In India, Guru or Teacher is much revered and respected with utmost devotion. Here we have tried to compile some of the significant thoughts and events contributed by the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna and other senior monks of the Ramakrishna Order, so as to get an idea about an intimate relationship between a Guru and a disciple, and the importance of a Guru in ones life. Excerpts are also presented of an editorial, titled "Swami Vivekananda: The Embodiment of Guru-Power", from Prabuddha Bharata.
Guru and Disciple - Their Intimate Relationship
Swami Ramakrishnananda on Guru
Swami Turiyananda on Guru
Swami Yatishwarananda recalls his experience
Swami Smaranananda recalls an incident
Excerpts: Swami Vivekananda: The Embodiment of Guru-Power
Guru and Disciple - Their Intimate Relationship:
In those days at Belur, the drinking water was not good, so Swami Nishchayananda1, used to bring water every day in a huge vessel from a tube-well in Baranagore, across the Ganga. He would do this service for his Guru joyfully, wading across the river at low tide. One day he was entering the monastery after crossing the Ganga, and Josephine MacLeod2, saw him. When he came near, she said to him sympathetically, ‘Oh, Swami, why don’t you engage a servant to fetch the water?’ As Nishchayananda was greatly devoted to the service of his guru, he was deeply offended by this suggestion. He retorted harshly, ‘You are a foolish lady!’ MacLeod, reprimanded by this young monk, felt highly insulted. She became indignant and went straight to Swamiji to express her complaint: ‘What wrong have I done that this disciple of yours, a mere boy, felt he had the right to scold me, calling me a foolish lady?’ Swamiji affectionately explained: ‘This is India! Here service to the Guru is the principle religious duty. Nishchayananda spoke rudely to you because you dealt a blow to his feeling of devotion to me.’ Josephine then felt ashamed. Following Swamiji’s advice, she went to Nishchayananda to express her apologies. Nishchayananda was by that time digging in the vegetable garden. When she tried to apologize, he replied: ‘Yes, yes, I have pardoned you. Please go now!’
1 Monastic disciple of Swami Vivekananda 2 Foreign disciple of Swami Vivekananda
Source: Monastic Disciples of Swami Vivekananda by Swami Abjajananda (Original in Bengali)
Sri Sri Guru Maharaj (Sri Ramakrishna) could never endure the two words: Guru and kartá (Master). If anyone called him either Guru or kartá, he used to say that God alone is the Guru and the kart a. Man, blind as he is, can never be competent to be a Guru. He who becomes a Guru has transcended his human limitations and has attained divinity. So long as that has not happened, let not anyone, through delusion, regard oneself as a Guru. If one does it, one misses the path and courts suffering.
Source: Letters of Swami Ramakrishnananda to Swami Paramananda
When I used to meditate in Sri Ramakrishna’s presence, I experienced a sensation in my spine and would feel an energy rising. The body was like a desert land. The guru gave the holy name of God, and through its power the desert was transformed into a beautiful flower garden. Life was aimless. Since the guru touched me I have had an ideal to live for.
“From my boyhood on I used to feel that a power was always protecting me, just as a child, learning to walk, is protected by its mother. I felt that I would fall if it were not for that protection behind me.” “What people call conscience or the voice of God is the power of the guru. As a general rule, people make the mistake of killing their conscience, otherwise this power would guide everybody.”
“What kind of help does he want? There must be self-effort. Sri Ramakrishna used to say: ‘Struggle a little! Then the guru will help you further.’ From our own experience we can confirm that if you move one step toward God, he will take ten steps toward you.”
“Sri Ramakrishna used to say: ‘I cannot stand anyone calling me guru. It irritates me. Who is the guru? Satchidananda [God] alone is the guru.’ the external guru shows the path; the inner guru quickens the spirit. Ordinary men who pose as gurus do not know this and ruin themselves by feeding their egos.”
Source: Conversations With Swami Turiyananda
Recorded by Swami Raghavananda and translated by Swami Prabhavananda
While receiving spiritual initiation from Maharaj (Swami Brahmananda), many felt the direct touch of the Divine. ‘The day Maharaj was to initiate me,’ said Swami Yatiswarananda, ‘I felt a spiritual power tangibly emanating from him. He raised his hand in benediction above my head, giving me instantly a vivid consciousness of an immanent Presence. I realized that the whole universe was merged in that Presence.’ Further, ‘that day, also, I got a glimpse of the divine nature and power of the guru. I was literally transported into a new life, and the power that he transmitted to me that day is still working within me.’
Source: Swami Brahmananda: A Spiritual Dynamo by Swami Sarvadevananda, Prabuddha Bharata
Now I come to some of our swamis who were not well-known but who, by their simple and loving nature, were loved and respected by all who came into contact with them. One such was Swami Shiveshananda, more well-known as Dwaraka Maharaj. He lived most of his monastic life at Belur Math. He was a disciple of Mahapurush Maharaj (Swami Shivananda, the second president of the Ramakrishna Order), who lived upstairs in the old Math building where Swami Vivekananda spent his last days. In the courtyard below stands the mango tree which was there during Swami Vivekananda’s time as well. There is also a jackfruit tree and some other plants there. Dwaraka Maharaj had been told by his guru to see that the courtyard was kept clean and that leaves from the tree did not litter the place.
Dwaraka Maharaj had read about Shabari, who lived an ascetic life in the forest. She had heard that Sri Rama would pass by her hermitage, and she waited and waited for months and years to have the darshan of Sri Rama. She was waiting earnestly to hear his footsteps. At last he came and Shabari’s dream was fulfilled. Similarly, Dwaraka Maharaj was always watchful to see that leaves did not litter the courtyard. As soon as a leaf fell, he would rush forward to remove it! Thus his whole mind was given to his guru, Mahapurush Maharaj. I have seen him reciting those verses that deal with the episode of Shabari from the Ramayana in Bengali poetry, tears pouring down from his eyes. In his room was a picture of old Shabari, which someone had got for him. His was a great example of how an ordinary act can also become a practical spiritual action.
Source: Spirituality in Daily Life by Swami Smaranananda, Prabuddha Bharata.
Srimat Swami Smarananandaji Maharaj is Vice President of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, Belur Math.