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The Preceptor And The Disciple

The Preceptor And The Disciple

The Preceptor And The Disciple

However intelligent the seeker may be, it is not possible, except in the very rare cases of the perfected unworldly beings, for him to grasp the exact technique of meditation on the Ideal of Attainment. Spiritual knowledge is imparted with the best result, not so much through the precision of reason and logic, as image, art and beauty. It is the change of the feelings of the heart and not merely of the understandings of the intellect that touches the being of the inner man. Adhyatma Vidya is the science of the innermost essence of the universe, and it does not come under the intellectual categories of objective discernment. The teachings of the sages have all had the conspicuous characteristic of appealing to the whole nature of a person, not merely to an aspect of him. The highest teachings are accomplished in the language of the heart of man. The troubles of life are not alleviated through flowery expressions and subtle hair splitting. The cause of sorrow is rooted in the very make-up of the individual and not only in his superficial coatings. The inner disease is not cured by washing simply the outer shirt. The root of illness has to be dug out.

The best performance always becomes possible when both the subject and the object effect a conscious interaction not so much when the effort is exercised by the subject alone. Mind is objectified universal consciousness. The conscious subject and the conscious object are both consciousness stresses differing only in the degree of the subtlety and the expansiveness of their condition. Each higher, subtler and more expansive state is more potent and inclusive than the lower. No action or event is completely subjective or completely objective in the lower limited sense of their individuality. The truth is midway between the two. Action and reaction are the subjective and the objective forces simultaneously working, each being intimately connected with the other. The external and the internal are the two complementary phases of the one whole being. There is no purpose served when there is eye to see but no light, or, when there is light but no eye to see. The contact of both effects perceptions.  If entire individual subjectively were the truth, the individual would have been the absolute Lord of the universe and, if the entire objectivity were the truth, no individual could attain liberation, and freedom would be a chimera. The subject and the object have, therefore, equal shares in determining the effect of their interaction. The internal and the external forms of the one power of being blend together to produce an effect.

This fact well explains the wonderful process of the teacher’s imparting of knowledge to the disciple. The transformation of the consciousness of the disciple is the joint action of the receptive capacity and the conscious exertion of the disciple and the consciousness-force of the teacher sending it forth. The teacher should be “a Shrotriya and a Brahmanistha”—Mund. Up. I-2-12. The more potent spiritual energy of the teacher is infused into the less purified mental state of the disciple which results in the dispelling of the darkness and the enlightening of the mind of the latter. The consciousness of the teacher enters the dark corner in the disciple who bears it with the strength of truth and purity and receives it to the extent his mind is purged of Rajas and Tamas.

We hear of earnest seekers going to a teacher and imploring, “Adheehi Bhagavo Brahma”. “O great sire, teach me Brahman,” Bhrigu learnt Brahmavidya from his teacher Varuna, Nachiketas from Yama, Sukesha and others from Pippalada, Shaunaka from Angirasa, Swetaketu from Uddalaka, Narada from Sanatkumara, Indra from Prajapati, Maitreyi from Yajnavalkya. The disciples are generally asked to observe silence and continence in sequestration for many years before being initiated into the sacred truth. They had a great joy in leading a natural life in isolated places, practising spiritual penance. The transcendental mystery is not easy to be contemplated upon amidst the distracting bustles of social life.  The distant forests, thick and green, away from the touch of the air of the business of worldly life, have ever since ages managed to attract lovers of silence and peace. The forests breathe a new life, unknown to the common man, and speak in the language of eternity. They seem to be happily unaware of the revolting forces and the brute conflicts in nature which man so much complains of. In these forests, the seekers spend their time in silent meditation, entirely devoted to the Supreme Reality “Faith continence, austerity and knowledge” (Prasna Up. 1.10) are the watchwords of these blessed ones who practise Self-integration with iron-determination. The sincere votaries of Truth, are equipped with all the spiritually ethical qualifications, “realising that the Not-Done can never be reached through what is done, getting disgust for the action-bound world,”went humbly and reverentially to the Preceptor for receiving from him that knowledge which reveals the Imperishable. And to them the glorious Teacher speaks the Knowledge of Brahman. The disciples were “those high-souled ones who had the highest devotion to the Supreme Being, and for their preceptor as much as for the Supreme Being.” To them alone, it is declared, the truth becomes illumined. Uddalaka, illustrating his proposition that only “he who has got a preceptor can know the Truth,” compares the one who is without a spiritual guide to a blindfolded man who may miss his way and reach some other undesirable destination due to his lack of sight. The Mundaka Upanishad says that he who is desirous of real prosperity should worship the knower of the Self. No sophistry of intellect is allowed to hamper the growth of the divine relation that exists between the Guru and the Sishya.

“Even the gods had doubt as to this, for truly, it is not easy to be known; very subtle is this matter.” Katha Up. I.21. “He is not easy to be known when told by an inferior person, though (He may be) expounded about manifoldly; unless declared by another (who is supremely wise), there is no way (of attaining Him); for He is inconceivably subtler than what is very subtle, and unarguable.” (Katha Up. II. 8.) Even the proud Indra and the great Narada become humble before their teachers; this speaks of the majestic transcendentness of the Absolute, not knowable through easy means. How innocent and simple was that Satyakama who said to his teacher, when asked about his parentage.

“Sire, I do not know this, of what family I am; I asked my mother. She told me in reply: ‘I begot you in my youth when I was wandering much as a servant-maid, and I, being such, do not know this, of what family you are’”

Then, the teacher inferred that Satyakama must be a Brahmana, telling him that “a non-Brahmana will not be able to speak thus (the truth)” and accepted him as disciple. Narada bows down and says, “O Lord, I am in sorrow; may the Lord take me across sorrow.”

“Not by reasoning is this knowledge to be attained; instructed about by another, it is easy to be known.” Katha Up. II.9. These make it clear that Self-knowledge cannot be attained by an individual striving for himself in his ignorance independently without a teacher. None can reach It by his own personal effort without a proper guide; very mysterious and subtle is it. Book-learning is dead knowledge; the knowledge which directly comes from the teacher is a dynamic consciousness-power. With regard to this it is said, “The father should speak the knowledge of Brahman to the eldest son or a worthy pupil; not to anyone else; even if one should offer him this sea-girt (earth) filled with its treasures verily, (he should consider that) this (knowledge) is greater than that: verily, this is greater than that.”

The initiation is only a matriculation of the pupil in the spiritual current but the actual effort to soar high into the Absolute is to be exercised by him with the grace of the preceptor through protracted “meditation which is the firm restraining of the senses, with vigilance and non-pride for the meditative condition comes and goes.” Katha Up. VI. 11.

There is no greater error than spiritual pride. Even the state of high meditation is transitory, it passes away quickly. Let there be no pride, no conceit, even if one may feel that he is about to be finally liberated. The light of discrimination should always be kept bright. When the process of practice is perfect, there quickly comes the highest experience of the Reality.



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