Imbibing the Guru’s Teachings

Imbibing the Guru’s Teachings

An Exposition by Swami Apoorvananda

As students, we assimilate the Siddha Yoga teachings into our lives by putting forth the effort to fully understand and absorb those teachings and to make them completely our own.

You might wonder what is meant here by completely. Imagine a drop of blue ink falling into a glass of water. Initially, the ink has a visible form, like plumes of smoke drifting through the colorless and completely transparent water. Eventually, the water is evenly tinted: a pale blue. At this point, the ink has become fully assimilated into the water.

The effort to assimilate the teachings is vital in sadhana. Gurumayi says,

The most crucial thing for a seeker is to assimilate the teachings. Nobody else can do it for you. You have to assimilate the teachings. That is why, whenever he presented the teachings, Baba Muktananda always emphasized one thing more than anything else. He would say: atmasat karo—“Imbibe it. Take it to heart.” 1

Assimilation is one of four essential elements of Siddha Yoga studentship: study, practice, assimilation, and implementation. The four are wholly interconnected. Each informs the others and each plays a specific and important role in taking the Guru’s teachings to heart.

One way that assimilation takes place is during the quiet, reflective time after activity—the contemplation we do following study and practice. For example, at the end of a session of hatha yoga, we traditionally lie on our back and rest in shavasana. In the stillness of this pose, we absorb the benefits of our active session on a subtle, internal level. The same is true when we take time to reflect after an active period of study.

Assimilation requires our steady engagement with the other three aspects of studentship—study, practice, and implementation. The process of imbibing the teachings takes place over time—for example while we offer seva or as we strive to understand a passage from the scriptures. In returning to the teachings again and again, our understanding deepens and begins to take root.

The Pratyabhijna-hrdayam, an eleventh-century text on the philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism, addresses the highest form of assimilation in Sutra 15, which says:


balalābhe viśvam ātmasāt karoti

On attaining strength,
one makes the universe one’s own.

The Sanskrit phrase, atmasat karoti, “to make one’s own,” echoes Baba’s exhortation in Hindi— atmasat karo. The sutra teaches that when we attain the full power of our own Self, we perceive that everything is one with the Self. We become established in the inestimable bliss that is our true nature.

So, how do we make something truly “our own”? Such deep and sustained learning requires both repeated effort and the intention to take something in—and this is true not only with our spiritual endeavors but in any realm of our life. An athlete or a dancer repeatedly practices their skill or art. Eventually, their efforts are so well-integrated into their being that when they perform, the audience has the impression that their movements are effortless. A sense of sarupya, “sameness,” pervades the being of one who masters an activity or a form of knowledge. This is a sign of assimilation: they have learned by heart.

Here, we might deepen our understanding of Baba’s phrase take it to heart. We often refer to learning through repetition as learning something “by heart,” typically with the ability to repeat it verbatim. However, to learn “by heart” as Baba is describing would mean to fully assimilate our understanding at the deepest level of our being. Once we have imbibed the teachings, they become a part of us; they become integral to how we perceive ourselves and the world.

Baba Muktananda often told the following story from the Mahabharata to illustrate the deeper level of maturity in assimilation. The great teacher Dronacharya is instructing a group of young Kaurava and Pandava princes to learn the teaching, “Speak the truth. Never become angry.” He asks them to return the next day to demonstrate their learning.

Most consider the task simply to memorize and repeat the teaching verbatim. The following day they all do this—except for Yudishthira, who repeats only the first half and says, “I haven’t been able to learn the second half.” He continues this each day for a week until Dronacharya confronts him: “A whole week has passed and still you haven't been able to learn your lesson!”

Yudhishthira doesn’t become upset or angry at his teacher’s reprimand and instead responds, “Sir, you said a whole week has passed, but even if my whole life were to pass, I'm not sure that I could learn this lesson properly. My idea of a lesson is not repeating it and just saying Never become angry. My idea of learning is never to be angry, and unless I'm like that, I can't truly say I've learned the lesson.” 2

In this story, we can see evidence of Yudhishthira’s reflective study. He contemplated the deeper meaning of the teaching he had been asked to learn and, indeed, the deeper meaning of “learning” itself. He refused simply to mimic the words but instead chose to truly take them in. His lack of anger at the rebuke demonstrates that he is, most certainly, assimilating the teaching. Dronacharya acknowledges that Yudhisthira is the true student.

 Here are some ways that you, as a Siddha Yoga student, can intentionally practice assimilation:

  • In assimilating Gurumayi’s Message, reflect on the insights you’ve gained from your study this year. Ask yourself what you can do to take those insights to heart.
  • Take time after performing any Siddha Yoga practice or studying any teaching to sit quietly and journal about what comes up for you.
  • Regularly look through your journal and contemplate how your understanding is progressing.
  • Practice articulating your experiences with more and more clarity so that you can get to the heart of them.
  • Reflect on your practice of a teaching to assess how much this teaching has become part of your way of thinking and acting on a daily basis.

Step by step, you will assimilate the Guru’s teachings. Guided by your firm intention to make the teachings your own, your dedicated and repeated efforts will, in time, bear sublime fruit.

1 Swami Chidvilasananda, Resonate with Stillness: Daily Contemplations from the Words of Swami Muktananda and Swami Chidvilasananda (South Fallsburg, NY: SYDA Foundation, 1995) July 12.
2 Swami Muktananda, Sadgurunath Maharaj ki Jay: The Story of Swami Muktananda’s Visit to Australia in March and April 1974 (Canberra, Australia: National Library of Australia, 1975) p. 163.