At a satsang in August of 1999, a group of new graduates from the Integral Yoga Hatha Teacher’s Training (TT) program took the opportunity to ask Swami Satchidananda some questions about himself and the role of the Guru in the life of a spiritual seeker. We find this an appropriate satsang to reprint as we celebrate Guru Poornima, the full moon day in July dedicated to paying one’s respects to the Guru.
Question: On first seeing you, I was surprised at how everyone bows down to you. I feel that other people are making you into a celebrity. How do you feel about so much attention to you, instead of to God? The Bible teaches us not praise man on earth. I only hear God’s name used rarely here at the Ashram, but yours all the time. If you are a tool of God, why do you allow people to praise you so much?
Answer: That’s a good question. But I feel this question should be asked of the people who are doing all the bowing down and praising me. What do they see in me? Why should they do that? I am not the person to answer this question. You are asking them, not me, right?
Personally, I don’t expect any praise or any blame. You know, some people blame me also. Should I go and tell them not to blame me? In the same way, when some people praise me, it’s up to them: If they want to praise me, let them praise me. If they want to blame me, let them blame me, because that is what they see, through their eyes. I know who I am and I am not demanding anything from anyone.
And, whatever I receive, I just pass it on. I don’t keep anything for me. People give a lot of things: praise, blame, worship, money, they give it to me. Should I say, “No, don’t give it to me?” They give it to me and I pass it on to wherever it’s needed.
So, I’m not looking for anything. And I’m not demanding that anybody do anything. If you feel like doing something, go ahead and do it. If you don’t feel like it, that’s fine with me, too. There are different ways of appreciating someone. Each of us loves our parents in different ways. And, not all the children even show love or respect to their parents. Some people even blame their parents. That doesn’t stop them from being parents.
So, I don’t demand anything of my students. I don’t ask them for anything. I am just here. If you want to learn something from me, that’s up to you. Ask, learn; if you don’t ask, I’ll keep my mouth shut. The same Bible you mention says: “Ask, it shall be given. Knock, it will be opened.” I am not here posing as being something great. Why do you ask me to sit here [up on the stage]? I didn’t ask for it. Maybe, if I sit up a bit higher than you,, all of you can see me better. If I sit down on the floor, you won’t be able to see me, right? So, it’s for your advantage; not to praise me, or to elevate me to a different level.
As you are TTs, I am also still a TT. I am also still learning. Nobody has finished up learning. If I had finished my learning, I wouldn’t be here in this Universe-city. My University is Universe-city. When you’ve finished learning, you will be kicked out. So, the fact that you are still alive here means you are still learning. I know something you may not know. You may know something I may not know, so we exchange. What else should I say?
The questioner also asked, “How do you feel about so much attention to you, instead of God?”
Well, I enjoy it! I enjoy all the attention, yes, why not! When it comes, enjoy it. Don’t ask for it, but if it comes enjoy it and pass it on to God. They see God in everybody. It is the God, ultimately, who is being praised, adored, appreciated, worshipped. We’re all just tools. We’re all just tools. So, don’t worry about bowing down, or praising me. Just learn to be a Good Yogi. That’s all I need.
“I only hear God’s name used rarely, but your name often…?”
My name is also a name of God. Don’t you know that? Sat-chid-ananda. That means: “Father, Son and The Holy Spirit,” the Trinity. I was given God’s name. And everybody has a God’s name [Sanskrit names given to the Teacher Trainees who request them are names of God]. So, we see God in you and that’s why if you request, you are given a name of God.
Question: How will I know if you are my Guru?
Answer: The other day I saw a big herd of cows. A farmer came and let out a young calf into the herd. The calf ran in amongst all the cows and, lo and behold, it found it’s own mother! I didn’t ask the calf, but I thought of asking: “Calf, how did you find your mother?” All the cows look so similar. The answer is it just knows. It’s a feeling. If you feel that you are seeing a Guru for you, then he or she is your Guru.
One time I found a true Guru in the lecture hall. Do you know who that Guru was? A broomstick. One day a hall was being arranged for a talk and they wanted me to come and see the hall before I gave the talk. So I went in. There were two guys standing there. I looked around. “Oh, it’s absolutely clean! Who did all that?”
The guys said: “Sir, we did that!”
“Yes, Sir. See, it’s absolutely clean.” While the guys were bragging about their cleaning, we heard a giggling sound coming from a corner. I said:
“Who is that? There’s nobody else except these two. Who is laughing?” Since the sound came from a corner we walked over there but saw nothing but a broomstick. I asked the broomstick: “ Was that you laughing?”
“Swami, what else can I do but laugh at these fellows?”
“Look at me, I’m all dirty. You know how I became dirty? I collected all the dirt from the hall. By my becoming dirty, I cleaned the hall. But now these guys claimed the credit. ‘We did the cleaning, we did the cleaning!’ What else can you expect from a human being? They take the credit for everything!”
I prostrated before the broomstick. “You are my Guru! You took all others’ dirt, and you show it in your own body, and still you don’t claim the credit for that. What a great Karma Yogi you are!”
The Guru is like a broomstick. You may come with a dirty body, dirty ego and he just cleans it. But the real cleaner is somewhere else. The meaning of “Guru,” is “the one who removes the dirt from the “I.” “Gu-ru” means, “remover of the darkness.”
So, anybody can be a Guru, if you learn something from them or from it. A stone can teach you. So, if you learn something from somebody or something, you treat that as a Guru. And to whomever you learn from you should show your respect.
Ultimately, who is the real Guru? It’s in you. You should have a Guru within you to know the Guru outside. If you don’t have the Guru within, you will see an ordinary human being. It’s the Guru who knows the Guru. There’s a Tamil saying which means: “Only a snake knows how the other snake crawls.” You understand that? Theory is mere talking, but you have not experienced it. Only another snake will know how the snake crawls. Another proverb says, “It takes a thief to catch a thief.” The same way, it takes the Guru within to know your [outer] Guru. You have that Guru within you. Ultimately your own conscience is the Guru. Until you see the Guru within, you see the reflected Guru.