Photo: Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda

A questioner asks: Swamiji, what about Gurus like Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa? We read that he touched his disciple Swami Vivekananda and Vivekananda had a spiritual experience. Was Vivekananda just opening up something from within himself or did Sri Ramakrishna really transmit something?

Swami Satchidananda replies: Yes, he did transmit something. But if you read further in the same story, Vivekanandaji could not retain the experience. Sri Ramakrishna just gave him a little nibble. Then he said, “Don’t depend on my touch every time. Now you know there is something beyond; work it out yourself.” Then it took many years for Vivekanandaji to get that experience again.

Sri Ramakrishna gave even that little experience to him because Vivekananda was fit for it. Still, he said, “This is borrowed. I’m giving you a sample.” It’s something like if I am eating some nice candy and you come along and say, “Hey, what is that?” “Candy.” “Ah, can I try some?” “Okay, a little piece.” “Ah, it’s so nice. Where can I get some more?” “Go, work, earn money, go to the shop and buy it.” I just gave you a taste; then you have to work for it.

Sri Ramakrishna had several thousand disciples but he didn’t give all of them even that little taste Vivekanandaji got. So the student should have the proper qualifications for such an experience. Otherwise, if it is just that easy, Ramakrishna could have just touched everybody and said, “Come on, everybody is a Ramakrishna now.” He was not really stingy. He could have done that to a thousand people. Why should he do it to only one, Vivekanandaji? That is the proof that there are certain qualifications necessary even to perceive something like that. Otherwise, you would be depending on an outside Guru always. Then they are not really helping you; they are probably making some business out of you or making you dependent on them for some reason. Whenever and wherever possible they should point out that you have it all within yourself already.

It’s like the example of someone who buys a new piece of gold jewelry—a necklace or gold chain. They put on the jewelry and then forget about it. All of a sudden they remember, “Hey, I bought some new jewelry, but I don’t remember where I put it.” They run around searching for it in a panic. “Where is my necklace?” they wonder. The jewelry is around their neck but they can’t see it! All of a sudden they come across a mirror. “Ah, there it is!” Then they stop running around and searching because they know they have it on.

The Guru’s duty is just to show you that you have that gold piece already—the golden peace that is in you, as you. That’s it. They are not going to “give” you peace or enlightenment; they cannot. They will just tell you that you have it already and help you to recognize it.

The scriptures say that there are three aids to realize the Truth: the scriptures themselves, the Guru and your spiritual practice. The scriptures tell you that sugar is sweet. The Guru will show you that sugar. Your practice will give you the taste. The Guru will not put the sugar in their mouth and say, “It is very sweet.” You have to taste it yourself. Even if you open your mouth and they put the sugar in, if your tongue is totally coated, you can’t taste it. It will be bitter to you. So you have to clean your tastebuds. That is the reason we say the disciple must be fit to know the taste.

How many people were able to perceive Jesus Christ when he ascended? Only the very few who really had that faith and devotion. So it needs a lot of sincerity, purity of heart and devotion to get a little glimpse. And even then, that just becomes a kind of small incentive to work with. So this explains a little about both the Guru outside and the one within. And, ultimately, know that they are one and the same.

~Excerpted from The Guru Within by Sri Swami Satchidananda