The Chalk Charade
Posted April 16, 2004
As a non-sectarian devotee aspirant, I sometimes visit the various local gaudiya vaisnava temples. There is one prominent group who advertise their guru as being a "maha bhagavat" and use this label as a way to canvas for converts. Though they have been successful in their goal to increase numerically, this type of conversion is against the spirit and practice of gaudiya vaisnavaism, and smacks strongly of the odor of the lower modes. It is born of the desire to control and manipulate, which deceptively appears to be faith in the guru, but is as different as chalk to cheese...
The gaudiya vaisnava preacher naturally instills faith in the conditioned soul by presentation of the Bhagavat philosophy, through use of the proofs of sastra, logic and experience. By hearing of sastra, presented very powerfully, by the questioning of it, by raising objections, by considering it from different angles, steadily faith in this science develops, if one is receptive. Then, by association with persons following it, one gets inspiration in overcoming one's inhibitions. To the extent that a certain person facilitates this awakening by his example and precept, that person is guru. He is not guru by popular vote, nor a mahabhagavat by proclamation of the masses. But neophyte devotees, bereft of the real article, want to make a show of faith and promote their "good fortune". Having no idea what faith is and how it is born, they convert people the way they were converted, and so attract more sentimentalists and fanatics to the cause.
Did we see Srila Prabhupada use preaching opportunities to foam at the mouth about his guru? Rather, time and again we saw him present, with all manner of logic, reason, compassion, humanity and humor, the process of self-realization, intelligently adjusting it according to time, place and circumstance. The intensity of his faith in his guru and his intimate love for the Lord were his private affair. Following his guru's instructions was his life and soul, for which he sacrificed everything. Sadly, this group neglect their guru's instruction which is to use their surplus funds for temple construction, rather than flocking to see him in India, and instead they do exactly the opposite. Ours is the process of hearing and acting upon instruction, not just sitting starry eyed, mesmerized by the presence. Even if one is awed, one should subdue such emotions which impair one's assimilation of the message, for it is this message of the Lord, not the guru himself, which is powerful to uproot the fourfold miseries of material existence. Inasmuch as the guru is thoroughly transparent and devoid of desire and envy, he is potent to deliver that message, unspoilt.
The genuine guru tries to empower all to become gurus and deliver the world. His genuine followers do not make a monopoly of him as the sole conduit for bhakti, but themselves, on his order, strive to become transparent via media and thus follow in his footsteps. The tendency to turn the guru into an idol has at its root the tamo guna quality of laziness- to have a guru so powerful that just being near him accomplishes everything, and they his disciples just enjoy the ride back to the intimate pastimes of Krsna. It has the rajo guna qualities of desire for fame- by association; and control, manipulating the emotions of the innocent and ignorant, through the force of group proclamation and fervor. It is a festering place for fanaticism, instead of sobriety and steady scientific progress toward self-realization. It has degraded the guru-disciple relationship into an idol-fan club thing.
But they are confident of their success- their numbers are increasing; their guru has not fallen from the principles like others in ISKCON have- he is a lifelong celibate! This conviction is amazing. Krsna is so clear in the gita that it is offensive to take seriously a devotee's accidental falldown and fail to consider him saintly when he is still committed to the path in all sincerity. Yet in ISKCON and out of ISKCON, the track record of celibacy has to be clear, or he is considered fallen. This particular group proclaim he must be so, even from birth, and thus disqualify practically everyone but their idol from the all-powerful, uplifting mercy of Lord Chaitanya.
He wanted everyone to be guru- not just lifelong celibates. Anyone who has learnt from his guru the philosophy and has the heart and brain to disseminate it according to time place and circumstance, can and should be guru. This is love, and control of the monopoly of guruship is a manifestation of lust. Whether done by the GBC by force of law, or by the fanatic by force of fervor, though appearing differently, it is the same.