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Bhakti Yoga 4: The Need Of A Guru

This is the fourth chapter in the series on Bhakti Yoga by Swami Vivekananda.


Every soul is destined to be perfect, and every being, in the end, will attain the state of perfection. Whatever we are now is the result of our acts and thoughts in the past; and whatever we shall be in the future will be the result of what we think and do now. But this, the shaping of our own destinies does not preclude our receiving help from outside; nay, in the vast majority of cases such help is absolutely necessary.

When it comes, the higher powers and possibilities of the soul are quickened, spiritual life is awakened, growth is animated, and man becomes holy and perfect in the end.

This quickening impulse cannot be derived from books. The soul can only receive impulses from another soul, and from nothing else. We may study books all our lives, we may become very intellectual, but in the end we find that we have not developed at all spiritually.

It is not true that a high order of intellectual development always goes hand in hand with a proportionate development of the spiritual side in Man. In studying books we are sometimes deluded into thinking that thereby we are being spiritually helped; but if we analyse the effect of the study of books on ourselves, we shall find that at the utmost it is only our intellect that derives profit from such studies, and not our inner spirit. This inadequacy of books to quicken spiritual growth is the reason why, although almost every one of us can speak most wonderfully on spiritual matters, when it comes to action and the living of a truly spiritual life, we find ourselves so awfully deficient. To quicken the spirit, the impulse mist come from another soul.

The person from whose soul such impulse comes is called the Guru – the teacher; and the person to whose soul the impulse is conveyed is called the Shishya – the student.

To convey such an impulse to any soul, int he first place, the soul from which it proceeds must possess the power of transmitting it, as it were to another; and in the second place, the soul to which it is transmitted must be fit to receive it. The seed must be a living seed, and the field must be ready (to be) ploughed; and when both these conditions are fulfilled, a wonderful growth of genuine religion takes place.

“The true preacher of religion has to be of wonderful capabilities, and clever shall his hearer be” – ; and when both of these are really wonderful and extraordinary, then will a splendid spiritual awakening result , and not otherwise.

Such alone are the real teachers, and such alone are also the real students, the real aspirants. All other are only playing with spirituality. They have just a little curiosity awakened, just a little intellectual aspiration kindled in them, but are merely standing on the outward fringe of the horizon of religion.

There is no doubt some value even in that as it may in course of time result in the awakening of a real thirst for religion; and it is a mysterious law of nature that as soon as the field is ready, the seed must and does come; as soon as the soul earnestly desires to have religion, the transmitter of the religious force must and does appear to help that soul.

When the power that attracts the light of religion in the receiving soul is full & strong, the power which answers to that attraction and send in light does come as matter of course.

There are, however, certain dangers in the way. There is, for instance, the danger to the receiving soul of it mistaking momentary emotions for real religious yearning. We may study that in ourselves. Many a time in our lives, somebody dies who we loved; we receive a blow; we feel that the world is slipping between our fingers, that we want something surer and higher, and that we must become religious. In a few days that wave of feeling has passed away, and we left stranded just where we were before.

We are all of us often mistaking such impulses for real thirst after religion; but as long as these momentary emotions are thus mistaken, that continuous, real craving of the soul for religion will not come, and we shall not find the true transmitter of spirituality into our nature. So whenever we are tempted to complain of our search after the truth that we desire so much, proving vain, instead of so complaining, our first duty ought to be to look into our own souls and find whether the craving in the heart is real. Then in the vast majority of cases it would be discovered that we were not fit for receiving the truth, that there was no real thirst for spirituality. There are still greater dangers in regard to the transmitter, the Guru. There are many who, though immersed in ignorance, yet, in the pride of their hearts, fancy they know everything, and no only do not stop there, but offer to take others on their shoulders; and thus the blind leading the blind, both fall into the ditch.

“Fools dwelling in darkness, wise in their own conceit, and puffed with vain knowledge, go round and round staggering to and fro, like blind men led by the blind”

Katha Upanishad

The world is full of these. Every one wants to be a teacher, every beggar wants to make a gift of a million dollars! Just as these beggars are ridiculous, so are these teachers.

Bhakti Yoga

The path of devotion to the Divine is Bhakti Yoga. This is the path of surrendering your ego to whatever is your perception of divinity. Through complete surrender, you start to realize the reality of self.

On the world Yoga Forum, the complete text on Bhakti Yoga by Swami Vivekananda has been compiled in the form of 10 chapters.

What is Yoga?

Yoga is often seen as a way to get physically fit through postures and breathing exercises. However, there’s much more to Yoga than asanas or breathing exercises. Yoga is one of the 6 philosophical schools of Hinduism. These include Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa, and Vedanta. The practice of yoga has been thought to date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions; possibly in the Indus valley civilization around 3000 BCE.

What is the Goal of Yoga?

Yoga is cessation (nirodha) of the activities (vrittis) of mind (chitta) according to patanjali’s definition in the 2nd sutra in Yoga Sutras. Vrittis refer to any sequence of thoughts, ideas, mental imaging or cognitive act performed by the mind, intellect, or ego. The mind & body are one and a part of nature (prakriti), and the soul is separate. Read More on the Goal of Yoga

It is important to note that the mind & body are one and a part of nature (prakriti), and the soul is separate.

Chitta consists of 3 things i.e.

  1. Intelligence (Buddhi)
  2. Ego (Ahankara)
  3. Mind (Manas).

Chitta can be compared to the software and the body to hardware. Both software & hardware are useless without the presence of an observer. Only the soul (purusa) is truly alive. When the soul is uncoupled from the mind in its pure state cannot be rambled and is changeless (unlike the mind).

About World Yoga Forum

World Yoga Forum

World Yoga Forum is a platform for Yoga, Meditation enthusiasts, practitioners, trainers, and teachers to share knowledge and experience on Yoga. World Yoga Forum’s mission is to promote better living through the wisdom of ancient spiritual knowledge and practices. Yoga is often seen as a way to get physically fit through postures and breathing exercises. However, there’s much more to Yoga than asanas or breathing exercises. Yoga is one of the 6 philosophical schools of Hinduism. These include Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa, and Vedanta. The practice of yoga has been thought to date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions; possibly in the Indus valley civilization around 3000 BCE.

Topics and Chapters Covered on The World Yoga Forum

  • Basic of Yoga – Yoga is often seen as a way to get physically fit through postures and breathing exercises. However, there’s much more to Yoga than asanas or breathing exercises.
  • Raja Yoga – It is the path of control. In this practice, you bring body, mind, and breath under control to let go of ego and realize the self.
  • Bhakti Yoga – The path of devotion to the Divine is Bhakti Yoga. This is the path of surrendering your ego to whatever is your perception of divinity. Through complete surrender, you start to realize the reality of self.
  • Karma Yoga – The path of selfless duty. When you follow this path, you do your duty to the best of your abilities, without attachment to results or rewards.
  • Jnana Yoga – Jnana Yoga (Also read as Gyana Yoga) is the path of knowledge. In this practice, you surrender the ego through acquiring knowledge, which removes ignorance and illusion, and leads to understanding the reality of the Self.
  • Hatha Yoga – Hatha Yoga focuses on Asanas and Pranayama (yoga poses and meditation) and a large part of Yoga that we see today in the form of Yoga poses and asanas are essentially Hatha Yoga.

Basics of Yoga Free Ebook pdf

Book Title – Basics of Yoga

Number of Pages: 7

Learn the basic concepts of Yoga including its origins, meaning, definitions, and goals through this simple free e-book.

The goal is to place Yoga in its correct context and bring forward the ancient practices & rich knowledge of Yoga that can help you set a strong foundation. Most schools of Yoga today have been derived from the Yoga Sutras. Yoga Sutras is a compilation of all the learnings of Yoga. Its interpretations have given rise to multiple schools in Yoga. This book is useful for beginners, practitioners, and enthusiasts in Yoga.

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