The meaning of discipleship today1

Dear friends, dear brothers and sisters, dear distinguished professors and deans, here we are all seekers. We are sailing in the same boat, the boat that is carrying us to the Golden Shore of the Beyond. Nothing gives me a greater sense of satisfaction than to be of dedicated service to seekers, for I am also a seeker, an eternal seeker, a seeker of the infinite Truth and Light. As you know, I was asked by my esteemed friend, Dean Foster, to speak on the meaning of discipleship today. This is a most significant subject, and therefore I offer him my gratitude-heart.

What is a disciple? A disciple is a seeker; he is a Truth-seeker. What is a disciple? A disciple is a lover; he is a Heaven-lover. What is a disciple? A disciple is a server; he is an earth-server. What is a disciple? A disciple is a fulfiller; he is a God-fulfiller.

If we want to know the meaning of discipleship today, we have to focus our concentrated attention on the role of the disciple. The role of the disciple is quite simple, of course, if he follows the path of the heart and not the path of the mind. The role of the disciple is to give what he has and what he is. What he has is an inner cry, which is birthless and deathless. The disciple offers this birthless and deathless inner cry to his Pilot Supreme and receives from Him His infinite Light, eternal Peace, and immortal Bliss.

What a disciple is, is a devoted and soulful instrument. He wants to help mankind to see the beauty of the Infinite in the very heart of the finite. He wants to unite earth's helpless cry and Heaven's endless Smile. He takes it as his bounden duty to serve both Mother Earth and Father Heaven. To manifest the eternal Truth is his constant cry and constant hunger. Undoubtedly, he is a chosen instrument of the Absolute Pilot Supreme.

Yesterday's disciple, today's disciple, and tomorrow's disciple. Yesterday's disciple was simple and humble. Simplicity was his outer life, humility was his inner life. Simplicity and humility inundated his entire being. Today's disciple is complicated and argumentative. Complication and argumentation reign supreme in his life, day in and day out. Tomorrow's disciple will be the fastest spiritual runner. His code of life will be to run and become, to become and run. He will run in order to succeed; he will become in order to proceed. At times, he will run to reach the Goal; at times, the Goal will come to him. When he reaches the Goal, he will be blessed with the Transcendental Pride of the Absolute Supreme. When the Goal reaches him, he will immediately sit at the Feet of the Absolute Supreme with his heart's soulful gratitude-sea.

In the days of yore, the disciple was advised and encouraged by the Master to renounce the world. Renunciation was taught right from the beginning when the disciple came to the Master. The Vedic Seers of the hoary past, and also the Upanishadic Seers, offered a supreme message to the world at large: "Enjoy through renunciation." Everybody wants to enjoy, for satisfaction is of paramount importance. But the ancient Seers came to realise that satisfaction can be achieved only through renunciation. According to them, there is no other way. This world of ours gives us things that do not last; their life-breath is very short. Everything here is an illusion—nothing can last and nothing will last permanently. Sooner than the soonest, everything dies. What is the use of running after things that will not last for good? So they taught their disciples not to run after material objects, and their students learned the message of renunciation.

Then there came a time when the message needed transformation. The sages, the Seers, the spiritual Masters came to realise that the acceptance of life is of paramount importance. If we renounce the world, if we renounce the body, vital, mind and heart, then what can we do for our Beloved Supreme? We say we love God and want to please Him. If we want to please Him, if we want to fulfil Him, then how can we reject or renounce the world? This world of ours, as it is, must be accepted. First we must accept it; then we have to transform it. Needless to say, this world is far, far from perfect. But unless and until we accept the world, unless we touch the earth-arena —- the sufferings, the pains, the imperfections of the world at large —- how are we going to change the face and fate of the world? Therefore, we must needs accept the world.

Our mind is full of doubts, worries and anxieties; our mind has to be transformed. Our vital quite often is destructive; we have to transform our destructive vital into a new vital which is dynamic. With a dynamic vital we will be able to run the fastest, dive the deepest and fly the highest. Our body is lethargic; our body enjoys ignorance-sleep. It has been sleeping for millions of years; yet it still wants to enjoy this ignorance-sleep. The seeker in us must tell our body to wake up. The Upanishadic Seers have taught us how to inspire the body with inner dynamism just by repeating these soulful and powerful words of incantation:

Uttisthata jagrata prapya varan nibodhata
Ksurasya dhara nisita duratyaya
Durgam pathas tat kavayo vadanti

Arise, awake! Realise and achieve the Highest with the help of the illumining, guiding and fulfilling Masters. The path is as sharp as the edge of a razor, difficult to cross, hard to tread —- so declare the wise sages.

Until the Goal is reached, do not stop! And this Goal is for whom? Not for the weakling! "The soul cannot be won by the weakling —- Nayam atma balahinena labhyo." The inner Goal can be achieved only by powerful souls, not by weak ones. The Goal that satisfies our inner world and our outer world, the Goal that quenches our Eternity's thirst, will not be achieved by weaklings.

Yesterday's disciple could not satisfy us. Today's disciple cannot satisfy us. Tomorrow's disciple also perhaps will not satisfy us. Why? Yesterday's disciple said to the Master, "Master, give me capacity. If you bless me with capacity, I shall please you." The disciple did not want to go further; he did not tell the Master that he would be more than willing to please the Master in his own way.

Today's disciple says to the Master, "Master, I am giving you a golden chance. Do please me in my own way today. If you please me today, I give you my word of honour that tomorrow I shall please you in your own way. But you have to please me first, and I have already given you a golden, supreme chance."

Tomorrow's disciple perhaps will say to the Master, "Master, let us please each other. You give me something significant and I shall give you something significant. You give me your soul's Himalayan realisation, and I shall give you my life's sleepless service." Here also the disciple has managed to forget the message of unconditional Reality. It is all conditional: the Master has to give something to the disciple; then only the disciple will give something else to the Master. Therefore, yesterday's disciple could not accomplish the supreme task, today's disciple cannot do it and tomorrow's also will fail. But in the distant future —- it may take millions of years —- there shall come a time when the seeker-disciple will be ready to please the Master in the Master's own way. The seeker-disciple will be able to identify himself with the supreme prayer-message of the Saviour Supreme, the Christ: "Father, let Thy Will be done." Here the message of surrender comes to the fore.

Unfortunately, the present-day world is scared to death when it hears the word 'surrender'. But the surrender that we speak of in the spiritual life is not the surrender of the slave to the master. It is the recognition of the Infinite by the finite. A tiny drop recognises its inner identity with the vast ocean. It then enters into the ocean and becomes the vast ocean itself.

In the spiritual life, nobody is compelled to surrender. But everybody has an inner urge to grow into the Infinite. As the tiny drop grows into the Infinite, even so, our finite consciousness can eventually grow into Infinity. Surrender and freedom are always at daggers drawn, but if we dive deep within we see that there is no difference between these two so-called realities. They are just the obverse and the reverse of the same coin. Before we accepted the spiritual life, we enjoyed freedom in one way. We fulfilled, or wanted to fulfil, our earth-bound desires. We felt, perhaps, that we had the capacity and potentiality to be another Napoleon or Alexander the Great. Like Julius Caesar, we wanted to voice forth: "I came, I saw, I conquered." This is the positive way that we could have embraced this reality. Otherwise, if we embraced it in the negative way, then we would have cherished and admired deep in the inmost recesses of our heart the destructive message of Hitler and Stalin. In any event, before we entered into the spiritual life we did enjoy freedom; whether it was real freedom or not is another matter. But we can say that we enjoyed something in a limited way, and the after-effect was total frustration. Therefore, we needed a kind of escape. Or we can say that illumination dawned on us. So we gave up the desire-bound life and entered into the spiritual life.

Previously we wanted to please and fulfil ourselves by fulfilling our desire-life, but now we want to please and fulfil ourselves by fulfilling our aspiration-life. It is not that we have given up our freedom. No! Freedom is always there. Only we have changed the course of the game, and now we are enjoying a different kind of freedom.

Unfortunately, when we enter into the spiritual life and follow a Master, we feel that we are surrendering to somebody else and giving up our freedom. But this is not at all true. Nobody is compelling us to follow a spiritual path; nobody is compelling us to listen to the Master. The seeker has come to the Master on the strength of his own inner urge. The seeker is staying with the Master in order to fulfil a divine longing that he feels. He feels that the Master knows a little more than he does, so he himself has decided to follow the Master. It is his own freedom that he is exercising. So the question of surrender does not arise at all. When we lead, we enjoy freedom. Again, when we consciously, deliberately, soulfully and unconditionally follow, at that time we enjoy another kind of freedom. In the case of the seeker, his inner awareness, inner development and inner sense of truth are compelling him to follow a higher life, a more illumining life, a more fulfilling life. It is his own free choice.

When the seeker follows a Master, he does not look upon the Master as a separate individual. He does not feel that he is a slave kissing the dust of the Master's feet. No! He knows perfectly well that the Master who is in the physical is only a representative of his real Guru, his real Master, who is none other than the Absolute Supreme. He sees himself as an exact prototype of his Master's divine consciousness, and he looks upon the Master as his own higher Reality. So when he follows the Master, he is not surrendering his freedom to somebody else. Only he is exercising his freedom in a different way; he is exercising his freedom to follow his own higher Reality.

In the spiritual life, it is always God for God's sake right from the beginning. If this message the seeker can embody, reveal and manifest in his life at every moment, then he will be a supreme and perfect instrument of his Beloved Supreme. There shall come a time when Mother Earth will be inundated with seeker-disciples who will be carrying the banner of unconditional surrender to God which is nothing other than conscious, constant, inseparable and unconditional divine oneness with their own higher Reality and with their Master who represents this higher Reality.


  1. EHWM 77. Pacific School of Religion; Berkeley, CA, USA, 1 June 1979