From the moment we arrive in this world, Mother Nature binds us in numerous roles and relationships such as our family, friends, religion, community, nation etc. But there is one relationship that is unlike any other, one that is blessed by the omnipresent God Himself — the everlasting connection between a Guru and a disciple. From ancient scriptures and yogis to enlightened souls like Saint Kabir and Guru Nanak Dev, the importance of a Guru in transforming humanity has been well articulated in our culture. But over the centuries, the word ‘disciple’ has seemingly lost its true meaning. It has been narrowed down to being a religious scholar or a student in an educational institution. There are many ways to describe what it actually means to be a disciple. Sri Guru explains that a disciple is a being who has the ability to rid himself from the miseries in life and invoke happiness within. Thus, attaining discipleship isn’t as straightforward as it has been presumed. There is so much more to being a disciple than accumulating scriptural knowledge, following religious rituals and surrendering before a Guru. Having the clarity of purpose behind our surrendership and self-efforts is just as essential. Devoid of clarity, we are nothing but blind followers who overlook the possibilities of transformation, even in the presence of a Living Sadguru, and fail to experience the joy of being a disciple despite having intense dedication.
Through the verses of Dhammapada, Lord Buddha propounds that life of a disciple reflects three virtues like those in a beautiful flower:
- Beauty: It is fascinating to see how a small flower adds elegance to the place where it blooms. Its shape, petals, colours and many other subtle aspects of its beauty inspire poetry, music and draw our admiration towards the wondrous ways in which nature manifests herself. Similarly, a disciple radiates the beauty having the glimpses of the Divine, thus encouraging everyone around him to pursue such a life full of selflessness and purity.
- Sensitivity and Tenderness: Even in the harshest of conditions, a flower doesn’t lose its tenderness. In the same manner, the disciple is also sensitive and ever-thoughtful at heart towards the path and teachings of his Sadguru, irrespective of the circumstance. He has compassion for those who are suffering from pain and supports them with kindness and affection in their time of grief. He seeks to uplift those who are aimless and helps them find a higher purpose in life.
- Fragrance: A flower doesn’t discriminate between a butterfly or a human. It exudes mesmerising fragrance for every being to savour, without asking for anything in return. Spreading its inner purity is in the very nature of a flower and it does so unconditionally. In the same way, a disciple devotes his time and energies to selfless returning. He doesn’t wait for a particular time or circumstance in the future to serve, as he joyfully builds up the preparedness to give back to society and Mother Nature.
Evolution of Discipleship
These above qualities cannot be taught, neither be borrowed nor acquired from outside. Rather, they are evoked within when we consciously follow the guidance and Agna of our Sadguru with the right understanding and sincere efforts.
Sri Guru explains how an ordinary listener evolves into a disciple:
To realize that this body is temporary and transient, is the foremost notion of wisdom a disciple must live by. The sensory pleasures and worldly desires which we seek to fulfill are like a mirage in the desert. No matter how much time and energy we lose in their pursuit, we can only feel the illusion of satisfaction that leaves us even more discontented than before. If we accept this fact, we can clearly distinguish the right thoughts and actions from wrong ones. However, mere knowledge of right and wrong doesn’t fully constitute wisdom. Sri Guru gives us the different facets of wisdom in a disciple:
- Decision and clarity of right & wrong: This is certainly the first step.
- Mental Discipline: Without actually applying it in our lives, the knowledge of right and wrong isn’t much different from several other bits of useless information in our mind. A disciple knows the value of mental patience and temperament in adopting the right mindset as well as withdrawing from wrong beliefs.
- Humility: A disciple believes that humility in our actions will help us evolve on this path, while letting ego infect the mind will only degrade us morally and intellectually. Therefore, he does not let pride or ego malign his mind. He does not compare his abilities or progress with others, neither does he discourage or belittle those who are behind him.
- Compassion: Along with humility, a disciple has compassion for his fellow seekers as well as for those who are still struggling to find a way. Looking past the differences, conflicts and prejudices, he feels a strong sense of oneness and equanimity with every being. He regards everything as a part of the same consciousness and with this perspective, the virtue of wisdom truly manifests within him.
A disciple is aware about where he stands with respect to the various aspects of wisdom. This allows him to check where his efforts are deficient and decide what he must do to improve. Mindfulness towards his thoughts and actions upholds the values of humility, compassion and oneness without which wisdom cannot fully blossom within him.
3. Being Detached
There are two emotions that we experience everyday due to our constant attachment to people, beliefs, thoughts or situations — fear and a strong sense of possessiveness. Our body undergoes significant changes owing to both these emotions. Due to these two factors, the Mooladhara and Swadhishthan chakras in our spinal cord become over-active and a lot of stress is unnecessarily induced inside our bodies. Consequently, the energies in the body have to be shifted from important processes such as the immune system and redirected towards dealing with that stress. This is how prolonged levels of stress as a result of fear and over-attachments affects our physical, mental and intellectual development. Being aware of the way Bhaya (Fear) and Parigraha (Possessiveness) can influence his spiritual well-being, a disciple consciously practices the principle of detachment in his daily life.
4. Better Perspective
The essence of true realization lies in believing that everything (our identities, qualities, flaws, beliefs, possessions, relationships and circumstances) is temporary and ever-changing but the one force that binds them, one that forever remains untouched by duality, is permanent. A disciple relates to that eternal, omnipresent consciousness without denouncing the roles and responsibilities of his mortal self. He acknowledges that body and mind are a medium to attain self-realization but getting over-attached to them (for material pleasures) is unwise. He realizes that in this universal play he and all other beings are playing a temporary role, which broadens his perspective and gives him clarity to embrace the higher truths. With this, the virtues of wisdom, awareness and state of detachment are effortlessly evolved within him.
“Introspection is realizing how ignorant we are about our own ignorance.” —Sri Guru
Being introspective has a much deeper significance than merely revisiting our past thoughts and actions. Sri Guru says that we are in introspection ‘when we become the subject of our own study’. For a disciple, introspection begins when he starts thinking about his own thinking and feelings. This helps him identify the subtle underlying beliefs which influence the way he thinks and feels about a certain person, object or circumstance. For instance, contemplating about ‘why’ one likes or dislikes a person (what are the underlying beliefs that result in the feeling of like or dislike).
By having the clarity about how his thinking and feelings could impact his spiritual pursuit, he must strengthen his resolve to correct the mistakes and make necessary changes in everything he does (i.e. his actions) so that it becomes a part of his nature. This is how a disciple must undergo the complete journey of introspection — a continuous process of Thinking & Doing, leading to an effortless transition into the state of Being.
6. Harmony in Action (Sadachaar)
As he goes deeper into introspection, bridging the distance between doing and being, its outcome becomes quite evident in the disciple’s actions and his composure. The virtues of selfless Seva, inner purity, humility and oneness blossom in his heart, such that those who witness the sanctity and beauty in his nature are also drawn towards this glorious path of evolution.
7. Selfless Giving
With the experience of profound gratitude and indebtedness towards the entire Creation, the disciple embarks on the path of selfless returning, spreading the fragrance of spirituality everywhere and illuminating the hearts & minds of everyone.
8. Virtuous (Sheel)
The disciple evolves with every step — his thoughts, speech, actions and his nature are transformed and he effortlessly resides in Virtuosity.
This is the journey from being an ordinary seeker to receiving true discipleship in the aura of a Living Sadguru. What is even more fascinating is that it is very similar to the inward journey of the enlightened souls who have awakened the Param Guru within. A true disciple has the essence of his Sadguru!
Written by Avneesh Singh Shisodia
Derived from Dhammapada Satsang#10–11