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With a Case for the Reconstitution of Srila Prabhupada’s “Mission”.

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Segment 13
The Real and The Fake Guru. There Are No Mystical or Esoteric Qualifications, For These Are Not Verifiable.

Mountain climbing is a handy metaphor for the spiritual journey. The neophyte climber needs a capable guide, a Sherpa, if you will. That would be the guru.

If the guru in fact knows his true function by virtue of having himself made the ascent previously, it stands to reason that he is aware of the pitfalls on the way to the peak; he has a vivid sense of what it takes for a successful assault on the mountain.

In a world riddled with illusions, the practical ability to sift the data of life is surely a requirement for this expedition. Moreover, one of the primary illusions the guru must purge out of the di Pl sciple, is the tendency to have the wrong idea of guru. The experienced guru must know that because of the “sheep[1]” side of human nature, and the social conditioning about the guru as a magic-helper, most seekers/disciples are looking for an illusion even as they declare their sincere desire to shed all illusions.

Most neophytes on the spiritual path, unconsciously (and sometimes not so unconsciously), are not looking to get out of illusion so much as for a feeling of security.

“People want relief, not a cure.”

This urge, takes the form of a hope, and a wish for someone to relieve them of responsibility for themselves. They want, to

“Escape from freedom.”

Their prayer may be like this,

“Please Lord, be merciful on this fallen and wretched soul. I implore You, send me a magic-helper who will relieve me from having to make decisions for my life. And let me believe this is pleasing to You, that it will earn me spiritual credits, that it is the true meaning of surrender. Lord, Lord, please do not let my prayer be in vain.”

Such “humble” prayers from a “surrendered” soul, are imagined to be a great virtue in the minds of the petitioners. And they justify this by stressing “the association of advanced devotees,” while conveniently missing the point of such association, that “advanced devotee” means someone who is more experienced on this path than me, so he will guide me to the top. That is his mercy that he takes the time to guide me; nevertheless, the climbing I have to do myself. It is the wrong notion of mercy when we think it means,

“Magically whisk me to the top, and save me the effort of climbing myself.”

In this way, neophytes are looking for a caring father, who will assume responsibility for them, especially on the moral and emotional level, so they do not have to shoulder the responsibility to sort out life’s ambiguities. And when they do this in God’s name, they think it is sincere and ideal. What could be sweeter? Just find a representative of God to absolve us from the responsibility to stand or fall with our own decisions and actions, who will assure us that we are becoming enlightened, wise, and favored by God, and by hitching ourselves to such a magic-helper we can shed our illusions and be guaranteed a place at the right hand of God; as a rasika bhakta, no less.

And do not cause me to look too hard at this setup; do not let me find out that this is really just an illusion of progress out of illusion, for I have invested deeply in this belief, this hope. Anyone who tries to make me take a second hard look at this silliness, he or she is “bad” association.

This is the unspoken condition of most neophytes upon taking up any spiritual path.

The real guru knows he/she is up against all this. They know, that most disciples will accept as guru whoever gives them that warm, fuzzy feeling, regardless of factual capacity to open their eyes and actually shed their illusions. The real guru knows that the sentimentalists as well as the fanatics are just as capable of feeling firm and free from doubt as the person who is authentically experiencing being firm and free from doubt because of mature understanding of the same knowledge that the neophytes only imagine they have understood.

As such, the real guru knows that neophytes, of this almost hopeless caliber, need to project and rationalize superhuman powers onto the guru, so they can feel powerful themselves; in a manner akin to the homely schoolgirl who befriends her more attractive and popular classmate, so she can bask in her reflected glory.

In the name of love, service and devotion, most disciples want to give away their volition to such a glorious guru, so they too can feel glorious. The real guru knows this very well; and for that matter, so does the fake guru.

Moreover, while the real guru knows that his task is to dismantle the wrong-headed notions about guru in the neophyte mind, the fake guru sets out to exploit them. Making the disciples feel warm and fuzzy is the fake guru stock in trade. And they make him feel warm and fuzzy in return. They flock to the shelter of his cactus feet, so to speak. The fake spiritual master dishes out these feelings in the name of “compassion,” but it is only a rationalization. The fact that the fake guru may really believe in the value of his commodities, does not change the reality of the situation. He is “categorically”, a swindler. First, he deceived himself and then he proceeded to deceive others. He can talk very delightfully about the top of Everest; however, he cannot lead anyone there; because he has never been there himself.

When we contrast his tactics with Krishna’s dealings with Arjuna, we see that the original guru, Bhagavan, did not make the generating of warm, fuzzy feelings His agenda. Arjuna was already pretty crushed in the onset of Bhagavad-gita. There could not be a more fitting candidate than Arjuna needing to feel warm and fuzzy in that moment; confronting his teachers and family members on the brink of mortal combat. But instead of making him warm and fuzzy, Krishna said,

 “You are talking like an ignorant fool, Arjuna.”

Prabhupada, in a lecture, said that for a man of Arjuna’s caliber, that was like a slap in his face. “So much for making him feel warm and fuzzy.”

In other words, the Lord was more or less saying,

“Listen up, Arjuna, get out of stupidity first. Face reality full-on. Be real. Deal with it. Then you can feel warm and fuzzy all you like. Do not just reinterpret your ignorance so that you can feel warm and fuzzy while you wallow in the illusion of progress out of illusion. You have to earn that right; you have to pay the price.”

In facing the neophyte disciple, the real guru knows, acutely, that he is up against all this. He knows that the neophytes want to give away their volition to him, in the name of surrender; that they are dying to do this. The real guru knows that he has to give back the disciple’s volition or the disciple cannot mature properly; he knows he must lay a proper foundation for their spiritual growth from child to man.

Hence, when we see that a guru implicitly requires childlike dependency in us, in the name of being a good disciple, warning bells should go off. Or, if you see followers of gurus regressing to childlike silliness and calling it “love,” “surrender,” “devotion,” or “ecstasy,” warning bells should go off then, too. There is absolutely nothing spiritual about being deceived.

Some more logical questions come to mind.  They are presented below in the format of “question” in italics and bold, followed by the answer in normal font.

Question: “The primary responsibilities of a guru were explained; but what are the secondary responsibilities of a guru?”

Under secondary responsibilities there is only one thing in mind, actually: Guru as healer of emotional wounds.

This is a secondary responsibility or perhaps an effect of the guru giving us real insight about the art of existence, which is the summing up of the primary responsibilities. However, in today’s world, guru, as healer of emotional wounds, has emerged as a primary responsibility. In some cases, the only responsibility of the guru. In some cases, it is the litmus test of a guru. As it has been said before, most people want relief and not a cure. Moreover, in the present social environment, this is a common assumption all over the world.

Question: “What is a diksha guru compared to a shiksha guru. Is it the degree of enlightenment he offers?”

Functionally, there is no difference at all. None. Only that some distinction is made with respect to the one who initiates us into the parampara and teaches us the Gaudiya conception, or at least enough of the rudiments so that we make an intelligent choice in opting to take this path.

Question: “It is the diksha guru, we are taught, who is one’s transparent via medium to Krishna, for without diksha, there can be no progress.?”

Nope. This is propaganda[2], at best.  According to our philosophy, all who give us some degree of valid insight about the Absolute Truth are transparent via media.  All.  Even the birds, the bees, the butterflies, and the trees leaves, etc. But, yes, we do accord some special recognition to the persons or persons, who take a deliberate and specific interest in our growth and development, and who may give us some tough love when we get too lax on the long and winding road.

Question: “But is that because of a ceremony, or because of the potency of his instruction, or his intention to offer ongoing guidance?”

No ceremony is required. Diksha means the transfer of spiritual knowledge. For some, the understanding is that it downloads onto their hard drive at the time of the ceremony. These persons are the servants of the magic helper conception of guru. For intelligent seekers, diksha means a dynamic process of rational questions and rational answers, whereby the lights get turned on in the questioner. You see this process at work in Bhagavatam and in Jaiva Dharma. In none of these places is the ceremony emphasized. In fact, it is hardly even mentioned.

Question: If it is the latter, then it seems one should consider the diksha guru to be that person who has offered the most spiritual enlightenment in one’s life, and certainly not a person who initiates someone in a ceremony and has left that person to fend for himself.?”

You can have more regard for your Siksha guru than your Diksha guru. This is possible. It is an affair of the heart, not something for legislation. However, there is no need to reject the Diksha guru or resent them. Rejection is only if, and when, we know for certain, that the guru was not in fact the real thing to begin with. If you grab a life jacket and then find out it is not a life jacket, why hang on to it?

Question: “We are told we can have many shiksha gurus, but only one diksha guru. So, we must be open to whomever Krishna sends us, who speaks something to help us along the way. That is why we can have unlimited shiksha gurus. But why only one diksha guru?”

Common sense, really, in light of the above discussion.

Question: “I have heard that in the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya, there are several links that are shiksha guru links, not diksha. Obviously, that disciple’s primary source of enlightenment was his shiksha guru, not his diksha guru. So, I am confused why it is necessary to have only one diksha guru, and why the distinction between shiksha and diksha gurus is made if it is the instruction, not a ceremony, which is potent?”

Only one person will have the primary responsibility for taking us into the parampara. And because in the general run of things, this is an authentic and potent person, then the person is given some special distinction in the philosophy of guru tattva. It does not mean you cannot introduce common sense according to time, place, and circumstance.

So, if you have a qualified diksha guru, who guides you up to a point, then you move to another source of inspiration, there is no need to have another diksha guru. Just take the good instruction and keep on keeping’ on. On the other foot, if the diksha was not qualified, you can reject him outright and take re-initiation. It is up to you and the guru in question. But the philosophy does not deal with and address every exception or contingency. The philosophy mostly deals with the general norm. Exceptions and contingencies, we have to use our noodle[3], and as Prabhupada told one disciple, if you have no noodles, then ask someone who has.

Question: “What is initiation, really? It means the ‘beginning’, but really the beginning is up to the individual–the point at which he determines that from now on I will make self-realization my primary goal.?”

In some broad sense, this is surely true. In a contextual sense, it is when we make a deliberate resolve to pursue prema bhakti as our deliberate and specific number one agenda in this life.  That is right. And this we do under the guidance of some more experienced soul, whose bedside manner usually works for us. So that’s the point of diksha. You accept the representative of Krishna and the rep accepts you. A contract is made. That is the “beginning.” This could have happened eons before the formality of a ceremony. Or with no ceremony at all.

Question: “It seems to me, that without that, the ceremony is meaningless. And with it, the ceremony is unnecessary. Arjuna was without a doubt Krishna’s disciple, without ceremony! Was there any deficiency in their relationship because of this?”

Yes, there was, actually. Because Arjuna runs the risk even to this day, that someone may criticize that he has no guru, he was never initiated.”

Thus, visible criteria should be sought.  This we can use in ascertaining whom we may recognize as a bona fide advanced guru or teacher.

The current system wherein the institutionalized gurus just fly in to give a class once, twice, three times, four times or even five times a week for just one hour; and then flies away, and the institutionalized guru, is not heard from for months or even one or more years; is not the proper way for the guru & disciple relationship to evolve.  Both are supposed to study each other prior to accepting one as guru, and accepting one as a disciple.  This is the ideal relationship.  One should be against blind acceptance from either side.  Both should understand the temperament of the other. The only way that this can be done is that there must be some significant “personal association”, on a daily basis, and for many months; or even years.

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Foot Notes:

[1] Sheep Mentality: It nominally is supposed to indicate that the person being called a ‘sheep’ or ‘sheeple’ is docile, compliant, and easily influenced, basically mindlessly following the herd without thinking

[2] Propaganda:  information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular point of view.


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