So I published my book in August, just a modest run of 500 copies. They’ve almost all gone. Thank you to all those who showed me support and bought one. And congratulations to you if you bought one as a gift for a friend.
Just to stimulate discussion, and to perhaps interest you, dear reader, in buying one before they all go, here are the Contents pages. You’ll see I have not flinched in discussing some controversial topics, chiefly because there’s a readership for those types of subjects. The Guru & Disciple Book is available on Amazon – now at a reduced rate – in both UK and USA.
Part One: Putting first things first
- You are Here – Why our home-made map of life may require updating.
- Five Tales – Classic tales from the Upanishads suggest that a change of perspective may be necessary before spiritual life can begin.
- Understanding the Vedas – There are two classical ways of gathering knowledge; only one is good enough for spiritual transmission between the guru and the disciple.
- What are the Vedas? – A look at the numerous components of a vast library of wisdom.
- The Vedas and other religions – Ultimate reality is one, perceived differently only due to the different consciousness of the seers.
- Discussing and understanding the Sources – Original texts, commentaries and mystical revelation. How to avoid fuzzy thinking.
- Postmodern Views – Postmodernism affects everything – even the guru-disciple relationship.
- The Necessity of accepting a Guru – Why other ways of gaining higher knowledge are incomplete.
Part Two: The ancient culture of learning
- A is for Acarya – The meaning of the word and the ancient culture of how acaryas lived and taught.
- Siksha, Diksha, and Semantic Drift – More meanings of words and how they’ve gradually changed.
- Diksha – The history of giving mantras; what happens at the diksha ceremony; and what has changed in a thousand years.
- Qualities of the Guru and the Disciple – A classical description from the Nyasa Vimsati, the lifetime experience of the mediaeval Vaishnava saint, Vedanta Deshika.
- What does a guru teach? – Guru means ‘teacher,’ but what is he supposed to teach you, and how often? How do you know if he is teaching you correctly? How do you know if you are a good student?
- Teaching techniques of the gurus – Gurus employ a diverse range of time-tested techniques in order to help their disciples on their spiritual journey.
- The Reprehensible Delusions of Guruship – Four ways the guru should not think about himself – or his disciple. Wisdom from the ancient sage, Pillai Lokacarya.
- Where can you find a guru? – Lord Krishna told Arjuna to ‘approach’ a guru. But where can you find one? Here is what Krishna said years later, as recorded in the eleventh canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam.
- Within You, Without You – How God manifests as the guru, both inside and out.
- Little Ants on a Leaping Lion – Who is more important for the disciple – the physically manifest guru or the historical acarya? The discussion continues after 900 years.
- The Parampara Family Tree – How the best fruit is gently carried down through the branches of the tree.
- A Very Different Diksha – Misconceptions and movements. How the grandfathers of contemporary Vaishnavism tackled ‘mission drift.’
Part Three: Creating and sustaining community
- The Guru spreads his Arms – His ashrams, sanghas, missions and movements.
- Not Everybody likes Organisations – Why we don’t like ‘organised religion,’ and prefer small groups to big ones.
- Sustainability and Governance – Why hierarchy and ‘due diligence’ are essential – even in spiritual movements.
- Are you Church or Chapel? – Religious groups constantly divide and splinter, but by keeping a tradition spiritually dynamic, we can avoid the temptation of separation.
Part Four: Shades of saffron
- Sannyasa Dharma – Ancient rules for a renunciate and the ten vows he must make.
- Sannyasa – the Real and the False – Real sannyasa is internal, and goes beyond the wearing of saffron robes. So why was it important for Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Thakur?
- Undercurrents – The Gaudiya Mission was enormously successful, yet beneath the surface there were already swirling currents.
- White Skin, Orange Cloth – The many challenges in setting up a western sannyasa order from 1967 to 1977.
- Saffron Cardinals – An order of renunciates as ecclesiastics, and the phenomenon of ‘clergy burnout.’
- Reflections and Reforms – Sannyasis who became gurus share their private thoughts.
Part Five: Gurus, scandals and issues
- Why would anyone be a guru? – Discussing why, and how, the decision is made to accept disciples.
- Gurus of the Future – Srila Prabhupada speaks clearly on how he wants his disciples to become gurus after him.
- The July 9th Letter – In the 1980s certain members of ISKCON raised this one letter to the level of a religious text.
- So what went wrong? – The turbulent years after the passing of the founder-acarya threatened to wrench his movement apart. What mistakes were made?
- Stepping into their father’s shoes – Some of the complications of being a young guru in an even younger spiritual movement.
- Diksha Lite – In a bid to attract followers, some gurus offer initiation without training.
- Diksha and Drugs – In the name of ‘compassion,’ some gurus try to have disciples without discipline.
- Guru and Disciple in Therapy – In which we subject the guru-disciple relationship to an hour on the therapist’s couch.
- When the Wise become Weak – It does happen, sadly, so what should be our response? How can it be avoided?
- Loyal Disciple…or a mouse? – The guru repeats what he’s heard or loses his power.
- Leaving a Guru – Can you ever leave? What are the legitimate reasons?
Part Six: Becoming a disciple today
- Steps towards the Big Step – Spiritual life is a journey of a thousand steps. Where is initiation on that journey, and how do we prepare for it?
- Are you ready for a guru? – What should you look for within yourself before initiation? What doubts and myths about the guru have to be dissolved first?
- Serious to find a guru – Srila Prabhupada and his own guru write on how to find one.
- Testing the guru – No-one should blindly accept a guru. The candidate is first meant to test the guru. But how, exactly, and for how long?
- The Path to Initiation – How to become initiated in ISKCON today. Stages in the procedure and the support you’ll need to have in place.