Dear Esteemed readers, I am delighted to once again be able to share with you all more insights on various topics. I Hope you all have been faring well and having the best of the week, spiritually, and also in all other aspects of life.
Yesterday was the disappearance day of my Spiritual master/ guide marking the 11th year of his physical departure from this material world, and in that light and mood I felt we all take a look at the concept or idea of having a spiritual master or guide in our spiritual sojourn or journey. As the name implies, a spiritual master or guide or teacher is one who helps us on our spiritual quest for enlightenment or salvation, and by so doing shows us how to achieve our desired spiritual goals while teaching us by his words and actions. Thus a spiritual guide is first and foremost one who “walks the talk” i.e. he lives by what he preaches. In gaudiya vaisnavism such a person is referred to as an Archarya (one who teaches by example). Often times we come across various people who find the concept of having a guru or spiritual guide to be foreign, weird or ‘humiliating”. Foreign because they feel it is something predominant in the occident, weird because they have no idea of how a spiritual guide functions and humiliating because many people have too much pride to imagine submitting themselves to a spiritual guide.
The next category of people are those who feel they are their own spiritual guide and often say one doesn’t need to have a spiritual guide to proceed on the path of spirituality, and they buttress their point by saying that spirituality is something between the living entity and the Supreme Being or God. In as much as this is true, such people fail to give adequate answers to the following questions. The first question will be, every area of life one ventures into be it Education, Artisanal, Entertainment, etc. one needs a guide, instructor or tutor and all these fields and purely physical and within our physical grasp. So what makes one think to traverse a much complex path beyond the grasp of our physical understanding, we somehow or the other do not need to have a guide, or master?
Furthermore, we proceed to a different group of people who accept the concept of having a guide and submitting to him, however they speak all sorts of things far from verifiable and when asked where these lines of thoughts proceed from, they claim to be their own source. Then one puts forward the question, so I can also propound my own theories and claim to be my own source, without references, does that also make me a guide? This question usually meets a stare blank response. Worse than this group of pseudo spiritual guides, are those who use the concept of being a guide to exploit, manipulate and abuse those who have come to them for spiritual guidance and direction. These imposters desecrate the sanctity of being a spiritual guide and thus increase the level of skeptics who are at a constant search for ways to minimize the system of accepting a spiritual guide.
Next we proceed to another set of pseudo spiritual guides who use the system of being a spiritual guide to enhance their material status, either by accumulating wealth or by amassing followers and disciples. Hanging on to the pretense of saving those in “illusion and misled”, they justify the unscriptural and unethical self-aggrandizement they portray and camouflage it within the simple and pure folds of disciplic succession (or maintaining an unbroken line of teacher-student relationship). At this junction one may wonder, so far so good this writer hasn’t told us anything about a real and bonafide spiritual guide. I have taken the liberty to list first and foremost that which is NOT a real spiritual guide so that we may all appreciate the exposition on a real and authentic spiritual guide when I proceed to establish the qualities. The last but not least category of pseudo spiritual leaders we will be looking at are those who lack the required spiritual fiber, substance or adhikar (spiritual qualification), to liberate their disciples, followers or students. The question of the teacher or spiritual being able to liberate the students or followers is not limited to the Vaisnava sector only. The Christians whole heartedly believe that Jesus Christ had the spiritual ability to die and offer them liberation and thus they have firm faith in him. Similarly in gaudiya Vaisnava tradition there are certain expectations as regards the ability of the Spiritual guide to liberate (save, offer salvation etc.) his followers or disciples. Having said all these time and space constraints would not allow us to fully delve into the qualities of a bonafide spiritual guide hence that will be featured in a follow up series to this, a part 2.
One might begin to wonder if there is so much emphasis on the authenticity of the spiritual guide, what about the authenticity of the spiritual student/seeker. The answer is there is as much responsibility placed on the spiritual guide as that placed on the spiritual student, both have responsibilities they must fulfill to enable their relationship yield the best results, and failure in one party to meet up their end results in un-fulfillments, in the actual goal of this relationship which is spiritual enlightenment.
Remembering my spiritual guide today, His Holiness Sri Sri Om Visnupad Bhakti Tirtha Swami who is an eternal associate of the divine couple, I his most insignificant disciple have penned down a few thoughts trying to shed some light on this vast topic of spiritual guidance. By remembering him on this auspicious day of his disappearance from our physical realm, I have no doubt within me that he is fully absorbed in his Nitya-lila (eternal pastimes). Thinking of him renders the impossible possible and thus alleviates this short dissertation of all faults. I pray that by His mercy the reader would understand the deeper imports of this dissertation and for those already on the path of gaudiya vaisnavism, that they also develop real attachment for the feet of their spiritual masters.
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