Showing posts with label discipleship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label discipleship. Show all posts

Monday, September 11, 2017

Happy Anniversary, Swamiji! September 12 1948

Happy 69th Anniversary, Swamiji (Kriyananda)! 69 years since you first met your guru, Paramhansa Yogananda and were accepted by him as a renunciate and disciple. Your time with him was to be only three and a half years but these years were as many as had the disciples of Jesus with their master! 

It was enough: enough for you to go on to establish in your guru's name a worldwide network of intentional, spiritual communities whose residents (and their fellow, non resident Ananda members) were instructed and inspired in the path of Kriya Yoga as taught to you by Yogananda.

Who can possibly number the miles you've traveled throughout the world? The talks and lectures? Yoga classes; meditation classes, classes and initiations in the techniques of Kriya Yoga! The time spent counseling with individuals and with the leaders of the various organizations you established? Who can chronicle the depth and breadth of the musical compositions and concerts--a new form of music--both instrumental and vocal--Songs of Divine Joy that came through your attunement and talent? Who can count the wisdom insights expressed through your writings--hundreds of pieces from articles and papers to published books? They are beyond measure and offer wisdom and inspiration that spans the breadth of the human experience, its challenges and aspirations. "Crystal Clarity" you called your writing and editing work, and crystal clear it is for those with "eyes to see" and "ears to hear."

All of these efforts were infused with the vibrations of wisdom and joy of the world spiritual teacher, Paramhansa Yogananda, and the line of preceptors who sent and trained Yogananda a century ago. 

You revealed that Yogananda told you more than once that "You have a great work to do!" And when Yogananda's most advanced disciple (Rajasi Janakananda) repeated this to you after the death of Yogananda, he added, "And Master will give you the strength to do it," that strength was amply demonstrated throughout your life. 

Who can know the untold burdens of body troubles that beset you; the years of diatribes and accusations from fellow disciples who might as well have wished upon you and condemned you (if they could) to eternal hell fire! Yes, "tapasya" (self-sacrifice) is the price of spiritual service and soul freedom but you always knew it was Divine Mother's gift for it meant your freedom and the upliftment of countless sincerely-seeking souls.

And oh what blessings to us to have received all of these things and more: opportunities to serve with you; to serve the "great work" you have done; to serve with one another in divine friendship; and to practice the art of discipleship. You never accepted the role of guru (for God is the guru through the last of the Self-realization line: Paramhansa Yogananda) but you gave us a window on to what living discipleship looked like. You gave to us who accepted the opportunity to give our lives to our guru's work through Ananda, living lessons in the attitudes and roles of a disciple.

We thank you and offer back to you (wherever your soul may be roaming now in freedom), our gratitude and love for we will go on until the end where we will meet again. We vow to do our best to honor the spirit and the letter of your legacy and instructions to us in carrying on this great work. 

Happy Anniversary, Swamiji!

Nayaswami Hriman

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Kriya Yoga & Discipleship in the 21st Century

[My apologies in advance for the length of this article. These opinions are not those of any organization but are solely my own.]

I am a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda (PY) and the line of preceptors who sent him. In this life, I did not know him as I was born in 1950 in northern California and he, PY, left his mortal frame in 1952 in Los Angeles.

I was greatly blessed to become a student and friend of Swami Kriyananda (SK) who lived with and was trained by PY in the last three and a half years of PY's life. Thus in a very real sense, I (and of course many hundreds, indeed, thousands) were blessed to receive PY's vibrations, wisdom, and joy through the channel of SK.

Commissioned and ordained by SK as a minister and, in 2009, as a kriyacharya (one authorized to initiate others into Kriya Yoga), I (and my wife, Padma) offer classes to prepare students to become disciples of PY and to receive kriya initiation (through the Ananda Center based in Bothell, near Seattle).

We do this twice a year and each time we see students struggle with the hurdle of taking discipleship as a prerequisite and a consequence of kriya initiation. In this training, we follow the pattern established by PY during his lifetime and given to us by SK.

During his very active and full lifetime of teaching, SK would regale us with stories of his time with PY. It was not to separate himself from us, as in, "lucky me," it was genuinely to help us understand what discipleship entailed and how important it is to achieving Self-realization. In turn, we share and train students in this same manner.

After SK's passing three years ago and during one of these classes, I was inspired to play an audio recording of SK speaking on the subject of discipleship. (SK gave many such talks during his lifetime.) I was shocked, however, when the students had no substantive reaction to the talk; they were not particularly inspired or touched. Listening to it with them in our living room (where we give these classes), I could feel that they were not able to connect to SK nor yet, more importantly, to either the precepts or the stories that SK shared with them.

It was then that my concerns arose and my thoughts have been evolving ever since.

Allow me to digress: PY's life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," (AY) describes Lahiri Mahasaya (the saint who brought the practice of kriya yoga back into public view) as giving kriya to all sincere seekers: Moslems, Christians and others (not just orthodox Hindus). Students sometimes ask us about this, especially with the hidden, unstated question of "Why, then, must we take discipleship vows?"

Yet in the AY, Lahiri is told by Babaji (who initiated Lahiri into kriya and commissioned him to spread kriya yoga) to quote from the Bhagavad Gita a particular stanza to all his "disciples" to whom he gives kriya. Thus Babaji states, without reservation, that those to whom Lahiri would give the kriya technique would be disciples.

I am not aware of PY doing this with any regularity but he was known to give kriya spontaneously and/or to those of other faiths. He quotes Lahiri's statements about the universality of kriya in AY, so he obviously accepted and approved it. However, notwithstanding his own example and teaching, I am told that in years after PY's passing, his own organization began to require students preparing for kriya to pledge their allegiance to that organization and to their discipleship to PY as being exclusive of other paths, gurus, etc. (I don't have the exact facts on this requirement but I've heard it repeatedly from others first hand.)

Returning to our subject, then, we are faced, here and now in the 21st century, with the simple fact that PY is NOT in the body; that kriya is being disseminated throughout the world through various lineages and organizations, and even in published book form; and that its worldwide spread was predicted and intended by this lineage. Yet, SK is no longer in body to guide us; and with both PY and most other direct disciples like SK, also gone from this earth, new potential disciples will not have the opportunity to have the blessing of PY's human presence, nor yet that of his direct disciples.

A variety of organizations and spiritual teachers, each of which claims transmission from the kriya lineage of Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Swami Sri Yukteswar and/or Paramhansa Yogananda, offers training in the kriya technique. Each may have slightly different requirements in regards to training and/or initiation.

Even in following the training we have been given by Swami Kriyananda (the pattern follows the training PY employed), there are nuances in respect to the expectations and requirements that we hold out in respect to the meaning and form that discipleship should take.

Let's consider first a person of another faith? Can they receive kriya? Are they expected to be disciples of PY? At Ananda we've more or less considered that people of other faiths are eligible for kriya initiation on the assumption that their participation in that faith is for cultural, family and convenience reasons rather than as an act of deep faith. Is that, in fact, what the masters have intended? 

I, for one, have no reason to assume or believe that this assumption was intended by them. If such a one is loyal to his own faith, is he not a true disciple of PY? I think that such a person can be both loyal to his faith AND a disciple of PY (and this line of kriya masters). How can this be? "God is the guru" PY said often. If a person is sufficiently mature enough to not view his loyalty to his faith as being compromised by his discipleship to PY, and who views PY as an incarnation of God who has been sent to him for his spiritual growth, then why would PY have a conflict with that person's faith (and, if a true faith, why would he?)?

Imagine that this person, say, a Christian, is given personal instruction in his faith by a wise and spiritually mature or advanced minister, teacher or friend. Let's say this person is his spiritual guide. Is that a conflict with his discipleship to Christ? Of course not! The Kriya masters make it clear in their lives and teachings that they represent "Sanaatan Dharma," the eternal religion. Not some new sect! 

True, you might object, saying, "But this mentor is not the sat guru!" True, but how can any one of us know whether PY or any of the others are our sat guru? I don't think we will know until we are much closer to enlightenment. Even PY's guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, was a "proxy," he explained, for his sat guru, Babaji! We should know the teaching and the precepts but their application to our individual lives is necessarily directional and relative.

Would a self-professed atheist be eligible for kriya? I don't see how. Profession of atheism is as dogmatic as any narrow-eyed religious dogma. A sincere agnostic, on the other hand, who simply professes not to know whether God exists but otherwise is open, could certainly be. At first, his "discipleship" would be the commitment to practice kriya and study the teachings; in time, the descent of divine consciousness will baptism him in true faith and intuitive gnosis. Sri Yukteswar told his disciple, PY, that "joy is the proof of God's existence! (And His adequate response to our every need.)"

Can one who has taken a vow of discipleship to another guru and lineage take kriya? Hmmm, that hits closer to home, doesn't it? I'd say generally, "it depends." If that guru offers no kriya equivalent, is in all other respects compatible in the teachings, and the disciple mature and sincere.......Maybe? After all, the line between this circumstance and the situation of being of another faith can become a very thin line. Besides, PY's lineage is compatible both vibrationally and historically with a number of other saints. So, this is too close to call, at least for me. The issue of having only one guru has two aspects: practicality and principle. Practicality has to do with the admixture of vibration, teachings and techniques that potentially confuses the devotee; principle has to do both with the importance of loyalty (which PY emphasized as "the first law of God") and the principle of the sat (sad) guru: that instrument through which our salvation is destined to come. 

I know numerous devotees whose personal altar contains many true saints. What is the significance of this and the person's inner attunement and relationship to each saint? I generally have no idea. Why should I be the judge? Sincerity and maturity linked with intensity of effort, common sense and intelligence, are the magnets that attract the power of grace. 

Not everyone can integrate this bifurcation of loyalty and commitment so readily. In fact, and in general, our planetary human consciousness is not very evolved this way. We tend toward "either-or," rather than "both-and." One sees more genuine examples of this universality and integration in a culture like India than in the West. 

The downside can, however, be a lack of discernment and an eclectic approach for which no deep roots are nurtured. Nonetheless, we are not here to judge others even if, we must, by the requirements of our role, fulfill some degree of our own discernment of a person's readiness to take kriya and to accept discipleship.

As one trained and commissioned by Swami Kriyananda, I am committed to following the instructions and training he has given to us. My priority is to serve and build the work of Ananda rather than to be a vending machine for kriya. We could not offer kriya if there were not a committed group of disciples operating through genuine attunement to the guru(s) to support this work of kriya.

Yet, as I encounter students seeking kriya for whom very little personal connection, if any, exists in respect to PY (owing at least in part to the passage of time and the disappearance of direct disciples), I must wonder whether our description and training in discipleship which is wholly based on the example of PY and his own direct disciples, is unnecessarily too high a bar; too irrelevant to the daily lives of sincerely seeking men and women living in this conflicted world of ours; people for whom kriya was intended to uplift. How can kriya spread if every potential disciple is expected to accept and have the kind of relationship that direct disciples had with PY, or even what some of us had with PY through SK as our teacher (and who was a direct disciple)?

Is it, then, possible to reconcile these aspects of discipleship in regards to kriya initiation?

I believe it is. I believe we must consider the reality of discipleship for an ever widening circle of sincere souls. Few of these will become members of organizations founded to serve Yogananda's work; fewer still will live in a monastic life, or in Ananda Communities, or become ministers, acharyas, or reunciates or in any other way adopt the outer forms of discipleship and renunciation. Indeed, PY's teachings and Lahiri's own commission from Babaji clearly anticipate kriya for the common (but sincere) "man."

I believe that the simplest resolution of these questions lies in viewing the practice of kriya itself as the primary instrument of discipleship. Kriya, in effect, becomes the guru. Kriya (and its attendant practices like Energization, Aum, and Hong Sau) become the channels through which, by the disciple's sincere effort based on his or her training, inspiration and guidance from the guru comes. Yes the touch (and guidance) of the disciples is the primary vehicle of transmission but by and of itself it is, like the kriya initiation ceremony itself, it is only a beginning. So PY has taught us.

Sincere students should of course study the lives of direct disciples; they should learn the value of serving the guru's work; the importance of devotion; right attitude; the concepts of the teachings of the guru; and so much else. Sharing these essential elements of the spiritual path is important; but, as these students are fresh and new to this, and as the training we and others offer is generally less than one year, we cannot expect them to manifest these qualities overnight! Attunement takes time and practice. Nor, in fact, have we done otherwise, all these years. 

What we've done to-date, however, is to describe discipleship in such a way as hold aloft a high bar of expectations which lies beyond the current reach of understanding and experience of an increasing tide of otherwise sincere and potentially qualified kriyaban-disciples. As discipleship is unfamiliar to westerners and triggers doubt, fear, and confusion, I think we need a broader brush to meet them where they are.

I think, therefore, we should add to our training an emphasis that with right attitude and devotion, kriya itself can be an instrument through which attunement to the guru can grow naturally. It's not the only way, obviously, but as kriya spreads and as more and more come seeking kriya for whom service and satsang may not be accessible or of immediate and obvious appeal, this can be their legitimate starting point and as a starting point, it can be their guide.

I'd like to share some quotes from an unpublished course in discipleship that SK created for training the monks at Mt. Washington back in the 1950's:

In the West, the importance of the guru-disciple relationship is over-looked; one great reason being that it is not understood. Even the more familiar word disciple is not understood. Who were the disciples of Jesus, for instance? Those who followed the discipline of Jesus. There are several references in the Christian Bible to this relationship as a necessity for communion with God. Paramhansaji frequently explained that a disciple is one that follows discipline. Whose discipline? Certainly the blind cannot lead the blind. Neither can a human being steeped in delusion go on alone,as many think to be able to do. One cannot become a surgeon without studying under experts in surgery; no one can become a pianist without studying under a pianist. The same principle is involved in one’s quest for God. Without the discipline of following a true guru one may not find God.

......    Note: In all cases, in the ultimate sense, it is God who is the Guru: First,through His Law; second through books and teachers; third, through the most direct channel possible, a guru. Lesser teachers turn one to themselves. A guru’s wish is only to turn devotees to God; to lift them up to his own stature of spiritual realization.....

The practice of the techniques is essential. Many times I have heard our beloved Master say to a disciple, “Practice your techniques. It is through the techniques that I can help you.”  He has given us these great techniques, but it is up to us to use them for our own salvation."  

When you read the AY and its frequent references to kriya, and the writings and lectures and lessons written by PY, it is abundantly clear that the principal, and most visible and objective legacy he has given the world is KRIYA YOGA. It seems inescapable to me that PY intended kriya to be the instrument of attunement for future generations and centuries, when little else other than books and a relatively few number of dedicated and attuned disciples exist to carry on the work.

The only other choice, apart from just printing the technique (as has been done) in a book, is to require commitment to an organization to receive the requisite training and support in satsang and service. This is precisely what PY's own organization apparently has done. 

It is understandable. I, too, find sometimes frustrating the mercenary and ignorant impulse in some seekers to come for our training, take the kriya, and "run." They do not understand the importance of satsang (fellowship), devotion, and seva (service) to the guru's work. Yet, SK has made it clear that we do not require membership or service to Ananda as a requirement of kriya initiation.

Nonetheless, when I survey some Ananda members who outwardly fulfill all of these things I don't always see true devotees, either. It takes time to grow our attunement to the truth. We who might be privileged to train and initiate others and therefore act somewhat as gatekeepers, must be careful not to create hurdles that are inappropriate or skewed by our loyalty to the organization we serve in our guru's name. 

Today's seekers have little exposure and sometimes a great deal of ignorance, misunderstanding or wariness regarding the meaning of discipleship. We can share what we've been taught; share what we have learned. But we must not impose either the ideals or our own experience on souls whose karmic pattern of unfoldment is uniquely their own. 

So long as they are sincere and are open to learning about the precepts of discipleship, I believe it is up each to approach and express their discipleship uniquely (so long as other requirements, namely, learning and practicing the other techniques that are part of the kriya path are fulfilled). One who goes to the altar of matrimony may be confident or have secret reservations but so long as they are sincere, the outcome must await the unfoldment of the resuls of their efforts and their karma. 

Let us make kriya yoga available for all who are sincere!

Swami Hrimananda

Friday, July 25, 2014

Do I Need a Guru?

Do I Need a Guru?

(Note: I write this inspired as I am this day, July 25, which commemorates the meeting of Mahavatar Babaji with Paramhansa Yogananda for the purpose of endorsing Yogananda's inspiration to go to America. Yogananda prayed all night for a sign that his going was the Divine will. The next morning the peerless Babaji came to him at 4 Garpar Road, Calcutta, to give his blessing to one who was destined to bring the work of kriya yoga to the West and to the world.)

Well, if that’s the question, I say, “Is the pope Catholic?” Mozart was once asked how it was he composed music at age 4 or 5? Mozart’s reply was simple: “I didn’t have to ask that question.”

If a person is seeking a partner in life and is attracted to someone, if he has to ask, “Am I in love?” I’d say, “Wait.” If you have to ask a question like that, it means the answer is no. Important things in life aren’t answered by listing out the “pros” and “cons” on a sheet of paper.

One who asks, “Do I need a guru,” doesn’t. And, not because he doesn’t, but because he isn’t ready. When he is ready, he won’t ask the question.

Now, many a person approaches the marriage altar unsure of herself. Self-doubt is certainly an obstacle. Things might work out just fine. Or, not! Yet, despite the doubt, the very fact of approaching altar speaks for itself. Others approach with great certitude only to later encounter stormy waters and crushing disappointment. Whether falsely confident or unnecessarily doubting, the mental static of each thwarts the power of intuition to know what is true.

When I read Autobiography of a Yogi the first time, I simply knew. It wasn’t that I said, “I have found my guru.” Rather, it was that “I knew.” I knew that I had to take the next step even though I didn’t know where it would lead. I had enough intuition and faith to take those steps. And, they weren’t timid steps, for these steps included leaving my birth family and moving to Ananda Village with little to no idea what I was getting into. I wasn’t thinking in terms such as “discipleship” to a person, but I was inspired by Yogananda’s teachings and by the opportunity to live those teachings with others in community. I was fired with calm enthusiasm and confidence. 

Besides, Yogananda, as a person, died in 1952 when I was less than two years old. I had not yet met Swami Kriyananda but that didn’t seem to matter much either. I was blessed with a knowing. I never gave one thought to the details. In fact, it was 1977, one year after the fire at Ananda Village: there were no homes and fewer jobs in a remote corner of Nevada County in the Sierra foothills where Ananda Village was located. There wasn’t much there to see: besides a few tepees and huts, there was the Publications building, a very old farmhouse that was the tiny grocery store, a two-room Village office, an old barn and a schoolhouse on a hill.

My attraction may have included inspirational ideas but my response was, and had to be, very personal. One’s response to grace is always personal. For starters, it was personal because a person, Padma, was the one who introduced me to the "Autobiography;" for another, she introduced me to Swami Kriyananda and Ananda! For another, she was interested in me! It doesn’t get more personal than that. My life was about to change drastically and it was very personal!

Nonetheless, though I wasn’t averse or reactive to the word “discipleship,” discipleship wasn’t, for me, the operative word. It would have been too formal for my vocabulary at that time. But that is certainly what it was. And so, bit by bit, step by step, Paramhansa Yogananda came into my life and consciousness.

No response to grace by one person can define the spiritual path. But human life, in its conscious and intentional and intuitive forms, is a constant cycle back and forth between the impersonal and the personal. 

For those who, like myself, begin at the point of ideas, the path becomes increasingly personal. For those who begin at the point of an inspired personal relationship, the path, in order to become whole and complete, becomes increasingly idealistic. But this cycle has to balance and is never static.

I have come full circle in my life on this issue, for, year after year I practiced kriya yoga; year after year I served at the first Ananda Community near Nevada City, CA; year after year I served with, listened to, was taught by and learned from Ananda’s founder, Swami Kriyananda. You could say it kept getting more and more personal! It HAS to because WE ARE personally involved. Our very soul is struggling to emerge from the cocoon of ego. All the abstractions and metaphysical precepts in the universe can’t change the personal nature of spiritual growth.

I have come full circle on this in my life. Many students question why it is that to learn kriya yoga one must accept the disciple-guru relationship with Paramhansa Yogananda and the line of preceptors who sent him. With personal experience, I have come to know why.

I have said to others who question this need, “Go ahead: try to advance spiritually on your own.” Anyone who makes an ardent, sincere and intelligent effort will discover the truth (“that will make you free”): we are not alone and we cannot transcend the ego with the ego’s best efforts alone. Something else — a greater power — is needed. It’s like the website “Kickstarter.” To get a successful venture off the ground, you need spiritual “financing.”

All the kriyas, all the donations, all the creative, tireless, self-less service one performs for spiritual growth are necessary but they constitute only 1/4th of what it takes. For one thing, the doing of such activities are sticky: they stick to the sense of personal, egoic doership.

On the 8-Fold Path of Patanjali, among the five items he lists as the “Do’s” is devotion. Devotion is what propels self-effort towards the soul by way of ego transcendence. Recognition of the “otherness” of the soul, of superconsciousness, of God, and heartfelt self-offering into the guidance and power of the “Other” is the necessary “spice” that makes the soup of spiritual growth nutritious and soul-satisfying.

As I have stated earlier, the spiritual path is personal. Devotion becomes personal when, in response to our heartfelt efforts and devotion, God’s grace and presence flows to us and comes to us through the guru. Timing is everything. Timing includes the question of when we meet the guru face-to-face in the body. It’s not that the true guru is limited by time or space but one’s readiness to encounter the guru in human form varies from person to person. 

We, at Ananda, are disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda but he left his body in 1952. Through the touch of his direct disciple, Swami Kriyananda, we have been inspired and instructed. A time will no doubt come in a future life or on a higher plane when our meeting will be complete in every way. So while the guru is already transcendent and doesn’t need a physical body, we need the guru to appear in human form for our own instruction and inspiration. Otherwise, without incarnation, how would I know anything about the guru: the teachings, the techniques, the life example and stories?

The fact of avatara (divine incarnation) is also the promise of our soul’s immortality. It also hints at how God created and sustains all creation: by an act of becoming. It is logically and philosophically necessary that a soul in human form has achieved Self-realization. This demonstrates the eternal promise, the covenant between God and man that we are His children, made in His image.

The guru is an incarnation of divinity. No single guru can circumscribe or otherwise limit the Infinite Power of God. Nonetheless, one who has “become one with the Father” (in a previous life), returns to human incarnation with the full power of divinity. As God has become the entire universe but the forms and beings of creation have not yet realized this truth, so God incarnates on earth in human form through the vehicle of a soul who has reunited with “the Father” and become Self-realized as a son of God.

Each true (or “sat”) guru remains unique, as each snowflake is unique. This is the law of creation and duality. Thus each guru in any given life will uniquely express God’s will and vibration appropriate both to the unique nature of that Self-realized soul and to the needs of those to whom that guru is sent. No one guru has the final “say.”

It has been well said that “idolatry is the bane of religion.” But so is dogmatism, sectarianism and just about every other vice that infests human consciousness. In the case of idolatry, it is the all too common error of mistaking the form (the human persona of the guru) for the divine spirit which animates the guru’s consciousness. Thus, some object to what they view as the “worship” of the guru for the fact that such devotion belongs solely to God and for the fact that human beings are imperfect.

No point “arguing” with that objection. A good disciple should try always see God as acting through the guru. Yogananda repeatedly reminded disciples that “God is the guru. I killed Yogananda long ago. No one dwells in this form but He.” Still, if a sincere but somewhat less than clear-minded disciple lavishes his devotion somewhat too personally upon the guru, forgetting the correct philosophical attitude, it seems hair-splitting so long as the disciple harms no one in his devotions. The problem for such a disciple is that too personal an attitude will, in time, affirm the very ego that the disciple seeks to transcend by virtue of his devotion!

I have come, as I have said, full circle. I will do my kriyas; I will serve; I will do my best to attune my will to the divine will, but it is the mindful, affirmative, and real-time sense of the guru’s presence that is more important than anything that this “I” can do.

In meditation, I try to feel his presence; I try to visualize his eyes, his face, or feel that special state that, for me, says “He is here.” I go from my inner self-talk, monologue, to a dialog with him. I tell him my secrets; I ask his advice; I laugh and cry with him. The world around me may go up or down and all around, but so long as I have my guru at my side, I am whole. I am safe in the arms of his grace.

No, you don’t need a guru……..unless you want to know God; unless you want to be free from the limitations of duality, of the ego, and of your karma. But you may have to wait. You won’t find your guru by chasing and seeking but by becoming a better seeker, a living disciple of truth, of life, of God’s will. “When the disciple is ready, the guru appears.”

Jai Guru!.....blessings,

Nayaswami Hriman

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Do I Need a Guru?

This question and subject is far bigger than a blog article can do justice to but I had a few thoughts. Tomorrow we conduct a discipleship initiation for about a dozen souls taking discipleship to Paramhansa Yogananda through Ananda and my mind is dwelling on the subject for the purpose of sharing a few remarks on that occasion.

There is, on this subject, much talk of gurus but little, if any talk, about disciples. The first sentence of Paramhansa Yogananda's famous "Autobiography of a Yogi" refers to the "disciple-guru" relationship as the "concomitant" aspect of the Indian culture's search for eternal verities. The question has to be "What is and am I a good disciple" of life, of truth, of God (in whatever form I aspire to know)?

It is only when we have struggled and aspired to know God that we come to discover two inextricably linked realities of that search:  1) it is very, very difficult, and 2) the aspiration presupposes the desire and possibility of becoming one with God.

Until a person has made a sincere and sustained effort one cannot possibly achieve these two discoveries. And, not only sincere and sustained but an intelligent and intelligently guided effort, rather than something random and halting in fits and starts.

When God is "wholly other" we are free to imagine just about anything, including how great we are for imagining it. Then we can say we speak to God and that our ideas and impulses are surely God-ordained inspirations and no one is the wiser, including us!

But when we strive arduously and intelligently towards perfection and ego transcendence then not only do we see what herculean challenge we face but we also get glimpses of that very same divinity and realizations of our own potential. It is then, and only then, that the "guru appears." It has been well and frequently said that "When the disciple is ready, the guru appears."

This appearance of guru includes the appearance in our thoughts and in our heart that we "accept" our need for a guide. For as we begin to see our Self, then, and yes, only then, can we "see" the guru. The guru is a flawless mirror of our own, higher Self. We must have this twin epiphany that we need help and yet at the same time we see the possibility of divinity in human form. Until then we are like Don Quixote, jousting windmills of our own febrile imagination about what is God, what is the spiritual path, and what it is all about.

When I returned from India in 1976 after over a year of spiritual searching and sat in the darkened and nearly empty airplane somewhere over Tehran, there arose in my heart the silent acceptance that I could not do this on my own. It was soon thereafter that I discovered Yogananda's autobiography and the existence of the fledgling Ananda Community, founded by a direct disciple, Swami Kriyananda.

Returning to the guru's appearance, then, it may come through a book, such as "Autobiography of a Yogi." It may come more dramatically in meeting one's guru. I have had some aspiring devotees proclaim that "I am ready to meet my guru and be guided." But I can easily, sometimes at least, perceive that they would collapse like a house of cards at one tiny poke at their ego. Most have no idea of what it is like to not only be in the presence of a true guru but to live and serve under his guidance on a day-to-day basis. Disciples there can be many, perhaps far and wide, but close disciples are always very few.

So to those taking discipleship tomorrow I say "Congratulations" for you have seen the "promised land." On some level you have seen what it takes and where it goes. What it takes is help and where it goes is to freedom and true happiness.

A guru seeks only to be our friend and guide, nothing more. How sad or simply ignorant are those who resent, resist and repudiate the concept all together on the basis of their independence. They have no idea of what it takes. They have no idea how bound they are to their own karma, likes, and dislikes. And that's ok, too. But for those who are inspired to open their hearts and minds to the intelligent, sometimes stern, but always seeking only our own highest good, divine friendship of a true guru (whether in human form or cosmic form), I say to you, "blessings!"

Nayaswami Hriman