In our external life, we rely heavily on the teacher, the master, the leader to guide and help us achieve mastery ourselves in a relatively short period of time. A person’s lifetime is short and the acquisition of skills and powers of action must therefore be prompt and not simply a struggle through trial and error that can take many years, when the methodology and path is already well-known and can be communicated through a process of education, guidance and example. We would not expect anyone to become a brain surgeon, for instance, based on his own “trial and error” process without specific and detailed guidance and assistance provided by experienced experts along the way.
Similarly in the path of yoga, and in particular an integral yoga that seeks not only to escape life, but to transform all aspects of life, the seeker cannot be expected to understand, work through and accomplish all of the intricate steps without substantial assistance in the form of a direct guidance and influence. In yoga the process goes beyond an external teaching or lesson plan to an actual force of consciousness that is at work, that communicates silently and helps tune the consciousness to new levels of awareness and opening to the higher force.
There is a long tradition in yoga about the power of the master. The concept of “shaktipat” where the illumined guru can communicate the consciousness needed to the dedicated seeker is one of long-standing nature. Tibetan Buddhism speaks about the influence of the “gift waves” that the teacher directs to the student to open up insights, capacities, knowledge and actual powers of action.
The inner openness and willingness to receive is something that does not necessarily arise immediately when the seeker takes on the commitments needed for the practice of the yoga. Eventually however the necessity becomes clear to the sincere seeker and progress thereafter can be much swifter as there is now a guide, a path and a protector along the way.
Sri Aurobindo writes: “In this discipline, the inspiration of the Master, and in the difficult stages his control and his presence are indispensable — for it would be impossible otherwise to go through it without much stumbling and error which would prevent all chance of success. The Master is one who has risen to a higher consciousness and being and he is often regarded as its manifestation or representative. He not only helps by his teaching and still more by his influence and example but by a power to communicate his own experience to others.”
Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Introduction, pg. 5