Chaste and Pure

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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.


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17 Responses to Chaste and Pure

  1. How wonderfully and gently you have explained the development of purity and chastened us to the service of Sri Guru! Thank you for revealing just how friendly the environment is.

  2. Madan Gopal Das

    Very nicely explained. Thank you Maharaj, dandavat pranams. Please bless me so that I may become pure.

  3. Kula-pavana dasa

    Seems to me from practical experience that many disciples change their devotional perspective and mood with time and often somewhat drift away from their diksa gurus. As they become more ‘grown-up’ sometimes a natural attraction develops for another guru, who perhaps presents a different flavor of devotion to Krsna.

    Unfortunately in our society that is very much discouraged and treated as ‘lack of chastity’, especially by most of the devotees acting as diksa gurus and Godbrothers of the ‘unchaste’ disciple.

  4. Syamasundara Dasa

    Kula Pavana prabhu,

    accepting a siksa guru doesn’t have to happen as a result of drifting away from one’s diksa guru; indeed, your scenario seems rather unlikely in the context of healthy Vaishnava dealings among qualified devotees.
    What this article is about is the maturation of one’s relationship with Sri Guru and of one’s vision of Sri Guru, that translates into seeing him or her everywhere, not in a place other than the previous.

  5. Kula-pavana dasa

    Syamasundara-ji… while it may be a “scenario rather unlikely in the context of healthy Vaishnava dealings among qualified devotees” I see it happening rather often among Western Vaishnavas.

    When devotees first join everything is new to them – they may be attracted to a particular guru and take diksa from him. Years later, as they become more settled in their Krsna consciousness and their devotional horizons expand, they may be attracted to a different guru. If they are lucky (and that does not seem to happen very often) their diksa guru will understand and support their choice. However, most of the time – especially if the disciple choses a guru from a different sanga – this situation turns into a rather traumatic experience for the devotee.

    • Syamasundara Dasa

      I am quite aware of those dynamics, but again, that’s not how it should be, and not what the article is about.
      There should be better education about what it means to become a disciple on one side, and on the other side, the devotee occupying the post of guru should be a sad-guru.
      Again, the article was about one’s faith and devotional life maturing to the point of understanding “acaryam mam vijaniyat”; ultimately Krsna is Sri Guru, and he is everywhere. Once your diksa guru has given you the seed and your bhakti-lata has formed strong roots, you start hearing the word of Sri Guru pointing to Krsna-seva everywhere: in a cloud, in an insect, in a sentence said to you casually, and even (imagine that!) in an advanced Vaishnava. No need to replace our diksa guru.
      This has nothing to do with newcomers becoming attracted to a certain preacher for the wrong reasons, or for the right reasons, but with the wrong person, and then getting disenfranchised and looking elsewhere.

      • Kula-pavana dasa

        “Again, the article was about one’s faith and devotional life maturing to the point of understanding “acaryam mam vijaniyat”; ultimately Krsna is Sri Guru, and he is everywhere.” That is a very important point, not emphasized enough in our society, especially by our gurus. I am glad it is being raised here, as it is absolutely required in order to properly understand our tradition.

      • If people replace their diksha guru to be with your guru won’t you support them syamasundara?

      • But how will we know who the correct guru is? If we overuse our discrimination we will find imperfections in everyone and if underuse it we will find an imperfect guru. So there is always a possibility of feeling that another guru is better after accepting a guru in the past.

        • The guru should be accepted out of well reasoned love. Observe, doubt, question until your reason recedes to the background and your serving heart comes to the fore by the force of the guru’s wisdom and love for you. This is what is recommended. Don’t over or under use your reasoning. It’s an art. There is always the possibility that there are greener grasses ahead, but cows does have to graze. If you are sufficiently spiritually hungry, you will know when you are being fed.

        • Syamasundara Dasa

          This is all part of the preliminary education I was referring to.
          Srila Sridhara Maharaja talks about supersubjective reality. We are used to moving around in the world of matter, thinking we are the subjects and everything (and everybody) is the object of our attraction or rejection. However, when it comes to transcendence (and its representative, the guru), we need to realize that we are also objects of a higher will and power.
          If we think in terms of “I accept a guru”, but we lack the proper discrimination, then we need to accept the responsibility for it, too.
          When I felt the need and urge to be under a guru, I remember going to the temple on Sundays and praying to the murti of Srila Prabhupada: “Please recommend me to your best disciple.”
          I also took a vow on kartika, all the while praying to Nityananda Prabhu to manifest himself as Sri Guru for me.
          When I came in the company of he who would become my Gurudeva, still I tried to apply my reasoning and caution, but at a certain point it became apparent that more resistance and caution (in the name of avoiding all that Kula Pavana and Alan Smith mentioned) on my side would be an insult to Nityananda’s kindness, and that’s when I “accepted” a guru.
          As Sridhara Maharaja also says, sincerity is invincible. An aspiring practitioner should approach the matter of surrendering to Sri Guru with a transparent heart, and full of confidence in the sincerity of their quest.
          As the Rg Veda says, tad visnoh paramam padam/sada pasyanti surayah/diviva caksur atatam/visnor yat paramam padam; we should go about our lives aware of and counting on the Lord’s feet guiding us and watching us, like a big eye in the sky. It should never be a question of “us” choosing or accepting a guru, based on how charismatic or locally available he or she is; but rather we should prepare our hearts for that moment in which the Infinite comes down to embrace the finite in the form of Sri Guru.
          To sum it all up, it should be made mandatory that aspiring practitioners read Sri Guru and His Grace by Srila Sridhara Maharaja. Only one who reasons like a qualified disciple will find a qualified guru.

    • isn’t it a symptom that that kind of guru is not a qualified guru? or the disciple is whimsical?

      • Sanjaya, I am not entirely sure what you are asking? could your rephrase your question? Thank you.

        • sorry for the confusion..
          i refer to the following statement by Kula-pavana Prabhu:

          “Unfortunately in our society that is very much discouraged and treated as ‘lack of chastity’, especially by most of the devotees acting as diksa gurus and Godbrothers of the ‘unchaste’ disciple.”

          thank you very much..

          • Yes, that is one of the reasons I wrote the article. Those of us who took shelter of Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja after Prabhupada’s departure were labeled “prostitutes” and banished from Iskcon. Many leading figures in Iskcon, still think of us as such.

  6. Such beauty in your articulation. Simplicity and poetry all rolled into one incredible article. Bravo!

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