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Legacy of a guru

A stone that has been blessed by a spiritual master becomes infused with his spiritual vibrations. To hold that stone with reverence is to draw blessings from it.

india Updated: Mar 18, 2004 14:42 IST
Swami Kriyananda
Swami Kriyananda

Swami Kriyananda is a direct disciple since 1948 of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi. He is the founder of Ananda Sangha, and of seven Ananda communities in America and Europe. Now 78, he has moved to India to make his Guru’s teachings known in the land of his birth: to teach the liberating meditation technique of Kriya Yoga, and to establish communities where householders and renunciates alike can seek God in the company of fellow devotees.

Paramhansa Yogananda, in Autobiography of a Yogi, gives an account of Bhaduri Mahasaya, the "levitating saint," to whom he said, "Maharishi, I wish you would write a book on yoga for the benefit of the world."

"I am training disciples," was the saint's reply. "They and their students will be living volumes, proof against the natural disintegrations of time and the unnatural interpretations of the critics." Mukunda -- my Guru's name as a boy -- laughed in delight at this wry answer.

Some gurus leave behind them a legacy of spiritual writings. Others leave organizations they founded. In both cases, the legacy is more spiritual than either philosophical or material: It is of their vibrations of consciousness. Even a stone that has been blessed by a spiritual master becomes infused with his spiritual vibrations. To hold that stone with reverence and faith is to draw blessings from it.

People of spiritual sensitivity understand that true scripture contains holy vibrations, not only ideas. When I told my Guru at our first meeting that his autobiography had affected me deeply, he replied, "That is because it contains my vibrations."

At the same time, while a book's vibrations may uplift, they cannot guide. For wise guidance, a wise guru is needed. As my Guru himself said to me, "No scripture can take the place of a true guru. If someone misunderstands a point, the scripture will be unable to correct him. The guru, on the other hand, can show him his error."

The same is true of any organization the guru founded. Paramhansa Yogananda, speaking of his headquarters on Mount Washington, remarked, "I have meditated everywhere on these grounds." Indeed, any sensitive person can feel the moment he steps onto that property that its vibrations are sacred. Yet the same teaching applies to this property as to scripture: It may inspire, but it cannot guide. It cannot even teach.

Supposing everyone in that ashram were to fall from the guru's ideals. (Such things have been known to happen, in history.) In this case, while the vibrations would still inspire, the place itself would have no more power than a museum with sacred relics.

A master's true legacy, then, cannot be a mere physical structure, as it cannot be limited to his writings. Such endowments are primarily vehicles for his consciousness. This consciousness must be kept alive by living disciples. Divine grace, after a Master's death, must be channeled primarily through his disciples. They alone can transmit the guru's actual spiritual touch.

Books and institutions cannot replace living heirs as his spiritual legacy. Living power must come through living people. It is like passing a baton in a relay race.

His faithful disciples, by their attunement with him, will be able, depending on the degree of their attunement, to explain mistakes in people's understanding of the scriptures, and of his writings. However efficient and well-run the organization they serve, moreover, they along can keep its spirit alive. Otherwise, it will become a "beehive" without bees, and will produce no "honey" of divine realization.

The sincere seeker should ask himself these questions therefore:
1. Is the Guru's organization, assuming he left one behind him, filled with divine devotion, harmony, and love?
2. Do the members of that organization seem eager to serve in God's name? or are they only interested in their own inner peace?
3. Do they demonstrate a desire to share their Guru's message with others? or do they merely promote their own ideas?
4. Do they demonstrate devotion to the truth, above all? or is their priority a mere institutional convenience?

However one answers the above questions, one must still keep in mind that organizations, in themselves, are only things, and are therefore inert. People alone can infuse life into them. People also, it must be added, can dull the vitality of an institution if they lose their devotion to the guru's ideals.

The guru's true legacy, then, is his true disciples. Every disciple is a unique human being, not stamped out from any mould. Each disciple can convey, if he is sincere, at least something of the Guru's vibrations and wisdom to others. What mere thing could ever do that?

It is important for people to understand this truth. A mistake often made is that of assuming established structures, because stable and outwardly imposing, can have more power to uplift than "mere," fallible human beings. Yet human beings are alive. If they have been infused with the guru's power, only they can transmit his actual power to others. In this way, high spiritual vibrations can be passed down through generations of disciples, and create a spiritual legacy that may last for centuries.

Swami Kriyananda's programme appears at 2200 hours IST on the Sadhna Channel. (For more,

First Published: Mar 18, 2004 14:42 IST