Sunday, 15 January 2012

How I Didn't Become a Guru

Sweden, November 1985
The GBC Board room, on the first floor of the Gandharvika–Giridhari temple near Stockholm, is filled with a dozen of disciples of Srila Prabhupada, sitting around a big conference table in comfortable armchairs. Most of the devotees are brahmacharis, celibates, two or three, including myself, are grihastas, householders. And there´s the maharaja, the only sannyasi-renunciate, and the local North and Central European ISKCON GBC.
Maharaja, who called this rather impromptu meeting, sits at the head of the table. “So, dear godbrothers, you know what´s happening I suppose,” he pauses. Some nod, while others seem puzzled. “If you don´t know, I´ll just give a short rundown of the facts”, says maharaja. All hang on his lips. “At our New Vrindavan community in West Virginia, the disciples of Srila Prabhupada from the U.S. decided that henceforward any disciple of Srila Prabhupada, if he´s in good standing, has the right to initiate disciples, to be a guru!” Silence.

“Do you mean to say that all of us can become gurus just like that?” I ask, in disbelief. “Yes, why not. To be a guru is a service like any other service to Srila Prabhupada”, answers the maharaja in his elliptic way. “If we decide here and now, by a secret ballot, who is a candidate for the post of guru, than we can have at least an idea.” “How can we become gurus, if we´re not perfect?” asks one of the brahmacharis. “For a disciple a guru is always perfect”, answers maharaja with a triumphant smile. He knows what he´s talking about, being himself the only guru in the zone since almost ten years.
“A guru may not be perfect from the material point of view. Even Srila Prabhupada had to wear glasses – does that mean he was imperfect? But from the spiritual point of view, a guru is always perfect and liberated, because he´s a representative of the parampara”. Maharaja makes sense. Yet doubts about the system and about our aptitudes remain. “Suppose I become a guru. What if I don´t want to be worshiped as guru and instead engage my disciples in worshiping Srila Prabhupada as guru? Is that possible?” asks another brahmachari. “That´s not our philosophy!” answers maharaja. “The system is that through service and worship to a living guru, one serves and worships all the predecessor gurus.
A disciple must worship his guru as God. Of course, a guru cannot think of himself as God. Than he´s unfit to be guru. “How does a disciple choose his guru?” asks one of us. “At the start, he or she may not know. But by associating, by hearing for at least a year, one should pretty much know who´s his guru.”
“If we become gurus, will we receive worship every morning, and on our birthday a special vyasa-puja worship (an elaborate ceremony in honour of the original spiritual master, Srila Vysasadeva)?”, asks another godbrother. “Yes, you will receive regular worship. You shall have a mantra addressed to you. Just like Srila Prabhupada and me.”
Maharaja smiles behind his thick glasses. “How can I consider myself to be servant of the gopis (Lord Krishna´s transcendental girlfriends in the spiritual abode of Vrindavan) if I barely realise that I´m not the body?” I quietly ask one of my neighbours. “Don´t ask me! I haven´t got the slightest idea”, he answers with a shrug.
“So, my dear godbrothers: I propose that all of you write on a piece of paper the names of the candidates. We can discuss later”, says maharaja, as the GBC and chairman of the meeting. “As I said. A list of candidates shall be submitted to the ISKCON GBC executive body for approval. Can we proceed?”
“I don´t want to be on the list,” I say raising my hand. I was a grihasta, and I was not so strict, maybe… “That´s all right”, says maharaja, “anyone else who doesn´t want to be on the list?” – he asks to make sure. Another few hands are raised.
“Oh…I almost forgot…I strongly suggest that only brahmacharis should be on the list, but you can do as you like”, he gestures to all present. Finally the lists are made and each of us hands them to the maharaja. He smiles while reading the lists of candidates – eight in number.
“We have all together eight candidates.” He reads the names. “Provided the GBC accepts these candidates, I won´t be the only guru around anymore”, he says with a blissful smile. All of us start laughing.
“Maharaja, although I understand, at least philosophically, that guru is worshiped as a representative of the whole parampara (disciplic succession), I still feel uneasy about worship”, says one of my godrothers frankly. “At the start all this worship is hard to accept”, maharaja pauses, then smiles like an angel ” but then, you will start liking it…”
“Where´s the prasadam?!”, cries out maharaja, as his servant comes rushing in the room, offering him prostrated obeisances. “It´s ready” says the servant. Minutes later, a battalion of maharaja´s disciples come streaming in with plates full of steaming hot subji, dhal, samosas, pakoras, rice and other wonderful preparations. “This is real nectar” says my neighbour. “Jai Srila Prabhupada” we all cry out – unisono.
Zurich, August 1998
“Maharaja went crazy” says another maharaja, sitting behind a huge mahogany desk in Maharaja´s Quarters at the Zurich Hare Krishna temple. “He wanted to kiss the wife of his servant, because he was convinced that he was Krishna and she was Radharani. Later he claimed to be an empowered incarnation of Vishnu, and even Lord Chaitanya.
Since quite some time he wants to get married to his female physiotherapist, but she refuses his advances.” Maharaja pauses. I can´t believe my ears. It´s like a bad dream. “He lives near our temple in Germany, in a mobile home he just got for $180,000 USD from his disciples.
He refuses to communicate with anyone, except one or two people. He physically threw out a disciple, when he was insisting on seeing him. The whole situation is ridiculous…” adds my godbrother, shaking his head in disbelief, yet with an enigmatic smile. I´m speechless. The impossible has just happened.
Footnote, January 2012:
How many times must a GBC fall?
Before we call of the sham*,
Yes and how many spiritual deaths will take?
Before we all understand,
The answer my friend is blowing in the wind…
*sham – Something false or empty that is purported to be genuine; a spurious imitation : a trick that deludes: HOAX – feared that the deal was a sham: cheap falseness: HYPOCRISY – saw through the hollowness, the sham, the silliness of the empty pageant — Oscar Wilde: an imitation or counterfeit purporting to be genuine

No comments:

Post a Comment