'I read the news today, O boy' : another guru messes up

Sometime ago I sat with my dad in the car. I had returned after many years away. We were having an honest conversation about religious belief and a the failings of religious institutions. He being a Catholic and me a Hare Krishna, we had plenty to talk about. I asked him if he had felt a loss when both my brother and me left home to live in an ashram. His response was deep. He said, 'When you left I felt I lost you, but more painfully I felt that not only did I loose your younger brother, he had also lost himself'. 

My younger brother had been very influenced by a guru and lived in complete obedience to his instructions. He was so influenced that the family never felt like they were talking to him, their son, the person they loved dearly. Instead he sounded just like the guru and had no will of his own. Unfortunately it was the guru's will that prevailed. Ultimately the guru fell into disrepute and left the ashram. 

In the early eighties I was also living under the domination of a guru. When I first met this guru I was surrounded by his excited and frenzied disciples. I was overwhelmed and tears welled in my eyes. Tears again welled in my eyes when he left with a bundle of cash abandoning all of his loving disciples, including yours truly. A hard lesson was learned--to not be so gullible. Spiritual seekers are vulnerable by the very fact that they sincerely want to know and experience a divine life. They are vulnerable to exploitation. What starts as a small step into a religious community too often and inevitably turns to the loss of personal autonomy and thoughtfulness. Individuality is then lost to the totality of the group, and the meagre free will that we have is surrendered to the dominating and ubiquitous will of the leader. 

Thirty odd years on, it just sounds so unbelievable. 
Unfortunately sincere humans keep falling into the same trap and that's literally what it is a human trap.

It is a fact that a guru or teacher is required in spiritual life. It is a fact that a disciple should follow the instructions of an accomplished guru. It is also a fact that the outcome of the relationship is not that you become a mindless idiot living in cloud cuckoo land. A guru must never be accepted in isolation. Their words and behaviour must be fully consistent with the teachings. In being submissive to instructions a disciple must retain their God given autonomy and discretion. The final authority for a disciple is their independent thoughtfulness, where within their own mind they mediate their experiences of the guru's instructions, the scriptures teachings, learnings from respected others and finally their own personal practices. Yes--you have to make up your mind, make your decisions and proceed with two spoons of good faith and one of caution. 

I grow weary of seeing people throwing themselves before gurus rather than learning tangible lessons from them. Those glazed eyes and substance-less eulogies, when will they end . I tire from seeing gurus accepting the exaggerated praises and worship of their disciples while spending no time to teach them. And it's all so sad that the very fact that the guru is just another human-being is only realised when they are finally exposed for wrong doing rather than it just being a fact of life. For as long as gurus have existed so has the warning not to be fooled. This can be seen in the immortal words of Lord Shiva:

guravo bahavah santi sisya-vittapaharakah durlabhah sad-gurur devi sisya-santapaharakah

Many ‘Gurus’ take advantage of their disciples and plunder them. They exploit their disciples and use them to amass wealth, but a Guru who can remove the miseries of his disciples is very rare.

Rare as they may be, the world needs humble and learned spiritual teachers. Unfortunately stupid disciples continue to drive the market demand for cheaters. Please wake up and smell the coffee. 


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