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Comments Posted By Alex

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The "Savior-Guru" syndrome

Dear Prabhus,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

What does it mean that guru is the external manifestation of the Supersoul? To me, it means that the guru is teaching the same things that Krsna is teaching. The guru is teaching the same things through his words and life, that Sri Krsna is teaching in the Bhagavad Gita. The guru is telling me from the outside the same things that Sri Paramatma is telling me from the inside via the agency of buddhi.

Of course, I’m covered by at least some envy, and some Maya (maybe an by an inconceivably huge amount of both)…so the buddhi…the “form-direction” of the Supersoul partially takes on the “form” of my envy and my Maya, and at least partially distorts the signal from Paramatma. This is how I understand the things based on my reading of the associated descriptions in the Second Canto, and my own experience.

I understand buddhi as the “voice” of Supersoul as it comes in contact with material nature, as it comes in contact with my modes, or another person’s modes.

It is like light coming through a stained glass window. The light is the “voice” of Supersoul. The different colours of the glass are the different combinations of sattva, rajas and tamas that cover and cloud the consciousness and perceptions.

The coloured light is the “form-direction” of the Supersoul, the at least partially distorted message of Paramatma, the buddhi.

So when I hear from someone who is pure, truly pure, “saksad hari” pure, then another factor comes in. All of a sudden I’m hearing from outside what Sri Krsna is telling me from inside, but I’m hearing it from someone who isn’t filtering the message through his own modes. Sri Paramatma’s message comes to me through the stained glass of my goodness, passion and ignorance, through my buddhi. The pure person speaks the message of Sri Paramatma through a clear glass.

There’s a resonance. When I hear the true guru speak, there’s something deep inside me that responds. It’s like I have Velcro inside, and what he says does not just bounce off me, but sticks deep inside. It cuts through the “noise”.

What I hear from Srila Prabhupada seems to cut trough my insides, to go beneath all of the noise, and to connect with something deep inside me.

I’ve heard from other Vaisnavas, and I’ve had experiences of deep resonance with certain things that they say. Even though I may not accept those Vaisnavas as authorities in my life, many things that they’ve said still feel very real to me at a deep level.

Now to be honest, I’ve also heard things from many of these same Vaisnavas, young and old, punks and swamis alike, that kind of rubbed me the wrong way, and which still kind of rub me the wrong way.

It’s not that what they said necessarily shocked my sensibilities, or confronted my societal conditioning, it just felt wrong. It felt like I was hearing their conditioning speaking, rather than hearing Sri Paramatma speak through them. The same holds true for certain behaviours that I noticed or experienced.

At times these people could speak in ways that seemed to set my heart on fire, at other times they seemed as lost as I was.

My feeling is that the truly pure person remains pure, remains steady. They consistently speak, write and behave in a way that I’ll be able to resonate with at a very deep level. I find this comforting, inspiring, energizing, reassuring, humbling, scary, challenging, eye-opening and awesome. It’s an adventure.

There’s also a related issue. Not only do I filter what I hear from inside, but I also filter what I hear/read from outside. I filter what I hear/read from the pure person. Somehow, at least some of it gets through. The more I sincerely read and hear from the pure person, the more seems to get through. That which gets through also gradually changes me little by little, so that even more can get through.

The more I sincerely chant, the more truth seems to get through some of my filters and past some of my defenses. This is also where the four regulations come in for me. The more I am able to follow the four regulations, the more I can be established in a more sattvic way of being. The more sattvic I can be, the more clearly I can receive from guru and Supersoul, and the more clearly I can repeat what I’ve received.

This next part is important, I believe. If I’m filtering Paramatma from within, and if I’m filtering the guru from without, then the purer the guru, the greater the chance that his teachings will get past my filters and defenses. The greater will be the chance that those teachings will resonate with the inner voice of Paramatma, and with what I deeply and ultimately know to be true.

It would seem to me that the purer the guru, the more effective and efficient is this whole process. Our own purity is also a huge factor in this process. And I would say that our own purity is many ways our own responsibility. Someone else doesn’t do it for us.
Hare Krsna. Your servant, Alex

Comment Posted By Alex On 10.06.2007 @ 16:12

A "TOUCHY" SUBJECT…

Dear Prabhus,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I’m finding it interesting to read these various comments from various perspectives.

I wanted to share four excerpts from two articles that I read over the past while. Both articles “touch” on the subject of touch. Each article was written by a woman from an Orthodox Jewish religious tradition, but I feel that some of the authors’ insights might also be interesting for aspiring Vaisnavas. Here are the first two excerpts, from the first article:

Imagine yourself at a checkout counter. You have never liked shopping at this store because of its less-than-wonderful service. Today is no exception you have been waiting to pay for what seems like an eternity. Finally your turn comes. You hand the slow-moving cashier your money. Usually you have to pick up your change off the counter, but today the cashier places it in your hand, and for a brief moment you feel the warmth of his or her hand on yours. Outside, afterward, you sense something strange. For some reason, you’re feeling more warmly toward this store than before.

Another scene: You have just finished dining at a restaurant. The service is exceedingly slow. Your waiter, David, finally brings the bill. Hope you enjoyed your meal, he says with a smile and a parting pat on the shoulder. Watching him return to the kitchen, you suddenly feel a surge of generosity and leave a far bigger tip than you had intended. On your way out, you comment to the manager about how little waiters earn for working so hard. ‘It all depends,’ he replies. ‘Take this new guy, Dave. We don’t know how he does it, but he pulls in at least thirty percent more in tips than anyone else.’

In each of the above incidents, both based on true stories, you have fallen prey to one of the most subtle yet powerful forces in human relations: touch.

Notice, incidentally, that in neither case was the touch sensual or even affectionate. Still, it had an undeniable effect, opening up new feelings of warmth and receptivity. Even when not fueled by desire, touch can leave people feeling distinctly warmer and more connected to each other. Touch works like SuperGlue: take two people who aren’t opposed to connecting to each other, and touch will make them feel closer. And, like SuperGlue, it must be handled very carefully, or it will end up sticking things together that would be better off not stuck.

Touching another person (in Hebrew, negiah), as casually as its regarded in many circles, is far more powerful than most of us appreciate. Traditional Judaism, always an astute observer of the human scene, stipulates that men and women who are not close relatives should exercise extreme caution and sensitivity in expressing affection for one another through touch. In short, Judaism says, Unless you’re close relatives or married to each other, don’t.

Understandably, this strikes some people as extreme.

(…)

Touch is a powerful force in making people feel closer. And, like any force, it can be harnessed constructively or destructively. Touch can be used to comfort — or to manipulate. It can foster group friendship — or cult-like attachment. Touch can increase intimacy between two people who truly love each other. But it can also create illusory feelings of intimacy and make you feel close to a person even when you are not really so close after all, creating many serious problems.

The first problem is with objectivity. Touch is powerful enough to blur reality to the point where it seems that the closeness you feel is real. Once this happens, that all-too-familiar rose-colored cloud descends, enveloping everything in warm and glowing feelings of intimacy.

Here are the next two excerpts, from the second article:

To some, Orthodox women will always be repressed and Orthodox men will always be sexist. To be sure, Orthodox men do not ‘objectify’ women with the ‘male gaze’, but on the other hand, they don’t touch other women besides family and their own wives, and that really stretches the limits of tolerance. The ‘Ethicist’ of the New York Times infamously counseled a woman not to do business with an Orthodox realtor who could not shake her hand, though he was ‘courteous and competent.’ Decreed the Ethicist: ‘Sexism is sexism, even when motivated by religious convictions. I believe you should tear up your contract.’

(…)

Most of us recognize that being desensitized to the power of sexuality is sad…Yet instituting concrete boundaries to preserve sensitivity – such as not hugging people of the opposite sex outside of one’s family – is still seen as absurd.

The authors touch on how some people within the surrounding culture seem to respond to how Orthodox Jewish men and women relate to each other. It seems to be different from how men and women interact in the surrounding culture.

From what I’ve read in Srila Prabhupada’s books, he doesn’t seem to me to praise all aspects or our modern Western culture. Some things that might be viewed as being OK within the surrounding culture, were perhaps less appealing to Srila Prabhupada.

For example, in some places, he seems to criticize “mixing” between the genders. I understand that devotees might have various perspectives on how to understand those types of statements.

I am open to the possibility that hugging between male and female devotees, who are not each other’s family or spouse, might be healthy, healing, positive and/or conducive to Krsna consciousness, but I think I would be dishonest if I said that I’m 100% convinced that this is so. Perhaps it’s not necessary, or perhaps it’s not for everyone.

It may be that some devotees don’t experience inter-gender hugging as a big deal, but I guess I sort of do, at least for myself, and also I’m not sure if it’s what Srila Prabhupada envisioned for how his male and female followers would interact with each other.

Thanks for listening to what I wanted to share. Hare Krsna. Your servant, Alex

Comment Posted By Alex On 03.09.2006 @ 22:34

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