Q & A about Guru 
Swami Krishnananda

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Rita:         What is the role of a guru?

SWAMIJI:      Whoever guides you is a guru. Whomever you consider as superior to you, from whom you can re­ceive blessing and guidance, is a guru. As things are not clear to your mind, naturally you have to approach somebody who can guide you. If everything is clear to you, then you need not approach anybody. The guru is neces­sary as long as things are not completely clear.

Rita:         What is the relationship between the guru and the disciple?

SWAMIJI:      A guru is one who initiates a person into the technique of God-realisation and guides that student continuously as long as it is necessary for the purpose of carrying on this technique of meditation for God-realisation. The relationship is as between a teacher and a stu­dent. There is no other relationship.

Actually, a guru does not mean a person who just teaches something. He is not merely connected with learning. His connection is with spirit, the spirit of God, finally. Learning is a secondary thing. You may learn or not learn; that is a different matter, but the spirit has to be established in itself. Towards that purpose, if anybody can guide you until such time as such guidance is not necessary, that person is the guru.

A guru cannot be changed. Once you accept a per­son as your guide, it is permanent. You cannot change the guide from time to time.

Rita: If a person chooses a guru, is there a past as­sociation between them?

SWAMIJI:      Every contact has a past association, not only a guru, but everything. The past association deter­mines the present context, for every kind of contact.

Rita:         What happens when the guru drops the body? Is there a sort of individuality or does he just dissolve in the Universe?

SWAMIJI:      He may retain individuality, if he takes re­birth. If he does not take rebirth, then there is no indi­viduality, and there will be no relationship afterwards. It is like the relationship with God at that time, because they have merged with God. But if they have maintained an individuality still, then, of course, the relationship continues.

You can’t have a relationship with the Absolute. That is not possible, unless you yourself become the Absolute. If the guru merges into the Absolute, then there is no relationship. You can’t maintain anything. It is another way of saying that the relationship is with God Himself. But if you maintain an individuality, then the relationship will continue. Even in the next birth, it will continue. Unless there is some individuality, some personality, a relation­ship is not possible. You can’t have a relationship with the Absolute. Only below that level a relationship is possible. 

Rita: If a person is still on the personal plane... 

SWAMIJI:      Then the relationship will continue even in the next birth. Whether the person is alive or dead, that is a different matter. The relationship will continue. If a relationship was maintained in this life, it will be carried over into the next life; but if the relationship breaks for any reason, then it won’t be carried forward. If it contin­ues in this life, it will continue in the next life, also. If it has ceased in this life for any reason, then, of course, it won’t be carried over into the next life.

Rita:         Swamiji, it is not clear. If the aspirant is still on the personal plane and the guru has merged, what happens? 

SWAMIJI:      Then you can’t have any contact with that person. He is not a person at all. No contact is possible. You must then contact the Absolute; that is all. Or else find another guru, or take God Himself as the guru, be­cause contacting him is another way of contacting God. So why do you say “guru” and all that? It is God only. A person who has merged into God is God only, so he is no more a guru. He is not a person and, therefore, he is not a guru also. He is a Universal Being, so you can not main­tain any personal relationship with him. Otherwise, at lesser levels a relationship is possible.

Rita:         How can you know if your guru has merged or not?

SWAMIJI:    You cannot know it; it is not possible. You must assume that he has not merged, and then maintain the psychological relationship. God will bring a blessing in some way for that. Many devotees consider God as a person, and it works in some mysterious way. Though God is really not a person, you can consider Him as a person and He will react as a person, according to your feelings.

Sean:         The guru cannot really change into God, so he must have been God all along?

SWAMIJI:      Why only he? Everybody is like that. You are also God alone potentially.

Sean:         So, the relationship with the guru all along is really a relationship with God, and it doesn’t change when the guru leaves the body?

SWAMIJI:    You cannot have a relationship with God, because He is impersonal, unless you consider Him as a

person. There is no such thing as impersonal relationship, because impersonality means non-externality. If it is non-external, there is no relation.

Sean: So then the guru is within?

SWAMIJI:    Why do you say “within”? He is every­where.

An American Visitor: Swamij, in the USA there is a movement that says that the guru is within; therefore, you don ‘t need to find a guru.

SWAMIJI:    These are all very hasty remarks of people who don’t understand the gravity of the situation. If the guru is inside, then the world also is inside, so why do you travel from place to place? You cannot have only one thing inside, and other things outside. It may be that the guru is inside in one sense, but he is outside, also.

Why do people go to colleges and universities when the university is inside the heart? Can you close all the colleges and universities in the world because they are in­side the heart? They are inside in some sense, but not lit­erally. There are difficulties in understanding the ultimate problems of life which require guidance.

You go to a scientist in order to learn science, and a philosopher to learn philosophy. Every art and science re­quires some guidance from somebody who is expert in it; otherwise, you could purchase a book and become a driver, engineer, astronaut, merely by reading a book. That is not adequate. In the beginning, you require guid­ance from a competent person. Later on, you may be­come competent yourself, in advanced stages. In the earlier stages, personal guidance is necessary. Otherwise, you may go astray.

American Visitor: Swamiji, one problem is that many people in the West are raised to be independent and free thinking. They don ‘t want to subject themselves to any such discipline.

SWAMIJI:    They must understand what they mean by “free thinking.” Does it mean thinking anything one likes? Or, is there some system and discipline in think­ing? If not, then what is the use of thinking? They need not think, also. It will be only an erratic movement of the mind. Freedom and license are two different things. We may have freedom, but not license.

The way in which we behave with another person is also a kind of discipline. If we behave in any way that we like, then society will crumble one day. Even social exist­ence would be impossible without a code of conduct. If we want to behave in any way we like, then others also will behave in any way they like. This is called rebellion, not society.

We cannot be free unless we share a little of our freedom for the sake of freedom of others also. To the ex­tent that we allow freedom for others, our freedom is lim­ited, so here comes discipline. We cannot have all the freedom for ourselves and nothing for others. People have to think a little rationally, and not make abrupt statements. 


Visitor:         In my own experience, for me, that has been very true,  I was interested about people that are very enlightened—saints like Krishnamurti and Ramana Maharshi, and even the Buddha, that did not have gurus... 

SWAMIJI:         Everybody had a guide. None did suddenly crop up from the ground. They had leaders, guides, whether you know them or not. Even Ramakrishna Paramahansa, the great saint of India, had a guru. Why should he have a guru? He is a master himself, and he was the guru of so many people; yet, he also had a guru for some good reason.

Visitor:         Right.

SWAMIJI:    Even Christ had a guru, and Krishna had a guru. They were great masters, and still they learned un­der some teacher. When you have attained almost a state of perfection, then, of course, there is no need for a guru; but who can say that one is in perfection? Everybody is on the path only, so it is better to have somebody who is superior. If you think that there is nobody superior to you in the whole world, then you do not require a guru; but, if you think that there are people in the world who are su­perior to you, then they will be your guru.

Visitor:         Yes. I understand.

SWAMIJI:      If you say that there is nobody superior to you, then you are the guru yourself. But, you cannot say that you are most the superior; how is it possible? You

have to be a little humble. Respect for the elders is al­ways good, and one day or the other, you will be bene­fited by that. Anybody can help you, under given conditions. There is no one who is incapable of rendering some service.

A mouse also saved a lion once. How can a mouse save a lion? Can you understand? One lion was going like this, and a mouse was moving. The mouse said, “Don’t you come near me. I can help you one day, if the time comes.”

The lion laughed. “You idiot, small thing, wanting to help me? What help can you give?” The lion laughed, but yet the mouse said, “No, one day, who knows? One day some occasion may arise when I can help you.”

It so happened that one day the lion was caught in the net of a hunter. It was very difficult to get out of it. The lion struggled the whole day and could not break the net. The mouse came, “May I help you?”

“Oh, yes, if you can!” said the lion. The whole night this mouse worked. It went on nibbling the net in many places and loosened it. Then the lion tore it and came out, and the mouse ran away. 


 John:         My problem is that I never felt sure in my heart that I’m in the right place. My guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, is not in the body, and I only meet repre­sentatives of his, and I have never felt really sure.

SWAMIJI: He was not in the body even when you saw him in the body. Even at that time, he was not in the body. People respect their parents, and hang a photograph of them on The wall of the house in reverence; but when that person departs from this body, the very thing whose photograph was hung on the wall is consigned to the earth or the cremation ground. Now, who is it that was re­vered actually? Was it that thing which was visible to the eyes and whose photograph was revered? Or was the per­son whom you revered something other than what you saw with your eyes?

If you say you consider that person as the very thing which you .saw with your eyes, then you have no business to consign that person to the river, or the fire, or the earth, as if it has no meaning or value; but if you say that the person whom you revered is not the one whom you are seeing with the eyes, then your question is answered by yourself.

It is a perceptional difference, like the value of a cur­rency note. A currency note is only a piece of paper whose value is less than half a penny, and you will call it a thousand dollars if you like. From where comes this value? When the substance that you are holding in your hand is not worth half a penny, how are you conceptually revering it as a thousand dollars? So the value is concep­tual, perceptional, valuational, - not material, physical, visual. This applies to everything that we see in the world, including human beings and God Himself.

The visible is not the real; the invisible is the real. This requires a little time to think and appreciate. Usually we don’t think in this fashion. We think in terms of sense organs, physical objects, tangible things, visible things, and we do not believe that the actual value of things is not in what we see, but in that which we think only.


The value of a currency note is in your thought. It is not the physical substance that has any value. You may have even a certificate from a bank. The signature of the manager of the bank is there as a certificate for deposit. All the money is in the bank only, not in your hand. You have only one signature of that man, and you are holding it as if the whole world is in your hand. It has no value except that you believe in your mind that it has a value.

All value is mental, psychological, ideational, based on consciousness. Finally, consciousness is the reality, not the visibility of a thing. You yourself are not the per­son sitting in front of me and talking to me. Neither of these two terms of relation in the conversation can be re­garded as one body talking to another body, nothing of the kind. It is not body talking to body, not body listening to body. It is a consciousness in you appreciating the manner in which my consciousness operates. It is a con­versation between two terms of consciousness, and they can be perpetually there, even if the visibility thereof is not there. Do you understand the point?

John:         So, I can assume that the master’s conscious­ness is full. If 1 am unaware, the problem is here?

SWAMIJI:    The difference is only that he is aware and


you are not aware, but the fact is the same. You are also some invisible reality, though you may not be aware of it.

John:         So I should redouble effort at my sadhana?

SWAMIJI:    Yes, yes. We try to do many good things in this world so that we may reap the fruits thereof in a bet­ter future. If no fruit will accrue from your good deeds, the good deeds will have no meaning. Now, when will you reap the fruits of your good deeds, knowing well that physical existence in this world is precarious? Nobody knows how long it will continue. Knowing very well the brittleness of physical existence, and comparing that con­dition with our hope of reaping good fruits of our good actions in the future, who is going to reap that fruit of good action? It is not this body. So, here is a demonstrable evidence before you that you are not this body.

When you say that you shall reap the fruits of your good actions, the body is not speaking. The body cannot say that, because it will not last to reap the fruit of those good deeds. It will not even go there, to the place where the fruits will be given to you. So, you are a spirit speak­ing, a consciousness that is speaking. It is consciousness saying that you shall do good things so that you shall have a good future, and it is a good future of the con­sciousness only, not of the physical body. So, the physical body has no value, finally. It is only a vehicle, and the rider of the vehicle is more important than the vehicle itself. 


Suzanne:       This is a long question, so I am making it into two parts.

SWAMIJI:      The answer will be short. 

Suzanne:       This question is for everybody, not only for me. It will be in the context of disciples, —not only seekers and devotees, —who are not in the physical proximity of the guru.

SWAMIJI:      The disciple is not in the physical proxim­ity of the guru?

Suzanne:       Some are, but for those who are not, can the guru know what is happening?

SWAMIJI:      What happened?

Suzanne:         Anything very serious in his life, because he has total faith in the guru, which is an omnipresence.

SWAMIJI:      In everybody’s life something happens. There is no one in whose case something will not happen. So, what is your special question?

Suzanne:       Suppose a disciple says, “I have faith. I am going and living by myself I see my guru off and on; he sees me, he blesses me. The guru says, “Go. You don’t need to be near me. Do whatever you have to do in life.” So, the disciple believes that nothing redly drastic will happen to him. But, still it happens. I understand Swamiji, that everything can happen to anybody...

SWAMIJI:      You mean to say that something that you call drastic should not happen to a person?

Suzanne:       Can it be prevented by the guru? Is he aware that it is happening? My question is whether the guru is aware of it, or not.

SWAMIJI:      The happenings in one’s life are not the creation of the guru, nor is he responsible for it. What­ever happens to you is because of the impact created by whatever you thought and did in your previous life. Now, you want to say that the actions that you did in the pre­vious life should not produce their effect? 

Suzanne:       No. Does the guru know? Is he aware that it is happening?

SWAMIJI: If he knows, in what way are you benefited by that?

Suzanne:       I want to know if he knows.

SWAMIJI:    Let him know. In what way are you con­cerned with that? You want him to stop the impact of the previous actions? 

Suzanne:       No, no. This is cause and effect. I under­stand. It is prarabdha karma.

SWAMIJI:      If your heart is absolutely united with the soul of the guru, he will respond, and he will guide, and he may even mitigate certain adverse consequences of the impact of past karmas, but he cannot remove it. For in­stance, when a doctor performs a surgery, there is pain whenever a limb is cut off, but the pain is mitigated by an anesthesia. So, God or guru, whoever it is, may act as an anesthesia when some unpleasant experiences have to be passed through, but they cannot stop the experiences. These will have to be experienced. You will have to pay for whatever you have done. 

Suzanne:       Even death?

SWAMIJI:    Death, of course, who can avoid it?

      Suzanne:      Sometimes it is avoided, Swamiji. We have read in books by great souls that have pushed it away a bit.

SWAMIJI:      Why are you against death?

      Suzanne: I am not against it. It is not personally for me, Swamiji.

SWAMIJI:      Do you want to live like an old lady for eternity? 

Suzanne:       No, Swamiji. I am already too old.

SWAMIJI:      Then why did you say that death should not be there? Death is the process of the transformation of the whole personality into a new one, which is perhaps better than the present one. So, who can say that death is bad? The whole universe is undergoing a process of evo­lution, and evolution is nothing but the cessation of the previous condition, and the coming in of the new condi­tion. Do you want the evolutionary process to stop com­pletely? 

Suzanne:       No, it may be very good. But, all this is happening with, or without, the knowledge of the guru?

SWAMIJI:      What you call death is the cessation of the earlier condition, creating a new condition which you call rebirth. It is neither good nor bad; it is a necessity. What is your point, finally? 

Suzanne:       My point is always the awareness of the guru. 

SWAMIJI:      If he is aware of what is happening to you, in what way are you benefited? 

Suzanne:       Then, why should we have a guru, if we are not benefited? 

SWAMIJI:      In fact, God Himself knows what is hap­pening to you. Then, why do you want a guru? When God Himself is capable of knowing whatever happens to you, why do you want a smaller god?

Suzanne:       There is no smaller god. There is only one God.

SWAMIJI:      Then, you may call him the guru. So, there cannot be many gurus then. There is only one guru, and everybody is a disciple of one guru only.

Suzanne:       Yes, but they don’t think like that, Swamiji. Each one says they have their separate gurus. So, what is the point?

SWAMIJI:      There is a Guru of gurus who will not die and vanish from your sight, because He is timeless, un­conditioned by the process of time. Catch hold of him. Then all the gurus will immediately manifest themselves, and no problem will be there for you. Perhaps you are thinking that the guru is a human person. This is what you are thinking?

Suzanne:       No. It starts like this. The contact is like this. 

SWAMIJI:      The guru is not the anatomical framework of a person that you are seeing with your eyes. It is the life that is operating through that frame of body; other­wise, what is the difference between a guru and a disci­ple? Both are anatomically the same, physiologically the same. They eat the same food, breathe the same breath, and have the same normal experiences; but there is a dif­ference. The difference is that there is a light which inun­dates the Guru’s personality, which is not so pointedly present in other people. The Guru is consciousness operating as a mentor or guarding angel.

You say sometimes that a great man is coming. When you say this, it does not mean that a great body is coming. It does not mean that. The greatness of a person does not lie in the length and breadth of the body of that person. It depends upon the consciousness that is operat­ing inside. The greatness is the intensity of consciousness radiating in a person. When consciousness is clouded,

and is not operating well, it looks like an ordinary creature moving.

If your heart is united with a thing, that thing will know what is happening to you. It may be the guru, or anything else; even a tree will respond to you, provided your heart is sunk in it.

Suzanne: Swamij, it means that the awareness of the seeker or disciple has become the universe of conscious­ness also, though it may be of a different degree than the teacher?

SWAMIJI:      Yes, right. If your heart is united with a thing, whatever it is, that thing will respond to you like a mother. The Ganga will speak to you, the mountains of the Himalayas will speak, the sun and the moon and .the stars will speak. Everybody is your friend here. They are all gurus only.

(This has been reproduced from "Your Questions Answered" by Swami Krishnananda)

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