A Reflection On The Guru-Disciple Relationship

“I do not give upadesh in the ceremonial manner. For instance, keeping a kumbha, making puja to it and whispering to the person. The person may call himself my disciple or devotee. I do not consider anyone to be my disciple. I have never sought upadesh from anyone nor do I give ceremonial upadesh. If the people call themselves my disciples I do not approve or disapprove. In my view all are alike. They consider themselves fit for being called disciples. What can I say to them? I do not call myself a disciple or a Guru.”

Ramana Maharshi (Talk 281)

You have been reading my newsletters and articles for a while now. Do you get Guru vibes from me? I’m sure some of you may be getting those by the manner in which I write or speak. Well, I don’t blame you because sometimes spiritual communication happens in a way that the speaker or writer is perceived as authority.

However, I’m no authority on the subject of spirituality or Advaita. I myself detest authority of any kind. I cannot help it. I have been conditioned like that since my childhood. It is in my nature to put up resistance to authority. I surrender only to love and compassion. That is the only language I understand. And therefore, my message is about love and compassion only.

For me, the guru-disciple relationship, which is considered sacred in India, is entirely false and has been created by people with vested interests. The guru-disciple relationship has been a tradition in the Indian subcontinent and has rarely been questioned.

We proudly say that everything happens as per God’s will. When all are One and everything is a happening, why should there be a middle-man mediating God’s affairs? Why would God relinquish power to a select few? Perhaps, he is not much bothered about this world; and hence, he outsources.

A majority of people follow gurus not to gain liberation but to fulfill their fantasy of infantile narcissism. The fantasies and the stories of miracles are all a part of it. People see parent figures in gurus and they become “followers” to fulfill that need for attention and validation that they did not receive from their parents.

They want to be in that state where they can behave as they like without worrying about consequences. That state is appealing. It is a fantasy and wishful thinking. A majority of these followers exhibit narcissistic traits for they respond aggressively when their devotion or faith in guru is questioned. They perceive skepticism and critical thinking as a threat.

They are usually confused about their true identity, so they identify with the guru and his teachings as an extension of themselves. The purpose of spiritual teaching is to free the mind, but precisely the opposite happens when the followers create false identifications.

The word guru has many meanings. One of them is someone with “weight.” Another is the one who dispels darkness. Such interpretations have been used by a certain group of people to subjugate others. They emphasize that the guru is to be worshipped and placed above everyone else. This blind devotion to the guru includes following a rigorously hard routine along with tolerating abuse from him.

In many cases, followers are pressured to wash the guru’s clothes, give massages, or grant sexual favors in the name of enlightenment. They are brainwashed with the idea that service to the guru is service to God.

Needless to say, what and where does this type of relationship leads one to. I don’t feel anyone starts with the ambition of being a Guru but rather guru-ness is thrust on them by the disciples. They put the gurus on a pedestal. They project their personal idea of God onto the guru and seek initiation.

This happens despite the understanding that there is no separation from the “other.” It is clear that the understanding is only intellectual and has not awakened the Heart. People use gurus as a crutch. They behave like children and throw tantrums. They are quick to push the guru off the pedestal if he does not fulfill their fantasy of enlightenment or whatever they desire.

Humans are driven by the forces of pain and pleasure. Our default setting is to seek pleasure and avoid pain. The phony gurus exploit our own psychology to their advantage. The promise of liberation through the service of the guru is the carrot, and the fear of burning in hell by disobeying the guru is the stick – the classic intermittent reward and punishment routine is what entraps us into blind devotion.

The Trap of Blind Devotion

I respect people who have taught me. I have great reverence and deep love for them but none of them are my guru. I don’t have the capacity to devote myself to a guru in form. My devotion, since childhood, has been only to the formless and dimensionless. That is where I find peace.

Ramana Maharshi, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ramesh Balsekar, and many others have been a great source of inspiration but none of them are my gurus. I would selflessly and joyously serve anyone who treats me with compassion but it will be out of respect and not devotion. And certainly, I would never use the ladder of devotion for personal advantage, be it enlightenment or anything else.

Being a “devotee” is an identification that may lead to the trap of “becoming” a better or an advanced devotee; one of the guru’s favorites. People cultivate such ambitions only to wield power over others – the middlemen of a middleman.

It is not much different from the materialistic ideas of competing and conquering the world. If you have to compete, better only do it in the materialistic setting, for at least you will get some money out of it.

Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi never encouraged guru worship. He clearly said that God, grace, and guru are the one Self. What shines within you is the true guru that will pave the pathway to freedom and liberation. In my opinion, what we see in a human form is only a pointer to the infinite.

It is not to say that we should not have a relationship with the person. Have a relationship knowing that the person suffers from flaws just like you. Then the quality of that relationship is beautiful. It is based on mutual enthusiasm, respect, and energetic alignment, and not based on fancy notions.

No matter how intelligent, every human entity remains flawed. That is by design or what I call the true perfection manifested as the dualistic split of both perfection and imperfection of the creator’s design.

A lot of shady business happens in the name of spirituality. Blind devotion often leads to being taken advantage of or abused and feeds further into the unconsciousness of the disciple. Sometimes, the nature of this abuse is very subtle. To my surprise, many people are willing to undergo abuse, as long as the guru keeps fueling their fantasies.

They live, eat, speak, or do whatever the guru says is the right way. A common fantasy is to wake up in the early (holy) hours and meditate and perform rituals. Such instructions are not suitable for every personality type. Sleep-deprived people are easy to manipulate as their critical cognitive and emotional brain centers do not work optimally.

The origin of it all is the traditional belief that “I haven’t got it” and the guru “has it.” Therefore, by serving unconditionally, I will get what the guru has. It’s like a symbiotic relationship that is parasitic on both ends. The followers maintain the guru and the guru maintains the followers.

“I refuse to be your guru. Followers destroy the guru, and the guru destroys the followers.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti.

I’m not saying everyone is like that. There are genuine people who have the capacity to give selflessly. Also, we are not viewing the subject from the lens of morality. We are simply examining what happens. You are to think critically on this subject and come to your own conclusion.

The attitude of serving another human being is a noble one, however, it should not come at the cost of your own well-being or fueled by a desire to achieve or attain anything. The key to harmonious relationship is mutual understanding and respect for one another. No relationship can be sustained without these two components. Let alone the guru-disciple relationship.

You can get access to the complete article by joining as a member on Patreon. Your small support goes a long way in spreading the message of peace.

Help spread the message!

If you have benefited from the content on this website, please extend your support. Your contribution helps:

  • Keep this website Ads, Affiliates, & Promotions free.
  • Pay for hosting, maintenance & other charges.
  • Helps me pay bills as this is all I do.
Jagjot Singh
Jagjot Singh

Join 400+ Subscribers

Sign up below (free) for news and updates on Jagjot’s Zoom meetings, articles, and more.