Monday Morning Greetings 2019 #52 – Blind Following is Condemned

December 30th, 2019

Some readers may be thinking, “You write about authority and surrender, but isn’t blind following dangerous?” It’s condemned![1] Before exploring why, let’s put that discussion in context by first briefly summarizing something I have stressed many times — the need for faith.


As mentioned before, while faith is essential to learning, blind faith is an impediment. Blind faith means accepting what one hears from authority without a reasonable effort to get one’s doubts cleared to understand it. Being faithful without being thoughtful poses two risks: accepting something that is false because of faith in what an unqualified teacher erroneously taught or accepting something that is false because of misunderstanding what the qualified teacher properly taught. Either way one fails to catch the truth.


Accepting things that are false


Without being thoughtful we not only wind up accepting things taught that we would normally see as overtly false, but we also surrender the tool required to extricate ourselves from a false prophet.


To avoid such an unfortunate situation, it is thus incumbent to be reasonably certain that one has accepted a qualified guide before accepting their authority. The search for a spiritual guide begins with sincerity, the honest desire to live and surrender to the truth. Ultimately, a spiritual teacher is sent by providence in response to our sincere desire for truth. To ascertain, however, whether one is qualified to play that role in one’s life, one must first test the qualification of that person over a reasonable period of time by asking questions and having one’s doubts cleared.


Misunderstanding something that is true


Having a worthy guide also doesn’t guarantee understanding the truth. We often filter what we have heard through our desires and conditioning so that even if what we are taught is true, what we have understood is not. That’s why we often see good people with qualified guides embracing untenable positions in the name of faith.


To avoid misunderstanding a qualified teacher the student must continue, if necessary, to ask questions and get their doubts cleared. Such questioning does not belie our faith in our teacher, because we are not doubting his or her authority, which should have already been tested, but rather our own understanding of what he or she has said.


The need for such thoughtfulness in learning is stressed in some of the most traditional teachings of India, which are presented in the form of a dialectic where we can observe the sincere student continually questioning his teacher until his doubts or misunderstandings are cleared. The best example is the Bhagavad-gītā. It took Arjuna five chapters of going back and forth with Krishna before he finally understood one of the basic points that Krishna was stressing, which is that work can be spiritual if done with knowledge and in the proper consciousness. Arjuna is not an example of blind faith, nor is Krishna the example of a teacher who demands blind allegiance.


So yes, authority is not a bad word, nor is surrender, but blind faith is.


“Don’t follow blindly. Following blindly something, that is not good. That will not stay. But one should take everything with logic. But the servants of God, they put everything in logic. caitanyera dayāra kathā karaha vicāra. If you study the Caitanya’s philosophy with logic and argument… Don’t go by sentiment.” (Śrīla Prabhupāda’s lecture on Bhāg. 6.2.1-5, Calcutta, January 6, 1971)





[1] I got the phrase “blind following is condemned” from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s purport on Bg. 4.34: “In this verse, both blind following and absurd inquiries are condemned. Not only should one hear submissively from the spiritual master; but one must also get a clear understanding from him, in submission and service and inquiries.”


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