Improving Our Behavior with the Help of the Guru - Part 1

Part 1 of 7 - Bodhinatha gives a class during Guru Purnima on the role of the guru. The guru has five major tasks, to provide encouragement to keep striving, help us develop a spiritual self-concept, speak the teachings, improve our behavior by helping us focus on our weakest areas, provide initiation to quicken unfoldment. In this class we will focus on the guru's task of improving our behavior by giving us guidelines for how we as a spiritual person should behave. One of the ways we can do this is through an annual review of the yamas and niyamas and seeing how we can further refine them.

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Questions? Bodhinatha is the successor of "Gurudeva," Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. If you have questions on subjects about spiritual life you will find answers in Gurudeva's books and teachings. Learn about ways to study these teachings by visiting The Master Course site or writing to mastercourse@hindu.org.

Unedited Transcript:

For those of you who were not here yesterday, we are talking about the role of the Satguru and we will review some of the points we made yesterday as well.

Starting with a quote, there is a beautiful chapter in 'Living with Siva', Chapter 47 called 'The Spirit of the Guru'. So we are going to quote from that and it talks about "this room", which is this room so you can visualize what is being said, it makes sense here.

Gurudeva says, "In the future we envision pictures of our Nandinatha line of Satgurus all the way around this room, then around and then around and then around." How many times is that? Four, right? So how many pictures can you get, I figure maybe fifteen, so that would be sixty, right? Four times around for fifteen would be sixty. You figure forty years each, that is two thousand, four hundred years. Anyway, that is my calculation.

Gurudeva says, "We can see ahead another two thousand and two hundred years."

Why does he say that? Because the date on Tirumular's Tirumantiram is two thousand two hundred years ago, which is when we date our lineage as having begun. So, he is looking two thousand two hundred years into the past and at the same time two thousand and two hundred years in the future!

"It is the same spiritual force, Sakti of Siva flowing through the Nathas. There are many Nathas being born again as Nathas, to move things along, to improve conditions and when things are not going very well, more Nathas will come to put a spiritual force into the world through such media as 'Hinduism Today'."

I remember Gurudeva once - I thought it was jokingly but who knows! - saying, "Oh, maybe in my next life I will be born in China, to establish Saivism in China."

So that is that kind of idea, of being born to accomplish a big spiritual mission. Some people are born, like Gurudeva, with that in mind and choose difficult things to accomplish.

To review from yesterday, we made a list of five major tasks that a Guru does and we will read them.

First, the Guru provides encouragement to continue to strive and move forward. He encourages us to keep striving even when we are going through difficult times in our life. He also encourages us to strive to achieve more than we would otherwise. Yesterday, we gave an example of encouragement. Remember?

Second, the Guru helps us develop a spiritual self-concept. Whatever self-concept we bring to him - be it one of self-doubt or one of great pride - the Guru helps us move beyond it and identify with our spiritual nature so that we truly feel ourselves to be a divine being. Again, we talked about that yesterday.

Third, the Guru speaks the teachings and by listening to his spoken word we have insights into the teachings far greater than we can acquire on our own, by simply reading his books. We touched on that yesterday and Siddhanta Shravana Niyama. That was our first talk yesterday on how the idea is that when it comes to spiritual teachings, you can understand them much better when you listen to someone expound them, such as Gurudeva, than you can just from reading them.

Fourth, the Guru helps us improve our behavior through focusing on our weakest areas as well as giving us guidelines as to how we, as a spiritual person, should behave. We are going to touch on that today.

Fifth, the Guru provides initiation to quicken our unfoldment. We made this point yesterday by reading another quote. I will read it again today. It is what Gurudeva calls "transformational, spiritual unfoldment". As Yogaswami put it, "It is not in books, you fool." Shorter phrase there, meaning that books are important but spiritual unfoldment comes from what we do, not just from what we read. It is our actions in life that cause us to unfold spiritually.

This is a quote from Gurudeva, again from the same chapter on this idea of sadhana. "Many of you have been studying with me for ten, twenty or thirty years. I want you to think and think through the rest of the day about the spirit of the Satguru. Suppose you didn't have a Satguru. You would be guided by the spirit of your intellect, or the spirit of your instinct, or the energies of confusion. The Satguru only has one job, to keep his devotees on the right track. We do not follow the way of words, which is repeating from memory verses and stanzas of scripture with meager mental interpretations of their meaning. We follow the way of transformational spiritual unfoldment. We follow the marga of sadhana and tapas. Sishya move from one stage to another in spiritual unfoldment as they progress through the different petals of the higher chakras and come into one or more inner awakenings, one after another. They are not to settle down in any one or several of the chakras and consider, "This is a nice life. I like this part of my unfoldment. So I won't strive further." They can't do that , because the spirit of the Guru drives them onward. He is constantly thinking and saying, "This is not good enough. You can do better."

Today we are going to focus on, "Help us improve our behavior."

Our class today will focus on area number four, improving our behavior through focusing on our weakest areas, as well as, giving us guidelines as to how we, as a spiritual person, should behave.

Looking back at our analogy of the dance teacher yesterday, the teacher knows you are a student because you have done something such as signed up for a class for the year, are paying a tuition each month. It is clear to the teacher who her students are and of course, she feels free to correct them. But of course, she does not correct other dancers who are not her students.

Gurudeva worked out a simple way of knowing who his sishya are, which he called the 'Annual Rededication'. Every year at Satguru Purnima, a sishya who wants to continue sends in the Rededication form. This lets Gurudeva know, and now me, that the sishya wants continued guidance in his or her life for the coming year. Gurudeva described this as a sishya taking one step toward him and he responding, by taking nine steps in return. Gurudeva felt the rededication was important, as it prevented him from continuing to make suggestions to someone, who no longer wanted to receive suggestions from Gurudeva.

One of the ways self-reflection can be done on our behavior is an annual review of Hinduism's 'Code of Conduct' or the yamas and niyamas. A natural time for this review to occur is during the time of year the 'Living with Siva' lessons are about the yamas and niyamas. These are 'Living with Siva' lessons 8 through 63. This period begins in the latter part of April and lasts for about two months. In performing this review, we are looking at the next refinement in the yama and niyama, not simply thinking we have mastered it because we have the basics under control.