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Initiation, Guru-Disciple Relationship And Sadhana

An offering at the Holy Lotus Feet
Of the Masters
Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj
Sri Swami Chidananda Maharaj
Sri Swami Venkatesananda Maharaj

By the Sivananda School of Yoga

What is initiation?

Initiation is ritual admission to a way of life and sacred spiritual technique which is to be the disciple’s means of liberation, subject to the disciple’s allegiance to the guru (spiritual preceptor).
Initiation into the Atlantean-Egyptian mysteries of Isis and Osiris included “dying while living,” that is, conscious astral projection. In Indo-Aryan religion, the ancient precursor of all enlightened religion and the foundation of Yoga, initiation of suitable candidates includes introduction to practices which also lead to such inner experiences, occult, psychic and mystic. These include a meditation technique known to masters, and imparted only to initiates.
In the Bible western scholars may find references to ceremonial admission to a path of spiritual evolution. The master John initiated Jesus by baptism. The Nazarene master’s rituals resembled those of Freemasonry (giving sight to the “blind;” (raising Lazarus from the “dead”), and Sufism (turning “water” into “wine”).

Why is initiation necessary?

Initiation is given selectively because not all are spiritually mature enough to receive safely and respectfully the spiritual science whereby mystics have “gone within” and been

”…caught up into paradise and heard the things which should not and cannot be expressed.”
2 Corinthians 12

The avatar Jesus the Nazarene cautioned:
“Do not give dogs what is holy; neither cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot and turn on you and rip you open.”
Matthew 7:6

When his apostles asked the master why he taught in parables, he replied:
“The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them.”
Matthew 13:11

“I tell you truly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it: to hear what you hear, and never heard it.”
Matthew 13:17

But even to these, his initiates, he said:
“I still have many things to say to you, but you could not bear them yet.”
John 16:12

Who is a candidate for initiation?

The meeting of guru and one ready for discipleship is predestined. The guru can recognise those whom he/she may guide, for which reason such devotees are sometimes referred to as “marked souls.” These are souls whose experiences over many incarnations have led them to an inner appreciation of the philosophy of the masters, and a yearning for “that peace which the world cannot give.”

No longer content with pseudo-spiritual distractions, they want God-realisation and Moksha (liberation, via enlightenment, from reincarnation). Suitable candidates for initiation are those who:
a) live moral, ethical, unselfish lives.
b) know spiritual evolution as the only purpose of life, and place their efforts to attain it before all else in their lives, including their relationships.
c) have proved their sincerity by being diligent in their sadhana (spiritual curriculum) for a prescribed period, and can be relied on never to lapse in their sadhana after initiation.
d) will faithfully fulfill the resolves required of them at initiation.

What must candidates resolve?

During mantra-diksa (mantra-initiation into the guru-disciple relationship) the candidate must resolve to:
1. obey the guru.
2. remain a vegetarian for life.
3. avoid all intoxication and overindulgence, and abstain from non-medicinal use of drugs.
4. live charitably, within her/his means.
5. pray regularly and frequently for the welfare of others
6. repeat regularly, as instructed, the mantra given at initiation.
7. meditate regularly, as taught at initiation.

Before applying for initiation it is essential to understand why compliance with the guru’s instructions is a sine qua non. The guru-disciple relationship is not restrictive. The devotee is assured of freedom, within the parameters of decent conduct, of religion, association, spiritual explorations, pursuit of personal interests, and membership of other societies. It is the devotee’s duty to ensure that there are no unresolved queries by the time of initiation. In particular, the candidate must understand something of the natures of consciousness, mind, ego, the psychic faculties, direct perception and spiritual discrimination. Attending discourses on the philosophy of the masters is recommended.

The nature of a Master

In the west, a gurudeva (guru divine) of the highest quality may also be called a master. After initiation the master will not leave the disciple, regardless of the disciple’s conduct or changing beliefs, and there is nothing the disciple can do to break that bond. The master has unconditional love for every disciple, utterly free of any motive except the disciple’s inner progress and eternal joy. Yet, although the love of an enlightened being is selfless and impersonal, in a sense disciples do not share “our guru” in common. Each disciple has “my guru,” because each guru-disciple relationship is unique.

Benefits and effects of Mantra-Diksa and Guru-disciple relationship

During initiation the disciple is taught the final stage of the sacred meditation technique, which includes the secret of the Sacred Sound-Light and leads to expansion of consciousness, and is given her/his personal mantra, which the disciple must not reveal. Also, an esoteric link is established between guru and disciple whereby the disciple is able to contact the gum on an inner plane. This provides the disciple with a measure of protection while assisting the disciple to “go within.”

The Principle of Obedience

The rationale of this vital principle is that, by obeying the guru, even when it seems illogical to do so, when it seems unwise, especially, indeed, when it hurts the ego to do so, the disciple is learning to submit and surrender to the Divine Will, and that is the essence of spiritual evolution. The only thing standing between the soul and God-realisation is the Ego. Obedience to the guru is the microcosm of obedience to God, and what the disciple cannot force her/himself to do in the microcosm, he/she has no hope of doing in the macrocosm. Intellectual fencing with the guru about what is or isn’t possible or advisable has its origin in only one thing: the resistant ego. Therefore, even if he/she hates the advice; if it appears unwise; if the guru seems ill-informed, the faithful disciple obeys! If carrying out an instruction will cause humiliation, or seems to fly in the face of fairness, the disciple obeys! Obedience to a true guru will not enslave, but liberate in the highest sense. A true devotee has a reverence tantamount to worship of the guru, who is God’s ambassador, and takes opportunities for satsang and darshan (blessed sight) of the guru.

Sri Gurupurnima

This is a festival sacred to disciples, who make every effort to attend this celebration of divine grace in the form of the guru, paramguru, and their spiritual lineage. All initiations at the Sivananda School of Yoga receive the disciple into the spiritual family of Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, his successor, Pujya Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj, and the hierarchy of their spiritual colleagues.

Om Namo Bhagavate Sivanandaya

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