The Reprehensible Delusions of Guruship


The Vaishnava teacher who gave these cautionary instructions for gurus wrote many important works on the practise of bhakti. When the sacred town of Sri Rangam was being attacked by Mogul invaders, who eventually slaughtered 12,000 people, he made a daring plan to escape with the utsava murti of Ranganatha (smaller deities above)

I saw this today – The Reprehensible Delusions of Guruship – and wondered if it might help us in ISKCON. Like other pieces I come across, it is from a mediaeval south Indian saint and guru, in this case Sri Pillai Lokacarya (1217-1323).
Pillai Lokacharya has described in Srivachana Bhushan (308 – 310) three reprehensible delusions which must be avoided by the guru at all costs. These are:-

1. The delusions of ‘preceptorship’ – thinking of oneself as the preceptor – a guru should think of himself as simply a conduit of the Lord’s Grace and not as a teacher of sacred lore, this awareness prevents the guru from developing the egotistical notion of being a great and learned person and having custodianship of spiritual knowledge.

2. The delusions about the role of the disciple – thinking of the disciple as one’s own personal adherent – the disciple should rather be thought of as a co-disciple of the same acharya. Thus the guru avoids the potential for exploitation inherent in the relationship.

3. The delusions arising from the process of instruction of a sisya – these are of four categories:-

a. seeking to gain financially from the disciple, either by tuition fees or dakshina.
b. the delusion that one is actually facilitating the liberation of the disciple.
c. the delusion that one is assisting the Lord in his salvific agenda.
d. seeking or expecting social companionship or service from disciples.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Reprehensible Delusions of Guruship

  1. Krishnachandra das

    Dear Prabhu!
    Thank you very much for your wise comments and illumination on this topic.

    If we look into the great works of the previous Acharyas, we will avoid so many misdemeanours and problems that currently haunt and stalk the sincere devotees of ISKCON. No need to make up something new, it has already been worked out by far more advanced personalities than us years ago! Just need to have the humility to realise that other Sampradayas may have worked all these things out a long time ago and therefore enjoy a lot more stable situation. Life is too short to ‘get it wrong’!

    Please consider these points!

    In your service,

    Krishnachandra das.
    – Australia.

  2. The Vaishnavas are the oldest community of spiritually dedicated people on Earth. Since we believe that history is cyclical – not linear – we should be the first to believe that everything that is happening now has happened before. So we should correctly assume that any difficulties in implementing our culture have also been encountered by Vaishnavas in history and that someone, somewhere, has written about them. The proof is this short piece by Pillai Lokacarya – it could have been written yesterday.

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