How to approach a guru of a Yoga Tradition

The following is an excerpt of the commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by Radhikaji from her forthcoming book to be published in 2017.Chapter 2 Verses 5-10 are covered in this article. 

Verse 5: The internal Guru supersedes the external guru

In chapter 1  Arjuna presented many convincing and logical arguments to justify his refusal to fight the battle of life. He mentioned the role of lineages, the preservation of society, values and knowledge. In this chapter he comes up with more arguments such as killing teachers and elders is a great sin which is of course a very strong argument. But we know that, though gurus are worth of respect and honour, the internal Guru supersedes the external guru. The external guru only leads you to the Guru within. It is the Guru within that should direct you in all matters. 

Arjuna is struggling because there is a part in him that knows that he has to fight his gurus, his teachers Bhishma and Drona. When you need to cross the river you need a boat but once you have crossed you don't need a boat any more. You have crossed the river called mind with the help of your guide. When you have buddhi, your internal wisdom guiding you. Only when buddhi is sharp enough can we start the process of unlearning social conventions and norms. This is why these  teachings are not  given to everybody. We say: “Na datavyam, na datavyam, na datavyam. Don't impart, don't impart, don’t impart.” An impure mind, that is a mind which is not prepared, can very conveniently understand this to mean whatever he wants it to mean. There is a great danger.

The student has to learn go beyond the external means. At some point of time in life as you learn about yourself, you will find that nothing external can help you any more. The only guide you have then is within you, the voice of inner wisdom, buddhi, the Guru within. 

Verse 6: The veil of Avidya, ignorance

Why are the hundred Kauravas brothers referred to as the sons of Dhritarashtra in this verse? Dhritarashtra the blind king stands for ignorance and therefore the sons of ignorance are the many negative qualities that we all know, such as pride, greed, anger, fear, aversion, attachment, egoism. If we do not wish to attenuate and eventually destroy these negative qualities in ourselves then you will remain in a state of ignorance. The veil of Avidya  is so dark upon Arjuna that he is afraid. Destroying these negative qualities means unlearning old thinking and behavioral habit patterns leading to the ultimate death of ahamkara. It requires a great deal of  courage to face these negative qualities in ourselves. 

Verse 7-8: Self-awareness and humility

Even in these moments of doubt, self condemnation, turmoil, despondency and loss of courage, there is a little shimmer of hope, there is a light of self-awareness in Arjuna. He is aware that his mind is deluded, he does not know what right conduct and the right course of action is. He accepts that he needs guidance, he is humble enough to ask for help. Self-awareness is a very important quality for a good student. Without self-awareness you cannot recognise, that you need guidance. This self-awareness means that the ego does not have a complete  grasp over Arjuna. He has enough self-awareness to see that he is deluded, this is what makes him such an excellent student. 

Besides self-awareness he has another important quality. Arjuna also has the  humility to admit he is deluded and asks for help. Self-awareness is of little use if we are too proud to ask for help. Arjuna is a great hero and student, because he has both self-awareness and the humility.

Verse 9: What is surrender? 

It is important to note that in the earlier verse Arjuna asked for guidance but now he refuses to fight. On one hand he has agreed to do as Sri Krishna advises him but on the other hand he has already made up his mind. Arjuna is not very open. He claims he is ready for instructions but he has already taken the decision. 

This is exactly what happens when the student comes to the teacher and asks for instructions. The teacher agrees and asks him, for instance, to change his food habits. The students do not want to change their food habits. They love the oily, spicy food, the ice creams and chocolates, and the alcohol. Their attitude is: I want the highest teachings but I am not going to change anything nor am I going to give up my bad habits.

It is very comforting to hear these beautiful teachings of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita, but when it comes down to making concrete changes in our lives, then we find out, that we are not exactly surrendering. Arjuna claims he is surrendering to Sri Krishna, but the surrender is conditional. Like many students, who seem to say, “Yes I will surrender provided you tell me exactly what I want to hear.” 



Verse 10: Are you listening to buddhi?

When we experience this inner battle our only guide is Buddhi,  Beyond this point the external teacher cannot help the meditator, you have to fight your own battle. The teacher can accompany you but he cannot fight the battle for you. In the battle Sri Krishna is merely his charioteer, he does not fight the battle for Arjuna. Sri Krishna counsels and guides Arjuna all the time throughout the battle but does not fight his battles for him. 

Arjuna is beginning to get glimpses of the task ahead of him and looking he knows the only one can help him now, is his own Buddhi, the teacher within. Buddhi is always there, but are you listening? One of the biggest issues that a seeker, a meditator faces, is that not enough time has been spent on sharpening his own Buddhi. The mind is so impure that you cannot hear the voice of wisdom. 

Impure mind means Ahamkara has a lot of strong thinking patterns, false identities that are unhealthy, manas is still not being trained and is attracted to all sorts of sensory objects around you, chitta, the memory bank is has got a lot of memory stored up there and there's a lot of things that you don't want to even see, at least keep coming up bubbling up and because of these extreme conflicts which are in the mind, they are not resolved.

Such a person is not listening to Buddhi. We need to ask ourselves, if we are listening to Buddhi. Are you listening to your teacher? This may be your external teacher, if your mind has not been purified. Until the time you are strong enough you need the guidance of an external teacher, one who has been on this path before, who has a sharp Buddhi. The one, who has been on this path and has attenuated and may be even burned up his own negative qualities such as pride, greed, anger, attachment, aversion, fear, and desires of all kinds in the fire of knowledge has access to the Guru within. Only such a teacher can help you.