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A World of Yoga

The Master/Initiate Relationship

The Master and initiate are essentially a team. They must work together or the initiate will not achieve and maintain higher consciousness. Teamwork of a high degree is required. The way you, the seeker, conduct your daily life — in thought, word, and action — is vital to the success of the team.

Initiates often like to acknowledge that their Master’s love and grace alone is awakening them and accomplishing their lives’ fulfillment. They often think their Master is like the moon, having no light of its own but capable of reflecting the light of the brilliant sun directly into the night of their ignorance. And while a beginning seeker is physically incapable of beholding the splendor of God (goodness and higher consciousness), the Master reflects that Divine light in a muted manner — a divinely shining personality that testifies to a greater light. While the importance of the Master cannot be overestimated, the Master is not the only factor in an initiate’s ultimate delight. Essential, yes. But not the only essential.

A Frequent Dialogue

The following exchanges have often occurred in Masters’ homes over centuries:

A devotee who is not doing very well sits before his Master.

"How are you doing in your spiritual practice?" the Master asks his mentally-scattered initiate.

"I’m doing fine, Master, just fine," the young man or woman replies, "all I need is your blessings, more and more of your blessings."

"You have God’s blessings. You have my blessings. But what you do not have is your blessings!" the Guru replies. "For you to succeed spiritually, all that is missing is your blessings!"

When this same dialogue occurred in the ashram (home) of the great Master, Paramahansa Yogananda, he added that the Master/devotee relationship involves fifty percent the blessings of God, twenty-five percent the blessings of the Master, and the remaining necessary twenty-five percent from the initiate himself toward his own life and path.

Merely being in the presence of a Master does not assure an initiate success, Yogananda warned. Rats and mice lived on the property but the rodents, he often observed, were making no spiritual progress.

A Relationship Of Love

Masters are unique in their way of quickening higher consciousness. Each Master’s method creates hundreds of inspiring — and sometimes amusing — anecdotes. Usually their words have the spark of genius, of an inspiration that can be savored and developed through all time.

The Master/Initiate relationship is one of love. There is a respect and good will between the aspirant and his beloved Master. Both have a high opinion of one another and deeply respect the part the other plays in the success of the team, each being essential. The Master often prays for his devotee each day, and does everything he can to inspire the initiate to do his part. If the initiate does not do his part, he or she will ultimately live in great sorrow and unfulfillment, caught between two worlds — the physical world and the spiritual world — an alien to both.

Whenever any initiate succeeds, the initiate is given loving acknowledgement and great respect. That initiate who does his or her part becomes a great soul.

"May He Protect Us Both"

This invocation was sung in ancient days by the Master and his devotee. They often began their study, or work day together, or their evening class, with this invocation translated from the Sanskrit:

May He (the Lord) protect us both.

May He nourish us both.

May we both work together with great energy.

May our study be thorough and fruitful. May we never hate each other.1

Yes, hate. While on the path of love the devotee goes through many changes, sifts through old attitudes and tendencies. Most everyone has the tendency of hatred. When the disciple is blocked or frustrated, told to do something he or she believes impossible, or is told to obey in some practice which seems childish, the capacity to hate rises up powerfully in the mind and emotions. The initiate’s efforts to become more conscious, coupled with the purity of his or her life, give more vitality and power to think and feel. Because of this power, the initiate’s negative passions, if indulged in, are mightily expressed with much vigor.

Character Flaws

When you, the initiate, do not deal with your negative emotions in a positive way — yearning for growth and trusting in the goodness and the guidance of your Master — then the teamwork can (and does) break down. The all-important project will not succeed until you begin to deal with your character flaws.

The Master — assuming we are speaking of a true Master — never hates the devotee, no matter how cruel or evil a failed devotee may become in this lifetime. The Master has already found what he wants. He already knows the Lord of his heart, he already abides in higher consciousness. It’s only out of love, compassion, and a commission from the Lord that the Master is willing to be part of the team.

So, because of the immaturity of the initiate, who does not persistently face and strive to overcome negative tendencies, the team may become divided. The initiate may become antagonistic to the Master who was so much love’s fool he accepted that devotee.

A Failed Relationship

To the initiate who is not willing to deal with his flaws, the Master often seems to be an authority figure who stands in the way of the initiate’s fulfillment. The initiate may even construe that his or her own will is more in tune with God’s will than the Master’s will. The initiate may eventually look down on the Master. But the initiate usually feels guilty about harboring contempt and irrationally condemning the Master. These complex feelings can lead to hatred, too. As guilt builds up, it creates even more intense hate problems. The wedge of the initiate’s poison endeavors to become a wall.

An example of this "failed relationship" was Judas Iscariot. Judas was an initiate — a direct disciple — of Jesus. Judas expected, according to some historians, that Jesus would create an army and — through military and other means — establish a kingdom of heaven on earth. At the very least, Judas is said to have thought Jesus would force the Romans to leave Israel. Instead, Jesus performed miracles, preached about faith, and in no way turned to materialistic power to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth.

Judas kissed Jesus and betrayed him into death.

Beware of the False Guru

While Masters have many problems with devotees, the true initiate must beware of the "false Guru." These pretenders sometimes enjoy self-importance and power. In an arrogant state, they lose whatever attunement they had with God. They are incapable of being the Lord’s instrument of awakening. The bridge along the path to higher consciousness stinks with the lives of treacherous initiates and false Masters.

Keep in mind that a true Master is one who is consolidated in the higher consciousness and who, by definition, does not fall. Sometimes, however, a very advanced person who is not yet qualified to be a Master may be commissioned by God to act temporarily as a teacher in some ways, preparing his junior brother or sister for the true Master yet to come. This guidance from an advanced and true devotee is not uncommon because there are so few true Masters in the world today.

Looking generally at spiritual and religious communities, one is often saddened by the intensity of the hatred and cruelty practiced in the name of love and obedience to God. The Master/Initiate relationship, therefore, absolutely requires the good will, respect and obedience of the initiate. The relationship also requires that the Master be a truly enlightened and constant instrument of the Lord.

Becoming Ready

Before forming such a bond, the Master and initiate want to be sure that they can be a team together. While it’s true that those who function as Upa-Gurus (spiritual guides who teach some aspect of higher consciousness rather than awaken one into spiritual realization) can give minor initiations quite liberally and casually without much contact with the initiate thereafter, this relationship is only a helpful phase in the aspirant’s life. Through the help of an Upa-Guru, the seeker grows into a ready and worthy candidate capable of entering into relationship with the Master. And now the initiate and Master need a period of time to get to know one another.

Because the Master/Initiate relationship is of a life or death importance spiritually, certain qualifications are usually required by the Master of the aspirant. Most Masters look for initiates who feel life is not worth living unless they can discover their true natures and go forward. Do you feel life would be an empty thing, a sham, a vanity, if you do not find its true meaning, or discover your true nature and potential?

You Should Deeply Consider

Still, there are other significant qualifications. In order to meet the vital qualifications, you must prepare yourself. At the same time you prepare, you should deeply consider whether you trust your prospective Master. Is he or she truly qualified to serve as the Lord’s instrument and awaken you? Consider well, because you will need to enter the relationship with full faith — and maintain full faith. Without faith, or a sincere willingness to seek faith, you will fail. Failing in faith, you will in time feel the higher part of yourself is dead.

While considering a Guru, you should study with him if you can. You should observe him in his manner of thinking, feeling, and acting. You should determine, to your satisfaction, that the Master is living in God-consciousness, that he is a lover of God and such a deep experiencer of God that God can use him for his high Sat Guru purpose.

Doing Your Part

You, a prospective initiate, should keep in mind that you will, at or before your initiation, be required to agree, or formally make a vow, to obey the Master. This obedience is in two fields:


regarding your character; and


regarding your spiritual practice.

That is, before becoming an initiate, you will have to agree to do what the Master instructs regarding your spiritual practices — whatever is necessary in the development and consolidation of your higher consciousness. For example, the Master may require you chant a mantram2 a few hundred times each day, or direct your life force up and down your spine one hundred and eight times daily.

You may be required to keep your body healthy. You may be required to read or study various scriptures or to faithfully attend regular classes — whatever manner of consciousness-evolving practices the Master requires. While you enter the relationship voluntarily, entirely free of duress, and while this is a relationship of love, you will be required to do your part. Your obedience in spiritual practice and character development is fundamental to your success.

Mutual Rights

Remember, the Master does not have to serve any initiate who is not happy and eager to see him. An initiate is duty-bound to keep his head on straight and deal with personal ego storms. He or she must behave maturely enough to be continually appreciative of the instruction, love, and insight of the Master. The spiritual well being of the initiate is at stake.

Regarding character, the Master has a right and duty to correct you, the initiate, whenever he is so moved. You, the initiate, are not only duty-bound to do what you have been told to do but must do as instructed with good will and love — even if you totally disagree with him. At the same time, there are few fit candidates for the Master/Initiate relationship in the world and most Masters will explain themselves and strive to deal most reasonably with the initiate’s protests and questions. A true Master has no desire whatever to dominate anyone, especially an initiate, and would rather be elsewhere than tell another person what to do. It is only out of love that he will give correction. Usually, today, he will not give correction unless it is readily appreciated.

Further, obedience to a Master in no way extends to lowering your morality or your being required to sexually satisfy him or her. A strange world precipitates these strange aberrations. When a supposedly great teacher asks such a thing, it is obvious he or she is not a great spiritual soul. 

Most Fortunate

No one on earth is as fortunate as the initiate of a true Master, a Sat Guru. With devotion and persistence, you will become more fulfilled than any human being can. To live without daily, deeply felt gratitude for the presence of your Master is sheer tragedy — and colossal loss.

Remember, most Masters do not accept many devotees. However, a few Masters initiate liberally, usually as they near the end of their lives. They pour out their love and life force, usually dying within a few years. They voluntarily undergo an astonishing depletion of their life energies. When his body no longer has enough life force to maintain itself and various diseases develop, the Master, lovingly, with a smile and benediction, departs his body. He remains an inspiration from heavenly realms but is profoundly missed by those who are not subtle enough to communicate with him.

The Master Will Appear

Too, there are other classes of descended masters; the East Indians spoke of them as siddhas, isvarakotis, avatarans, or other already enlightened beings who seem to come to earth as if born for the purpose of being Sat Guru to many. These holy ones are able to initiate as great Masters, initiate liberally, while at the same time maintaining their bodies for many years. But often they will not admit that they are Masters or Gurus, requiring that prospective initiates be particularly perceptive. These enlightened Masters usually have other holy missions in addition to awakening worthy individuals.

Some seekers have spent years searching in the East for their Guru. Often they leave unsatisfied. In every instance they are unprepared for the Guru. When they are truly prepared, they will find their Master without fail — and usually not have to travel far. "When the devotee is ready, then the Master will appear," is an often-said aphorism. "When the devotee is ready to travel even to the ends of the world in search of his Master, then the Master appears nearby."

Eternal Friendship

Summing up, when you enter into the Master/Initiate relationship and receive initiation, you agree to be true for life. You agree to be faithful until the day your Master — in person, not in psychic or astral form, or through automatic writing, or from an itinerant teacher of a psycho-mystical fad or other path — pronounces you consolidated in your enlightenment.

On that greatest of days your Master is most deeply pleased and honored to be present for your spiritual graduation. You will transcend the Master/Initiate relationship. In your new freedom, established in higher consciousness, the requirement of your obedience is released — it being no longer necessary, since your life is now constantly attuned with the higher will. Your Master is released from his service to you. Fulfilled in your quest, you and your dear companion enter into eternal friendship.


Love is Self-Giving.


1  Kathopanishad, translated by Swami Sarvananda (Madras, India: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1973), page viii.

2  Mantrams are words or syllables which, when chanted properly, lift you from normal awareness into higher consciousness.


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