Be Faithful

August 23rd, 2003


Note: Every year when my disciples celebrate my Vyasa Puja, I write a separate series of journal entries for them (one a day for a week) to be read on Vyasa Puja. I am including one of the entries for the subscribers of the journal. It is therefore dated last month when it was written.

– Dhanurdhara Swami

Be Faithful (Through Submissive Hearing)

To learn truth, one must submissively hear from a bona fide teacher. This is a tough one for the modern mind, even for devotees. Faith, however, is the precursor to all knowledge. Unless you seriously consider a truth, how will you ever understand it?

For example, if you enter a classroom to learn about the composition of water but do not have enough faith in your teacher to perform the experiment under his guidance, then how will you be able to confirm that H2O is water? At the gurukula in Vrndavana, there is a master teacher of mrdanga named Bablu. Serious students learn from him with unquestioned faith. They accept what he says implicitly and learn quickly. Could they possibly learn what he has mastered without unquestioned faith?

The same process of faithful hearing holds true for spiritual knowledge. Without implicit faith in a spiritual master, can we learn spiritual truth and become realized?

Our problem is that we are conditioned to filter whatever we hear though our intelligence, which is blindly faithful to the cumulative experience of our upbringing, education, emotions, fears, and so on. It?s a highly limited method of processing information and it will certainly not help us to see God in the world, the highest perception of reality.

We must therefore hear with faith from a bona fide guru, to be molded in mind and heart through his instructions. There is no other way to accurately process what we perceive as the highest reality. If we are habituated by pride, however, constantly judging the validity of those instructions through the filter of our conditioned intelligence, we are doomed to our present worldview. Are we happy with that vision? Is that a vision that is giving us success in life, freeing us from fear and suffering?

I can hear your filter of knowledge protesting my instructions: ?I will not be a blind follower!? Yes, if you heard me recommend blind following, then you should immediately question what I said, because a guru does not want blind followers. If you hear without proper understanding, then what is the benefit of your hearing? It is the responsibility of the guru to encourage thoughtfulness and to clear all doubts, but if in the name of thoughtfulness we block the ability of the teacher to help mold our intelligence by a higher process of understanding, then we are wasting our time in spiritual life.

Srila Prabhupada explains this brilliantly in Bhagavad-gita, 4.34, the verse about approaching a spiritual master. Please read this short excerpt carefully. There?s a lot here:

?In this verse both blind following and absurd inquiries are condemned. One should not only submissively hear from the spiritual master, but one must get a clear understanding from him, by submission and service.?

Prabhupada tells us to ?get a clear understanding,? but don?t become your own authority. Hear with faith and submission. Otherwise, you will never learn the truth.

I can this say with conviction, because I have accepted guru with faith. Yes, there are things that Srila Prabhupada said that I have difficulty understanding and won?t accept blindly. I wish he were here so that I could question him to get a clear understanding. But I won?t let a few details obstruct his teachings, my faith in them, or my desire to mold my heart and mind by them.

I discussed the concept of submissive hearing with Mahamuni in relation to his studies of the Anglican Church. He sent me something written by John Henry Newman, one of their great scholars, which profoundly expresses the same point. It went something like this. Please just try to grasp the essence of this statement without being sidetracked by the details:

?Even if the local priest says something wrong, it?s better to be molded by the tradition than to get stuck on the details and not see God. Afterward, we can discuss the details.?

Is what I said clear? No? Then get a clear understanding. I?m eager to hear from you.

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