How to portray a master?

By Rosa, Centre of Unity Premananda, Italy

In attempting to define the personality of a master, we confront the question of the duality existing between his physical person and his real nature. We generally limit ourselves to the first aspect, as it is easier to illustrate a portrait with anecdotes and facts. The second aspect is more rarely mentioned as, to describe it, we would have to talk about sensations, inner experiences, ways of feeling, special moments and other subtle indications which are – though real for us – not always related to something tangible, but to something lived in the core of one’s being.

Through the relationship with the master, a situation is created where we are led, guided and protected. We initially do not always realize it, but as time passes, with the heightening of consciousness, we understand that what is happening within and around us is the result of a divine energy at work. Until now, we only believed in ourselves, in our initiatives and projects, in our own will power and actions. To realize that we are part of that great energy which takes care of us, leads us and acts through us, is a wonderful thing. We are only asked to move forwards nimbly, to flow with the current – this wind, which leads us.

Our evolution does not depend on external facts or specific events but only on an inner transformation, an alchemy, which brings us closer to the goal, moving from one experience to another, overcoming innumerable tests on the way. Evolution is a continuous process. I feel that this is what is happening, but how can it be explained? How can we tell others about these feelings, these inexplicable experiences which are, for us, so real but also so difficult to describe?

How does one sketch the portrait of a living master? This is the next difficulty! The master is not like just anyone. As he is completely united with the whole, he can have a certain personality one moment and another one the next. He is not identified with any particular aspect but is multi-faceted. In one way each facet reveals and characterizes him but, to portray him, one would need to bring them all together, sum their contradictions and apparent differences and this is a difficult task.

I was often puzzled by the contradictory and apparently partial attitudes of Swami Premananda. Sometimes he would give much attention to some people while he would only say a few words or give a quick look to others. With some he is very soft and gentle, with others he is strict and intransigent. He can sometimes say one thing to someone and the opposite to somebody else.

Swami explained that the nature of a true spiritual master is to understand everyone’s needs and to guide them accordingly. He behaves in a certain way with us but with someone else his approach, his contact and words can be completely different. Even when listening to his speech, if two persons talk about what they understood of it, their answers would be entirely different. It is because the master has the capacity to look in the depth of each person and establish an individual contact by using diverse tones, words, silences and ways of looking.

Swami Premananda especially gives much importance to action, to put spirituality into practice as something to be lived and not only as a simple aspiration of the mind. He considers each action, each thought from a particular and spiritual point of view. This is what makes the transformation, the advancement, because in contact with reality we are facing our limits, our barriers, obstacles and the way to be followed. Swami attaches much importance to putting spirituality into practice. He knows that many people have the tendency to only think and read about spirituality and that this will not bring any real practical result in their lives, their behaviour and actions. One cannot take shortcuts. One has to put the master’s teachings into practice in daily life, from the simplest situation to the most difficult one. The rest is only correlated to this attitude. In order to put into practice what has been taught, self-confidence and patience are very essential.

Swamiji says that spirituality is simple and that we do not need to assimilate high intellectual concepts but to act concretely and efficiently. The aim is serenity, action towards a goal without expecting any results. We can see that we are progressing in our practice when we become more and more serene and do not get disturbed by anything. Swamiji is continuously saying, “Be happy”. When we are happy, we are coming closer to the guru and our joy is also his joy. How can he share this state of joy with us, his way of feeling, his being? He can only point out the way. It is up to us to walk the path and reach that state.

There is tremendous generosity in Swamiji, a boundless energy, which he is always ready to give to everyone, without expecting anything in return. He is ready to help those who need it, bringing joy and relief in difficult situations. This is the secret of his influence. The master is like a generous mother with her children. A mother who is never touched by pain or suffering, even though she has known it.

The master has many faces and each and everyone will perceive him according to his own level of understanding. He is able to come down to the level of the person in front of him and he says what suits that person in the present circumstances. “When I see your face, I know your level of maturity and your inner development. Then, I automatically know what to tell you and how. I understand your state of mind and I will speak accordingly. Sometimes, when you have read many books and gathered much book knowledge you may think that I am advising you at a very low level. Why am I talking at such a low level? It is because your practical knowledge is very low. Practical knowledge is absolutely necessary to realize your extraordinary vibration…”

Meetings are only fragments of a reality, which is beyond our capacity of understanding, and we will always feel frustrated that we could not express all that we wanted. We may even feel that we failed to communicate to others these admirable things. One must be contented with these details, words, images, scenes, moments, with our limited understanding of a reality that we only perceive partially, without seizing its totality and profundity. It is not the truth but an attempt to grasp it, to bring some understanding by giving it an acceptable form.

The master has an impossible task and because of that, he sometimes chooses silence, preferring to act through his energy instead of his words. His energy transforms itself into action, deep thinking and understanding. The master knows the limits of language and it is his compassion that makes him speak, in order to reach others, to help those who are undergoing difficulties and who, in darkness, are searching for the path towards the light.

What would be considered a lie in the mouth of an ordinary person, in a material context, is only an expedient, which indicates the right direction if spoken by a master. We only understand words as a means of communication and the master is sometimes obliged to ‘lie’ to show us the Truth, that belongs to the transcendental level and can never really be put into words.

Externally the master is a person like us, but, at the same time, we cannot understand him. There are moments when the question of understanding him becomes irrelevant and meaningless. Then confidence and surrender can take place. We give up ourselves and accept to be guided. It is like following the flow of a river. When we follow that flow, there are no difficulties as we are going constantly forward.

The master is something that must be lived and experienced. We will never seize him with words and images, as he is beyond these limitations.

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