between a Guru and a Teacher
by Paramhansa Yogananda
From Inner Culture, 1936
The relationship of guru and disciple depicts the only
real way to retrace the truant soul's footsteps back to
God. In the beginning it is wise to compare many spiritual
paths and teachers, but when the real guru and the real
teaching are found, then the restless searching must cease.
The thirsty one should not keep seeking wells, but should
go to the best well and daily drink its nectar. That is
why in India, in the beginning we seek many until we find
the right path, and the right master, and then remain loyal
to him through death and eternity, until final emancipation.
We can have many teachers first, but only one guru, and
no more teachers afterward. Teachers call those who come
to learn from them, students, but a guru calls the spiritual
aspirant who comes to him, a disciple. Jesus himself said,
"None cometh unto the Father but by Me." This
signifies that human souls are mostly truant children of
God roaming away from Him in the wilderness of suffering.
Such souls are impelled by the scourge of sorrow to have
faint glimpses of their lost home of spiritual blessedness.
They begin to long for God, and inwardly pray for a way
out of the conundrum of life and then, when the prayers
of such errant children become deep and strong enough, God
is touched and sends help. It is then that the one Father
of all sends a superman on earth to give help to the lost
Such a man, ordained by God to help the individual in response
to deep prayer, is not an ordinary teacher, but a guru,
or a vehicle, whose body, speech, mind, and spirituality
God Himself uses to bring the lost souls back to the home
We meet little teachers in the beginning through our vague
desires to know truth. But the guru (or preceptor) is the
living embodiment of scriptural truths and is the agent
of salvation appointed by God in response to a devotee's
demands for release from all the bondage of matter. It is
very difficult to choose the right path from the many religious
paths and varied religious opinions.
Most people, who wander from church to church seeking intellectual
inspiration, never find God, for intellectual inspiration
is necessary only until one begins to "drink"
God. Otherwise, intellectual inspiration, (when it forgets
to taste God), is detrimental to Self-realization.
It is more easy to follow a living, breathing, talking
man (who lives truth) than to follow mute scriptures. If
a saint has reached his goal, whether by the shorter yoga
route, or by the long spiritual-prayer way, he experiences
actual Self-realization. Anyone following him certainly
will reach the goal by using either method.
Unlike ordinary prayers, real prayers, which alone can
bring conscious response from God, must be offered in meditation,
intensely, for many hours continuously until divine response
comes. Usually, there is instantaneous recognition between
guru and disciple, but sometimes it takes a long time to
remember consciously that past close friendship, or to recall
the forgotten memory of past incarnations, so long buried
beneath ash-heaps of ignorance.
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