Haven’t we all had people in our lives who don’t treat us the way we want them to? They overlook us. They take credit for what we do and then ignore us, or forget to introduce us in a new crowd, or make bad jokes about us. They cut us off in a conversation, or talk loudly over us. They push us out of the way to get ahead and then plead ignorance. Yet they still demand our attention, our love, our adoration, our support.
Once I was having trouble with a person and I went to Swamiji. He said, ‘some people are your devotees, and some are deities. Devotees will consider you and deities will not.’
I was stunned by his insight. When I considered my relationships I could easily put most people in one or the other of those two categories. A devotee type is easy to be around, a deity hardly ever bends their knee to us and always wants to be right.
There are those who like a devotee, lovingly acknowledge us, and look out for us. They are available when we need them. They appreciate us, respect us and accept our counsel. They intuitively understand us without the need for too much explanation. They listen and provide support and guidance. They are genuinely concerned for our well-being.
Deities are the most frustrating type of people and relationships. They endlessly think and talk about themselves. Their conversations are monologues. These relationships are fragile and unstable, and usually end when the devotee continually gives more time, attention and energy than the deity. Deity types resist listening to what we have to say to them, they refuse feedback and respond in disbelief or anger.
The Guru/disciple relationship is devotee and deity. Over time it evolves into a more equal relationship when the disciple understands the nature of his or her own mind.
A good disciple stays open and loving which facilitates the transmission of Shakti. The guru then becomes a lodestar that orients us to the Self.
The Guru is sensitive to the disciple’s negative emotion and knows intuitively when a disciple becomes separate, needs admonishment, guidance, a teaching or a tug to return to relationship. The Guru has intuitive ways of knowing the heart of the disciple, and meets the disciple’s spiritual needs mystically, often without conversation. The Guru gives grace and support that nurtures that which is the highest in us, but continually challenges that which is the worst in us.
The idea of surrender and attainment in guru/disciple is mysterious. To give yourself to the Guru means to work in the inner world to always remain in a good state, and to renounce anger, fear and despair. A disciple gives up self-indulgence, self-pity and self-concern to attain a permanent connection with the Self.
Surrender in a spiritual sense means to give up that which creates separation, alienation, ego, and false identification. The Guru’s purpose is to teach us to see when we are living from the Self and when we are not. If we trust the Guru, if we have faith that the Guru sees our ego sooner than we can see it ourselves, then we make tremendous spiritual progress.
Anger will arise in every relationship. But when we are angry at the Guru, grace is not available to us until we return to oneness.
The mind’s ability to cling to negative states of mind when we do not get what we want is endless. It is a tricky jester that thinks of all kinds of ways to cause trouble with those we love and work with. However, by honouring both those who treat us well and those who don’t, we can learn to live peacefully with everyone.