“Even if you are considered to be the most sinful of all sinners, when you are situated in the boat of transcendental knowledge, you will be able to cross over the ocean of miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.36)
Friend1: Did you see this story about the guru in India?
Friend2: Umm, there are like thousands of gurus in India.
Friend1: The one where the guy got arrested. He was charged with forcing girls to enter relations with him.
Friend2: Oh, yes. Sad situation.
Friend1: It’s big news. The guy’s followers have started to riot.
Friend2: I heard that.
Friend1: Really is amazing. How can people be so gullible? One look at this guy and I knew he was a fraud. The guy was making music videos, for crying out loud.
Friend2: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada refers to this as the cheaters and the cheated. There are the cheating spiritual leaders. That is one thing. On the other side are the people who want to be cheated.
Friend1: Why would they want that, though?
Friend2: Looking for shortcuts. Wanting an easy way out of trouble. Worship some guru and have every problem solved. No more worrying about money. No more stress. Since they have this desire, nature arranges to find them a suitable match.
Friend1: You could say it’s something like the quack doctors.
Friend2: And their patients. The quacks only gain notoriety because of so many positive reviews from the patients, who give positive testimonials.
Friend1: This is an interesting topic today. Let’s delve further. What if you have a less subtle version of cheating?
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: Let me lay out the situation for you. There is a somewhat famous religious leader. We can call him a guru, as he accepts disciples, people formally initiated to follow and serve him.
Friend1: This leader is flawed. He has made mistakes. The problem is, he won’t acknowledge them publicly. There is too much at stake. He travels the world. He gets millions of dollars in donations. He is not egregiously misappropriating the money or anything like that. He is not regularly engaged in illicit affairs. He has had slipups on occasion, though.
Friend2: Alright. This is probably more common than you think.
Friend1: Let’s say that I am attending a program where this guru will appear. I know about the transgressions. I know that this supposedly exalted leader is fallen. The problem is, other people in attendance don’t. What should I do?
Friend2: What kind of question is that? Are you asking me if you should spill the beans, announce it to everyone? For starters, if you know about legitimate crimes you should notify the authorities immediately.
Friend1: It’s not like that. Say the guru had a consensual affair with an adult-aged woman. There is no breaking of the law, but if the followers found out they would have to rethink things. Should I tell them later on, after the program? Should I even be attending such a gathering?
Friend2: These are tough questions. I don’t have the answers for you.
Friend1: By exposing such frauds, you’re saving other people from potential heartache and disappointment.
Friend2: That’s true, but these followers will unleash a fury on you. They may try to ruin your life. You’ve got to think about self-preservation, as well. That’s why I said it’s a difficult thing to answer. You have to go case by case. Sometimes the sadhu messes up by accident. In that case we know that they will be okay going forward. The point is clearly made by Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita.
Friend1: Where the sadhu can even commit the most horrible act and they are not considered fallen as a result?
Friend2: Yes. The idea is that they will start their bhakti practices again, which will rectify things. Still, the forgiving nature of the Supreme Lord should not be taken advantage of. I guess you have to see if the guru in this case falls into that category. Sometimes people make honest mistakes, even those at the top. The pressure gets to them.
Friend1: The counter argument is that if you can’t take the heat, don’t go in the kitchen. If you can’t take the pressure of acting as a spiritual leader, don’t become one.
Friend2: That’s a valid argument. No doubt. You also want to consider the devotional service of the disciples and followers. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu compares bhakti to a seed which is distributed by the spiritual master. The idea is to nurture the seed, first to a creeper and then into a blossoming tree. News of the guru falling down can destroy that creeper.
Friend1: Alright, so that’s one aspect of this. What about at the personal level? Should I avoid such association?
Friend2: That’s an easier issue to resolve. Just see the effect the association has on your devotional service. Are you chanting the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare? Are you becoming more Krishna conscious? That means you’re getting a benefit from even a fallen leader. The idea is to always accept things favorable for bhakti and reject the unfavorable.
Transgressions of guru to know,
To disciples with news to go?
Sadhu protected from accidental sin,
Though fallen but still law within.
Situation not easily resolved,
Sometimes better when not involved.
Impact on bhakti assess,
Consciousness of Krishna stress.