Chakra Discussions

The Vital Living Link, Part II

by Niscala devi dasi

Posted June 10, 2003

While the SAC did not give any emphasis to the essential dynamic by which transcendental knowledge is received, which is the very reason why the guru must be a living link, on the other hand it needlessly emphasized other aspects of the guru disciple relationship, such as the level of worship that should be offered to the guru by the disciple.

The GBC may have made this into legislation, enshrined in their lawbook, but the level of worship offered by the disciple is never such a thing which is either forced or restrained by law. The reason is that the process of surrender is very personal and individual. One guru will offer a little, just a handful of training to his disciples, while another may make the training of his disciples his very life and soul, the essence of his service to his spiritual master, and be very adept at doing so. Naturally, if the disciple is sincere and he has the latter type of guru, he will not want to be restrained from offering his guru everything he has- heartfelt worship, facility, willingness to perform any difficult service, and so on. If he sees that the spiritual master has tirelessly guided him through his various illusions, he will feel gratitude, to the point that he realizes that Krsna has sent him this person, and that as he is embodying Krsna's merciful instruction, he should be offered the same respect as Krsna Himself. This is a realization, not a question to get right in an exam, as the lawbook requires.

Yet another person may feel, as many do in ISKCON, that my guru has initiated me, and has thereafter left me alone to face my doubts, difficulties, misconceptions, the struggle to identify my anarthas, the question of how to take the next step in my devotional life, and so on. Other than taking daksine and some homages annually, he is not really functioning as my spiritual master: he is primarily taking, giving little in return. Why then should the disciple's chosen level of worship be forced by GBC law? It makes it into a farce, and it impedes the natural growth of the real thing- wherever that may be found.

Of course, their motive for restricting the worship of the guru is clear, and it is not a bad one. They want to prevent ISKCON gurus falling down due to the anartha of pratistha. Restricting the worship of the disciple however, is not the solution. Rather, in this respect sastra warns of the danger of accepting too many disciples: from the disciple's point of view, the training is minimized; and from the guru's point of view, the worship and facility is maximized. Both of these effects undermine the purity and effectiveness of the guru-disciple relationship. The guru should want to perform selfless service, without any expectation of reward, and the disciple's growth requires that there be time in his guru's schedule to answer his doubts, examine his particular set of illusions, adapt the process to his psycho-physical nature, and so on. But because a service attitude must necessarily be encouraged in the disciple, the guru must accept the service that the disciple willingly offers him- not for his gratification, but so that he can assess the receptive quality of the disciple, and know whether his instruction is being assimilated and having an effect on his heart, or is falling on deaf ears.

If the SAC want to offer a valuable service to the GBC, my humble suggestion is that they encourage them to do away with any injunctions regarding the forcing or restriction of levels of worship- indeed in legislation per se regarding the guru disciple relationship, beyond what sastra requires. The Iskcon Lawbook is rife with such non-sastric legislation, such as the requirement that ISKCON gurus teach their disciples that they are part of ISKCON- undermining the instruction of our beloved founder that Krsna consciousness transcends all conceptions of sectarian religion. Perversions of the teachings and legislation to enforce faith, loyalty and worship should never replace the natural dynamic which a vital living link of the parampara evokes in the heart of a genuine disciple.