Obedience and discipleship

The role of obedience in the spiritual path is most important, most significant. The day an aspirant loses his obedience, which is his inner strength, he has to know that he has fallen from the top of the tree. A seeker may have made great progress. He may have walked very far along the path of spirituality. But then he feels, "Since I have covered a long way, naturally the Master is pleased with me. I can have a kind of pure, intimate feeling of oneness with him and he will not criticise my mistakes or object to my emotional demands or activities." When this is what a seeker feels, at that time he is making a most deplorable mistake. If there is no obedience on the part of the disciple, then no matter where he is on the spiritual path, he will never be able to realise the Highest, the Absolute. He will have to be satisfied with limited achievement, limited joy, limited peace and limited conscious awareness of the Truth.

In the spiritual life, as in the ordinary human life, very often we see that familiarity breeds contempt; or, let us say, familiarity very often takes us away from our goal. We try to become familiar with an individual, a spiritual Master, in order to realise the Highest in him. But the moment we become outwardly close to him we feel that we have reached his Highest. Just because he smiles at us or says, "You are very good; you are very nice; I like you; I am fond of you; I am proud of you," immediately we feel that we have achieved everything.

But in these cases we have to know that the Master has spoken according to the seeker's receptivity, not according to his inner achievement. In the ladder of consciousness, there are various rungs. There are hundreds of rungs, but just because the disciple has reached the first rung, which many have yet to reach, the Master is so pleased. Just because the aspirant has made a conscious effort and, with the Master's Grace, has touched a particular rung, the Master says, "I am so pleased with you, I am so proud of you." Certainly he is proud, because the seeker has touched the rung, whereas others have not yet touched that particular rung. But this same aspirant has to feel that there is not only one rung, but hundreds and thousands of rungs in the Master's consciousness. When he touches the first rung and the Master is pleased with him, he should not think, "Oh, I have touched the Master's highest rung." He has to know that if he can see the Master's absolute Highest, his Transcendental Consciousness only once during his lifetime, he will be most blessed. Then either in this life or in his next life, or in God knows how many incarnations, he has to enter into the infinite sea of the Master's Consciousness-Light.

People speak of Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda in the same breath, but Ramakrishna's status as the Guru and Vivekananda's status as the disciple are unimaginably different. There is a yawning gulf between Vivekananda's realisation and Ramakrishna's realisation. Sri Aurobindo once said that Vivekananda only got a few glimpses of the sea that Ramakrishna lived in all the time. So why do we speak of Vivekananda and Ramakrishna together? It is because we feel that Vivekananda, the greatest disciple of Ramakrishna, became totally one with his Master. Because he became totally one with Ramakrishna's consciousness, we think that what Ramakrishna had, Vivekananda also had. But it is not true. Ramakrishna appreciated and admired Vivekananda. He said, "You are very great, I have brought your soul down to earth," and so on. But Ramakrishna consciously saw how far Vivekananda had reached and how high his own height was. Again, when modesty and humility entered into Vivekananda, he said, "From this very speck of dust, Ramakrishna can make thousands of Vivekanandas."

Now I have dealt with quite a few cases in which I have actually lifted the consciousness of my disciples from the gutter, forgive me to say, to a little higher level. The progress they have made with my help is far beyond their imagination. How have they done it? They have done it only on the strength of their obedience. It was their obedience that was able to draw the Master's affection, grace and compassion.

Obedience is a disciple's greatest strength. He who cannot have obedience to the end of his life must know that a time will come when his progress will come to a standstill. Someone may be satisfied to remain on his own level. He will say, "Oh, I have got this much and I don't need any more. There are many who are far behind me." There are many who are satisfied with their achievements and they don't want to go farther because they see that still there are many, many hundreds and thousands lagging behind them. So they say, "This is enough for this lifetime. Next time I will make a further move." So where do I stand in that case?

In real obedience, there is always progress. In his obedience, the aspirant has to feel his total oneness with the Master. His obedience has to be spontaneous. The commander orders and immediately the soldiers obey: "Left turn, left turn, right turn." The command has been given, and the soldiers are obeying it out of duty. It is not inner joy that compels them to listen to their commander. But in the spiritual life it is not like that. In the spiritual life nobody is compelled to follow a spiritual path. An aspirant comes to the Master and says, "Master, I am going to fulfil you and, by fulfilling you, I myself am going to be fulfilled." Then the Master gives the aspirant constantly growing inner joy and inner strength.

When the Master tells a disciple to do something, immediately the disciple must feel that this is the greatest honour that he is getting from the Master. Whether the Master asks him to sweep the floor or to write a most wonderful poem, the very fact that the request has come from the Master makes it the greatest blessing. At this time, the disciple should feel that it is not an order that he is getting; it is conscious oneness which the Master is offering to the disciple so that they will fulfil the Mission of the Supreme together. The Master is saying, "Look, I am with you. I am entering into you and I have become one with you. My mission and your mission are one."

Then, when the disciple fulfils the Master's request, the Master has to feel that it is he who has done the thing. Similarly, when he accomplishes something, then the disciples have to feel that it is they who have accomplished it. In the case of human friendship between disciples, oneness means that when you do something, your friend immediately has to feel that he has done it, and when he does something, immediately you have to feel that you have done it. In the case of the eternal friendship between Master and disciple, this oneness has to be infinitely stronger. The Master is being constantly fulfilled by the disciple and the disciple is being constantly fulfilled by his oneness with the Master, who is the Highest.

Unfortunately, in our ordinary day-to-day life, what happens? I have disciples who are seventy and eighty years old. So some of these disciples act like my father and mother or my older brothers. They think, "Oh, he is only thirty-eight years old and we have seen many, many more summers. What does he know about the practical side of life and all that?" Here I wish to say that perhaps I have not gone through the life-experiences that some of you have gone through. But you have to know that I am a conscious chosen instrument of the Highest Absolute Supreme. I tell some of you, "Do this," and immediately you say, "No, if I do it the way the Master wants me to, then it will not be successful." Since you feel this way, you can try in your own way to make it successful.

But here you are making a mistake. When something comes out of a God-realised Master's mouth, it is not just chatter or useless gossip. No, even when I tell you to do something in a joking manner, I represent the Highest Power. Even if you feel that by following my advice you are entering into the greatest danger, I tell you, I have the power to turn this danger immediately into the greatest success. But when you see difficulty and danger, immediately you lose faith in me. My mission is your mission, true. But since I am acting as leader, I have to be given the full opportunity to act as the supreme commander. I am the pathfinder; I am paving the way. Even if you see that there are other ways which you feel would be more effective, for God's sake leave the responsibility to me, because I know the way. When I ask you to do something, do it the way that I ask you to do it. Then, if you see any apparent mistake, I tell you I have the power to rectify that mistake.

Even if you feel that what I have said is totally wrong, if you want to make progress, you have to know that it is through obedience to my inner dictates that you will make the fastest progress and not through correcting me. By correcting one mistake that I have made, if you feel that you have accomplished something great, then you are mistaken. But when you listen to me, even if it is a mistake, your obedience enters into me and my overflowing love and compassion enter into you. When I tell a disciple to do anything, and if this thing is done in the way I say it should be done, then I am responsible; whereas if the disciple makes one decision and I make another decision, then I am not going to be responsible for his decision. If the disciple wants to mould his life according to his own superior wisdom, then I am helpless. Why should I be responsible for somebody else's decision? Even if I have accepted someone as my closest or dearest disciple, still I cannot do it. The Supreme will break my head! He will say, "What is this? It is your weakness, nothing else." There is somebody superior to me and that is the Supreme, whom I call my Dearest. But that Superior can break my head if He wants to, and He will break my head if I tell you anything wrong. So the relationship between the disciple and the Master should be made very clear. At the end of his spiritual life, the disciple has to be totally surrendered to the Supreme in the Master if he wants Self-realisation.

India's great Avatar, Sri Chaitanya, had one dearest disciple whose name was Nityananda. When Nityananda reached a ripe old age, Chaitanya asked him to marry. At that age people don't marry, especially in India. But Nityananda happened to be the dearest disciple of the Master. He sang spiritual songs all the time and preached the Master's philosophy. So when Chaitanya said, "You have to marry," immediately Nityananda got married. Then Chaitanya said, "Now I want you to have a child." Nityananda was willing to have a child, but his wife unfortunately died. Immediately Chaitanya said, "Now you have to get married again." In India, a second marriage is considered absurd at that age. But the disciple got married. Then Chaitanya said, "I am not satisfied. You have to have children." So Nityananda said, "All right, I'll have children." Somebody asked, "Master, what have you done with his life?" But Chaitanya said, "What? I have just achieved the greatest success."

Chaitanya knew well why he did it. He wanted to show the world that a real spiritual person can be far above the world of ignorance even if he is married and lives in the world. How? On the strength of his immediate obedience. The Master knows that if everybody wants only to realise God, if everybody leaves the world and nobody gets married, then the world will be one-sided. But the world wants to be fulfilled. God wants to fulfil the world and be fulfilled in the world, and man and woman have to go together. In some cases the Master does not ask for marriage, and in some cases he does want marriage. When he does not want marriage, at that time the aspirant has to know that it is God who does not want it. But if God wants it, then he has to do it.

Obedience has to be immediate, spontaneous, soulful and full of inner joy. In obedience there is no compulsion. Only if there is constant inner joy will obedience make the disciple absolutely one with the Master's highest Consciousness. So the dearest disciples should be totally surrendered to the Master. This does not mean blind surrender. There is no such thing as blindness. There is only the inner wisdom of identifying oneself with the Highest in one's Master.

Arjuna and Sri Krishna were once walking along the street. Sri Krishna asked Arjuna, "Look, what do you see on that tree? What are you seeing?" Arjuna said, "I am seeing fruits." Krishna asked, "What colour are they?" Arjuna said, "Red." Then immediately Krishna said, "I think they are black." Arjuna replied, "Yes, they are black." Now again Krishna said, "Oh, it seems they are grey. No, they are green." Immediately Arjuna said, "They are green."

Now you can say, "Look at this fellow. He has no personality of his own. He is like a sheep or a slave. If the Master says something is black, he says it is black; if the Master says it is white, he says it is white." This is the ordinary way of judging the truth. But the moment we go deep within, we see that when Arjuna listened to the Master say, "They are black," he identified himself with the consciousness of the Master and saw what the Master was seeing with the Master's own Light. What can be a greater achievement in a human being than to identify with the Master's consciousness and see the Truth the way the Truth is seen by the Master himself? There are so many ways to justify your cause in your human life. But if you really want to be one with the Highest, and if you call your Master or the Supreme your Highest, then you have to try to see the Truth with the Master's Light. If the Master's Light seems wrong or faulty to your vision, then you have to know that your oneness is not complete. If your oneness were complete, then when the Master said to do something, immediately there would be no second thought in your mind, no contradictory thought, because you would have already become one with your Master. If you have already become one with your Master, then how will you be able to think differently from him! If the Master says, "This is north," and if you have become totally one with your Master's will, then naturally you will say that it is north. If you are not one then you will say, "No, this is south." Then both of you will have a sad discussion, a sad argument, and with your vision you will say, "Master, you are wrong."

Your Master may be wrong, but ultimately the Master can never be wrong. If you feel that your Master is wrong, this is a dangerous failure in your consciousness, because the moment you have your own way of seeing the Truth, at that time you are thousands of miles away from the Master's consciousness. When you are away from the Master's consciousness, the Master feels sorry with his human heart, because he wants you to be his dearest and closest. The Supreme wants him to show this Light in order to guide the world, but the world does not want to be guided. With his highest, purest divine heart, the Master becomes one with the Supreme's Will, and there is no sorrow there. But with his human heart, when he tries to identify with the disciple's present state of consciousness, he feels sorry. He feels sorry because the gulf between him and the disciple is very vast.

So the question of obedience is most important for all the disciples. If the Master says to accept something, you should accept it immediately. And when the Master says to reject something, if you ask, "Why? How? What for? When? Where?" then immediately you have to feel that you are not in your Master's consciousness. When you are in your own consciousness, the Master can inspire you to become good, to become faithful. But if you have no second thought, no contradictory or even complementary ideas, but only one thought, the thought that flows from your spiritual Master, then your own understanding of the Truth will be absolutely one with the understanding of the Master. In that way your Master's mission can be fulfilled in a very short time. You won't have to wait hundreds of years to fulfil your Master's mission on earth.

So obedience should be offered by each disciple as soon as possible. When I say disciple, I mean real disciple. We can never, never accept obedience from the false disciples. This moment they will ask me to save them, and then tomorrow they will go to some other Master and say, "Oh, save me, save me!" Then they will totally forget me. Those who have implicit faith in the Supreme in me will think of me even at the time of death. They will say, "Master, come," and at that time their Master will come. But this kind of thing cannot happen when one has twenty Masters. I am shocked when I enter into some of the disciples' consciousness and see that they feel that there are millions of Avatars, millions of spiritual Masters, millions of Saviours. There is only one Saviour and that is the Supreme. That Supreme is inside your Master and also He is inside another Master. But you have to approach only one person. Otherwise, you will be the first person to enter into the sea of ignorance. So obedience also has to be offered to only one individual whom you call your Master. And who is that Master? He is your highest part, your most luminous part.

So I wish to tell all the disciples, if you have obedience, you don't need anything else. Suppose you don't have intense aspiration, and I tell you that you have to have aspiration. Then you will say, "He has told me to have aspiration, so I will have it. I will try from now on to have intense aspiration." So you try. I may see that you don't have the capacity, but you are willing, you are more than willing to try to have intense aspiration just because I have asked you to have it. And when I see that in spite of your best efforts you have not cultivated aspiration, I will jump into your sea of ignorance and give you all the aspiration that is required, just because I know that you have tried. But if you say, "How can I have aspiration? I am so backwards, I have so many family problems," and so on; if you use all of these arguments, I will be helpless. But the moment I say, "You have to have aspiration," then if you try, immediately I will be there to help you. The moment I see that my request is taken most cheerfully, gladly and spontaneously, the moment I see that an effort has been made by the disciple to abide by my request, then I am there. When I ask you to do something, if you are sincere, if you are one with me, you will feel that I not only gave you the command but also the necessary strength to fulfil the command. You will feel that I have given you infinitely more than the necessary strength.

Some of you work very hard in serving the Supreme. I am most grateful to you. To all those who are doing selfless service, I wish to say that I am most grateful to you. I am not bragging or boasting, but at the same time, I wish to say that I have given you more than the necessary strength to do the needful for the fulfilment of the mission. Nobody can say, "Guru, you have not given me enough strength or capacity." No, the Supreme in me has given it to you. My philosophy is like Vivekananda's philosophy. Vivekananda said that it is better to wear out than to rust out. But you will not wear out because the Supreme is inside you with His infinite Light, infinite Energy, infinite Power. So how can you wear out? There can be no end to your progress; there can be no end to your success; there can be no end to your manifestation, simply because the Supreme is constantly transcending Himself.

So let us be obedient to each other. When I ask someone to do something or to say something, from now on I wish to feel that it is done, no sooner said than done. If this is the assurance that I can get from the selected or chosen disciples, then I can say that actually these particular disciples are placing me on their shoulders. They are carrying me. Otherwise, I am just carrying all the unwilling, unaspiring, unlit and obstructing disciples as heavy burdens on my shoulders. And unfortunately, there are many of that type. They are not willing to march according to the speed and tempo that I wish. Then what happens? There are some sincere ones who really want to run faster, but their progress is hampered by the insincere, unaspiring, unprogressive and unwilling disciples. So from today, I would like all the members of my spiritual family to be most aspiring and most obedient, so the Supreme will feel in this era, in this incarnation of ours, we have pleased Him most. Let us try. We shall succeed if it is the Will of the Supreme.