An Analysis of Devotee Feedback
Posted September 18, 2012
Recently a devotee wrote to CHAKRA about an alleged incident—the kicking of a female disciple by her guru, Ravindra Swarupa Prabhu. The devotee feedback from this article was varied, as is usual, but the type of variation is worth noting. One viewpoint held that the kick was actually the guru's "mercy" upon the hitherto blessed and fortunate disciple. One viewpoint offered that it was a simply violent and abusive loss of temper. The third viewpoint was that it was utterly trivial, and why are we making such a big fuss out of it? The fourth, held by the guru himself, was that it could not be called a "kick" as such, but a "symbolic gesture with my foot", which baffles all but those who believe that feet, when of the lotus kind, can make all the gestures normally associated with hands. The fifth viewpoint was that we don't have both sides of the story, so how can we judge?
To the fifth viewpoint holder, we actually do have both sides of the story, as the guru himself concurs that a kick, or a he puts it, "a symbolic gesture", issued forth from his lotus foot. This fourth viewpoint is the very definition of euphemism, that subtle replacement for truth, which no genuine guru would descend to. Euphemisms blur the facts, and thus obstruct truth. Srila Prabhupada wrote about truth in this way, which certainly precludes the use of such pleasant vagaries: "Satyam, truthfulness, means that facts should be presented as they are, for the benefit of others. Facts should not be misrepresented. According to social conventions, it is said that one can speak the truth only when it is palatable to others. But that is not truthfulness. The truth should be spoken in a straightforward way, so that others can understand actually what the facts are. If a man is a thief and people are warned he is a thief, that is truth. Although sometimes the truth is unpalatable, one should not refrain from speaking it. Truthfulness demands that the facts be presented as they are for the benefit of others. That is the definition of truth." (Bg 10.5 pp)
The first viewpoint holder is also indulging in euphemism, and thus untruth. A kick is a kick, not a rain of mercy, nor a symbolic gesture, it is a kick. There are different types of kicks, just as there are different types of any kind of bodily contact. A pat on the head makes one feel one way- a little childish perhaps. When given to the arm, it can be a solace in times of distress. However, when given on the posterior by a member of the opposite sex, it is grossly demeaning. Any unwelcome contact with any of the private parts of a person, especially those of the opposite sex, is called sexual assault and is liable to court action.
At this point, the third viewpoint may seem relevant- that the matter is trivial, and it may seem so, compared to the fact that many of the boys in the gurukula in Mayapura are being repeatedly raped by the older boys, while the self-professed child abuser headmaster justifies it by comparing the boys to animals in the breeding season. Compared to that travesty, anything may seem trivial, but in a society of gentlemen, which is a precursor to a society of devotees, to kick a woman, or to make contact with the private parts of the fair sex in any way whatsoever, is hardly trivial and can only be called what it is—disgusting.
To be fair, however, all of us have "bad days", and just because one succumbs to anger, lust or any of the other pushing of the senses, on one day, does not mean that one has lost the war on the illusory energy altogether. When fall down happens, one should just get back up, dust oneself off with the maha-mantra, and get on with serving the Lord and His dearly beloved devotees. One should not lose heart- that is the essential message of all those verses in the Gita, where Krsna says "If you can't do that, do this...If you can't do that, then do this!" In other words, no one is exempt from bhakti. Just the desire to be a devotee, despite all one's faults and inadequacies, means certainty for success, and one person's path to bhakti may be very different from another's. However the certainty for success does have one exception- offenses to the Lord's devotees. If one does not become purified of this tendency, then all one's chanting amounts to nothing.
It is certainly offensive to kick a devotee, and when the kick is administered to a private part of the body, it is deeply humiliating as well. When such a kick is administered by someone whom one believes is one's guru, it is also deeply shocking. The appropriate mercy for a disciple who is repeatedly late for Deity service, is vani, instruction. Maybe the disciple is not completely aware of the need to be punctual, or lacking in direct realization that the Deity is the Lord, or simply short of time. The timing for such instruction should not be when the disciple is already late for service, thus making the service even later, and the instruction, therefore, hypocritical. The timing should be afterwards. And it should be verbal, so that it can be clearly understood.
Implicit in the belief that the guru's kick is "mercy" is the assumption is that the guru is like God in every respect. When Krsna or His incarnations kick, or even kill, the body, the recipient is liberated instantly, from all distress. Simply the touch of Their feet is sufficient, for each part of Their transcendental bodies can perform all the functions of the other parts. They can impregnate with their eyes, taste with Their ears, and instruct with Their feet. Those who believe that the guru is like unto God in all respects are succumbing to the illusion of impersonalist philosophy- and should not be preaching in our society. Srila Prabhupada never excommunicated anyone from our society- except three sannyasis who claimed he was God. Every other variation of personality and character, he either tolerated or appreciated- but never rejected. Recognizing that the kick was not a "symbolic gesture" but was a deeply humiliating and offensive action, Ravindra Swarupa should apologize and humbly beg forgiveness from his devotee disciple. Maybe he has done so already- thus setting an excellent example of humility and modesty, befitting his position. If not, then I hope this article will inspire him to do so.
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