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Chapter 4

Qualifications of a Disciple

Chapter 6

What are the qualifications of a disciple? How should one approach the Guru?

He or she should have the sincerity and acknowledge that he or she knows nothing (in the spiritual sense). He should not say, "I do know something; can you add a little more?" When Arjuna was standing on his chariot in the midst of the battlefield, he argued with Lord Krishna about what he should do because his mind was deluded by his emotions. He didn't want to do his duty and fight, so he brought all kinds of philosophical arguments to support his position. But ultimately he realized his foolishness and said,

"My nature is weighted down with the taint of feeblemindedness. My understanding is confused as to my duty. I entreat You to say definitely what is good for me. I am Your disciple. Do instruct me who has taken refuge in You." (II, 7)

That is what you call total surrender. You accept your ignorance. Then you are totally free from that egoism. You come with a clean vessel. As long as the ego is in the vessel, whatever the Guru might put in would get contaminated. This reminds me of a Zen story. A disciple went to a Master asking him for some wisdom. The Master said, "Okay, I'll give you the wisdom, but first have a cup of tea with me." He began to pour the tea into the disciple's cup. He went on pouring and pouring until the cup was flowing over. Still he kept on pouring.

The disciple said, "Sir, it's already full and you're still pouring. The tea is going on the ground, not into the cup." "Oh, I see. Well, it is the same with your mind. It's already full. Whatever I say is going to overflow your cup; it can't go in. You'd better go empty your 'cup' and then come back." A seeker after enlightenment should say, "I'm just empty, hollow. You are holy. Please pour that holiness into this hollowness. I am a "holey" reed, please play your music through me." Think of the beautiful flute. It's nothing but a reed full of holes. It doesn't have anything inside and therefore whatever the flutist wants to play, he can. A student should be like that. You simply say, "I'm ready to follow. No quibbling."

Here I'm talking about the attitude of the disciple. But of course the Guru should not simply say, "Do it." Sometimes he may have to do that to test the quality of your mind, your obedience, your egolessness. But normally he will always try to convince you. That is the responsibility of the Guru. But when it is a question of the attitude of the disciple, this is it. That is the reason I say you can easily find lots of Gurus, but it is rather hard to find one good disciple. It's easy to teach but hard to learn.

Lord Krishna also says about discipleship:

"Seek that enlightenment by prostrating, by questions and by service. The wise seers of that Truth will instruct you in that Knowledge." (IV, 34)

Fall at his feet. It's not to glorify him - you don't need to do that - he is already glorified in his own knowledge. It doesn't matter to him whether you fall at his feet or jump on his shoulders. Who is it that benefits when you prostrate? You do. You show that you are humble and egoless; it takes a lot of courage to do that.

And you can't receive without going down. The giving hand is always above and the receiving hand underneath. That's why you bow down. Otherwise, you won't receive that much. You may simply go to a Master and treat him as an equal. You exchange your ideas. "These are my beliefs, what about yours?" If he says something, you say, "Oh, I see. I don't seem to agree with you. Goodbye." And you go. You are simply exchanging ideas, you are not learning. If you want to learn from the Guru, go with an empty heart. Let him fill you with what he has. Don't go to test whether he says what you think. Then you are simply there to check, like you would go to a library.

To be a good disciple means you should first tell the Guru, "I don't know anything. I trust you completely. Tell me what to do and I'm ready to do it." It's only then that the real Guru-disciple relationship begins. Until then, it's just a kind of friendly exchange.

Then put your questions to him: "Where am I? What am I? Why am I? What am I to do?" Question him with sincerity - not to test his capability. Let him know you really want to learn by questioning him. Then third, serve him. You should not get anything without giving everything you can. So these three are the qualifications of a disciple.