“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)
Friend2: Which is interesting for so many reasons.
Friend1: Such as?
Friend2: Krishna is already the teacher. He is the adi-guru. That is one definition to Bhagavan, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He has to know everything. In that situation He is also in the middle of a lecture, i.e. He already has a student who is learning.
Friend1: So Krishna is advising to approach a guru while in the middle of acting like one.
Friend2: Exactly. Have to love it.
Friend1: Well, I guess this ties in to my question today. Though I didn’t want to use Krishna as the example, since His position is already set. There really is no doubt about His knowledge, abilities, potencies, etc.
Friend2: Umm, it depends on who you talk to.
Friend1: Just go with me here. I’m getting somewhere. Let’s take the example of someone else pushing forward the same Bhagavad-gita.
Friend2: You mean someone who is not God?
Friend1: Yes. Anyone besides Krishna.
Friend2: Okay. If they are representing Krishna properly, then the potency of the message should be the same. That is the meaning to parampara. The same teachings, unchanged, unadulterated, passed on from generation to generation. You might need to alter the presentation based on time and circumstance, but the principles and ultimate conclusion should not change even one degree.
Friend1: Thanks. I get that. Here is the issue. Isn’t it kind of self-serving for a spiritual teacher to demand submissive behavior?
Friend2: Why? How else is someone supposed to learn? You’re talking about real truth here, tattva. This is not just learning how to swim or teaching driving to a new student. This is the highest subject matter. After hearing, tremendous sobriety is required just to have the chance to reach the ultimate conclusion with strong conviction.
“Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.3)
Friend1: Hold on. Let’s say I’m giving a lecture somewhere. I tell the people that they have to submit to me. If they challenge me, they won’t learn. I mean come on, you don’t see a problem? This is how people have been duped by charlatans and imposters since the beginning of time. The behavior is the origin of the saying, “Drink the Kool-Aid.”
Friend2: The teacher is not saying to submit to them necessarily.
Friend1: Yes they are. They are a spiritual teacher. They have followers. Obviously those followers don’t challenge.
Friend2: Again, how are you supposed to learn? You’re mistaking humble submission and rendering service for blind allegiance. The idea is to use your intellect. Bring every doubt to the table. Ask questions. Don’t leave any issues unsettled.
Friend1: Yes, but then you get accused of challenging, of being rude to the teacher. The Gestapo-like followers will remove you from the group.
Friend2: Not necessarily. Genuine disciples ask all sorts of questions. It is the intention that matters. There is a way to bring queries to the table. There is a proper way to behave. There is something called etiquette. That’s what “humble submission” refers to. If you don’t follow etiquette you will never learn.
Friend1: I am to understand that what the verse is really saying is that you need a spiritual teacher in order to realize the truth, tattva, and in the dealings with the guru, the etiquette is such and such?Friend2: Right. The genuine spiritual master does not consider themselves worthy to have even a single disciple. They accept the responsibility because they know the benefit it will bring to others. If no one had the courage to teach properly, how would anyone learn the difference between matter and spirit and the true aim of living? The real guru will never say, “You must follow me.” They will ask the prospective student to observe, to make a sober analysis. Behave properly and try to judge for yourself who is the right person to take you across the ocean of birth and death. When you have found that person, treat them nicely and the benefits coming in return will be too great to fathom.
Approach guru of submission deserving,
How that not for teacher self-serving?
Since “follow me” the implication,
And soon large flock in replication.
Idea that only from another the truth to know,
And in approach proper etiquette to go.
No reason for doubts to conceal,
Of this world and others guru to reveal.