“The symptoms of a sadhu are that he is tolerant, merciful and friendly to all living entities. He has no enemies, he is peaceful, he abides by the scriptures, and all his characteristics are sublime.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.25.21)
“Dad, I hate you. I can’t believe you are making me do this. Mom, you’re the worst. You’re always nagging me and telling me to do this and do that. Why can’t you guys just leave me alone?” Every good parent has provoked these thoughts in their child at some point or another. How can one be considered a guardian if there is not some discipline involved? If the child knows how to behave all the time and what to do and what not to do, what need is there to even have a parent around? A guardian guards, irrespective of what the dependent thinks of that guardianship. Since accepting the responsibility of someone else’s welfare is very difficult to do, the behavior is considered a sacrifice, a sort of short-term absorption of punishment for the purpose of furthering a long-term goal. Because they accept a thankless task, the glories of a good parent are many.
Why does the child harbor the above mentioned sentiments? It is the intrinsic nature of the spirit soul, the essence of identity, to crave freedom, to exercise its property of free will. The child has the least inhibitions because they just don’t know any better. Immaturity means not knowing about imminent death, the social etiquette pertinent to time and circumstance, or the fact that you’re not supposed to do certain things. Instead of following regulation, the penchant for the free exercise of activity takes over in full force, with the child automatically diving into any venture that piques its curiosity.
Obviously, following this mindset isn’t always the best choice. What if there is a fire around? Should the child look at the bright light and feel the inviting heat and decide to place its hand into the fire, they will get burned. Depending on the intensity of the fire, contact with it can be extremely detrimental. The same principle applies for poisonous substances found underneath the sink and electronic sockets located around the house. If you live in a multi-story dwelling, you’ll also want to keep the young children away from stairs, as they may not know how to ascend or descend them. The human body is not made to react well to a tumble down the stairs.
Overseeing the behavior of the children are the good parents, who are mature, so they know the do’s and don’ts, what the child can do and what they shouldn’t be involved in. A good parent will not worry about whether or not their dependent likes them during the period of this supervision. The only reason this needs mentioning is that not caring what others think about us is very difficult, especially when the person in question is a loved one. Who actually enjoys being hated, mocked, made fun of, or vilified? Unless you are playing the heel character in professional wrestling, jeers and curses thrown your way don’t put a smile on your face.
But the good parent makes the sacrifice. At some point in time, the child is going to hate them. This is a sign that discipline is being instilled, that boundaries are being set. One may argue, “Why punish children in this way? Shouldn’t their childhood be happy?” As in adulthood there is full freedom in the choice of endeavor, it is best to instill discipline when there is the chance. There is also a logical basis behind this. If a child is spoiled, they will have a difficult time coping with adult life. Chronic dependence on government and constant hatred and envy of the wealthy and those successful in life can only manifest through ignorance, not being taught the value of money, discipline, hard work and perseverance during youth. If your parents give you whatever you want growing up, how are you going to react when the people you meet in the real world don’t behave the same way? How are you going to react when you have to live without very much, when you have to implement some austerity measures?
The most important disciplinary system imposed upon the growing child is education. In America every child is compelled to attend school; such is the importance stressed on education. This is a disciplinary measure because the natural penchant for the child is to play all day, to sit in front of the television or go out and play games with their friends. Education is generally not accepted with open arms. “Why do I have to learn this? When am I going to need this in my life?”
But what does the child know? If they harbor hatred for authority figures simply because of the discipline they instill, is their anger well founded? If someone is angry at us because they are uninformed, and they won’t become fully informed until later on in life, should their anger be taken seriously? A good parent knows that later on in life their child will thank them for having been raised properly, for being shown the right path.
In the bigger picture, the entire purpose of human life can be fulfilled if there is proper discipline instilled and followed for all activities, not just those accepted during youth. In this respect, what is required is a spiritual teacher, who is known as the guru in the Vedic tradition. The Vedas are the ancient scriptures of India, but they should not be considered sectarian or even sentimentalist. There is devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna, expressed, but this is done to show everyone that the person they are meant to worship is full of form and all-attractive. Not that Krishna is the only form of Godhead or the insisted upon object of worship for the entire world, but He is the fully featured Supreme Person. The Vedas simply fill in the details omitted in other spiritual traditions about who is being worshiped.
Moreover, the Vedas provide intricate detail on how life should be managed, what the point to having an existence is, and how the nature around us can be utilized towards furthering the proper end. In a specific playing field, if the component objects are used properly, the objectives of the player can be furthered. For instance, in tennis the objects of the playing field are the racket, the tennis balls and the court. If these things are used properly, following the rules of the game, the player can increase their chances of victory. Similarly, in an office environment, the tools can be things like the computer, phone and coworkers. Proper interaction with these elements can help further the goal of increasing profit for the firm selling their particular good or service.
The Vedas are the only scriptural writings that account for the entire playing field, which consists of nothing more than many manifestations of matter. There is a difference between spiritual substance and material substance. Spirit is always superior to matter. Spirit is immutable, unchanging, undying and primeval. The spirit soul is the essence of identity, and it is not slain when the body is slain. These are the basic tenets provided nicely in the short, compact, and brilliant verses of the Bhagavad-gita, the Song of God sung by Krishna Himself on a battlefield of all places some five thousand years ago.
Understanding the differences between spirit and matter is very important. We can realize its importance by noting just how rare it is for this information to be taught to anyone. Something as basic as, “I am not my body; I am a spirit soul”, is unknown to most adult human beings, who are considered the most advanced species. That’s right, you live for decades in a world where you gather intelligence on everything from the stock market to quantum physics, yet you’re not informed about something as basic as the changing body. The dwelling you occupy changed completely since the time you emerged from the womb, yet somehow these changes don’t tickle the curiosity of the occupant. Instead, the interaction with matter and how to exploit it for sense interests are given precedent in thought.
That the properties of spirit are not well known shouldn’t surprise us. The Vedas even account for this deficiency in society. For many lifetimes the spirit soul has wandered through various body types. There are up to 8,400,000 different combinations of matter that the spirit soul can occupy. The human species is considered the most advanced because only the human being can take the necessary steps to understand spiritual science and use that king of all education to further the highest goal, to find the most potent form of happiness.
“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)
How can this happen exactly? Just as the good parent makes the sacrifice of instilling discipline in their child at the cost of being hated every now and then, the spiritual master, or guru, instructs their humble disciples in the matter of spiritual science, not caring what ill will is harbored by others, including their students. The parents make the sacrifice so that their children can grow up to be self-sufficient adults capable of handling the rigors of the real world. The guru similarly devotes their time so that their students will achieve full enlightenment by the time of death, and thus return to the imperishable land, where even the material substance is spiritual.
In the present world there is a difference between body and spirit. The body is constantly changing and it has nothing to do with our identity. If we get our hair cut, nothing has changed about us except our appearance. We can even lose all of our hair and nothing will be different about us, except for what others see when they look at us. You can actually take the same concept and apply it to every aspect of the body, including the entire collection of material elements. In this sense death is just the relinquishing of the body that has grown old, a form that has ceased being useful. In the case of premature death, it is understood that the laws of karma, which govern action and reaction, have determined that the particular body was no longer fit to be used.
Not to worry, though, as a future body is granted immediately. This occurs even within the same lifetime. We take specific actions which have consequences, either favorable or unfavorable. Weight loss is meant to shrink the body, while overeating expands it. Thus there is always a change going on. That the changes would stop at the time of death is a sentiment harbored only by those ignorant of the laws of spiritual science, which are so nicely presented in the Vedas. The bona fide spiritual master has studied Vedic science by following his own guru. The chain of gurus begins with Krishna, who first imparted sublime wisdom to the creator, Lord Brahma.
Even if one is unwilling to accept these pieces of information found in the Vedas, if they can somehow follow the prescriptions of the Vaishnava spiritual masters, they will find full auspiciousness. For the people of this age, who are short-lived and always distracted due to the lack of spiritual education, following all the rules and regulations of spiritual life is very difficult. Even accepting a spiritual master during youth almost never occurs. But the Vaishnavas, the devotees of Vishnu, the personal forms of the Lord, advise that we simply chant the holy names of the Lord as often as possible, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Accompanying this recommendation is the restriction on meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex.
The chanting routine is more important, and its benefits shouldn’t be difficult to comprehend. We sing songs to feel pleasure and we dance when we are uninhibited in our feelings of elation. If the pleasure can be directed towards the Supreme Lord, who is everyone’s best friend, the true potential for bliss found within the soul can be untapped. The accompanying restrictions are there to increase sobriety and thus enhance the devotional experience. Chanting is not the only assertive action but it is the most potent and easiest to instantiate. The most number of people can become liberated simply by hearing the transcendental sound vibrations that represent the Absolute Truth, He who is beyond the dualities of matter and spirit, love and hate, heat and cold, and happiness and sadness. Indeed, the spirit souls, who are part and parcel of God, are also the same as God constitutionally, but they can choose in favor of residence in a land ruled by ignorance.
The enlightened soul no longer has to live in a place where there is a difference between body and soul. The spiritual land is full of bliss because everyone there is fully God conscious, looking to meet the desires and wishes of the Supreme Lord. Bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, a discipline which includes chanting and regulation in terms of avoidance of sinful behavior, can create heaven on earth when implemented properly. The guru makes the sacrifice by teaching their student how to do this. Obviously, the guru’s words will not be taken with a pleasant attitude all the time. If we need instruction, it means that we are ignorant. If we need discipline, it means that we are currently doing something wrong. If someone harshly criticizes us for our errant behavior, how will we not feel offended?
But the guru doesn’t care who he offends, because he speaks the truth. Because of this kind sacrifice his glories can never be fully appreciated. Behind every successful spiritualist is a guru who made the sacrifice to spread the glories of the Supreme Lord and bhakti-yoga. Behind every successful Vaishnava poet, lecturer, preacher, or teacher is a guru who followed their own guru’s teachings, taking the words instructed to them to heart. The heart is where the plenary expansion of Shri Krishna resides, so when the heart is purified, the chaitya-guru, the Lord from within, directs us along the proper path. He is always there to love us, but without following proper guidance we’ll continue to ignore His presence. The guru thinks, “Hate me or love me, but by following my prescriptions you will find the true happiness that only comes with Krishna’s association.” In this way the spiritual master is forever worthy of our honor and respect.
“Mom and dad, why are you making me do this?
Can’t I go play outside and that way find bliss?
You make me do this and that, and I hate it,
When giving these impositions will you quit?”
For reputation a good parent will not care,
Harsh words from dependents them do not scare.
In a similar manner guru the truth does he speak,
Knowledge of Krishna and spirituality does he teach.
Discipline required in one who does not have any,
Teacher must point out the defects which are many.
Love him or hate him, one thing guru knows,
That only from Krishna happiness grows.
World benefitted from the sacrifice he makes,
From guru’s teachings, supreme wisdom disciple takes.
Categories: spiritual master