“Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.63)
इति ते ज्ञानम् आख्यातं
गुह्याद् गुह्यतरं मया
यथेच्छसि तथा कुरु
iti te jñānam ākhyātaṁ
guhyād guhyataraṁ mayā
yathecchasi tathā kuru
At the heart of the guru-disciple relationship is question and answer. One person is the authority figure. They have the answers; at least they claim to. They did not happen to discover the wisdom of the ages. They are not self-taught in the sense that they never had any instruction.
Rather, the basis of their authority is connection with a chain of teachers. This is known in Sanskrit as parampara. A succession of disciples, each taught by their teacher. Man does not stay around forever. Though the average lifespan decreases with the passage of time, there is always a limitation nonetheless.
To continue the succession requires new people to take up the tradition, to carry it forward to the next generation. Bhagavad-gita illustrates the ideal relationship. Arjuna is the disciple. Krishna is the guru. Arjuna asks questions. Krishna gives answers.
Arjuna’s questions sometimes relate to the answer Krishna gives. This means that the disciple is attentive. They are inquisitive; they should not accept blindly.
We can compare and contrast to modern times, with something outside of the realm of religion. If the government suddenly mandates an experimental medical treatment, there are certain questions a rational person would want to ask.
1. What are the ingredients?
“I realize that the method of delivery is injection. No big deal. I am not afraid of needles. I am assuming you could administer the same orally, but that the concoction wouldn’t taste good. People might be hesitant to accept, especially children. I can’t get my kid to eat vegetables, so how will they take their medicine?
“But before we proceed, can you tell me the ingredients? What exactly is inside of the syringe in your hand? Can you also tell me the origin? That is to say, where did you get these ingredients? Where were they stored?
2. What are the side effects?
“I realize that you have a lab coat on. I respect that you are a healthcare professional. Thanks for your service. I mean that in all sincerity. Without people such as yourself to make great sacrifices, we would be helpless in times of emergency.
“Before we proceed, can you tell me the side effects of this injection? I understand that the regulatory bodies have provided the seal of approval and that the government is encouraging everyone to get treated, but surely there must be some negative effects. Even over-the-counter drugs have issues with them. What exactly should I be on the lookout for with this new treatment, which was developed only months ago?”
3. How many people have died taking this?
“I realize this is a rather blunt question. It might seem as if I am challenging you, but really I am only asking for a basic statistic. This is something that should be tracked, as the disease we are trying to prevent has its own mortality statistics which are widely broadcast.
“How many people have died taking this medication? It is rather new, so surely you have been keeping track. During the trials and after, what kind of injuries are we looking at? Not that I will reject the treatment, but I would like to weigh the cost-benefit.”
4. What are my chances of survival without taking this?
“Before you poke that needle into my arm, I would like something answered. Based on what we know so far, taking my age and demographic into consideration, what is the likelihood that I will survive the disease we are trying to protect against? If I get the illness from someone else, will I automatically get sick? If I do develop symptoms, what are my chances of surviving? I have heard there are so many asymptomatic carriers described as ‘cases.’ How do I know that I haven’t been one of those cases already?”
5. Why are you recommending this to me?
“Usually, medical treatment involves a doctor-patient consultation. I know that the first thing doctors do is look at a patient’s history. If they don’t have one, the medical professional asks a ton of questions. This is to be properly informed as to the issues a person might have, what kind of treatment to recommend, what is concerning and what is not.
“You are obviously not my doctor. You do not know my medical history. You really know nothing about me, in fact. Why are you recommending this treatment to me, then? On what basis are you making the assessment? I know that something as basic as a pain-reliever can kill someone. If they are currently on blood-thinners, for instance, some of the over-the-counter medication might do great harm. What considerations have you made to my case?”
If you are not allowed to ask these questions, then it is highly likely the people on the other side are frauds. If they are not willing to rationally handle inquiries offered in a non-challenging, inquisitive manner, then they must have something to hide.
The same applies to religion, in general. Spiritual life should be an intellectual pursuit, especially for those who have doubts. We question so many things in life, so why not a religious system that is supposed to bring eternal peace and happiness?
Despite answering every question Arjuna asked, Krishna still did not insist that the disciple accept everything blindly. He recommended a certain path; of this there is no doubt. But the decision was still up to Arjuna, who should deliberate and reach his own conclusion.
Despite Krishna to teach,
Arjuna own conclusion should reach.
Following proper and knowledgeable way,
Not blindly from everything to say.
If resistance from authority side,
Then obviously something to hide.
Where leading follower astray,
Wise proceed the cautious way.
Categories: the five