Surrender yourself, with your intelligence

In spiritual life, we often hear the term “surrender”, and surrender we should. But dear reader, never surrender your intelligence!

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
vākya-bheda-vimohitāḥ

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 ॥

kecid vikalpa-vasanā
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 ॥

apratarkyād anirdeśyād
iti keṣv api niścayaḥ
atrānurūpaṁ rājarṣe
vimṛśa sva-manīṣayā

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!

Muslim Brahmin in Hyderabad

Can a Muslim be a Brahmin? Can a Vaishnava be as good as a Mullah or Rabbi or Christian priest? Here are some great insights from a Maulvi in Hyderabad!

Not long ago, I was out on the street distributing the Bhagavad Gita in the South Central Indian City of Hyderabad. Hyderabad, like most cities in India, is a beautiful confluence of many cultures. Specifically, in Hyderabad, there is a significant mix of Hindu, Muslim, and Christian populations, and the history of the city has a strong Muslim flavour. For the most part, people have lived in harmony for hundreds of years. There have been flash-points and incidents of hatred, but relatively rare.

One day, as I stood on the street, I saw an elderly gentlemen, clearly Muslim from his long white beard with moustache shaved off, a baggy light-coloured Salwar Kameez, and a distinctive skull cap. He walked slowly, with a walker, that he gently placed in front of him, and then moved his legs closer to the walker, shuffling by slowly. I respectfully made way for this gentleman and greeted him with a little bow.

He passed back-and-forth a few times, and seeing his friendly countenance, I asked him if he would read the Bhagavad Gita. He said he most certainly would, if I had a Hindi version available. He then told me that he had been to the ISKCON Radha Madan Mohan temple in Abids, Hyderabad several times for the Sunday feast program, and had participated in Harinam Sankirtan, and taken Prasad many times at the temple. The surprise must have been clear on my face, because he then said “Do you know that I am a Brahmin?”.

He then explained “I am the Maulvi of this mosque around this corner. I have dedicated my life to Allah. I don’t eat meat and I don’t drink alcohol. I teach the scripture. So how am I not a Brahmin?”. He then added “The Gita was spoken by Allah and the Q’uran was spoken by Allah, so why would I read one but not the other?“. I was very much gladdened by his mature understanding. This is exactly our Vaishnava understanding too.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna describes the qualities of a Brahmin…

शमो दमस्तप: शौचं क्षान्तिरार्जवमेव च ।
ज्ञानं विज्ञानमास्तिक्यं ब्रह्मकर्म स्वभावजम् ॥ ४२ ॥

śamo damas tapaḥ śaucaṁ
kṣāntir ārjavam eva ca
jñānaṁ vijñānam āstikyaṁ
brahma-karma svabhāva-jam

Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness – these are the natural qualities by which the brāhmaṇas work.

https://vedabase.io/en/library/bg/18/42/

So, if we see any living entity from any cultural background or any religious orientation who has these qualities, we must accept them as good as Brahmins. Of course, Krishna also says that Brahmin is not only by quality, but also by the work they do…

चातुर्वर्ण्यं मया सृष्टं गुणकर्मविभागशः ।
तस्य कर्तारमपि मां विद्ध्यकर्तारमव्ययम् ॥ १३ ॥

cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ
guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ
tasya kartāram api māṁ
viddhy akartāram avyayam

According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me. And although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the nondoer, being unchangeable.

https://vedabase.io/en/library/bg/4/13/

Srila Prabhupada describes the 6 duties of a Brahmin…

Brāhmaṇas are supposed to acquire six kinds of auspicious qualifications: they become very learned scholars (paṭhana) and very qualified teachers (pāṭhana); they become expert in worshiping the Lord or the demigods (yajana), and they teach others how to execute this worship (yājana); they qualify themselves as bona fide persons to receive alms from others (pratigraha), and they distribute the wealth in charity (dāna).

https://vedabase.io/en/library/sb/5/17/11/

Based on instructions from the Vaishnava Acharyas, the great saintly teachers, we accept that Prophet Muhammad is an empowered messenger sent directly by God, practically, speaking a “shaktyavesha avataar” or a living entity but with the power to act in a way empowered by God. We accept that Jesus Christ is the son of God, a pure devotee fully dovetailed with the desire of God. We accept that there is only one God, known by different names and different degrees of understanding, as an impersonal spirit (Brahman), as a localized supersoul (Paramatma), and as the Personality of Godhead (Bhagavan).

When our constitutional position, or dharma, is deteriorated due to the contaminations of matter, the Lord Himself comes as an incarnation or sends some of His confidential servitors. Lord Jesus Christ called himself the “son of God,” and so is a representative of the Supreme. Similarly, Mohammed identified himself as a servant of the Supreme Lord. Thus whenever there is a discrepancy in our constitutional position, the Supreme Lord either comes Himself or sends His representative to inform us of the real position of the living entity.

On the Way to Krishna, Chapter 2

I offered my deepest respects to that great Maulvi, that Muslim priest, who has realized the essence of Allah Consciousness in principle. Surely, he is very very close to Allah. By speaking his sweet realized words, he gave me hope that this world can be rectified from its current sectarian path.

In the same way, all the Muslims should accept the advanced Vaishnavas as good as their own Maulvis and Hazrats.

The Christians should accept the advanced Vaishnavas as good as their own nuns, monks, and priests.

The Jews should accept the advanced Vaishnavas as good as their own Rabbis.

This is the principle. One God. Many scriptures according to time, place, and circumstance.

So, what was our conclusion as we parted ways? We concluded that the genuine mature follower of any genuine faith tradition is very similar, they love God, and they love all of God’s creation. They see God everywhere, and see everyone as God’s children, to be loved and served. But the follower-in-name, a materialist or religion-politician of any faith is equally sectarian or in many cases, inhuman, and unfortunately, also evil.

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