Posted August 2, 2010
I believed that investing my heart in the eternal message of the sampradaya could not be a mistake. I believed that absolutely. I believed it without question. I ironed that belief unto my heart like a tattoo artist paints a picture. I believed it and branded myself to that belief like a sheep herder brands the furry skin of the sheep with his red irons. It was a part of me and I was a part of it.
It was in the context of that belief, that I transferred my attachments to Srila Prabhupada to another. As hindsight is 20:20, when I look back I can see that there were many hints that this relationship was not right even at that time. But my heart pulsated with the belief in the sampradaya and I told my doubts to shut up. I wont lie, there were very ecstatic times and I have great memories. Nevertheless, those who know the history of ISKCON, know the disappointment that followed.
What this other guru took from me when our relationship ended was not my spiritual bliss, my service attitude or my enthusiasm. He took away my confidence to trust myself to make decisions on what was good for me. What he took away was my self-assurance in my ability to judge what was safe for me to pour my heart into. I hated him because what he stole from me was my self-respect. I felt ashamed. I had made him an authority on my heart and my life. I was ashamed that I had allowed someone unqualified to decide what was sacred for me, mistaking him for what he was not. And he had abused his position of power in the name of love of Krishna and respect of Prabhupada. It is unforgivable.
An open heart reaching out for spiritual guidance is a terrible thing to betray. Yet many of us find ourselves on the receiving end of a sharp slamming of the door as someone decided to play it slick rather than to play it straight with us. It is an unnerving experience that leaves many of us jaded, hurt and unconfident in our own ability to trust ourselves to make another healthy spiritual alliance. Many of us move forward to make other relationships in Vaishnava community with one foot on the brakes, trying to avoid our previous relationship accident.
Those hurt in this way have told themselves that we just couldnt repeat that incident again. Stung by the pain of opening up to an unsuitable authority we vow not to open our hearts to the same level of vulnerability. In trying to protect our shattered heart from being hurt again, many choose to see their tenderness, hope and willingness to open themselves to another healthy relationship as a weakness in themselves. We feel it is a weakness that we cannot afford to have. Our solution to making ourselves immune to vulnerability is to close the heart off from spiritually entwining itself with another for ever.
Then I came in contact with another Maharaj. I found myself furtively studying this Maharaj the way I had not thought to study the previous. I found myself constantly asking myself whether he could be trusted. I questioned his every motive. I looked for signs of betrayal. I was not willing to open up to Maharaj the way I had with the other. I just could not allow myself to lose more confidence in myself as a person who couldnt spot a good guru. I didnt know how to earn my own confidence to find a spiritual authority that was inherently safe. I only knew I just couldnt go through with what I went through with the previous. I just didnt know where I could go to find strength to repair the damage to myself again. I didnt feel like I could survive another shattered spiritual heart.
I genuinely liked Maharaj. As proper etiquette, I was open with Maharaj about my disappointment with my previous guru. Maharaj was sympathetic and nursed my pain with soothing sincere advice. He said he was open to any question or enquiry that I had. He would hide nothing. Empathizing with my need for trust, as I delivered my volley of questions, he opened up his heart and lay it on the carpet in front of me like a clock maker takes apart a mechanical clock and lays the parts on his table. He allowed himself open to inspection. He seemed committed to living up to my trust in a way that I had ever known a person, apart from Srila Prabhupada, could.
But I was still jaded from my previous experience. No matter how minutely I studied Maharajs heart, it was not enough for me. Not only did I question his motives in general, but I specifically questioned his willingness to make himself this vulnerable to me. What did he really want? What hidden motives did this one have? Am I not seeing something that I should be seeing? Thousands of conflicting questions spirited through my mind.
As strange as it sounds, I feel that in some ways, my identity as a devoteemy self-esteem-- had taken such a hit from my relationship with the first guru that, in some ways, I felt unworthy of being able to continue in spiritual life anymore. I did not feel myself worthy of respect. I saw myself as a fool who had naively succumbed to the wiles of a manipulative authority system. Burdened by the calloused scars from my previous relationship, I distrusted myself in entering into another authoritative Vaishnava relationship. But in doing so, I wondered how much I had also robbed myself of experiencing true spiritual bliss again. I realized that I was viewing my relationship with Maharaj through my previous guru spectacles.
But I justified my own predicament. I repeated the slogan Cheat me once, shame on you. Cheat me twice, shame on me. I had become extremely cynical. I saw Vaishnava relationships as things that you use to fulfill your own self-interest. It was then that I realized that I had given my previous guru the power to define what was sacred for me. It was this shame that I could not handle. I had allowed someone else to define my sacred space. I realized that it was this question that echoed in my heart that I could not answer. My heart asked: what are you going to do to make sure that this never happens again? And I didnt know how to answer the question. I didnt know how to win my hearts trust and live up to its confidence again. And that was scary.
I realized that the solution was to question the basis of my own thinking. The answer was to question the construct of my own thoughts and find out why I make decisions. Why do I trust who I trust? What is right? What is wrong? Who do I accept as my authority? Who do I not? Why? Why him? Why not her? Do I need to accept authority at all?
I questioned to the pits. If Krishna consciousness is a science, it is like physics or chemistry. We have scientists like Einstein. We dont worship Einstein. We just follow the science. Why must we worship scientists who know the Krishna conscious science? Why must we accept that they have a monopoly of a vision of reality that others dont? Why put myself in a vulnerable position of doing that? Why take that risk, that chance? Does the risk of putting my heart in that vulnerable position out-weigh avoiding the raw pain that may come about if I didnt? Is there truly no alternative other than the two extremes of surrendering to those with perfect (Krishna) vision or on the other hand living a spiritually compromised life? Is there truly no middle path in Krishna consciousness? Is there truly no way to practice the science of Krishna consciousness without needing to surrender myself to the cult of a particular scientist?
Some questions I answered to my hearts satisfaction. Others I have not.
In going through that questioning process, I exercised a muscle, my integrity, in a way that I hadnt before. It was healthy for me. And done sufficiently, it gave me the confidence to allow me to ask other people to trust me in a way that I couldnt before. I became clearer about what I knew and believed and why. I didnt know everything, but now, I knew why I knew what I knew. I knew why I believed what I believed. I knew what I didnt and why.
I have since learned that the heart, like other muscles, strengthens and matures the way other muscles do. If you want to make your biceps larger, you have to lift weights till the point that the muscle fibers tear a bit. Then 48 hours later, your muscle repairs itself and becomes stronger. Your heart is the same way. It takes the gentle tearing of trust through living life to become a more mature Vaishnava and human being. Disillusionment allows us to set our expectations to the nature of actual relationships different from our wishful ideals.
I cannot change the world. I can hardly change myself according to how I should live. Today I focus on the source of what troubled me years agomy nave and too eager to trust heart. I recognize the nature of the crime that hurt me. It was my need for others to provide me a sense of existential security that I could not provide myself.
I still feel the pain of yesteryears and am on some days unsure of how to mollify it. But I know that my heart today is my sacred space to which I take those who have earned my trust. I have developed the skill by testing and spotting people that I feel are safe enough to take there. Today this confidence allows me to have intimate and respectful Vaishnava relationships with people that I couldnt yesterday. And that is why my life is blissful today. The self-fulfilling prophecy of the unforgivable betrayal, is just that, a self-fulfilling prophecy. You have no power over me.