The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Transmission Guru 'Swami Satyadharma Saraswati'
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Although Swami Satyananda was best known and loved for his public talks and works, he had a very private and inner nature as well. Those sevaks and sannyasins who experienced his association for long periods would become familiar with this side of him. Just as he shared his wisdom and insights publicly through satsangs and talks, he also shared his private and intimate world with many of his closer disciples and sannyasins. This was why he always regarded himself as a ‘transmission’ guru and from his earliest teachings he spoke of this aspect of the guru-disciple relationship. In the Indian tradition, there have always been such gurus and masters who came to teach and enlighten through the inner path, and were able to transmit their teachings, directly from mind to mind, heart to heart and soul to soul.
In the early days at the old Sivananda Ashram in Munger, Sri Swamiji used to tell us, “Don’t come to me unless it is necessary. Those who are frequently in my physical presence relate to me on that plane only and I also relate to them in that way. So, remain afar and learn to experience my presence and to communicate with me from within.” Sometimes when Sri Swamiji was passing by the offices or rooms and saw that some disciple had kept his picture on the table, he would ask, “Do you wish to relate with this picture outside or with me inside? If you wish to see me inside yourself, then take down the picture and don’t put any others up.” So down came all the pictures and the disciple would wait for Sri Swamiji to manifest through his own inner consciousness.
The idea of transmission may sound very esoteric and spiritual, but with Sri Swamiji it was just a natural way of life, of communicating, and also of getting the job done to his specifications. Many times a disciple would find himself in direct mind to mind communication with Sri Swamiji while performing a mundane task that he wished to be done in a particular way. The disciple would realize that Sri Swamiji was there in his mind, doing the job through him, and when it was done this special presence would vanish. Transmission is very different to psychic manipulation or possession; it is a light touch. Sometimes one knows that it is there in the mind, and then it goes silent again. In the course of ashram life and seva, almost everyone would have such experiences from time to time. The disciples did not need to be of a highly evolved caliber to feel Sri Swamiji’s presence and guidance within.
In a talk that Sri Swamiji gave earlier, he said that the relationship between the guru and disciple should be that of transmitter and receiver, and not just teacher and student. This is the real relationship between the guru and disciple and when it develops, the guru and disciple may live anywhere, but there is an unseen connection between them. When one becomes a disciple, this inner connection must be established, and then transmission is possible. Sri Swamiji said that this was a very powerful way to be together, and this was the way he lived with all the disciples in his ashrams. It was interesting to note that the disciples who lived in far away ashrams often developed a stronger inner connection than those who lived in Sri Swamiji’s ashram and experienced his physical proximity.
Sri Swamiji also said that the energy of the guru flows towards the disciple who is in tune with him, just as energy automatically flows through the wire when the plug is connected to the power point. However, the wire must be lined with copper or aluminium. If it is lined with plastic, the energy won’t flow through. Similarly, the disciple must be a good conductor, made of metal and not only of plastic. This is the first essential qualification for transmission. During the course of ashram life and seva, Sri Swamiji often helped the disciples to transform their inner nature into a stronger metal that would be capable of conducting his knowledge and energy. This he did in different ways by exposing them to various works, situations, interactions and hardships that would strengthen their inner nature.
The second qualification for transmission is surrender. During transmission the guru and disciple operate on the same plane; there is no block between them. Physically they may be different, but spiritually they are one. The individuality does not function at this time. Sri Swamiji used the example of a bamboo flute to illustrate this experience. In an ordinary piece of bamboo the inside is blocked at one end, so that no sound will come, no matter how hard one blows on it. In order to make bamboo into a flute, that barrier must be cut, so that it is completely hollow inside. In the same way the last trace of barrier has to be removed in the disciple for transmission to take place.
Sri Swamiji used to say there are two types of relationship between guru and disciple. One is through teaching and the other transmission. In teaching, the guru speaks about spiritual life, but in transmission, the teaching is experienced within, something like the relationship between two lovers. Transmission is based on the theory of universal consciousness. The guru, who is established in universal consciousness, can communicate with the disciple at any point in time and space, but the disciple also has to be a good receiver. For this, he has to lay down his resistance and become an empty flute. The disciple may have his own mind and personality, but in relation to the guru, he must be zero. Then only can he act as a channel for the guru’s knowledge and power.
In order to communicate with the guru through transmission, the disciple must be receptive and capable of functioning on the plane of universal consciousness, which is beyond logic, reasoning, and all forms of mental conditioning. Then the inner communication begins to flow between them spontaneously. As soon as the disciple is in tune with the guru, the energy, grace and wisdom begin to flow towards him. Two individuals who are spiritually linked can always communicate with one another, because they share the same mind. The disciple who has surrendered to the guru is a part of the universal mind. He and the guru are one, because their minds are united.
This is the real relationship between guru and disciple. Then the disciple will be able to communicate with the guru and receive his grace and instructions even after he has left the physical body. This relationship was clearly demonstrated by Swami Satsangi at the time of Sri Swamiji’s passing. During her life, until that moment, she had never had any experience of proximity to a dead body and, therefore, had no idea of how things should be done at such a time. Immediately after Sri Swamiji’s passing, at midnight on the 5th of December, she began to receive clear instructions from him, just as he would have spoken if he were still living. Step by step he explained to her what she should do next with his body and guided her through each procedure himself. In this way she was able to confidently perform all the necessary rites to prepare Sri Swamiji’s body for the final darshan and interment.
Swami Satsangi conveyed her experience of Sri Swamiji’s inner teaching at the time of his passing to support the faith of all the disciples who were unable to be in Rikhia at that time and felt bereaved and lost. Her experience was a solace to us all and a proof that the guru is immortal and does not die with the body. It was also an example for all the disciples that they too can be with Sri Swamiji and receive his blessings and instructions, no matter where they may be, if they can open themselves to him and feel his presence internally. Sri Swamiji himself also said in recent satsangs that he would be much more capable of guiding and inspiring everyone once he had left his mortal frame. He said that the physical body was a great limitation to him and kept his mind from expanding into the light. But once he was freed from it, he would be able to help everyone much more efficiently and effectively.
All the disciples of Sri Swamiji should take heart in this message and remember that he is with us all now, much more than he ever was before. He has never left us, and he will never leave us. He is with each one of us, and we only need to remember this in order to experience his presence in our lives. Sri Swamiji will continue to be our love and guiding light for all time to come. His light is eternal now; it has no limitations or qualifications, as we know. He is ready to share his grace freely with us all, but are we attuned to receive it? In order to receive his guidance and blessings, we must remember him and think of him always as a presence in our lives. We should not think of him only as he was, but as he is now, a being of pure light. In this way each of us can share in his divinity and become a living vessel of his wisdom and light.