On Guru, gurus, Guruvada
(Compilation of letters)
Surrender to the Guru is said to be surrender beyond all surrenders
because through it you surrender not only to the impersonal, but to
the personal, not only to the Divine in self but to the Divine outside
you; you get a chance for the surpassing of the ego not only by retreat
into the self where ego does not exist, but in the personal nature where
it is the ruler. It is the sign of the will to complete surrender to
the total Divine, samagram mâm... mânushîm tanum âshsritam.
Of course it must be a genuine spiritual surrender for all this to be
* * *
The Guru should be accepted in all ways - transcendent, impersonal,
* * *
The Guru is the Guide in the yoga. When the Divine is accepted as the
Guide, He is accepted as the Guru.
* * *
The relation of Guru and disciple is only one of many relations which
one can have with the Divine, and in this yoga which aims at a supramental
realisation, it is not usual to give it this name; rather, the Divine
is regarded as the Source, the living Sun of Light and Knowledge and
Consciousness and spiritual realisation, and all that one receives is
felt as coming from there and the whole being remoulded by the Divine
Hand. This is a greater and more intimate relation than that of the
human Guru and disciple, which is more of a limited mental ideal. Nevertheless,
if the mind still needs the more familiar mental conception, it can
be kept so long as it is needed; only do not let the soul be bound by
it and do not let it limit the inflow of other relations with the Divine
and larger forms of experience.
* * *
It is not usual to use the word Guru in the supramental yoga, here everything
comes from the Divine himself. But if anybody wants it he can use it
for the time being.
* * *
No, surrender to the Divine and surrender to the Guru are not the same
thing. In surrendering to the Guru, it is to the Divine in him that
one surrenders - if it were only to a human entity, it would be ineffective.
But it is the consciousness of the Divine Presence that makes the Guru
a real Guru, so that even if the disciple surrenders to him thinking
of the human being to whom he surrenders, that Presence will still make
* * *
All true Gurus are the same, the one Guru, because all are the one Divine.
That is a fundamental and universal truth. But there is also a truth
of difference; the Divine dwells in different personalities with different
minds, teachings, influences so that He may lead different disciples
with their special need, character, destiny by different ways to the
realisation. Because all Gurus are the same Divine, it does not follow
that the disciple does well if he leaves the one meant for him to follow
another. Fidelity to the Guru is demanded of every disciple, according
to the Indian tradition. "All are the same" is a spiritual
truth, but you cannot convert it indiscriminately into action; you cannot
deal with all persons in the same way because they are the one Brahman:
if one did, the result pragmatically would be an awful mess. It is a
rigid mental logic that makes the difficulty but in spiritual matters
mental logic easily blunders; intuition, faith, a plastic spiritual
reason are here the only guides.
As for faith, faith in the spiritual sense is not a mental belief which
can waver and change. It can wear that form in the mind, but that belief
is not the faith itself, it is only its external form. Just as the body,
the external form, can change but the spirit remains the same, so it
is here. Faith is a certitude in the soul which does not depend on reasoning,
on this or that mental idea, on circumstances, on this or that passing
condition of the mind or the vital or the body. It may be hidden, eclipsed,
may even seem to be quenched, but it reappears again after the storm
or the eclipse; it is seen burning still in the soul when one has thought
that it was extinguished for ever. The mind may be a shifting sea of
doubts and yet that faith may be there within and, if so, it will keep
even the doubt-racked mind in the way so that it goes on in spite of
itself towards its destined goal. Faith is a spiritual certitude of
the spiritual, the divine, the soul's ideal, something that clings to
that even when it is not fulfilled in life, even when the immediate
facts or the persistent circumstances seem to deny it. This is a common
experience in the life of the human being; if it were not so, man would
be the plaything of a changing mind or a sport of circumstances.
* * *
It does not strike me that X's letters are admirable as an aperçu
of current thoughts and general tendencies; it was rather his power
to withdraw so completely from these thoughts and tendencies and look
from a (for him) new and abiding source of knowledge that impressed
me as admirable. If he had remained interested and in touch with these
current human movements, I don't suppose he would have done better with
them than Romain Rolland or another. But he has got to the yoga-view
of them, the summit-view, and it is the readiness with which he has
been able to do it that struck me.
I would explain his progressing so far not entirely by his own superiority
in the sense of a general fitness for yoga as by the quickness and completeness
with which he has taken inwardly the attitude of the Bhakta and the
disciple. That is a rare achievement for a modern mind, be he European
or "educated" Indian; for the modern mind is analytic, dubitative,
instinctively "independent" even when it wants to be otherwise;
it holds itself back and hesitates in front of the Light and Influence
that comes to it; it does not plunge into it with a simple directness,
crying, "Here I am, ready to throw from me all that was myself
or seemed to be, if so I can enter into Thee; remake my consciousness
into the Truth in Thy way, the way of the Divine." There is something
in us that is ready for it, but there is this element that intervenes
and makes a curtain of non-receptivity; I know by my own experience
with myself and others how long it can make a road that could never,
perhaps for us who seek the entire truth, have been short and easy,
but still, we might have spared many wanderings and stand-stills and
recoils and detours. All the more I admire the ease with which X seems
to have surmounted this formidable obstacle.
I do not know if his Guru falls short in any respect, but with the attitude
he has taken, the deficiencies, if any, do not matter. It is not the
human defects of the Guru that can stand in the way when there is the
psychic opening, confidence and surrender. The Guru is the channel or
the representative or the manifestation of the Divine, according to
the measure of his personality or his attainment; but whatever he is,
it is to the Divine that one opens in opening to him; and if something
is determined by the power of the channel, more is determined by the
inherent and intrinsic attitude of the receiving consciousness, an element
that comes out in the surface mind as simple trust or direct unconditional
self-giving, and once that is there, the essential things can be gained
even from one who seems to others than the disciple an inferior spiritual
source, and the rest will grow up in the sadhak of itself by the Grace
of the Divine, even if the human being in the Guru cannot give it. It
is this that X appears to have done perhaps from the first; but in most
nowadays this attitude seems to come with difficulty after much hesitation
and delay and trouble. In my own case I owe the first decisive turn
of my inner life to one who was infinitely inferior to me in intellect,
education and capacity and by no means spiritually perfect or supreme
[ = Lele]; but, having seen a Power behind him and decided to turn there
for help, I gave myself entirely into his hands and followed with an
automatic passivity the guidance. He himself was astonished and said
to others that he had never met anyone before who could surrender himself
so absolutely and without reserve or question to the guidance of the
helper. The result was a series of transmuting experiences of such a
radical character that he was unable to follow and had to tell me to
give myself up in future to the Guide within with the same completeness
of surrender as I had shown to the human channel.
I give this example to show how these things work; it is not in the
calculated way the human reason wants to lay down, but by a more mysterious
and greater law.
* * *
One can have a Guru inferior in spiritual capacity (to oneself or to
other Gurus) carrying in him many human imperfections and yet, if you
have the faith, the bhakti, the right spiritual stuff, you can contact
the Divine through him, attain to spiritual experiences, to spiritual
realisation, even before the Guru himself. Mark the "If",
for that proviso is necessary; it is not every disciple who can do that
with every Guru. From a humbug you can acquire nothing but his humbuggery.
The Guru must have something in him which makes the contact with the
Divine possible, something which works even if he is not in his outer
mind quite conscious of its action. If there is nothing at all spiritual
in him, he is not a Guru, only a pseudo.
Undoubtedly, there can be considerable differences of spiritual realisation
between one Guru and another; but much depends on the inner relation
between Guru and shisya [ = disciple]. One can go to a very great spiritual
man and get nothing or only a little from him; one can go to a man of
less spiritual capacity and get all he has to give - and more. The causes
of this disparity are various and subtle; I need not expand on them
here. It differs with each man. I believe the Guru is always ready to
give what can be given, if the disciple can receive, or it may be, when
he is ready to receive. If he refuses to receive or behaves inwardly
or outwardly in such a way as to make reception impossible or if he
is not sincere or takes up the wrong attitude, then things become difficult.
But if one is sincere and faithful and has the right attitude and if
the Guru is a true Guru, then, after whatever time, it will come.
* * *
Ramakrishna had the siddhi himself before he began giving to others
- so had Buddha. I don't know about the others. By perfection of course
is meant siddhi in one's own path - realisation. Ramakrishna always
put that as a rule that one should not become a teacher to others until
one has the full authority.
* * *
The action of the Force does not exclude tapasya, concentration and
the need of sadhana. Its action rather comes as an answer or a help
to these things. It is true that it sometimes acts without them; it
very often makes a response in those who have not prepared themselves
and do not seem to be ready. But it does not always or usually act like
that, nor is it a sort of magic that acts in the void or without any
process. Nor is it a machine that acts in the same way on everybody
or in all conditions and circumstances; it is not a physical but a spiritual
Force and its action cannot be reduced to rules.
About the limitation of the power of the Guru to that of a teacher who
shows the way but cannot help or guide, that is the conception of certain
paths of yoga such as the pure Adwaitin and the Buddhist which say that
you must rely upon yourself and that no one can help you; but even the
pure Adwaitin does in fact rely upon the Guru and the chief mantra of
Buddhism insists on sharanam [ = refuge/shelter] to Buddha. For other
paths of sadhana, especially those which, like the Gita, accept the
reality of the individual soul as an "eternal portion" of
the Divine or which believe that Bhagavan and the bhakta are both real,
the help of the Guru has always been relied upon as an indispensable
I don't understand the objection to the validity of Vivekananda's experience:
it was exactly the realisation which is described in the Upanishads
as a supreme experience of the Self. It is not a fact that an experience
gained in samadhi cannot be prolonged into the waking state.
* * *
Yes, it is a defect in the vital, a lack of will to discipline. One
has to learn from the master and act according to his instructions because
the master knows the subject and how it is to be learnt - just as in
spiritual things one has to follow a Guru who has the knowledge and
knows the way. If one learns all by oneself, the chances are that one
will learn all wrong.
What is the use of a freedom to learn wrongly? Of course, if the pupil
is more intelligent than the master, he will learn more than the master,
just as a great spiritual capacity may arrive at realisation which the
Guru has not - but even so the control and discipline in the early stages
* * *
Up to now no liberated man has objected to the Guruvada; it is usually
only people who live in the mind or vital and have the pride of the
mind and the arrogance of the vital that find it below their dignity
to recognise a Guru.
* * *
All that is popular yoga. The Guru's touch or grace may open something,
but the difficulties have always to be worked out still. What is true
is that if there is complete surrender which implies the prominence
of the psychic, these difficulties are no longer felt as a binder or
obstacle but only as superficial imperfections which the working of
the grace will remove.
* * *
I think this saying ["With the Guru's grace all difficulties can
disappear in a flash even as agelong darkness does the moment you strike
a match."] of Ramakrishna expresses a certain characteristic happening
in sadhana and cannot be interpreted in a general and absolute sense,
for in that sense it is hard for it to be true. All difficulties disappearing
in a minute? Well, Vivekananda had the grace of Ramakrishna from the
beginning, but I think his difficulty of doubt lasted for some time
and to the end of his life the difficulty of the control of his anger
was there - making him say that all that was good in him was his Guru's
gift, but these things (anger etc.) were his own property. But what
could be true is that the central difficulty may disappear by a certain
touch between the Guru and the disciple. But what is meant by the kripâ?
If it is the general compassion and grace of the Guru, that, one would
think, is always there on the disciple; his acceptance itself is an
act of grace and the help is there for the disciple to receive. But
the touch of grace, divine grace, coming directly or through the Guru
is a special phenomenon having two sides to it, - the grace of the Guru
or the Divine, in fact both together, on one side and a "state
of grace" in the disciple on the other. The "state of grace"
is often prepared by a long tapasya or purification in which nothing
decisive seems to happen, only touches or glimpses or passing experiences
at the most, and it comes suddenly without warning. If this is what
is spoken of in Ramakrishna's saying, then it is true that when it comes,
the fundamental difficulties can in a moment and generally do disappear.
Or, at the very least, something happens which makes the rest of the
sadhana - however long it may take - sure and secure.
This decisive touch comes most easily to the "baby cat" people,
those who have at some point between the psychic and the emotional vital
a quick and decisive movement of surrender to the Guru or the Divine.
I have seen that when that is there and there is the conscious central
dependence compelling the mind also and the rest of the vital, then
the fundamental difficulty disappears. If others remain they are not
felt as difficulties, but simply as things that have just to be done
and need cause no worry. Sometimes no tapasya is necessary - one just
refers things to the Power that one feels guiding or doing the sadhana
and assents to its action, rejecting all that is contrary to it, and
the Power removes what has to be removed or changes what has to be changed,
quickly or slowly - but the quickness or slowness does not seem to matter
since one is sure that it will be done. If tapasya is necessary, it
is done with so much feeling of a strong support that there is nothing
hard or austere in the tapasya.
For the others, the "baby monkey" type or those who are still
more independent, following their own ideas, doing their own sadhana,
asking only for some instruction or help, the grace of the Guru is there,
but it acts according to the nature of the sadhak and waits upon his
effort to a greater or less degree; it helps, succours in difficulty,
saves in the time of danger, but the disciple is not always, is perhaps
hardly at all aware of what is being done as he is absorbed in himself
and his endeavour. In such cases the decisive psychological movement,
the touch that makes all clear, may take longer to come.
But with all the kripâ is there working in one way or another
and it can only abandon the disciple if the disciple himself abandons
or rejects it - by decisive and definitive revolt, by rejection of the
Guru, by cutting the painter and declaring his independence, or by an
act or course of betrayal that severs him from his own psychic being.
Even then, except perhaps in the last case if it goes to an extreme,
a return to grace is not impossible.
That is my own knowledge and experience of the matter. But as to what
lay behind Ramakrishna's saying and whether he himself meant it to be
a general and absolute statement - I do not pronounce.
* * *
It has always been said that to take disciples means to take upon yourself
the difficulties of the disciples as well as your own. Of course, if
the Guru does not identify himself with the disciple, does not take
him into his own consciousness, keeps him outside and only gives him
upadesha leaving him to do the rest himself, then the chance of these
effects is much diminished; made practically nil.
* * *
When one takes sincerely to surrender, nothing must be concealed that
is of any importance for the life of the sadhana.
Confession helps to purge the consciousness of hampering elements and
it clears the inner air and makes for a closer and more intimate and
effective relation between the Guru and the disciple.
in SABCL, volume 23
"Letters On Yoga", Part Two, Section
3,"Basic Requisites of the Path", pages 614-623
Published by Sri
Aurobindo Ashram - Pondicherry
diffusion by SABDA