Monday, December 1, 2014

Prerequisite for Transference

"A student approaches a teacher and declares, “I desire to learn from you.” The teacher responds, “Very well, follow me.” The teacher leads the student to the ocean and motions for him to follow into the water. When they are about chest deep in the water, the teacher grabs the student and forces his head underwater.
At first, the student is calm, thinking, “This is just part of some test. He will let me up in moment and I will impress him.” After a minute passes, the student begins to worry and struggle. Soon, he is desperately trying to surface and becomes frantic. The teacher holds the student under the water to the point where the struggling ceases and the student almost passes out.
Upon releasing him, the student angrily gasping for air shouts, “Are you crazy? You almost drowned me!” The teacher looks calmly into his eyes and says, “When you desire to learn from me as much as you desired to get a breath, then return, and I will teach you.”
When the desire for liberation is as intense as the desire of the drowning person gasping for breath, then the student is ripe to go to a teacher for initiation into the mysteries of the Self!" ....................Vivekachudamani

This is beautiful episode from the Vivekachudamani composed by His Holiness Adi Shankara.
Why did the Guru subject the disciple to the point of physical death? It is because as much as breath is vital to one's physical survival, jñāna or knowledge is vital for spiritual survival. This spiritual knowledge does not come by intellectual pursuit alone but by having an inherent faith in the Guru who teaches you and whom you have selected volitionally. This selection if it is based only on hearsay references on the capacity or the power of the Guru then there is something inherently lacking in the Guru-Shishya relationship. There must be an absolute surrender to the dissemination power of the Guru. This communication goes beyond the sensory reception and inputs received by the disciple but transcends into the direct perceptual mode which goes beyond the mind and is called transference.

There is another beautiful example in the Bible. In the Gospel of Matthew in chapter 14 there is an incident of Jesus walking on water and Peter, the primary disciple, is asked to go to him. But after walking a short distance he started to sink and the Bible says:
"...........But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"..........Matthew Ch 14: 30-31

 The similarity of the sense of drowning in both the Vedic and Christian thought and the teaching of implicit faith that needs to be attached to the Guru, which should go beyond logical reasoning, is a strong indication of the absolute prerequisite for learning spiritual wisdom from a Master.

Implicit faith in the Master is essential when the teaching reaches perceptual levels beyond the mind. As it is unnatural to walk on water so is the understanding of spiritual wisdom as it is beyond the rational mind and unless there is utter surrender to the power of the Master it is impossible to transfer that capacity within oneself.

One of the biggest key in the path of highest form of self-awareness is the knowledge that our perception of the Guru has nothing to do with him but everything to do with us. We literally structure our own perception of the Guru based on our own relationship with ourselves and our own personality traits. The ego, fearing attention being brought to it, tends to always look outside of itself for someone or something to latch on to so that its power is not diminished. Every spiritual exercise is based on the elimination of Ego and hence we need to recognize the ploy the Ego adopts in diverting our attention.

When Adi Shankara says: "....... When the desire for liberation is as intense as the desire of the drowning person gasping for breath, then the student is ripe to go to a teacher for initiation into the mysteries of the Self!", what he means is that it is the primary liberation from the Ego that is mandatory and this desire should be as vital as one's life breath.

The most important thing to remember is that transference and counter-transference are opportunities for personal growth both for the disciple and Guru. Be curious about what is going on in the relationship. If and when you suspect some kind of transference, give voice to your curiosity and seek advice. If you remain in a non-anxious presence in the face of transference or counter-transference, you will be able to harness this opportunity for growth and development.

This is why when the Guru starts a session the mantra that is recited is:

"Om, May God Protect us Both (the Teacher and the Student),
May God Nourish us Both,
May we Work Together with Energy and Vigour,
May our Study be Enlightening and not give rise to Hostility,
Om, Peace, Peace, Peace."

This is a mutual egoless transference which is the only channel through which higher wisdom can be communicated.

Love to you all


  1. A good analysis of the method by which the intimate soul connection between the Guru and disciple can be achieved. Thanks for the post

  2. I am enlightened by you beautiful narration of a lofty principle of transference.
    Thank you Sir,
    Pramod Nettur from land of Mecca