A few years back, I had the privilege of attending a Bhagavat Gita discourse conducted by Chinmaya Mission in Melbourne. The one hour I spent there was worth every second. Swami Tejomayananda was an excellent orator and had deep knowledge in Vedas and other Hindu religious texts. During the discourse, a slipper (Methiyadi , A wooden slipper ) worn by Swamiji’s Late Guru, Sri Chinmayanda , was passed around in a silver platen, so that the devotees can pay their respects . After that everyone queued up , bowed and touched the feet of Swamiji . Swamiji raised his divine hands and blessed all the devotees.
Touching the feet of a Guru has very high significance in India. In Indian culture Guru has a place one step below God and above everything else. As per the Indian culture Humility is an esteemed human virtue every student should cultivate. Touching the feet of the Guru is only the first step to root that character trait in children and adults alike. Vedic texts give elaborate narrative on who should be considered as a Guru.
What sort of respect a Guru deserves? . Skanda purana answers the question.
Gururbrahma gururvishnu gururdevo maheshwarah |
Gurusakshat parabrahma tasmai shree guruve namah ||
“The Guru is Brahma, the Guru is Vishnu, and the Guru is the Great Lord Shiva. To be near the Guru is to be near the ultimate Oneness – I adore you, O venerable Guru!”
But fortunately or unfortunately we are not living in Vedic times. This is Kaliyuga and Vedic texts warn about Adharma in Kaliyuga . Is it really necessary to consider Guru equal to God? If someone acquires knowledge in spiritual texts, like Quran , Bhagavat Gita or Bible , will that uplift them to a level par with God (It is not necessary even to respect the phenomenon called God, as its existence is questionable) . There are countless professions in this world: from tradies to computer professionals. Some professions are more productive than the other. Every one contributes to the upliftment of the society in one way or the other.
Our deep trust in hierarchical positions and the respect and value we attach to it are exploited most of the time .In the West, there exist varying degrees of hierarchy however the belief is that superiors and subordinates, seniors and juniors, elders and youngsters are intrinsically equal having different rights and obligations that entitle them to have hierarchical positions in the society
Isn’t it time to change our approach towards Gurus and spiritual leaders? Our respect towards them gradually turns into submission, and become breeding ground for exploitation.
People with self-respect, finds it difficult to fall on someone else’s feet. This unequal treatment by tradition, is against the modern concept of equality. ‘Guru’ is a professional and should be treated accordingly. Those who stoop to the low of falling on someone else’s feet are perennial sufferers of low self-esteem and insecurity.
I recently met a reverend in Melbourne, who doesn’t allow his church members to keep any statues in their homes, spiritual or other. On the outset, one may take it as an honest effort by someone who read the” idiots version” of Bible and trying to implement what he understood from it. If we look deep into it, it become crystal clear that, it is a crooked move by a person to exert his control over his church members. He derives a sort of pleasure by exerting that control. If not for a religious preacher, would you allow someone to decide, what you should keep in your home?
For generations, Indians have been exploited by the trust they placed on people who mugged up religious texts. No one attains any extra power by this mugging up process. It is time to change. The western approach of treating Guru as a professional is more appropriate. A guru is paid for sharing his knowledge. If you don’t pay the Guru for his or her services, he will take much more than what he or she really deserves.
Here are a few examples
Wealth of Swami Nithyananda
The swami is alleged to have amassed Rs.140 crore in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. He loves to sit on a 24k gold-plated throne wearing heavy gold chains. Nithyanada was planning to buy an Island for personal use before his sex video was released.
Wealth of Late Sathya Sai Baba
Sai Baba was estimated to be worth $40 Billion
Wealth of Benny Hinn
This Christian preacher’s ministry collects $200 million a year of which he takes a salary of half a million US dollars every year. He owns a private jet, lives in a home worth $10 Million and lives a lavish life only Brunei sultan can match.
Wealth of Joyce Meyer
Since 1999, Joyce Meyer’s ministry has spent at least $4 million on 5 homes for Meyer and her children. Meyer’s house is a 10,000 square foot home with an 8-car garage, a large fountain, a gazebo, a private putting green, a pool, and pool house with a new $10,000 bathroom. Her salary was reported at $900,000 back in 2003, and she also enjoys use of a private jet and luxury cars. Needless to say, Meyer has been questioned for years, and she is once again under investigation by the government for possibly violating non-profit laws.
There are many more examples. All spiritual leaders eventually start a charity organisation. For every hundred dollar they receive they spend one dollar for charitable causes. Rest of their life, they live on the laurels of being the kings and queens of charity, while exploiting their devotees in a rather large scale.
So for this Kaliyuga let us rewrite the rules.
If I seek the service of a Guru, I will pay a pre- agreed fee for the service.
I will never stoop so low to touch the feet of a Guru or for that matter any other person. The reason: I have self-respect.
I won’t donate any money to charities run by God men (The so called representatives of God).