Reply to "Time to Get Real"
Posted March 25, 2007
Hare Krishna, As I read the article, "Time To Get Real", my heart went out to the author. I can feel the tremendous frustration that he is feeling and I wish I could help.
I have only my own experiences and thoughts to offer.
I have been studying Krishna Consciousness via ISKCON and some of its devotees for about twenty years. I plan on taking initiation with Bhaktimarga Swami. Most of you know him as the Sannyasi who walks across Canada. I am from Ontario, Canada but am presently residing in British Columbia.
I have had many Gurus over the years who helped me to grow as a person. My first were probably my parents and some of my public school teachers. One, Miss Kitto, I remember well. My next was a Hatha Yoga teacher when I was about fifteen. She taught me self-discipline and vegetarianism. My next Guru was my guidance councilor in high school. He was a gay man and a Buddhist and from him I learned patience and how to separate my emotions from what was going on in my life, in order to deal with it better. He taught me how to detach and to be like a mirror and reflect, not absorb. My next were my piano teachers who helped me find my soul and express myself through music and how to discipline myself so that I could do anything. I had many others, my Karate Sensei, my Tai Chi instructor, my first husband, my Lutheran Pastor who is still a friend. And then there were my personal friends who signed on for life and have counseled me and cried with me and taught me so much over so many years. I also had several Native American teachers who taught me many things about the animal kingdom and mysticism and my Canadian Law Enforcement instructors who taught me the law and how to be fair.
So I understood what to expect when I met this most recent Guru, Bhaktimarga Swami, twenty years ago. I understood that he was to guide me, not baby sit me He was to offer me suggestions for finding a stable path through my life, not tell me my every move to make, and he was to put things into perspective when I got caught up in the microcosm. I have never asked him to *be* me or *control *me, just to be my friend and observer, like Krishna on the branch of the tree, observing and directing only when asked. In return, he has been nothing but kind.
He was there when my sister died and came to the funeral. His was the first voice I heard on the phone after receiving the call notifying me of her death. And he talked to me for quite awhile helping me to deal with my grief. He was there when I had surgery and came to visit me in the hospital bringing with him wonderful prasadam from the Toronto temple and then visited me again at my home while I recovered. He has asked only that I be his friend in return.
I have offered him money as an exchange of energy, because I feel good doing that. He has never once asked me for it. He has supported me through a divorce, deaths and many troubles. He has been kind to my friends and family and been there for my wedding, helping me to organize it and even finding the Priest to conduct it. He is my friend and confidant and I appreciate his mind, and his musical talent and his wonderful plays. He was the first Hare Krishna I ever talked to and to lend his helping hand when I needed a home for my pregnant cow. He was there when she died. He knows who I am and remembers even my dog. He always asks about the youngsters in my life and is always there when any of us are in need.
If any of you have chosen a Guru who pushes and makes demands and tells you what to do every step of the way, then I'm sorry, but you need to take some responsibility for the choice you have made and fix that. It may mean walking away. If I meet someone who screws up my life, I deal with that in whatever way is required.
It is not the responsibility of the temples in different countries to baby sit you, it is your responsibility to interact with them in a productive manner and if that isn't happening, then either change it or leave. All of us can do that. It is not up to the Guru to make your life satisfactory, it is up to you to make your own life work. The Gurus should be given great respect if He/She is doing their job but if not, well no one has handcuffed you to them. Leave and don't look back and if you want to stay with Krishna consciousness then seek out another. But don't be an impulsive fool, this is your life you're talking about. Use you brain and common sense. And remember there are many ways to learn. Some are through positive interactions and others are through negative ones. Perhaps the author was meant to learn their lessons through the latter.
As far as the "up to the modern standard" part, I think the author is asking a lot. Perhaps this is treading into the area of "separation of church and state". Times *have* actually changed. Let's start at the beginning. I don't think the Guru system is outdated. One always needs teachers. In our lives, we will have many, many teachers as I have previously stated. The *Official Guru *is the one *we* seek out and *formally ask* to be *our Guru*. If we choose wisely, by becoming an *informed shopper, *then we should do all right. If not, then we have to blame ourselves, circumstances beyond our control, that ugly word 'karma' and perhaps lessons from a negative role model perspective Or if the *dude* was really bad, perhaps we were the one who was supposed to put him in jail. Who's to say.
The author talks about essentially living off his Guru and having him provide for him as if he was a baby bird in a nest and The Guru, the parent, feeding him by mouth. The author forgets that in ancient times, the disciples went out and begged for food or other donations, which they then turned over to their ashram and ultimately lived on. One or more of them did the cooking and the recipes were from their own culture and the raw product's source, their native habitat. This is still going on today in many parts of the world. And in many other religions and philosophies as well as our own.
When Srila Prabhupada came to North America, much of what he brought with him, wrapped around his lineage of Krishna Consciousness, was from his own Indian culture. Some of it worked well. Some didn't, like arranged marriages.
The idea of Varnasrama Dharma stabilized many a household in a materially aggressive society and time, and helped explain inherent personal tendencies for countless individuals. The idea of being Brahminical or a Warrior gave peace of mind to those who wanted to make those choices but never were given the options.
I come from a long line of Warriors and the fact that I was in a female body this time allowed me to indulge in a Feminine role of staying at home to nurture and care for my family* but*, when the need arose, my inherent warrior tendencies inspired me to fight for and protect those in my care with a real ferocity and little fear. That fight sometimes just meant going to bat with city hall and other times it really meant providing physical protection. But understanding a Warrior nature made it easier to accept my personality and gave me a solid sense of identity. It also, may as well have meant, one less trip to a shrink for a citizen of this modern era.
As far as eating only cooked, fried food or sugar, well these are cultural things. These are not a necessity of Krishna Consciousness. I was a vegetarian long before I became Krishna Conscious. I eat lots of raw food, very little sugar and fried food. If your temple is in India, you will get an Indian diet. If you are in South America, I would expect that you will be eating a lot more local recipes mixed in with the Indian ones that Srila Prabhupada taught his disciples and which we cook out of respect for him and because *they taste good*.
When we were in Portland, Oregon, and Maha Bhagavata and her husband ran the local temple, she provided some of the most amazing vegetarian prasadam that I have ever tasted and many times, it consisted of pastas, salads and the like. If you don't like the food, eat at home or do something constructive to change it. Become a cook! Kurma dasa did and many of his recipes are non-Indian.
My point is that *we* have to make an effort if *we* don't like the way things are. A temple or any religious institution is only as good as its membership and if the hierarchy isn't working and *you care*, then *care* *enough *to do something about it. It's easy to criticize. It's hard to do something positive and bring about changes that will affect the whole world. That takes time and effort, something that our modern world's *quick fix citizenry* don't like. But, I guess that's what Srila Prabhupada did *just a few years ago*, in *our modern time*. Darn it. Back to that outdated, obsolete, Guru thing again. Oh well...sorry.
And I'm sorry, I still haven't made it past the author's first two
paragraphs. Perhaps at a later date.