Chakra Discussions

Change of Asrama is Not Guru Falldown

by Niscala devi dasi

Posted January 31, 2012

Our books make cute additions to our book cases, no really. They have nice binders, gold lettering, and for many devotees, it seems their value is only decorative, or as items to distribute...

If we do read them then we do it as a ritual only, for basic knowledge of the philosophy totally eludes us. Sri Chaitanya taught that it doesn’t matter what ashrama one is in, if one knows and preaches the science of Krsna, one is qualified to be guru. Yet when a guru changes ashrama from sannyasa to grhastha, the disciples describe themselves as feeling cheated, crushed, devastated and various other hyperbolic melodramatic adjectives. All that we are being cheated from is our own illusions that our guru is a superman, a superhero, who will scoop up his utterly helpless disciples and fling them into the abode of transcendence by his superhuman powers.

Actually, the process described in the tad-viddhi-pranitanena verse is somewhat different- he teaches, we learn. We ask questions, intelligent ones, not “How could you do this to me?” Nor should we hoist our personal problems on to him, which is one of the reasons that my diksa guru gave for his recent change of ashrama, in his letter to his disciples. I know it not to be an excuse or rationale- for he wrote a letter to me last year, revealing that he was not coping well with his role of arbiter in many devotee disputes. That letter was honest and open, and it was pleasurable to read. Honesty is the basis of being a devotee, and surpasses all external considerations such as varna and ashrama. As Srila Prabhupada advised “Better an honest street-sweeper than a charlatan meditator”

Seeing a guru’s shortcomings can only make us angry and bitter when we see in terms of ideals, not reality. We do this when reality is too crushing for us, and the guru then becomes our escape. For example, if we are lacking close friends, we may want the guru to be a close friend and confidante, a shoulder to cry on, ever patient to hear every problem we have, rather than someone to go to when we are in doubt about the philosophy or how to apply it. For women especially, lacking a healthy marriage, we may hoist upon him the role of ideal husband- and develop emotional bonds. Either of these dispositions can lead to us being emotionally crushed when he changes ashrama. This disappointment can turn to the anger of self-righteous condemnation, and all his attempts at inspiring people in their Krsna consciousness are seen as just so much hypocrisy.

Rather than judging and condemning, we should, out of a sense of compassion, penetrate and try to understand. There are no victims here, because there was no act of enmity, nor of viciousness. We should not be like the ritviks, who categorize it in the same way as child abuse. Child abuse has victims, falldown does not. As I wrote to one ritvik:

"Criticism has to be done out of a sense of compassion. In the case of falldown of a sannyasi, where he has hurt no one but himself, then we must be compassionate and kind, for the sense of shame must be very great. If he has the... heart of a demon, and has taken pleasure in abusing children, hurting children, inflicting pain, then in this case, the sense of compassion is for those whom he has abused. Out of compassion for them, who can be suffering severely, we must angrily criticize, insist he be stripped of position and authority over children especially, and given a simple task that will threaten no one, that will gradually purify his heart, such as washing pots. He misused power and position, so he should be given a service which has neither. He should also beg to be of service to his victims and their families- for if he is to make advancement, he MUST get their forgiveness (re Durvasa and Ambarish story). Otherwise, he will face the wrath of the Sudarshan chakra (unless we believe this story is just a cute little anecdote with no meaning)”

In the gita, Krsna describes the nature of a demon as being very hateful and destructive, and in the Srimad Bhagavatam we read of various demons who misused power to oppress vulnerable citizens. On the other hand, Krsna describes that if His devotee accidentally falls down into some abominable action, he is still to be considered saintly. Therefore, the abominable action cannot be cruel and oppressive, for a devotee is not a demon. Acts of cruelty and neglect are never to be spared from criticism, for they define who is a devotee and who is not. But for someone who is not cruel and oppressive, for someone who has devoted his life to Krsna consciousness and teaching the message of the gita, a slip-up is never to be considered a reason not to still consider him saintly- i.e. of the nature of a saint. A saint, therefore, need not be perfect in all respects, and the same goes for the guru, for his only perfection is that he does not change the message of the parampara.

The qualified guru never describes himself as perfect, and he also tries to dispel any such illusions in his disciples. His perfection is that he is not skewering the transcendental message to his own ends. He is presenting it unchanged. To set an example for his disciples, as much as possible, he tries to lead an ideal life, in any one of the four ashramas, and in any one of the four varnas. Which one, is utterly irrelevant. Which one, is only his concern, no one else’s. He should just change to white, no explanation required. White is pure, the colour of honesty. It is also the colour of peace, as in the waving of a white flag. Let him be peaceful, honest and open, as he has been in his letter and in his recent decision. Let us learn to respect each other, instead of being like vultures, ready to swoop on any sign of weakness. Swooping means coming low down, means stooping, and stooping is stupid, if one aspires for elevation.

The important thing is that one trusts in Krsna’s protection, not the protection offered by an institution in His name, nor by wealthy disciples, so when a sannyasi suddenly feels some attraction to the grhastha ashrama, and he is open and honest about his position, not fearing the consequences, we should be happy for him and applaud his courage and openness. Seeing that he actually trusts in Krsna’s protection, we gain trust in his devotional character. If others lose it, even if 99% of devotees lose their faith and trust in his character, it does not affect us.

I'm happy for him, and happy whenever people become open and honest, but it seems to make others very angry, and I believe it is because they see in terms of ideals, not reality, in terms of judging and condemning, not penetrating the situation and trying to understand it. In his letter to his disciples, he is open and honest about his limitations. Out of respect for him, and for Srila Prabhupada’s instruction never to propagate the falldown of a sannyasi, I have omitted his name from this article, as I refuse to contribute to the condemned propaganda in any way. If we value the instructions of Srila Prabhupada, which he told us are more important than his personal presence, we need to all do the same.

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