In defence of reality
Posted January 9, 2004
NOTE: Chakra's previously posted version of this article, through an editing error, did not properly convey the very serious allegation intended by the author. Subhadra-mayi prabhu intended to declare that the vows her guru required her to make at initiation contained philosophical discrepancies. The Chakra editors, however, incorrectly took her to mean only that she vowed to abjure philosophical discrepancies, and changed the submitted article accordingly. Our error, in the fourth paragraph, has now been corrected. The Chakra editors unreservedly apologize for our misunderstanding.
I have to agree it would indeed be sad if we were to think of the relationship with the spiritual master as a business: that is, if we were to count how much we have sacrificed and how much money we have given. As I said in my first post, a disciple naturally gives out of gratitude for the guidance he or she receives. The problem is that, more often than not, everything is on the shoulders of the disciple. Very often, the relationship is one-way.
As Rasi Priya prabhu replies, we don't count how much we have given to our material parents either, but we have not closed a contract with them. With a spiritual master, however, you do. You accept him or her as your guru because you have faith that this person can guide you on your spiritual path; it's a contract. Guru then has the obligation to guide, to teach you to distinguish between reality and illusion. This is the duty of all gurus; if they don't fulfil this, there's nothing spiritual about the relationship.
A dear friend of me recently compared it to enrolling in university. What if you signed up, paid fees, etc., but got nothing back from the university -- no training? We would be outraged if that happened. When it comes to education on a higher platform, however, we are not inclined to protest, because we have been indoctrinated to think it is our service to our gurus to lighten their load, when they don't have time to train us, because they have too many disciples. We should be considerate because they have other things to do, too? No, gurus should be realistic, and not take on thousands of initiates. Such a system doesn't serve the disciples. (Serve disciples, I say? Yes, indeed. When a guru takes on disciples it's his or her service to guide them, part of the contract of initiation.)
Now, I just checked my paper that I was supposed to sign at initiation; it's a long list of things I was supposed to vow besides the four regulations. Besides the fact that the first vow is not in line with our philosophy (I accept X Swami to be my initiating (diksa) and instructing (siksa) spiritual master (Guru) forever 'even life after life',) there is not half a sentence written in there about what role and responsibility the guru has taken on by initiating me. Not all gurus ask their disciples to sign this sort of contract, and there are gurus who take their role very seriously. But some gurus are very good in being a father figure -- to "fix" our little problems, or big problems -- yet offer little real guidance in spiritual life.
Rasi Priya dasi also exhorts us to "train ourselves to come to the platform that we can see our guru as a representative of Lord Krishna whom we can serve and respect as much as the Lord Himself." She is right; this is not a spiritual sentiment; I don't see where it is spiritual. Either guru acts as Krishna's representative (and we see that) or doesn't act as Krishna's representative (and we see that, too). We should be very realistic in that.
If we have to train ourselves to see it, I don't know. Sastra tells us who is guru. We look at sastra and compare. If that's what Rasi Priya prabhu means by training ourselves -- looking at sastra and learning to compare -- then I can agree with this statement. Mere sentimental statements ("This person is my guru; I should train myself to see him or her as a representative of Krishna") are not comforting. One either is, or isn't.
The whole Bhagavad-gita is teaching us to discriminate, to analyse: "Is this person making sense?" I haven't seen Krishna say anywhere to Arjuna, "I speak the absolute truth, I am your guru. Thus, train yourself to see me as such." No, Krishna said He has given this knowledge, now go and think about if it makes sense.
Arjuna had to discriminate, to think about what was laid out before him, and either reject or accept. Krishna didn't ask Arjuna to train himself to see Him as supreme. In the same way, the guru either speaks the truth or doesn't. We have to analyze, check with sastra, etc.: "Is this person truly representing Krishna?" If he or she does so, then reciprocate in gratitude for the guidance given. If not, feel free to leave and search for someone who does. After all, the only person responsible for your spiritual life is you.
The last paragraph of Rasi Priya prabhu's post declares, "Only one
person can guide us to the goal of this spiritual journey - our guru
maharaja." I am very happy to hear that her guru maharaja can guide her to
this goal, but is he or she really the only person? There's a very thin line
between this sentiment and the separatist mentality of which the
Caitanya-Caritamrita warns us. We have to be so careful.