Chaste and Pure
By Swami Tripurari
The ideal all devotees strive for is exclusive dedication to sri guru. This certainly involves chastity, but on a higher level it also involves purity, within which the dynamic expression of chastity is contained. It is possible to be chaste but not pure, but it is not possible to be pure and not chaste, for the purity of spiritual advancement depends on the grace of sri guru. Only when he or she is pleased with the disciple can the disciple attain purity, and no one can please their guru by abandoning or relativizing him or her—by not being chaste.
Chastity, as opposed to purity, implies some force. The famous chastity belts of old world Christian Europe are a good example. Whereas purity denotes absence of temptation, chastity implies controlling one’s impulses and actions, often times by physical removal of the objects of temptation.
Chastity of this sort does have its advantages: bad influences are kept out and temptation is minimized; however, the fruit of these advantages contains the seed of their downside: insularity. In the vacuum of insularity, time stands still. If one remains in this vacuum after its fruits are attained and does not internalize one’s chastity and move forward, what follows is the rapid slowdown of both personal growth and relevant outreach.
Going into the larger world of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, meeting other devotees and conceptions, sorting out the relative from the absolute, the siddhanta from the misconception—these things push and pull a devotee and challenge his or her faith. Not everyone is ready to make the transition from insular chastity to the intermediate stage that leads to true purity, but one whose faith is strong enough knows that staying too long in the nest of insularity actually checks the development of one’s service to sri guru.
In the beginning it is natural and quite appropriate for a guru to tell the student to listen to him or her alone. Sri guru builds a fence around the tree of his or her disciple to protect the sisya from outside influence in tender years of devotional growth. But eventually, when this tree is strong and healthy, it will reach beyond the barrier. And while remaining well rooted, it will integrate with its surrounding environment of its own accord. If the student listens well, he or she will eventually realize that guru is everywhere. The disciple realizes the universality of sri guru, and that the initiating (diksa) guru can speak to us through other devotees, devotees who are pure enough to serve in the capacity of an instructing (siksa) guru. Moreover he or she begins to see sri guru everywhere, even in the movements of nature. The world comes to life by the influence of sri guru and the environment is friendly. Grass prays and trees embrace. The grass prayed to Sri Caitanya with its lesson in humility; the tree embraced him with its teaching of tolerance. The conscious world resides in the words of the wise and venerable sri gurudeva.
The Bhagavata informs us that although the truth is one, more than one teacher is required to become conversant in it, na hy ekasmad guror jnanam su-sthiram syat supuskalam. In this section of the text we find the student learning from nature—from the earth, the trees, insects, and so on. Sri Jiva Goswami explains that the advanced student is seeing the instructions imparted by his initiating guru playing themselves out in the movements of nature such that nature herself appears to be instructing the student. Accordingly the student honors nature’s various teachers as his or her siksa gurus.
Ideally it is not lack of faith in one’s diksa guru that leads one to one’s siksa guru. Identifying one’s siksa guru is an exercise of faith by which that faith is nourished, fostering its growth. In contrast to strong faith, weak faith requires an enemy. As I have said earlier, there is a place for that—but not a place in eternity.