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Good Conduct Means to Assist

Bodhinatha elucidates from Gurudeva's Master Course lesson of the day on good conduct and reminds us that our conduct should always be aimed to assist, never hinder. He tells a great story from his trip to Russia a number of years ago about competitiveness between two religious groups in Russia. The moral of this story is that religious groups shouldn't act like businesses in competition with each other, which is based on low self-esteem.

Unedited Transcript:

Today's lesson of the day, 'Dancing with Siva' part, is on 'Good Conduct'. Part of Gurudeva's bhasya is saying just what we are saying here, "The Hindu fosters humility and shuns arrogance, seeks to assist, never to hinder, finds good in others and forgets their faults." Isn't that a beautiful summary of what we were saying so far? I will read that again. "The Hindu fosters humility and shuns arrogance, seeks to assist, never to hinder, finds good in others and forgets their faults."

Seeks to assist, never to hinder - is just another way of saying what we said back here, we want to interact with every person in a spirit of encouraging that person to raise their consciousness. We want to help someone, encourage them to raise their consciousness no matter who they are, no matter how they treat us, no matter how they treat others. That is a spiritual person.

There is a nice story on that, a story from a trip many years ago to Russia. Was that about six years ago, five years ago? Does anyone remember? We went to Moscow with one other monk for the release of the Russian translation of 'Dancing with Siva'. A wonderful accomplishment to have Gurudeva's books in Russian.

One of the interesting aspects of Russia is that they don't have many books. In the US we have too many books, we are deluged with books. More books than we could possible read and a lot of them are not that good because they have to rush them out every month, new books. Russia does not have that problem. How many books are there in Russia on Hinduism? Well, maybe we were the fifth one or something. Maybe there are six now, five years later. They don't print a lot of books in Russia on these kinds of topics.

It was a big event, getting a new book on Hinduism in the Russian language. So we went there for that and we were a guest of an organization called the Tantra Sangha, which was a Sakta group. The Swami was a very learned person and actually helped translate part of 'Dancing with Siva' and really loved the lexicon. In fact, he had the chart from the back of the book, the seven lokas, the fourteen chakras . It is a beautiful chart, he had it up on his bulletin board in the hallway. He really appreciated the insightfulness of Gurudeva's teachings, in 'Dancing with Siva'.

We spent a few days visiting his Sangam and on one day he took us across Moscow. Moscow is absolutely huge, we were in the subway and went across Moscow and visited ISKCON, Krishna consciousness, the ISKCON Moscow center. We met a few of the leaders who headed the center there and some of the swamis and brahmacharis, brahmacharinis and had a nice talk about what they were doing. They were all out of jail. Some of them went to jail for a number of years. Definitely Russian treatment of, they call them minority religions, has not been favorable. We had a nice meeting but you could tell there was some competitiveness between the two groups, the Tantra Sangha and the ISKCON group.

We had a book launching. I gave a talk in English and it was translated because almost everyone there did not speak English. So it was translated into Russian. At that event, the ISKCON head of the center was there. The translator who was supposed to translate was sick, had a flu, could not come. So they had a substitute who was not as good at translating philosophical terms and ideas, which are much more complicated than just normal travel oriented translation. He made a mistake and the ISKCON leader smiled and laughed a little bit. He was so happy that the Tantra Sangha presentation had a mistake. He could not restrain his happiness. "Oh! They made a mistake, this is great!"

That really impressed me. It was the opposite of Hindu solidarity which is our point of view. We want every Hindu group to flourish and we don't feel a sense of competition because every Hindu group is unique. ISKCON is Vaishnavism, Tantra Sangha was Saktism. They don't have anything in common. You know people will be drawn to one or the other based upon their own nature. They are not in competition, they are not both Vaishnava groups, they should not laugh at one another mistakes.

Anyway, that really stuck in my mind, that spirit of being happy when other people falter. You know, here we are taking joy in the fact that someone has made a mistake, someone has failed. Someone not doing well is making us happy. Isn't that strange? But it is a consciousness that some people have. They don't have it toward everyone, they are very selective. It is their enemies or the people they don't like or their competitors or something. There is some label on these people that makes them different and therefore it is okay to laugh when they make mistakes, it is okay to take joy when they fail.

But of course, that is not what Gurudeva is teaching. It does not say, "Help your friends." No, it says, "Help everyone. The Hindu fosters humility and shuns arrogance, seeks to assist." Does not qualify, it does not say, "your friends or people you like." It means everybody, even the people who don't like you. "Seeks to assist, never to hinder, finds good in others and forgets their faults." So that is the subject we are exploring, this kind of human weakness which deviates from that in some circumstances.

Of course, it can be based on a number of factors. In the situation we were talking about, it is based upon a sense of competition, like two businesses almost, ISKCON and the Tantra Sangha. At least from the ISKCON point of view, they were in competition. So they were competitors like in the business sense and they wanted to be better. So, if their competitors falter, that was great. But of course, religious groups should not be like that. We are not in business.

On a personal level, when we find ourselves feeling happy that someone made a mistake, faltered or something, why would that be? Someone we know, someone we work with makes a mistake, falters, we feel good about it. Why would we have that reaction? Because we are jealous in some way. We feel inferior to that person in some way. We have a low sense of self esteem. Otherwise, we would never have that reaction. Somehow we look at that person as being better than us and if they make a mistake, that makes us better, right? It is an easier way. If we can knock someone down and stay the same, then we have improved our relationship with them, right? Instead of ourselves becoming taller, which requires work, we try and make them shorter. We will be taller finally, if we can make them shorter.

That is an interesting attitude. We criticize someone, we backbite them, we talk badly about them, remember everything they did wrong, remember all their faults. They keep shrinking in our mind each time we do that. They are a little bit shorter and eventually because we are standing still, we will be taller than them. Our self esteem will go up. "Gee! I am better than that person. They made so many mistakes, I remember them all."

But of course, that is not helping someone, right? That is hindering them. Even speaking negatively about a person, we are sending negative force, sending negative thought forms toward that person. So that is a subtle karma we are creating. We are hurting them. We are violating ahimsa in thought, word and deed. So this is word we are talking about and thought. It is a violation of ahimsa when we speak critically of people when there is no purpose in doing it. If we are speaking critically of someone to help them improve, that is okay. If we are really a compassionate person or a teacher or a parent or something or their supervisor at work and we are being critical of someone because we want them to improve and do better, that is one thing. But if we are being critical of someone because we are delighting in finding faults with them, that is not acceptable. It is not following this idea of helping everyone. We are hindering them by our negative words and our negative thoughts about them.

That is the subject we are developing. As I say, it is not completely done. Interesting stories, right? Interesting advise column we have going and we will develop it some more in future talks.

Have a wonderful phase!