Monday Morning Greetings 2024 #22 – Blind Following is Condemned

May 27th, 2024

Blind Following is Condemned[1]


Some readers may be thinking, “You write about authority and surrender, but isn’t blind following dangerous?” Yes. It’s condemned![2] Here’s why.


Blind faith means accepting what one hears without a reasonable effort to understand it which poses two risks: accepting something that is false because of faith in an unqualified authority presenting something fallacious; or accepting something that is false because we have misunderstood what the qualified teacher has properly presented. 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 are also surrendering the tool required to extricate ourselves from being misled.


To avoid such an unfortunate situation, one must be thoughtful before fully accepting a spiritual authority. Ultimately, a spiritual teacher is sent by Providence in response to our sincere desire for truth. To ascertain, however, whether someone is qualified to play that role, one must first test that person’s qualification over a reasonable period 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 nevertheless 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 any doubts cleared. Such questioning does not belie our faith in our teacher, because we are not doubting the teacher’s authority, which should have already been tested, but rather our own understanding of what has been said.


The need for such thoughtfulness in learning is stressed in most traditional teachings of India in the form of a dialogue in which 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 and accepted one of the basic points that Krishna was stressing—what makes something spiritual is not necessarily a particular activity but the understanding and consciousness in which such an activity is done. Therefore, Arjuna’s surrender to Krishna 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 concept, 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] While waking early today (Saturday) to finish my Monday Morning Greetings I found that it was mysteriously nowhere to be found. I thus searched my files for an old one. The first one I opened was this one from December 19, 2019, and when I read it, I realized something—how much my writing has improved. I thus completely rewrote this old Greetings. I have also decided that my old Greetings must be re-edited. I really see Krishna’s hand in mysteriously deleting this week’s Greetings. This morning what started off as a real bummer has turned into a real blessing.

[2]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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