The Guru-Disciple Relationship
Sri Chinmoy is my Guru, my spiritual teacher. Sri Chinmoy writes,
“Guru is a Sanskrit word. It means ‘he who illumines others’. The Guru brings light. Light itself is the real Guru. In my case, I always say that I am a server. I am a child of God and you are also a child of God. We are members of the same family. The one who came first into the family perhaps knows more than the ones who came after him. In terms of spirituality, I know a little more than my students. Being the elder brother, I know more about our Heavenly Father, God. I teach them how to pray and meditate so that they can also have a free access to our Heavenly Father, their Inner Pilot.”
Sri Chinmoy, Sri Chinmoy Answers, Part 29, Agni Press,
To me, Sri Chinmoy is evidence that one can realise God. In his own meditation, you can see so much light and purity in his face and eyes that it cannot fail to inspire you to meditate and persevere with the spiritual life. Without such a tangible example, it would be easier to be disillusioned and doubt our capacity for transforming our human consciousness. Some of my most memorable experiences were meditating with Sri Chinmoy. I could never get enough of seeing the face of this yogi in meditation. At times, you just felt his consciousness had left the body, leaving only the thinnest connection to the body which struggled to contain such a vast and immense consciousness. At other times, there was such delight and bliss encapsulated in the expression of Sri Chinmoy's face, that you really believed in the validity of the famous Upanishad saying:
From Delight we came into existence.
In Delight we grow.
At the end of our journey’s close,
Into Delight we retire.
Sri Chinmoy, The Upanishads: The Crown Of India's Soul, Agni Press, 1974.
A Guru can instruct both outwardly and inwardly. Naturally, when your Guru is in the body, part of you would like outer attention, recognition and praise. Outer closeness and recognition is what our human ego craves. But, fortunately or unfortunately, this was not for me. When I first went to see Sri Chinmoy, in New York, I had certain expectations – I was looking for him to recognise me. I can't remember, but maybe I thought he would start up a conversation and say, ‘Welcome to New York, and congratulations on getting a degree from Oxford University’ – the kind of thing you would expect from human friends.
But, Guru didn't do that. Not only did he not speak, but when we had a meditation walk-past or were taking prasad (blessed food), it seemed Guru would almost make a point of looking away to avoid my eye contact. With other older disciples, Sri Chinmoy would offer a big smile or ask about some (seemingly unimportant) issue like, how was their health? How was their new camera? But, for me it seemed a purposeful and studious avoidance. After a few years, I got used to this seeming outer indifference. I felt it was because Guru wanted me to value the inner spiritual guide. Guru didn't want me to reduce the precious Guru-disciple relationship to a mere outer smile. It was like Guru was saying, ‘Don't expect me to meet your human wishes, don’t rely on my external presence but value my inner presence’.
It wasn't what I expected, but I got used to it; and after a while that was fine with me. But, just as I got used to it, Guru started doing the opposite. Sometimes in the prasad queue it felt like he was concentrating on me and giving me the most wonderful, illumining smile. I had also become quite accustomed to the idea of never speaking to Guru, and in a way that suited me. I could just sit at the back and be nice and quiet. But, just as I was used to that idea, Guru asked me to come up to the front at a Christmas Trip function. Guru seemed most interested in my cycling and said some very nice things. To me, I always thought cycling was just a distraction, the least useful thing that I did. I thought there were other things which were much more important. But, it was cycling that was giving Guru great joy. It just shows it was always difficult to know what was important.
On later Christmas Trips, Guru's smiles were sometimes becoming more powerful. I remember on my last Christmas trip in Turkey (which was a beautiful location in Antalya): we were getting prasad and as usual I was only interested in looking at Guru. Even though I was right down the line, Guru started looking at me with his eyes wide open. It just felt like he was pouring something into my soul. My mind went blank and without any effort, a huge smile irresistibly appeared on my face. It was an intoxicating experience. And it went on and on, it wasn't just a quick glance, but several seconds. I remember being overjoyed, but also there came a moment when my mind jumped in and said, ‘No more light! It's not fair to get so much!’ I broke away from Guru's eye contact, it was like I had filled my limited vessel to the limit and just couldn't take any more light. I later really regretted doing that – why turn away from the light? But it all happened without really thinking. I guess this is human nature, there is only so much light we can be receptive to.
photo top: Prashphutita Greco
photo bottom: Kedar Misani (not certain)