February 2023


Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha

(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, 23.06.2017 evening, Sofia) 

Do you agree to give some tattva – to discuss a little bit about a devotee, or a disciple? You know in Sanskrit they have thousands of names for all the different expressions. And if we put the question ‘Who is a disciple’, then there are many different aspects of this topic.

One answer is shishya. ‘To be taught’ – this is the meaning of shishya. But if we want to find synonyms of shishya, then we shall learn also something.

One is adhyaya. Adhyaya means ‘to arrive’. A real disciple is one who arrives – for example to knowledge – that is vedadhyaya, somebody who arrives to divine knowledge.

The other expression is arbha – ‘small one’. Like a child. A child is very charming. All the mistakes and all the faults of a child are charming. If you are two years old and you make mistakes, everybody is happy about that. If you are twenty years old and you make the same mistakes – there is not so much happiness around you. So arbha means the small one; everybody loves the small ones, irrespective of their mistakes and shortcomings.

And who is the supreme fan of a child? It’s the father! This is like an archetype role – to be a father, to have these fatherly feelings, fatherly love, which is sometimes a little strict and heavy, but it’s love, affection. And in order to show this fatherly affection we need a small one; without a small one we cannot show our feelings. Because the attitude of a real disciple is always like a small one: ‘Ah, I’m a neophyte, I’m young. I need your attention.’ So this purity, this innocence a real disciple must possess. As soon as it is missing you cannot fulfill.

Then the next one is cheta or chela – this is like ‘a servant’. Chela – there is one very bitter expression where it is used very often: kali-chela – that means ‘a servant of Kali’. So, a materially-minded person is a kali-chela, servant of illusion, servant of the age of Kali.

But then another one is chatra – ‘to possess an umbrella, equipped with an umbrella’. This is something important, because an umbrella is for protection, it’s obvious. Good for rain, good for sun. That means – good for happy experience and for bitter experience, the ups and downs of life. And a real disciple enjoys the protective shield, the protective umbrella of the master. So chatra means to be under protection.

And if you are under protection, you are also pattalika – that means ‘the knower of the secrets’. Because this is an intimate connection. To enjoy the protection, to enjoy the attention of a superior, to be a small one – that means you are in possession of some secrets. But how to understand some secrets? Theoretically we cannot come closer to secrets. Only by experience we can come closer to secrets. Only by learning we can come closer to secrets.

Therefore the next expression for a student is patha-shalin – that means ‘attending a school’. So study, learn and then you will know the secrets. Patha means ‘to read, study’; and shala is like ‘a room, a hall’. So, in which hall the study of the Vedas is done, this is a place for a student.

And if you study, sooner or later some knowledge will come to you, right? Knowledge is vidya. Vidya-anupalin – pala is ‘to protect’, anupala – ‘to fully protect’; to protect knowledge – this is another expression for the shishya. So, he does not only gains the knowledge and the secrets, but also cultivates, preserves – this is our duty to continue.

And not only to protect – like palana-shakti, protective power – but also to serve, so vidya-anusevin is another expression for disciple. Vidya-anu-seva – to fully serve and follow the divine knowledge. And here serving means to follow, serving means to cultivate, serving means to appreciate the divine knowledge.

Vrata-acharya is the next one. You know what is vrata – ‘vow’. And achar is ‘practice, practical application’. So those who follow their vows, vrata, they are real shishyas. If we possess this obedience of the innocent ones, then we are vrata-acharyas; otherwise when we pose as knowledgeable, we are ‘but’-acharyas. “Yes, Gurudev, but…” – this is the ‘but’-acharya. And in this way we are floating into the opposite waves of disciples. Because so far we discussed who is a good disciple. Now let’s become more realistic – what about the bad disciple? You have heard so many rumors about the bad gurus, right? Now let’s discuss an even sweeter topic – the bad disciple.

(to be continued)

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