The Importance of Obeying One's Guru

Bodhinatha talks about the Swami Narayan Fellowship, their new center in Delhi and his preparation of a talk he will be giving at the opening, there on the subject of obeying one's Guru. He highlights the importance of monastic communiites and describes some of events that have brought out two monastic communtities together.

Unedited Transcript:

Nice to be back to our Sun 1 homa after traveling.

We're working on a talk for New Delhi just a BAPS Swami Narayan grand opening at their center which they call Akshardham in New Delhi. Will be a very impressive facility and so they've invited us to give a talk on the importance of obeying one's Guru. So it's a follow up to a talk Gurudeva gave in 1995 which they like very much so wanted to hear something more on it.

So this is just, I don't have time to read the whole thing but first draft here, it's not polished, I'll skip the first paragraph, the first paragraph is just, talks about you know, the fact that we just toured the facility. We haven't toured the facility yet, it's not even built. The first paragraph just, that afternoon before we give the talk we'll be touring the facility so it just talks about it, what it'll be like.

It's basic, it's not a, my understanding is it's not a temple, it's more like a cultural presentation. You know it's trying to show in various forms, including an IMAX theater, the traditions, India's culture and heritage. So, something they do very well.

We have been invited to speak on this historic occasion on the subject of "The Importance of Obeying One's Guru." Let me begin by sharing some background on our association with BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. Our relationship began some ten years ago in 1995 when our founder and guru, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, affectionately known as Gurudeva, attended the 75th Jayanti of His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj in Mumbai. Also at that time he visited Akshardam in Gandhinagar and the monastic training center in Sarangpur. At Sarangpur Gurudeva was quite impressed by the strict life the young sadhus there were living--sleeping on the floor, eating only what is served to them, touching the feet of the other sadhus each morning, keeping their distance from women and giving up family and career to be of service to God and Guru.

When they all get together it's quite a sight because there's seven hundred sadhus and each has to touch the feet of everyone else right so, how many is that. [laughs]. But this particular center the whole group wasn't there, it's quite a discipline they have.

My guru felt that strong communities of sadhus play an important role in Hinduism, particularly at this time on the planet. He stated: "Families are blessed who share in and support the renunciation of their sons born through them to perform a greater dharma than the grihastha life could ever offer. It is the monastic communities worldwide, of all religions, that sustain sanity on this planet.

It is the monks living up to their vows who sustain the vibration of law and order in the communities and nations of the world. This is how the inner worlds see each monastic community worldwide. This is how it is and should always be. This is how humanity balances out its experiential karmas and avoids destroying itself as it passes through the darkness of the Kali Yuga. The monastic communities that surround the planet, fulfilling their dharma, compensate for the adharma that is so prevalent, thus ensuring that humanity does not self-destruct in these trying times."

A second event occurred in 1995 when we chose Swamishri, that's the short name for Pramukh Swami Maharaj, Swamishri, as the recipient of our Hindu Renaissance Award. This award honors one eminent Hindu each year who has most impacted the faith and spread its values, compassion and profundity across the globe.

Nine years later, in 2004, I was present at the opening of the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Houston, Texas, where we had the honor of meeting personally with Swamishri as well as some of his senior sadhus. We also enjoyed meeting a number of the Houston BAPS devotees. One father had an interesting story I would like to share. He described how his two sons were devoting their entire summer to helping in the construction of the Houston Temple. They would rise early every morning and leave for the Mandir and only return home about midnight to sleep for a few hours. The father was rightfully proud of the strong religious spirit of service in his sons, and we were quite impressed as well at the extent of their dedication. Of course, such great dedication was inspired by their having a living satguru. We also produced a major article on BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha and the Houston Mandir in the January 2005 issue of our magazine.

So I won't read that, you've heard that before and goes through the quote by Pramukh Swami about Hinduism Today and praising it.

Since the visit to the Houston Texas Mandir in August 2004, we visited the Mandir in Haveli in Eastern London in March, 2005 and the Haveli in Toronto, Canada in August 2005. And had the opportunity on both occasions to address the Sunday satsanga gathering. Haveli, is a it's a wooden building they built. It's like a cultural hall. So the monastic residents they built it next to the stone mandir. They usually build it first so. Though our order of sadhus is less than sixty years old, small and, of course, worshipers of Lord Siva, still we feel there are a number of strong similarities between our sangam of devotees and yours. Thus our talks on those two occasions shared a number of similarities.

Certainly the most important similarity is that both sangams have a living satguru and a tradition for perpetuating the guru lineage for future generations. Most Hindu organizations do not have such a tradition. In them either the founder who passed on some time ago is the only guru or the organization was formed in the first place without a guru.

Organizations that have a lineage of living satgurus are truly fortunate, for indeed the divine blessings of a living satguru help us to make much great spiritual progress in our lifetimes, help us to make much greater spiritual progress in our lifetime than is otherwise possible. Of course, this acceleration of spiritual progress is not automatic--rather it happens because we are obedient. That is, we follow the general principles taught by the guru as well as, if we are fortunate enough, any personal advice that the guru has given to us. Obedience is indeed the key.

Our founder and guru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami attained Mahasamadhi in November of 2001. On that occasion, His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj sent us a message we would like to share which contains insights into the continuity of the spiritual power of a guru lineage. Swamishri said:

"The first duty of all the disciples and monks of Gurudeva would be to follow every command of Gurudeva and keep on doing the great work he has been doing in letter and spirit. In Hinduism's tradition, the body dies but the spirit and consciousness of the person who has left the body will continue to guide. I will do special prayers personally for Gurudeva, who has done great work. Gurudeva's spirit will continue to guide his successor. Gurudeva's saintliness and spiritual values will continue to guide the whole lineage. This has been the tradition of Hinduism."

I always liked that quote. So insightful.

When my guru spoke at the 75th Jayanti of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj in Mumbai in 1995, he made the following key statement: "I have three suggestions for all of you, the dedicated members of the Swaminarayan Fellowship. If you follow them, you will succeed. If you follow them, you will grow stronger as individuals. If you follow them, you will add your strength to that of all the others in the Fellowship. If you follow them, Hinduism itself will be made more noble and secure. So, what are my three points of advice tonight? Let's take them one at a time. The first is to obey your guru. (Can you guess what the other two are?) The second is obey your guru. The third is obey your guru. Do these three things and you will live a blessed life, and you will also make Pramukh Swami Maharaj very happy."

Let's look more closely at exactly what it means to obey the guru. The basic way to be obedient is to strictly follow the general principles taught by the guru. These are traditionally found in the scriptures of the lineage, such as in the verses of the Shikshapatri. These 212 verses are certainly comprehensive in covering all aspects of life, and Swaminarayan followers are indeed fortunate to have such a clear set of principles laid out to follow in this "Code of Precepts." . You may be interested to know that the Shikshapatri inspired our guru to develop a similar scripture for his monks and families which consists of 365 verses, one for each day, and is called the Nandinatha Sutras. These now guide our sampradaya, just as the Shikshapatri guides BAPS.

The importance of obeying the rules of the Shikshapatri is stated by Bhagwan Swaminarayan toward the end in verses 205 and 206 to quote: "Hence, all My disciples shall observe all the rules laid down in this Shikshapatri and shall never follow the whims of the lower instincts." "Those of My disciples who shall live in accordance with the precepts laid down here shall attain all the four desired objects (Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha) on earth."

A second form of obedience is that of following any personal advice given to us by the guru. Some Hindus select as their guru a guru who is no longer living. They place his picture on their wall and altar and study his writings. I call this a safe guru because he will never ask you to do something you do not want to do; and quite often that is exactly what a living satguru will do. He will ask you to do exactly what you do not want to do.

[End of transcript]