Śrīvacana Bhūṣaṇa | 46-50

46. Teacher — disciple relationship.

308. Indeed when imparting teaching, the Ācārya must at all costs avoid the reprehensible delusions regarding the position of a preceptor, the role of the disciple and the results of the instruction.

If a person, duly eligible to receive initiation and instruction seeks the good office of the Ācārya — the Ācārya would be committing an offence more reprehensible than those listed above if he suffers from the distorted perceptions of himself, the role of the disciple and the results of the teaching.

309. Having self-delusions about preceptorship means thinking of himself as being the Ācārya; having delusions about the role of disciple means thinking of a disciple as being his disciple; having delusions about the results [of initiating & instructing the proselyte] means being motivated by some kind of material benefit, the salvation of the disciple, assisting the Lord or companionship with the disciple.

The Ācārya should never think of himself as being a “teacher of sacred lore” but rather as the conduit of his own Ācārya's grace. The disciple should not be regarded as one's personal disciple but rather as a co-disciple of the same Ācārya.

Then there are four self-delusions arising from the imparting of instruction:

1. Monetary gain from the disciple’s tuition fees,

2. the delusion that one is actually assisting in the salvation of the disciple,

3. the delusion that one is actually assisting the Lord in His work of reclaiming jīvas and

4. the expectation of some social companionship from living with and socialising with a particular disciple who meets with one's personal approval.

310. If the Ācārya does not delude himself about [being the prime cause of] these four results [of instruction] how are they accomplished?

1. Material benefit flows from the disciple’s devoted [and spontaneous] care.
2. Salvation is the result of the Lord's devoted care.
3. Service to the Lord comes from the Ācārya's instruction, companionship results from remembering the assistance of the Ācārya.

The disciple whose bounden duty it is to serve the Ācārya will automatically see to the preceptor’s needs and therefore there is no particular necessity for him to expect it or demand it.

The disciple's salvation occurs through the Lord's Grace and not through anything that the Ācārya can or does do.

The hitopadeśa (sound instruction) imparted to the disciple will guide him in the service of the Lord, companionship will naturally result if the relationship is a mutually beneficial one and the Ācārya has fulfilled his duty of being a competent and good teacher.

But neither should he expect companionship nor should he try to manipulate such things.

311. It may be asked; “How are the direct results obtained and what is the accomplishment of preceptorship?” — These [results] are accomplished due to the Ācārya's and the Lord's good-intention (niṇaivu).

312. If the Ācārya does not follow these precepts then he confounds the very principle [of their relationship].

The function of the preceptor is to impart instruction to educate the disciple to become a selfless and devoted person, if this process is successful then the devotee will blossom as such.

In turn the preceptor who has the good intention to deploy this course of action is blessed with the preceptorship by the Lord. He acquires the required skills for imparting teaching.

If on the other hand he does not follow these precepts and becomes self-deluded then he is unworthy of the preceptorship and loses the ability to impart instruction effectively. His instruction then will be of no avail and the disciples will not respond to the teachings.

313. The Ācārya should show compassion to the disciple and dependence upon his own teacher.

The Ācārya should extend full compassion and skilful means in caring for the disciple’s spiritual instruction, being constantly mindful that he is but a conduit for his own Ācārya's grace and nothing more.

314. Through compassion the quintessence of the disciple is reinforced and by dependence upon his own teacher his own quintessence is reinforced.

The quintessence of the disciple is one with that of the Ācārya both being related to each other as jīvas and to the Lord in an eternal and indissoluble bond.

Therefore compassion which is a limitless openness and a complete and total acceptance of the other is the only emotion to have.

The disciple regards his teacher with the same dependence and veneration that one would have to Śrīman Nārāyaṇa and thus reinforces the natural śeṣa-śeṣi relationship of the enlightened jīva.

315. The direct meaning of the term “Ācārya” is one who teaches the sacred Mahā- mantra (Aṣṭākṣarī) which liberates one from Samsāra.

316. Preceptorship is not consummated by one who teaches lesser, petty mantras — even though they are in propitiation of the Lord; fostering [continued existence in] Samsāra.

317. The Lord's mantras are referred to as being petty in respect of the results obtained [from their recitation].

318. For the same reason they are said to foster [continued existence in] Samsāra.

319. This [fruit] indeed is limited to certain conditions.

320. They arise from one's personal desires.

The recitation of the Santāna Gopāla mantra for example results in the attainment of progeny, Lakṣmī mantras may produce wealth and Hayagrīva mantras learning, Sudarśana mantras ensure protection from competitors and enemies and ensures success in undertakings etc.

But all these results are worldly and limited, and they only serve to perpetuate one’s sojourn in Samsāra.

321. The worthy disciple is one who rejects anything other than the Goal, desires only to hear [teachings] about the means to the Goal; is restive in Samsāra, affectionate to the preceptor and unenvious.

The perfect disciple is one who is only concerned with pursuing the goal to unification with God, craves only to listen to teachings on this subject and is eager to be liberated from Samsāra. He bears inordinate affection for the preceptor and is unenvious of the prosperity and happiness of others.

322. The disciple should consider his preceptor as the Mantra, the Deity, the result, and all those things connected with the result, the means to attain the result, and the source of joy in Samsāra.

323. Our Great Teacher (Yāmunācāryā) revealed this teaching: — “Mother, father, women........”

Stotra Ratna 5:

“I reverently bow my head to the blessed feet of the first Master of our lineage (Nammāḷvār), whose feet are decorated with bakula flowers, and which are alone the mother, father, women, children and wealth to every one of our lineage.”

324. The basis of this attitude is mindfulness of a sense of gratitude.

This sense of gratitude is a quality which characterises genuine spirituality. It is a deep and sincere sense of gratitude for everyone and everything in our lives. Nothing should ever be taken for granted and wherever possible this gratitude should be shown and expressed.

325. The sense of gratitude is firstly directed towards the Ācārya and secondly towards the Lord.

The disciple at first feels immensely grateful to the Ācārya for linking him up with the Lord and for revealing his true nature as jīva. He then feels inordinately grateful to the Lord for having bestowed upon him sufficient grace to have established contact with the Ācārya in the first place.

326. The disciple and the Ācārya should demonstrate a mutual beneficial and affectionate relationship.

327. The disciple should [always] attend to the Ācārya's welfare and pray to the Lord to ensure the preceptor's well-being.

328. The disciple becomes committed to satisfying (the Ācārya) the Ācārya becomes committed to uplifting (the disciple).

329. Because it follows that the disciple is the recipient of the Ācārya’s love, there is no place for [the Ācārya’s] anger [toward the disciple].

In a genuine open and sincere spiritual relationship the Ācārya and the disciple as like lovers. Mutual love, respect and affection should override any feelings of frustration that may arise between them in terms of the teaching and learning dynamic. Anger, which is the result of a frustrated personal desire has no place here.

330. Neither of them should avoid reprimanding at any time, as it is beneficial [to both].

The Dharma śāstras enjoin the disciple to test the guru prior to accepting him and to constantly observe the guru's behaviour:

If the guru strays from the path, as is indeed human, then the disciple has a right to remind him of his duty, without criticising him to others or revealing the errant behaviour to anyone else.

The teacher wishing only for the welfare of the disciple should always be ready to constructively reprimand an errant disciple:

Neither reprimanding nor being reprimanded in a constructive manner should be a cause of disquietude for either, as theirs is a mutually beneficial relationship and in order for this to be so there must be an essential element of candid, sincere and mutually beneficial criticism.

331. The disciple should avoid any cause for being reprimanded.

The disciple who is dedicated to his/her spiritual practice should always act to please the Ācārya and thus avoid any cause for being reprimanded.

332. Reprimand [by the preceptor], like the reprimand of the Lord, is part of the results [of the Lord's active Grace].

But when the disciple does err then the Ācārya’s reprimand should be graciously accepted just as if it was Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself scolding him/her.

333. The Ācārya should foster the [realisation of the] essential-nature of the disciple; the disciple should attend to the Ācārya’s physical needs.

334. Both of these [goals] are the proper [attitudes] of the two and are service to the Lord.

335. For the Ācārya, protecting [his own] body obscures his essential character [as Ācārya]; for the disciple, protecting [his own] Self obscures his Self-nature [of being dependant].

An Ācārya should not be required to go out and earn a living for himself and his family in order to maintain house and hearth. The Ācārya’s duty is to teach and guide the community and they should therefore ensure that all his material needs are taken care of.

The Ācārya working for a living therefore negates his essential character as preceptor.

The disciple who strives to liberate him/herself from samsāra negates the essential characteristic of being dependant upon the Ācārya.

336. The Ācārya [who thinks he is personally] responsible for [disciple's] Salvation, is destroyed by pride; the disciple [who thinks he/she is personally] responsible for [the Ācārya’s] livelihood, is destroyed by self-interest.

The preceptor should be free of any egoistical idea that somehow his activities are contributing to the salvation of the disciple;

and the disciple should avoid any possessive consideration that the Ācārya's livelihood is somehow dependant upon his material contribution and that without his charity the preceptor would be at a loss.

All material support that is given to the Ācārya should be given out of a sense of duty and obligation not out of self-interest or for self-promotion. It is best that all support be given anonymously.

337. The Ācārya should regard the contribution [given] for his livelihood as his own [property]; the disciple should regard the means for his own livelihood as the Ācārya’s [property].

Upon taking initiation the disciple should figuratively surrender everything he has to the guru; the guru then “loans” it all back to him.

Therefore whatever the disciple subsequently gives to the Ācārya for his personal maintenance is nothing but an instalment upon a loan and should be regarded as such by both parties.

The Ācārya thus becomes primarily responsible for the livelihood of both of them.

338. The Ācārya should not take the [personal] property of the disciple and the disciple should not give such property to him.

The Ācārya should never accept or request anything from the disciple which the latter considers as his own personal property or which is intended for personal and exclusive use.

For example, if the disciple appears before the Ācārya with a Rolex watch — the Ācārya should not hint that it be given to him nor should the disciple offer it.

339. Receiving [such property] makes [the Ācārya] appear destitute: giving makes [the disciple] appear like a thief.

The Ācārya should not actually need anything as he is already complete and self-satisfied — relying completely upon the Grace of the Lord for everything; the disciple does not own anything to give, since everything already belongs to the Ācārya.

340. When taking and giving arise, the [spiritual] relationship ceases.

The moment the Ācārya deludes himself that he is taking from the disciple and the disciple considers that he is a donor — their spontaneous and natural spiritual relationship dissolves into a mundane business transaction.

341. The [disciple] cannot give since he is destitute; the [Ācārya] cannot receive since he is replete.

342. The [Ācārya’s] position is justified by repletion; the [disciple’s] position is justified by emptiness.

The disciple has theoretically surrendered everything she/he owns to the Ācārya and is therefore totally destitute and is not in a position to give anything.

The Ācārya does not need anything since he has putatively overcome all his selfish desires and needs nothing, being completely and totally dependant upon the Lord..

343. Then, it may be asked: — “Can the disciple therefore do no favour to the Ācārya?”

344. The Ācārya, considers only [the progress of the disciple].

Seeing the intellectual progress and spiritual unfolding of the disciple is the only thing that can gratify the preceptor, there is nothing else but sincere work at personal development which will be a favour for the Ācārya.

In fact the greatest joy of the Ācārya would be to see the disciple excel even him in spiritual advancement!

345. [The results are] namely, knowledge, firm resolve, universal love and good conduct.

The only gratification that the Ācārya derives from their relationship is the development of the qualities of increased knowledge and wisdom, conviction and resolute pursuance of the Ultimate Goal, the development of universal loving kindness and compassion to all beings and good conduct which means doing the appropriate act at the appropriate time with the benefit of all beings in mind (loka-saṅgraha). Vide Bhagavad Gītā chap 12.

346. For the purpose of pleasing the Ācārya the [disciple] should abstain from appropriating anything belonging to the Lord, obstructing the enjoyment of the Lord, and any display of contumely for the teacher, the mantra and God.

347. The appropriation of the Lord's property is the disciple’s [sense of] independence; and [his] dependence on another [other than the Lord]; obstructing the enjoyment of the Lord is [consciously] obstructing His Salvific act.

The jīva belongs to Perumāḷ, to think that one is an independent and free individual or on the other hand, developing a dependant relationship with another being is tantamount to appropriating the Lord's property.

To attempt to protect and liberate oneself from Samsāra through the practice of various sādhanas is tantamount to obstructing the pleasure of the Lord which is to bring about a reunion with all the jīvas entrapped in Samsāra.

348. An affront to the teacher consists in not practising what is prescribed by him and passing on those teachings to others who are not qualified;

affront to the mantra consists in forgetting its correct meaning or [knowingly] distorting it's meaning;

affront to God consists in devoting the three causative instruments [mind, speech and action] to unworthy objects and failing to devote these to [the Lord].

349. With regard to the Ācārya, [the disciple] should, until departing from the body, [always] behave in such a way as to continually be mindful of the Ācārya's favour— “you restored my errant mind.......... “ and “you conferred upon me a mind that will always serve.....”

1. Tiruvāymoḷi 2,7.8:

“O Śrīdhara my Lord, you restored my errant mind and rid me of life’s sorrows, and now with a pure mind I worship Your feet, sing and adore You as the sire of cupid. Your complexion is that of an emerald! O Vāmana my lotus-eyed Lord, for this favour so great what can I do to you in return?”

2. Tiruvāymoḷi 2.7.7:

“O my Lord, how clever You are! My lotus-eyed Master, with sparkling teeth! You conferred on me a mind that will always be riveted to Your lotus-feet, days pass meditating upon You. O my Lord Vāmana! You who became Trivikrama! and measured the universe in three strides.”

47. Mental turpitude

350. The turpitude of mind consists in contemplation on one's own virtue and on the defects of the Lord and the tiru-kūṭam.

The greatest mental misdemeanour consists of contemplating and rejoicing in one’s own virtue and achievements and thinking negatively about Kṛṣṇa or the spiritual company that we associate with.

351. One should give up thinking critically [about the Lord and the tiru-kūṭam], not because [fault] is there — like his own [putative] virtue, but because it does not exist.

One should not think of oneself as the perfectly virtuous and others who have surrendered as having faults. One should cultivate the conviction that the Lord and His wards are essentially free of all faults.

352. In thinking negatively of others, it is one's own negativity that is demonstrated, not that of the other.

353. If it be asked, “How is personal negativity demonstrated”?

354. It is from personal defect and from relationships.

One tends to externalise one's cherished standards and ideals and thus to project one's own faults onto others. In doing this one continues the futile battle to bolster one's own ego and self-delusion. Everybody wants to establish group ties and feel part of a herd with defined characteristics and structure.

A common mechanism to deal with our faults and inadequacies which disqualify us from belonging to the group, is to point them out in others and thus reassure ourselves and those with whom we are trying to bond that we are free of them.

355. If personal defects were not [present], then there would be ascertainment of virtue [in the Lord and His own].

Seeing that the judgemental process is generally one of externalisation, we can only externalise that which is within:

Duryodhana was asked to find a good man in the world, he searched and saw that everyone had faults and none was good. Yudhiṣṭhira was asked to find an evil person, he too searched and found that all were good and none was evil.

356. In the absence [of this ascertainment of virtue] the perception of defect is itself [a sign of] defect.

The inability to see the good in others and a focussing on their flaws indicates the presence of a negative self-image which contradicts the spirit of self-realisation.

48. Being Critical

357. There is [really] no opportunity for this [thinking critically].

358. For there is only time sufficient enough [to examine] one's own defects and the virtues of the Lord and the other devotees.

Life is so short that one only has enough time to examine one's own mind and motivations, and to admire the beauty and compassion of the Lord and to reflect upon the good fortune of others who have had the opportunity to seeking refuge in the Lord and whose company we now enjoy. There is simply not enough time to spend on contemplating the flaws and defects of others.

359. One should rather identify one's own faults with those who are entrapped in Samsāra.

Far from critically examining, judging and rejecting our fellow beings for their perceived faults, we should rather develop a feeling of acceptance and empathy with them as they are suffering as much as we are; all beings share the same basic hopes and aspirations and suffer from the same losses and disappointments, and all all mired in the same samsāra.

360. This [identification] arises from awareness of kinship [with other Samsāra beings].

We should be mindful that all sentient beings including us, are suffering, deluded, confused and unenlightened and should thus have compassion on them since we are all sparks of the same divine Light and thus intimately interconnected with each other and Śrīman Nārāyaṇa.

361. The [concept] does not even arise, from the saying — “We think not a moment.”

Periya Tiru-moḷi 2. 6. 1:

“The Lord is staying at Kaṭalmallai which being so cool is conducive to an interesting sojourn, He took the form of a damsel, and entered into the midst of the pernicious demons offering nectar to the gods only — we will not think even for a moment of those who do not contemplate such a Lord.”

In other words the defects of others should not even arise in the mind of a prapanna which is totally occupied with contemplating the Divine.

362. The purpose of reflecting on defects is their removal.

The only valid reason to reflect on defects, one's own and those of others, is to rectify them and therefore it follows that one should only ever think about one's own faults and never those of others.

If one does contemplate about the faults of others it should be with a view to bringing it to their attention and helping them to overcome them, not simply to disparage them with a view of boosting one’s own self-esteem.

49. Forbearance & tolerance.

363. One should not reveal to the Lord and other devotees, offences committed against oneself by others; just as the Goddess (Sītā) did not inform the Lord or Hanumān about the offences of the demonesses.

Using the example of mother Sītā we should avoid complaining about any ill-treatment that we may receive from others:

Even having suffered terribly at the hands of her captors, whose function was to torment her day and night, Sītā did not reveal her suffering to either Rāma or Hanuman or request them to redress the wrongs.

In fact it was Hanuman who saw the atrocities of the demonesses and offered to avenge their wickedness but was restrained by Sītā.

364. Has it not been said that even the all-knowing One [the Lord], who has the right to make known [faults], does not open His mouth but conceals all things.

The Supreme Lord incarnates periodically to liberate sentient beings, and even during these periodic descents into the material world, there are those who are outright hostile towards Him and oppose Him in every way, even waging war against Him.

Yet still He returns to Vaikuṇṭha and never complains for a moment even to His consorts and Eternal Associates about the stupidity, hostility and obstinacy of His recalcitrant subjects.

365. One should respond to those who offend, with tolerance, compassion, a smile, joy and gratitude.

Tolerance to such an extant as not to bear any ill-will or malice or grudge against the offender.

Compassion as an act of openness and acceptance for one who is deluded by the forces of ignorance and bound by the law of Karma.

A smile for the foolishness of the doer who is contemplating hurting one who is beyond all bodily conceptions, and for whom all suffering is perceived only as recondite Karmic reaction.

Joy at receiving the quota of pain that is due for past unskilful actions done and knowing that another debt has been settled.

Gratitude for being reminded of one's failings and faults, the keeping under constant review of which is one's personal duty.

50. Self-analysis.

366. Reflecting on one's own faults causes anxiety, contemplating on the virtues of the Lord gives rise to a feeling of security.

In sutra 358 & 362 the venerable teacher stated that we should reflect upon our own faults and short-comings and upon the glory of the lord. Now we are told that contemplating upon our own faults gives rise to anxiety.

The term used here is doṣa anusandhānam which means making an obsession of researching one's own faults:

One can become so obsessed with thinking negatively on oneself that guilt (in westerners) and anxiety arise, which then cloud the clarity of the mind and obstruct the seeing of one's true nature and relationship to the Lord, the world and other sentient beings.

The anxiety is based upon hopelessness, feelings of worthlessness and inability to achieve an hypothetical ideal standard of perfection.

On the other hand changing the focus of the mind from one's imperfect ego to the qualities of the Divine gives rise to positive feelings of love, joy, compassion, enthusiasm etc... The guiding principle is yad bhāvati tad bhavati — what one contemplates upon one becomes!

367. If the cause of fear and the cause of fearlessness were reversed it would only perpetuate ignorance.

If one avoids contemplating upon the Lord for fear of punishment for past sins by way of Karma and continued bondage in Samsāra, or attempts to resolve this anxiety by concentrating one’s efforts on self-salvation it would be a folly that would only serve to perpetuate the cycle.

368. If it be objected — “What then is the basis for the following utterances?”— “Do you cause me distress...........1.? “I am always full of fear like a tree growing on the bank of a river...............2.”

1. Tiruvāymoḷi 7.1.1:

“O my sweet Lord, great benefactor adored by the gods, You have Maya immeasurable at Your disposal! O Lord, on whom the three worlds are dependent! Why do You cause me distress, tormenting me still, by not giving me access to Your lotus-like feet and by exposing me to the five unruly senses, so as to stay permanently bound?”

2. Periya Tiru-moḷi 11. 8. 1:

“O God who is perceived by smell, taste, touch and sound! Even if you can say many things to me, I will tell You only one! I am always terrified like a tree on the bank of a river, thinking that You may cause me future human births.”

The question is, why do the Āḻvārs express anxiety then — if they were indeed absorbed in the contemplation of Perumāḷ?

369. They are totally mindful of [their] relationship [to the Lord].

The anxiety of insecurity that is expressed by the Āḻvārs stems from their total awareness of their relationship with the Lord and does not contradict it.

370. As a child, stumbling in the street, beats its mother [for failing to prevent the fall], so one can speak that way to one whose kinship is unconditional [the Lord] and who has the power [to prevent suffering] but does not prevent it.

371. If [a mother] does not prevent her child from straying to the edge of a well and the child falls in, others will say that the mother herself is to blame.

If the mother’s failure to remove the child from the edge of the well can be construed as permission for it to stay there, and therefore implicates the mother in any misadventure,

then one could argue that the failure of the Lord to remove the Prapanna from Samsāra is permission for one to remain in Samsāra and therefore implicates the Lord in one’s continued suffering.

372. As the assent of this one [the jīva] is not the cause of gain, so also the assent of Him [the Lord] is not the cause of loss.

By surrendering one does not bring about one’s salvation, because salvation comes from the Lord's Grace alone and not through anything that the jīva could do. And likewise the assent of the Lord for the jīva to remain in Samsāra is not the cause of the jīva’s suffering.

373. The two [assents] are natural to both.

The assent of the Self to be liberated by the Lord and the assent of the Lord for the cetana to stay awhile in Samsāra are perfectly in accordance with their respective natures and thus are not the causes of the consequences.