In spiritual life, one of the key tenets is surrender to God. Without surrender to the will of God, spirituality has no meaning. But since most of us are not at a level where we can surrender directly to God, because it is hard to differentiate between the ranting of the mind and the voice of God within the heart, we often offer our surrender to a representative of God.
Now, it is required that any representative of God is of pure heart, simple, clean, and honest. But since we are all here in the material world, and the illusory energy of God is extremely strong, it is possible that even the most dedicated servant of God can come under the sway of illusion, even if momentarily.
Therefore, it is extremely important never to surrender our intelligence. In other words, while we surrender to the authority of the representative of God, a priest, a Rabbi, a Mullah, an Imam, a Guru, or a Pastor by any other name, we need to constantly remain on guard and not suspend our common sense and intelligence.
Not doing this, in other words, surrendering our common sense and intelligence has resulted in horrific abuses, including sexual abuse of children, abuse of poor and vulnerable people, and the destruction of faith in many a venerable religious organization. Such a loss is lamentable, because then, the purpose for which the spiritual tenets were coalesced to form a religious organization is lost.
My spiritual master instructed me “Surrender with your intelligence”.
What does this mean? If the actions of a superior in spiritual life are somehow incongruous, or going against our common sense or clear knowledge not tainted with opinions, then it is important to distance those from our surrender.
On the one hand, real spirituality is pure, but to take the essence of that spirituality to a large population, it is necessary to organize… And organization brings about its own sets of risks.
In a religious organization, managerial authority is often conflated with spiritual authority. It often happens that a person with spiritual authority is also given significant managerial authority. In such cases, the person may wear different hats at different times… or their actions while wearing one hat may conflict with their actions while wearing with the other. While it is extremely difficult to contest an instruction given under spiritual authority, every member of every religious organization has the right to carefully assess every single instruction given under managerial authority with their common sense and intelligence.
Doing so with small and big things is absolutely critical to preserve the spiritual purity of an organization. It is impossible to avoid dynamics of sycophancy, groupism, nepotism, politics, and positional power in any organization. That is the definition of the material world… A religious organization is still an organization in the material world, though its core is spiritual.
We deal with these types of political issues in business, Government, at Universities, in Hospitals, and all types of institutions, even Religious Institutions. But while all other types of organizations give an individual a choice to walk away from a job or a contract, in religious institutions, the situation is very different. A spiritual person associated with a religious institution often finds that their entire personal and social life is intertwined with the facilities afforded by that religious institution! And the leaders in those organizations know this very well. So it becomes extremely difficult for an ordinary member to “walk away”. Because walking away means leaving a big part of your life behind. And this becomes the reason for perpetration of all kinds of issues.
Abuse can range all the way from the innocuous to “I can do whatever I want and face no consequence”. And because powerful people are often surrounded by sycophants who, in order to fulfill their own personal agendas, will not speak the truth to the powerful, it is important for those of us with a conscience to reject nonsense when we see it.
Recently, I was in a situation where a very powerful individual tried to use their influence to “rewrite” facts. They had done something that was irresponsible, and they wanted to spin their actions as being reasonable, and wanted me to accept their version of the “alternative” facts. They were very angry with my refusal to “believe” their version which went against all reason and fundamental facts. I had to resist with all my might. I struggled with emotions like fear, guilt, and shame. They told me “I had a lot of respect for you, but I must say that it has diminished greatly”.
There may be material consequences in the short and long term, for example, I may not be in the “inner circle of confidantes” of this particular powerful person. And maybe I may remain far removed from positions of power within that religious organization. But as my spiritual master has instructed me to always remain focused on the spiritual essence, to be a pure devotee of Krishna, I must remain careful not to become a sycophant.
But what do I care about material consequences? My goal is pure devotional service to the lotus feet of Sri Krishna. If I had to endure a million material miseries for millions of times, it would be worth it to be a pure devotee of Krishna.
Another instruction my spiritual master gave was on the definition of intelligence. He said “the intelligent person is one who can hold two opposing sides of an argument or a concept, and not be disturbed by either of them“. So that was an interesting instruction.. what this means in this case is that while a person may have made a mistake on one aspect – the managerial side, the other aspect, the spiritual side does not automatically get diminished…
However, this very same person has indeed helped me in my spiritual life for many years. I need to learn to distinguish between the same person acting in a spiritual capacity, and the same person acting in a managerial capacity. So while I reject the erroneous actions and attitude of the managerial side, I still retain my respect and love for the spiritual side of the same person. So therefore, while I reject that person’s heavy-handedness and accept the consequences of doing so, I cannot discount the contribution of that person to my spiritual journey.
In the Srimad Bhagavatam, there is an instructive exchange between Maharaja Parikshit, the ideal example of a ruler, and Dharma, the personality of religion… https://vedabase.io/en/library/sb/1/17/ and I will excerpt a couple of key passages…
न वयं क्लेशबीजानि यत: स्यु: पुरुषर्षभ ।
पुरुषं तं विजानीमो वाक्यभेदविमोहिता: ॥ १८ ॥
na vayaṁ kleśa-bījāni
yataḥ syuḥ puruṣarṣabha
puruṣaṁ taṁ vijānīmo
O greatest among human beings, it is very difficult to ascertain the particular miscreant who has caused our sufferings, because we are bewildered by all the different opinions of theoretical philosophers.https://vedabase.io/en/library/sb/1/17/18/
केचिद् विकल्पवसना आहुरात्मानमात्मन: ।
दैवमन्येऽपरे कर्म स्वभावमपरे प्रभुम् ॥ १९ ॥
āhur ātmānam ātmanaḥ
daivam anye ’pare karma
svabhāvam apare prabhum
Some of the philosophers, who deny all sorts of duality, declare that one’s own self is responsible for his personal happiness and distress. Others say that superhuman powers are responsible, while yet others say that activity is responsible, and the gross materialists maintain that nature is the ultimate cause.https://vedabase.io/en/library/sb/1/17/19/
अप्रतर्क्यादनिर्देश्यादिति केष्वपि निश्चय: ।
अत्रानुरूपं राजर्षे विमृश स्वमनीषया ॥ २० ॥
iti keṣv api niścayaḥ
There are also some thinkers who believe that no one can ascertain the cause of distress by argumentation, nor know it by imagination, nor express it by words. O sage amongst kings, judge for yourself by thinking over all this with your own intelligence.https://vedabase.io/en/library/sb/1/17/20/
In other words, whatever happens to us is by the direct sanction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead! We are meant to learn something from every experience, and without casting blame, we must intelligently figure out what is to be learned, learn that lesson, and move on.
The above two verses were spoken by Dharma, in the form a bull whose 3 legs had been broken by Kali, the personality of the age of quarrel and hypocrisy we live in Kaliyuga-not to be confused with Kali devi, the fierce form of the material nature. Maharaja Parikshit, who was responsible for the welfare of all, especially Dharma, inquired who was responsible for this violence, but Dharma stayed silent and did not incriminate Kali
And by applying the instructions of my spiritual master to every situation intelligently, I shall be always happy by his grace.
So, dear spiritualists, without getting bewildered by these tests of our faith, let us remain committed to the truth, and nothing but the Supreme Absolute Truth Sri Krishna and remained surrendered to Him at all times, places, and circumstances!