Who is worthy of being called a disciple?



1. Definition and meaning of disciple

A disciple is one who practises Spirituality as advised by the Guru, with the motive of making spiritual progress. The Kularnav Tantra defines a disciple as,

शरीरमर्थप्राणांश्च सद्‌गुरुभ्‍यो निवेद्य य: ।
गुरुभ्‍य: शिक्षते योगं शिष्‍य इत्‍यभिधीयते ।।

Meaning: The one who surrenders his everything, that is, his body, wealth and life unto the Guru and learns Yoga from Him (that is, practises Spirituality as recommended by Him) is called a disciple (shishya). [Hence, even if a disciple deserts his wife and children and goes to his Guru he does not become a sinner.]

2. The importance of discipleship

A. A disciple does not need to repay the four debts namely to God, sages, ancestors and the society.

B. गुरुपुत्रो वरं मूर्खस्‍तस्‍य सिध्‍दयन्‍ति नान्‍यथा ।
शुभकर्माणि सर्वाणि दीक्षाव्रततपांसि च ।। १५१ ।। – श्री गुरुगीता

Meaning: Although a disciple serving the Guru worthy of being called His son appears to be foolish in worldly interactions, yet his spiritual practice consisting of initiations, vowed religious observances and penance attains fulfillment. Those not serving the Guru thus do not acquire such benefits. – Shri Gurugita

गुरुपुत्र अपंडित । जरी मूर्ख तो सुनिश्चित ।
त्‍याचेनि सर्व कार्यसिध्‍दि होत । सिद्धान्‍त हा वेदवचनीं ।। १०२ ।।
– श्री रंगनाथस्वामीकृत गुरुगीता

Meaning: The Guru’s son means His disciple while the unlearned (apandit) and foolish one means the one who appears foolish, externally. Though a disciple appears foolish externally, all the desires of those who visit him are fulfilled because of his spiritual powers. This is a doctrine from the Vedas.- Shri Gurugita by Shri Ranganathswami

3. The student and the disciple

Just as a Guru and a teacher can be differentiated [ refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 6 – Path of Guru’s Grace (Gurukrupayoga )], so also a disciple and a student are different. A student completes the account with his teacher by paying his fees. However, since the Guru imparts knowledge of the soul principle (atmadnyan) no matter how much one does for Him, it is still far too little. This is akin to one’s inability to repay one’s parents who have cared for one since childhood. The student means chatra.The word ‘chatra’ in Sanskrut is derived thus ‘छत्रं गुरोर्दोषाणामावरणं तच्‍छीलमस्‍येति ।’. Chatra is the one who is naturally endowed with the propensity to obscure the Guru’s (teacher’s) defects (shabdakalpadrum). As against this, the disciple never finds any defects in the Guru.

4. The medium and the disciple

Dr. Jayant Athavale: If a Guru gets His mission fulfilled through a disciple just like a subtle body which operates through some medium then I am not at all interested in Spirituality.

H.H. Bhaktaraj Maharaj (Baba): When one acts as a medium one cannot make spiritual progress. One remains influenced by someone else. On the contrary, when a Guru gets His mission accomplished through a disciple, He increases the potential of that disciple, just like Shri Ramakruíhna who first increased Vivekanand’s spiritual prowess and only then got His mission fulfilled through him.’ (1)

One of Baba’s disciples used to jot down everything that Baba taught from time to time. Baba would tell him, “This writing is of no use to you (since you can now learn non-verbally), but it will definitely benefit others.” Later, that disciple wrote a book on Spirituality which Baba liked. So Baba told him, “My Guru had blessed Me that I would write several books. I wrote only one book of devotional songs (bhajans). So now I am bestowing My Guru’s blessing unto you.” The disciple responded saying, “But I do not experience Bliss by writing books anymore.” (When one goes to the non-verbal level, regressing to the verbal level means loss of Bliss.) Baba then told him, “You will have to write books. It is your duty. Write small books on each topic. They should be easy to handle and affordable for the common man as well.”

In March 1987, just five months before meeting his Guru, in the introduction to the book on Spirituality the disciple had written, ‘I pray to The Almighty to grant me His grace to be able to write a separate book on each of the topics in this book, in modern scientific language’. This blessing was like a response to his prayer made much earlier.

Unaware of all this, people feel, ‘What an in-depth study this disciple has done! He has written such useful books’. They do not know that the Guru Himself has got this done through the disciple.

5. The Guru-disciple relationship

A. The Guru-disciple relationship is considered very sacred. It is the only true relationship. The Guru-disciple relationship is only spiritual in nature. The only awareness that a disciple should foster is that, ‘I should be uplifted spiritually’. The Guru too harbours only one feeling, ‘May this disciple be uplifted’. This relationship is independent of age. It is based on maturity of spiritual knowledge (dnyan) and spiritual practice (sadhana). All living organisms progress only through spiritual knowledge and spiritual practice. All other relationships are born out of fear or social commitments. Hence, they are bound by worldly restrictions. In these relationships, the ego constantly manifests itself and spiritual knowledge and the practice of Spirituality have no value. In other words, maintaining the ego helps to preserve these relationships. Thus, all relationships in which the ego is retained are albeit false.

B. Awareness of the Guru and disciple relation is an inferior sign.
Lord Narayan manifests in all living beings,
hence the other is akin to oneself.
One harbours fear perceiving the rope to be a snake.
Tuka says one should not pay attention to either
qualities or defects.

The explanation: Tukaram Maharaj says, “If everything is Brahman or Narayan then what is the need for Guruhood and discipleship? If everything is Brahman then is the disciple distinct from Him? If one does not realise that a rope lying in a place is a rope and perceives it as a snake then one will surely tremble in panic, at its sight!”

The sect of one disciple having one Guru which has become popular,
Aims at understanding the means to realise Me.
– Shri Bhavarthadipika (Shri Dnyaneshvari) 18:1226

One thinks that the Guru and disciple relationship is a causative factor in a disciple’s progress. This illusion is true only till the moment the disciple receives initiation (anugraha) from his Guru. When a disciple who is endowed with the Guru’s initiation asks the Guru, “After how long will I be liberated?” the latter replies, “You are liberated the moment you are initiated. If you disbelieve Me then undertake the practice of devotion (do spiritual practice) in order to obtain that spiritual experience. However, if you have faith then even devotion (spiritual practice) is not required.”

No sooner is one initiated than one achieves
the Final Liberation,
The soul is freed from bondages.
– Shri Dasbodh 8.7.59

Once the disciple attains the state of Absoluteness (Pûrnatva) the Guru-disciple relationship persists only in worldly terms for the sake of the people.’ – H.H. Kane Maharaj, Narayangaon

6. Acquisition of a Guru

6.1 Do not go in search of a Guru

* The Guru appeared before me,
But how could I recognise Him without inner vision?
– Saint Bhaktaraj

* Although one may not recognise Him
bow down before Him,
He then will grant Self-realisation
enchanting one’s mind with pure love.
– Saint Bhaktaraj

The Guru principle being very subtle and a seeker’s power of perception being more of the gross and very little of the subtle dimension, in Spirituality one cannot find a Guru despite a search. A disciple is not supposed to choose his Guru. It is the Guru who chooses and spiritually uplifts His disciples. Once a seeker attains a spiritual level of more than 50% the Guru Himself accepts him as His disciple. However, despite the spiritual level being just 40%, if a seeker has intense motivation to make spiritual progress, then he is blessed with a Guru. In short, rather than going in search of a Guru, a seeker should make efforts to qualify as a disciple. [The spiritual level of an average person is 20% whereas that of one who has attained the Final Liberation (Moksha) is 100%]

6.2 One should not test the Guru

‘If one is able to develop faith only after testing, then one will have to test the Guru. The examiner however is superior to the pupil. If one feels one is superior, then how can one accept Him as one’s Guru ?’(2)

6.3 One should never consider oneself as someone’s disciple

One should never consider oneself as a disciple of a particular Guru. It is the Guru who should proclaim one to be His disciple. It is not sufficient for a youth to consider a young girl as his lover as she too should reciprocate his feelings. The same holds good in the Guru-disciple relationship too.

6.4 Whom should one choose as one’s Guru?

‘Each one should become a disciple of the unmanifest (nirgun) Guru and not just a follower of philosophy. Only when one experiences the unmanifest can one recognise the manifest (sagun) and only after realising the unmanifest does one become aware of where one stands spiritually. [A disciple of the unmanifest (nirgun) Guru is the disciple of the one who constantly experiences the unmanifest principle that is the Paratpar Guru or The Lord’s Name.]’(3)

6.5 The stage (ashram) in the four stages (ashrams) of the Guru and the disciple

A celibate (brahmachari) feels closer to a Guru who is a celibate. Similarly a retired householder (vanaprasthashrami) and a renunciant (sanyasashrami) feel closer to a Guru in the corresponding stage. A married householder (gruhastha) on the other hand, is equally attracted to either a celibate, a retired householder, a renunciant or a married householder as a Guru.

6.6 Acquisition of a Guru through guidance in the subtle dimension

It is well known that Saint Tukaram was initiated with the GurumantraRama Krushna Hari’ by His Guru Babaji Chaitanya through a vision in a dream. He said ‘Now God has granted me His vision (sakshatkar) and enlightened me with the fact that the one who you thought was your friend is now your Guru; that is why I am entrusting you in His custody. There is no longer any duality left between Him and Me. We are befitting each other’s grace totally. Henceforth He shall be your Guru’. (4)

7. Duty and debt to the Guru

A. A disciple has no obligation whatsoever towards such things from the Great Illusion (Maya) as his family, society, etc. His sole duty is to acquire the grace of the Guru and make spiritual progress.

B. One should not bring dishonour to the Guru’s name. H.H. Kane Maharaj used to feel ashamed to say that He was a disciple of Shridhar Swami because he feared that He would bring dishonour to His Guru’s name if his conduct was not worthy of a disciple.

C. Responsibilities of being a disciple

राजा राष्‍ट्रकृतं पापं पुरोहित: ।
भर्ता च स्‍त्रीकृतं पापं शिष्‍यपापं गुरुस्तथा ।।

Meaning: The brunt of the sins committed by the subjects have to be borne by the king, those committed by the king have to be borne by the chief priest, those committed by a woman have to be borne by her husband and those by a disciple by his Guru.

The implied meaning: The above quote is only on a psychological plane. The intention behind the statement is that a disciple should behave righteously keeping in mind that ‘if a disciple errs, his Guru is punished for those mistakes’. A Guru who has blended with God however, is beyond merits and sins and has nothing left to undergo.

D. One may find millions of Gurus
but one rarely finds a disciple.
Once a disciple is found
he should honour his Guru’s word.

Meaning: It is easy to find millions of Gurus. But to find even one genuine disciple is extremely difficult. If at all one is found then he should bring honour to his Guru. If a disciple does not progress spiritually then it is shameful for the Guru. In this regard, in a way it is upto the disciple to maintain his Guru’s honour and it is mandatory for him to fulfill this duty.

E. Only if one does spiritual practice and attains the Final Liberation (Moksha) is the debt to the Guru repaid. Otherwise one remains indebted to Him forever.


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