The Theosophical Forum – April 1939

THE CHELA AND HIS GURU (1) — Peter Flach

"Thou canst not travel on the Path before thou hast become that Path itself."

We find these words in The Voice of the Silence, and they imbody the gist of chelaship. We must live the life, and live it truly, before we can really receive, or as our present Leader so clearly puts it:

You cannot receive anything from without before it is already within, awakened, aroused. Seek ye first the divine within yourself, cultivate it, evoke it, awake it, and just in proportion as you do this, you will receive from without, because you give from within. You cannot receive anything from without, until there is something within you to receive.

Hence we see that discipleship consists first and foremost in doing. How can the Teacher and Guru lead and teach us unless we bring forth those qualities slumbering within which can raise us to those high levels where we can reach him? The Kingdom of Heaven must be taken by force. Mere goody-goodness and irreproachable life is not enough. The chela must swim against the stream. He must work, work uphill. Will, irresistible, indomitable, can alone carry him upward. Only one who toils hard can ascend a mountain-peak.

But here, as everywhere, we have to try to use our common sense. The mountaineer who ascends too fast in order to reach the summit can very easily, especially when he reaches the high altitudes, overstrain himself and entirely wreck his endeavor. I think the same can also happen in chelaship. In his enthusiasm and will to reach the high and wonderful planes of chelaship, the chela must carefully see that he does not draw upon himself more than his powers can withstand, and must also guard each step, or he may, like a mountaineer who does not probe the rock he is stepping upon, find himself plunging down a precipice. The narrow path of a chela is by no means easy going. The chela is exposed to all temptations. He must show his fitness to what he aspires at every corner, he must show that he has more of the spirit in him than of matter. He may fall, but he can also recover the lost ground if he has determination enough.

What is it that makes the climbing hard? What prevents the godlike qualities blossoming forth? It is the veils enshrouding the personal self, the concentration of thought and ideas around the individual personal, egotistic center. Living the life, or becoming the Path itself, is therefore a drawing away from the personal self, and a widening interest and love in all that is, or, to put it in other words: a right comprehension of the meaning of Universal Brotherhood, the Spiritual Brotherhood of all Beings; the fact that all beings are linked together, not merely by the bond of emotional thought and feeling, but by the very fabric of the Universe itself. The more this fact is realized and put into practical operation, the more are the veils preventing the inner light to shine forth, torn away. Thus we see the wonderful paradox: the more we are working and living impersonally to help other beings, without an egoistical motive, the more we in reality gain for ourselves.

There are as many ways of developing the slumbering qualities and organs in us as there are persons. It is here we need the help of the guru. The clear-seeing guru alone can say what is good for each, taking into consideration his individual constitution, temper, mode of life, habit, character, etc.

The relationship between the chela and his guru is an extremely sacred one. The guru is the giver of the inner Light and giver of the inner Life. Or as H. P. B. states in the "Book of Discipline":

To the earnest disciple the Teacher takes the place of Father and Mother, for, whereas they gave him his body and its faculties, its life and causal form, the Teacher shows him how to develop the inner faculties for the acquisition of the Eternal Wisdom.

But the chela must walk each step himself. The guru can only show him the way, guide him and help him to develop the latent spiritual potencies in his mind and heart. He himself must be the vehicle of the inner Light, must gain it. How do we best help a small child when it is growing up to find its bearings in life? Not by solving its small problems or shouldering all its difficulties but by helping and guiding so that it learns from experience. Thus it grows strong. It is the same in chelaship. The chela himself must walk each step.

The sacred relationship between the chela and his guru is based upon the highest virtues: Loyalty to the Teacher, Devotion to the Teacher and the complete fulfilling of all Duties to the Teacher. Why? Because the Teacher is the giver of inner Light and inner Life. Because the Teacher is taking upon himself a large responsibility and the Karmic consequences of his doing. In no way is the relationship of the chela toward the guru one of mental servitude or mental subservience. Emphatically, no! It lies on a high and sacred level. Nature permits no slavery in life. The guru's great purpose in leading and guiding the chela is not the development of the chela's slumbering faculties and powers, only, but to bring forth a new co-worker with Mother Nature, a new member of the Great White Lodge, working and striving to help humanity. Thus he guides and leads in wisdom and love but never is his effort bent to enslave the will of the chela. In fact, the Masters look upon no mortal failing as so great in defect of right as that of bowing the conscience in mental servitude to the dictates of another. Their main purpose is to bring forth strong men, free-willing men, fit to co-operate in their great work for humanity.

Let us compare ourselves with small children, or those below us in scale of civilization. In so many ways our doings are inscrutable to them. The Masters are still higher above us than we are above the small children, and this is the reason we have such difficulties in understanding them. They live on a higher plane and look upon things from an entirely different standpoint.

In order to make it possible for the guru to lead and guide, the chela must cleanse his brain from any feeling for anything worldly, from hatred, anger, avarice, or passions. The guru then will be able to impress upon the chela's brain, and this is often the first mode adopted by the guru to lead the chela. It may often be done without the chela's knowing anything about it. What is the object of the training supervised and led by the guru? It is to bring forth and cultivate the chela's latent inner qualities and powers. It is to teach him that within him are the keys to wisdom, great wisdom beyond human description. Nothing really can come from without, every thing is within waiting to blossom forth. Within is the Path, and this Path is Himself — his Spiritual Self, his Divine Self, that part which is the root of his being. It is also the heart of the Universe. So when he has found his greater Self, his Spiritual Self, the Inner God, then he has not only found the Path which leads to the heart of the Universe, but he has found himself and it to be One.

When the inner eye is opened he shall have spiritual clairvoyance and the spiritual ability to see and to see aright; and in seeing to know that his seeing is truth.

I will conclude now with some words by William Quan Judge:

Friends, the struggle for the eternal is not in the daring deed nor yet in hundreds of them. It is the calm, unbroken forgetfulness of the lower self for all time. Begin it now on your present plane. You have within you that same guide that the Masters possess. By obeying it they have become what they are.


1. Address given at the European Convention, Visingso, Sweden, July 31, 1938. (return to text)

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