In most areas of life our education proceeds by a transmission from one who possesses what we are to acquire, from imitation of those with whom we are in contact, or the more structured transference from teacher to pupil. The instructor is normally one highly proficient in a particular area and he transmits to the student a physical or mental skill or body of transformation. It is natural that one who teaches, especially one who discovers a knowledge for the first time, who is of great stature and who keeps on progressing in his field, is unlikely to be equaled or surpassed in that field by those he helps. There are, of course, exceptions where a few in the second generation exceed their master. But generally a military genius, musical composer, an artist of exceptional brilliance or scientific innovator has stood head and shoulders above all those who have followed after him with devotion.
In the field of spirituality the relationship between master and disciple is very much more complex and intimate and intense than in any other area of education. Yet still some of the same principles hold true. Neither the Buddha, nor Jesus, nor Ramakrishna have had a disciple excelling them. In fact so great has been the stature of these spiritual beings than men have often decried the possibility of even imitating their accomplishments, no less equaling or surpassing their heights of consciousness. There is perhaps great truth in this viewpoint, for such spiritual giants are indeed far above the realm of aspiring humanity whom they are chosen to guide and help forward in its evolutionary adventure. Yet if it were an entirely valid conception there would be little value in their work or advantage of contact with them or legacy left by them for future generations, all of which have been evidenced in the lives of the greatest spiritual personalities.
We may perhaps understand more clearly this problem by a distinction between the perfection of the entire life and personality as represented by the realized guru, and the possible attainment in the disciple of one more or more terms of the spiritual endowment such as silence, peace, subtle sight, light, love, dynamic power, Ananda.
The guru possesses the power to pass on certain realizations to his disciples without the latter having to undergo the same rigor or persistence of discipline required to attain them by his own effort. Indeed, few are the seekers who could progress very far at all without this blessing from one more advanced along the path. This is a fundamental reason for the guru-disciple relationship. It is the teacher’s instruction, his example, the power of his presence and his capacity to directly bestow on others, his own spiritual possessions, that make such a relationship so sacred and blessed a boon.
Silence, in its many grades and intensities, is one such possession which can be directly transferred. The character of the silence enjoyed by the guru and by the disciple will be essentially the same. It is incorrect to assume that the disciple’s silence must necessarily be of a lower order. Much like the scientist who discovers a principle of nature, the innovator who invents a new machine, or the philosopher who formulates a new theory of existence and then passes on this new creation undiminished to others who by their own initiative could not have made the original breakthrough, so the realized man can bestow on his followers the fruit of his own endeavour. The silence, like the theory or invention, exists independent of the individual; it is not an acquired skill but a self-existent term of spiritual consciousness.
As with silence, so with light and love and bliss. The seer can share his truth-vision without a word, the saint can fill his followers’ hearts with universal love and bliss without even a trace of a smile. The divinized being may loom far above his devotees, but his capacity to give is real and what they receive both concrete and permanent.