A real spiritual Master is one who has attained God-realisation. Everyone is one with God, but the real spiritual Master has established his conscious oneness with God. At any moment he can enter into a higher consciousness and bring down messages from God to those disciples who have faith in him. The Master, if he is genuine, represents God on earth for those seekers who have real aspiration and faith in him. He has been authorised or commissioned by God to help them. The real Teacher, the real Guru, is God Himself. But on earth He will often operate in and through a spiritual Master. The Master energises the seeker with inspiration and, in the course of time, through the infinite Grace of the Supreme, offers the seeker illumination.
You make a mistake when you take the Master as only a person, as the human body. You have to feel that the real Master is inside the physical. Why have my disciples come to me? It is because their real Master, the Supreme, is inside me. The Supreme is also inside them, but in them He is still sleeping whereas in me He is fully awake. The Master and the disciple are like two friends who have the same capacity, but one is sleeping and needs help in getting up before he can manifest his capacity. The Guru is somebody who will come and touch his brother's feet and caress his head and say, "Please get up. It is time for us to work for our Father."
When a Master accepts someone as a disciple, he accepts that person as part of himself. If the disciple is imperfect, then the Master also remains imperfect. In the disciple's perfection lies the Master's perfection. I always say that I have no individuality, no personality. It is my disciples' achievements that will take me either to Heaven or to hell. I have the capacity to remain all the time in Heaven, but they can easily drag me to hell at every moment because I have accepted them as my own.
A real spiritual Master tries to bring to the fore the inner divinity of the disciple from deep within the disciple's heart. He knocks at the disciple's heart-door and awakens the divine child in him, which we call the soul. He tells the soul, "You will look after the other members of the family — the physical, the mind and the vital — and take care of them. They are making mistakes constantly. Now give them new life, new meaning, new purpose."
It is the spiritual Master's job to make his disciples feel that without love, without truth and light, life is meaningless and fruitless. The most important thing a spiritual Master does for his spiritual children is to make them consciously aware of something vast and infinite within themselves, which is nothing other than God Himself.
The highest transcendental Truth is within our hearts, but unfortunately we have not yet discovered it. So I ask my disciples to go deep within and meditate on the heart, which houses the soul. Eventually they learn how to contact the soul and start listening to its dictates. At that time they have begun to make real progress toward discovering their highest and deepest Self.
If one is already developed, that is to say, if one has been practising the spiritual life in previous incarnations and is in a position to listen to the dictates of his own inner being, it is not absolutely necessary for him to have a spiritual Master. In that case he has only to go deep within and practise the spiritual life most sincerely. Since he doesn't want a Master's help, he has to depend entirely on himself and on the boundless Grace of God. But we have to know that the spiritual path is very arduous; only on rare occasions have people realised God without the help of a spiritual Master. Most spiritual Masters themselves took help from someone for a day or a month or a year or ten years before they realised God.
As we need teachers for our outer knowledge — to illumine our outer being — so also we need a spiritual Master to help and guide us in our inner life, especially in the beginning. Otherwise, our progress will be very slow and uncertain, and we may become terribly confused. We will get high, elevating experiences, but we will not give them adequate significance. Doubt may eclipse our mind and we will say, "I am just an ordinary person, so how can I have this kind of experience? Perhaps I am deluding myself." Or we will tell our friends, and they will say, "It is all mental hallucination. Forget about the spiritual life." But if there is someone who knows what the Reality is, he will say, "Don't act like a fool. The experiences which you have had are absolutely real." The Master will encourage and inspire the seeker and give him the proper explanations of his experiences. Again, if the seeker is doing something wrong in his meditation, the Master will be in a position to correct him.
Why does one go to the university when one can study at home? It is because he feels that he will get expert instruction from people who know the subject well. Now you know that there have been a few — very, very few — real men of knowledge who did not go to any university. Yes, there are exceptions. Every rule admits of exceptions. God is in everybody, and if a seeker feels that he does not need human help, he is most welcome to try his capacity alone. But if someone is wise and wants to run toward his Goal, instead of stumbling or merely walking, then certainly the help of a Guru can be considerable.
Let us say that I am in London. I know that New York exists and that I have to go back there. What do I need to get me there? An airplane and a pilot. In spite of the fact that I know that New York exists, I cannot get there alone. Similarly, you know that God exists. You want to reach God, but someone has to take you there. As the airplane takes me to New York, someone has to carry you to the Consciousness of God which is deep within you. Someone has to show you how to enter into your own divinity, which is God.
A spiritual Master comes to you with a boat. He says, "Come! If you want to go to the Golden Shore, I will take you. Moreover, once you get into my boat, you can sing in the boat, you can dance, you can even sleep; but I will bring you safely to the Goal."
For millennia we have been swimming in the sea of ignorance. When we become awakened, we want to swim across that sea into the ocean of Light and Delight. If we know that there is a boatman, and that there is a boat which can safely carry us to our goal, then naturally we will try to get help from him. A genuine spiritual Master knows the way and is bound to help us reach the goal. Like a boatman, he will carry us to the other shore.
If anybody helps you in the outer world — a lawyer or a doctor, for example — he will charge you something. But when the Guru takes you to your goal, he will not take anything for himself. You don't have to give even an iota of your wealth to the Guru because he has his own infinite wealth. Eventually you will see that it is all the same wealth. His goal, your goal, everybody's goal is the same: Infinite Peace, Light and Bliss. The spiritual Master says, "You are hungry. I have an infinite supply of the divine food that you want, so I don't have to take any of yours."
In human life, if people see that someone has taken help, then they may say, "Oh, he could not do it alone." But a person who is really hungry for God will say, "No matter who offers the food, I am hungry and I want to eat immediately. This is the food that I have been crying for all my life and he is supplying me with it. As long as he is feeding true Divinity to me, let me eat."
If you feel that by accepting a Master you are avoiding your own responsibilities, you are making a mistake. For at that time you are separating yourself from your Master. Those who are my very devoted disciples do not feel that they are strangers. They feel their oneness with me. They feel that I have more capacity than they do, so they identify their little capacity with my greater capacity. When they enter into my capacity, they feel that it is their own capacity that they are entering into, for inside me they see all love and concern.
It is only by feeling your oneness with your Master that you can make real progress. If you feel that you are a stranger or an intruder in your Master's heart, or even if you think that you are just a guest, then you will never succeed in your spiritual life. How long can you stay at your friend's place as a guest? A few days or a month, and then you will have to go away. Even if you feel that you are coming as a friend, still you may go away. But if you feel that his house is your house, then you are safe, eternally safe.
When the disciple and the Master find themselves safe in one another's heart, the hour of initiation is fast approaching. When the Master initiates someone, he gives that person a portion of his life-breath. At the time of initiation, the Guru makes a solemn promise to the individual seeker and to the Supreme that he will do his best to help the seeker in his spiritual life, that he will offer his heart and soul to take the disciple into the highest region of the Beyond. The Master says to the Supreme, "Unless and until I have brought this child to You, I shall not leave him; my game shall not be over." And to the disciple he says, "From now on, you can count on me; you can think of me as your own."
At the time of initiation, the Master actually takes on the disciple's teeming imperfections, both from the present incarnation and from past incarnations. Of course, there are real and sincere spiritual Masters as well as false Masters. Here I am speaking about the true Masters. Some Masters who are very sincere only initiate one disciple a month. After they initiate the disciple they fall sick and suffer terribly, because they have actually taken on the disciple's imperfections. Again, there are some spiritual Masters who are able to initiate many disciples without suffering, because they have the capacity to throw the imperfections they take on into the Universal Consciousness. But again, there are some false Masters who initiate fifty, sixty or a hundred disciples at a time, or who initiate by proxy. But this kind of mass initiation is an absurd deception.
The Guru can initiate the disciple in various ways. He can perform the initiation in India's traditional way, while the disciple is meditating. He can also initiate while the disciple is sleeping or when the disciple is in his normal consciousness, but calm and quiet. The Guru can initiate the disciple through the eyes alone. He will look at the disciple, and immediately the person will be initiated — but nobody will know. A Master can also perform a physical initiation, which is to press the head or the heart or any part of the body of the disciple. At this time, he tries to make the physical consciousness feel that initiation has taken place. But along with this physical action, the Guru will initiate the disciple in a psychic way. At that time the Guru sees and feels the soul of the disciple and acts upon the soul. Initiation can also be done by occult processes or in a dream. If there is no spiritual Master available at the time, God Himself can take a very luminous human form in your dream or during your meditation and can initiate you Himself. But this is very rare. Most of the time initiation is done by a Master.
My disciples do not need to ask me to initiate them outwardly, because I know what is best for them; that is to say, I know whether or not the outer initiation will expedite their inner progress. Very often I initiate my disciples through my third eye, which I feel is the most convincing and effective way. Many have observed my eyes when I am in my highest consciousness. At that time my ordinary eyes, my human eyes, become totally one with my third eye. These two ordinary eyes then receive infinite Light from the third eye, and this Light from my divinely radiating eyes enters into the aspirant's eyes. Immediately the Light enters into the aspirant's whole body and percolates there from head to foot. Then I see the Light, my own Light, the Light of the Supreme, glowing in the disciple's ignorance, and that ignorance offers its gratitude. It says, "Now that I have become yours, now that you have made me yours, I shall be yours forever." At that time I become responsible for illumining the disciple's ignorance, and the disciple becomes responsible for helping me manifest the Supreme on earth.
Just because I have initiated you does not mean that you can go out and initiate somebody else. It is not as if I have told you a Truth and now you can tell it to somebody else. Very often I hear that a Master has initiated someone, and then the disciple goes on initiating somebody else, and then that person goes on to still another person — like family descendants. But this kind of initiation has no value. True initiation always has to be done by a God-realised Master; it cannot be done by proxy. If a Master has the spiritual power to initiate a disciple directly on the occult plane, that is all right. But if he says he can initiate someone through a disciple who is still a beginner, that kind of initiation is absurd. When you see people in the United States who say they have been asked to initiate others by their spiritual Master in India, then rest assured that this is no initiation at all: It is only deception. Initiation has to be done directly by the Master, either on the physical plane or in the inner planes.
When the Guru initiates a disciple, he accepts the disciple unreservedly and unconditionally. Even if the disciple goes away after initiation, finding fault with the Guru, the Guru will act in and through that disciple forever. The disciple may even go to some other Guru, but the Guru who has initiated him will always help that particular seeker in the inner world. And if the new Guru is noble enough, then he will allow the original Guru to act in and through the disciple. Although the physical connection with the original Guru is cut off, and physically the Guru is not seeing the disciple, spiritually he is bound to help him because he has made a promise to the Supreme.
Even if the disciple does not go to any other Guru but simply falls from the path of Truth, still his original Guru has to keep his promise. The disciple may drop from the spiritual path for one incarnation, two incarnations or even many incarnations, but his Guru — whether he be in the body or in the higher regions — will constantly watch over the disciple and wait for the opportunity to help him actively when he again turns to the spiritual path. The Guru is truly detached, but just because he made a promise to the disciple and to the Supreme in the disciple, the Guru waits indefinitely for an opportunity to take the disciple to the Goal.
Some of my disciples who at one time followed my path most sincerely have also left me most sincerely. But if they are my disciples in the inner world, if I had already accepted them and they were my real disciples, then I wish to say that I have not forgotten them. They may take one, two, five or six incarnations to come back to the life of aspiration, but no matter how long they take, I shall help them in their march towards God-realisation.
Because of the promise I made to the disciple's soul and to God, I am more responsible for each disciple than the disciple himself. But again, who allows me to take that responsibility? The disciple! I am at the mercy of my disciples. Right now God is a vague idea for them, so today they may accept me and tomorrow they may leave me. On the outer plane the disciple may leave me; but as long as the Supreme wants me to concentrate on that person and send His Light to that person, I have to do it. After leaving our path, the disciple may not follow any path or he may go to some other path. But once I accept someone, unless and until the Supreme tells me that that person is in other hands, I am responsible for him.
I tell my students, "I am ready to take all your problems, provided you are ready to feel that you are for me and me alone. If your allegiance is scattered here and there, in this group and that group, and if you come to meditate at our Centre once in a blue moon, then even if you say that I am your Master, you have made me powerless to do anything for you. If you really give me your total existence, inner and outer, only then can I do something for you. It is on the strength of my absolute oneness with you and your total acceptance of me that I can take your problems."
When a Master of a very high order tells you that you have an eternal relationship with him, he is speaking on the strength of his absolute oneness with the Supreme and with your soul. He knows that you will always be under his inner guidance. And when you realise the Highest, you will see that the supreme Consciousness which you have realised is the same as the Consciousness that the Master represented on earth. A real spiritual Master embodies the infinite Consciousness of the Supreme and represents that Consciousness on earth.
When the Master speaks of an eternal relationship, this relationship is one of mutual acceptance. The Master does not say, "Whether you are aware of it or not, I shall keep my eternal connection with you and we shall be eternally one." No, if the Master really has the capacity to establish this eternal relationship with the disciple, then he also has the capacity to make the disciple feel that he has done it. The Master offers this message to the seeker's soul, and the seeker feels that his inner connection with his Master will last forever. Then with his utmost sweetness, concern, compassion, gratitude and pride, the Master accepts the disciple wholeheartedly and permanently. And the disciple will also have the same feeling for the Master; he will feel that the Master is not a separate entity but is his very own. He will feel that the very highest, which he calls the Master, is his own most illumined part. When he has that kind of feeling, that kind of realisation, then the eternal relationship between the Master and the disciple can dawn.
The eternal relationship between the Master and the disciple is significant only in the case of a realised Master. If the Master is not fully realised, then he is only fooling the disciple. There are many Masters who have not realised God but simply say, "Oh, we have an eternal connection. I will take care of you even after I leave the body." When this type of Master leaves the body, the disciple may cry to his Master constantly, but he will get no response. Even when he is on the physical plane, this type of Master can be of no use. He only makes false promises.
The main purpose of initiation is to bring the soul to the fore. If there is no initiation, the purification of the body, vital, mind and heart can never be complete. If there is no initiation, then the highest Goal can never be realised. Those who are close to me have felt the actual flowering of their initiation the moment they have wholeheartedly dedicated to the Supreme in me their entire life — body, vital, mind, heart and soul. This flowering of the initiation is really more than initiation. It is the revelation of the disciples' own inner divinity. At that moment they feel that they and their Guru have totally become one. They feel that their Guru has no existence without them, and that they have no existence without their Guru. The Guru and the disciple mutually fulfil each other and feel that this fulfilment is coming directly from the Supreme. And the greatest secret the disciple learns from the Guru is this: that only by fulfilling the Supreme first can he fulfil the rest of the world.
How can the Guru fulfil the Supreme? The Guru plays his part by taking the ignorance, imperfection, obscurity, impurity and unwillingness from the disciple and carrying them faithfully and devotedly to the Supreme. The disciple fulfils the Supreme by constantly staying in the Guru's boat and in the inmost recesses of the Guru's heart, and by feeling that he exists only for the fulfilment of his Master. Him to fulfil, him to manifest: this is the only meaning, the only purpose, the only significance of the disciple's life.