after death, though some of it occurred also in a hellish region to which, it was said, suicides go. The movie was interesting. To my surprise, however, I also found myself identifying more with the spiritual needs of those poor suicides than with the happiness other souls were enjoying in heaven.
I do believe I have spent time in the past in heavenly regions. Indeed, in a sense I have always felt more at home there than here. The souls depicted in heaven by that movie, however, seemed to me to be enjoying their astral heaven only passively. They weren’t sharing their happiness with others. Nor did they seem to have any desire to help anyone. They weren’t even doing anything to further their own spiritual progress. It was as if theywere all drifting in a sort of hallucinogenic daze. Indeed, it is said that people in the astral heavens, the lower heavens, not those high spheres to which saints go, are so satisfied with their lot that they feel no incentive to make any further progress. They are simply enjoying, temporarily, the fruits of whatever good karma won them their heavenly respite. Those poor
suicides, on the other hand, were in desperate need of help. Seeing them, I couldn’t help wanting, with almost equal desperation, to reach out to them with hope, and to share with them a clearer understanding of the truth.
Anyone who, now and in the future, teaches in Master’s name will certainly be helped and guided in his sincere, humble, and loving efforts to be of service to others. Master once said to a close disciple of his, ‘Those who ‘fall by the wayside,’ my devotees will pick up.’
I have tried my best in these pages to express an important truth. If in any way I have failed, I believe I will have at least opened up important questions for further discussion. What I hope to have accomplished is bury forever two mistaken beliefs that are now prevalent: first, that Master is the last guru on this path, rather than only of this path; and second, that everyone who now teaches in Master’s name has no further responsibility for the student’s ongoing welfare after whatever lectures or classes he has given; that, having brought devotees to the Guru, he must leave everything to Master now, and cease to occupy himself with their future progress.
Indeed, the existing problem seems, from all reports, to be even graver than I have stated it. Reports come to me concerning certain self-styled disciples who don’ t seem even to feel a need to make an effort to share Master’ s teachings. I’m told they behave discourteously even toward those who come with an interest in these teachings. The rationale behind this wholly unacceptable behavior is that Master is doing everything necessary anyway, and that their duty is to focus on their own spiritual practices.
Daya Mata once asked our Guru, ‘What can possibly replace you, Master, once you’ve gone?’ He answered with a loving smile, ‘Only love can take my place.’ To her, his words meant (as she has since expressed it), ‘Be so in love with God that He becomes your only reality.’ Is this all that Master meant by those words? Certainly, God should come first in our lives. I cannot help feeling, however, that if our love for God doesn’t extend to loving others also in God, Master’s work will be in danger of becoming a wasteland of indifference to anyone else’ s spiritual needs.
I do not say that Daya Mata sanctions this attitude. Indeed, she herself once quoted him to me as saying, ‘Don’t think you can win God’s love, if you can’t win the love of your fellowman.’ Nevertheless, this attitude is distressingly widespread among his disciples.
These wrong, and completely unspiritual, ideas need to be corrected. As I have said, the divine ray Master represents can function only through living instruments. God Himself functions on earth,i ndeed, in the very universe, through instruments. His vast Creation was accomplished through certain highly advanced beings. Master gave that as the reason for the Holy Bible’s statement, ‘Let us make man in our image.’ (Genesis 1:26) In such a way, God sends avatars to earth: to teach and uplift souls into the Supreme Truth.