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Guru -> Donations, Social Work, Management & Politics
-- By BRS Swami Gaurangapada
Question by email: Is it normal for a Guru to ask for donations from his students, get involved in social work, management, trusts and politics?
Reply by Swami Gaurangapada:
You have many questions in one question. I will try to address them one by one in my reply.
It is said in the Puranas that:
guravo bahavah santi sishya-vittapaharakah, durlabhah sad-gurur devi shishya-santapaharakah
"There are many gurus who plunder the wealth of their disciples but those gurus are very rare who actually take away the miseries, distress and sufferings of
their disciples by imparting actual knowledge."
Vishnu Smriti states: paricarya-yaso-lipsuh sishyad gurur na hi
"One who accepts disciples for accumulating money, name and fame for one's personal sense-gratification is unfit to be a Guru."
A Guru may ask for donations from his disciples, but that is the own individual decision of that Guru. Personally, I am totally not in favor of this. I have personally never ever asked for donations from anyone from my side nor tried to raise funds from anyone at anytime nor intend to ever do so. In the past I was preaching to the richest men in Mumbai, India, but never asked even a single Indian Rupee from them. What to speak of the rich men, I have not asked anything from any of my own sincere disciples. I have only unconditionally begged everyone to chant the Holy Names regularly which many of them kindly accepted.
It is better to work (job or business) and maintain oneself honestly in life, then to make Guruship a profession by always begging money from the disciples or raising funds like an organization, or charging money for spiritual discourses or making business through writing books or building, accumulating and managing huge properties and structures (which leads to severe problems) in the name of being the Guru.
If the Guru is constantly desiring or eyeing the money of his disciples, then such a person is not a Guru. Guru in Sanskrit means heavy with knowledge not heavy with the desire to extract money. Unfortunately in Kali Yuga, it is the opposite. The Guru instead of guiding the disciple with superior knowledge without any expectations, the Guru becomes a slave desiring the disciple's money and material opulences.
Regarding social work, there many medicines, doctors , hospitals and health clubs, exercises, yoga techniques, social welfare organizations etc. to take care of our material bodies and there are many different political parties to run the different countries but a real spiritual Guru has nothing to do with all of these. The spiritual Guru feels intense pain by seeing the material as well as spiritual suffering of the souls and he appreciates, supports and profusely thanks all the genuine social welfare organizations for their wonderful work to save and maintain the material bodies of the distressed living entities who are affected by three kinds of miseries of material nature.
Simultaneously knowing the extremely temporary and perishable nature of the material body, the spiritual Guru fully concentrates in trying to save the souls of all the living entities by teaching them the chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord: Nityananda, Gauranga, and Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
The Spiritual Guru knows that ultimately however great a service we can render to the material body, it is going to be destroyed along with the body in a few years. The soul has taken so many millions of bodies in millions of lives and all the bodily help received by the soul from others have not been able to rescue the soul and end the soul's dreadful transmigration in the 8.4 million species of life. Thus the Spiritual Guru understands that all the souls in this
material world are in great distress whether they are in rich or poor bodies because of neglecting the chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord and therefore he makes it his top priority to spread the Holy Names of Nityananda, Gauranga and Hare Krishna in every nook and corner of this world.
So a spiritual Guru specifically endeavours intensely to impart the Holy Names of the Lord to one and all because of which the souls will be permanently extricated from this greatly painful cycle of birth, old age, disease and death and return to join the Lord in the spiritual world (where there is no misery) which is the actual eternal home of the souls.
That is why Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada used to state that it is millions and trillions of time more important to save a soul from the clutches of Mahamaya (the grievous cycle of birth and death) by giving the souls the Holy Names, then to just only help the soul to become more comfortably situated in the present material body which is only a temporary patchwork solution which may not even last for a few days. That is why Shrila Murari Gupta, the great
physician devotee of the Supreme Lord Gauranga Mahaprabhu used to treat the suffering people on both levels - first the spiritual level by giving them the Holy Names and second the material level by giving the medicines and proper diet.
Coming back to the original question, it is found in many cases that initially for sometime the so-called Guru makes a show for sometime of teaching something to his disciples to gain their faith and when their faith is gained, he slowly begins to extract money from them. We personally hate such abominable behavior and never ever want to bring money into the picture between us and our disciples who are sincerely chanting the Holy Names. Our blessings, prayers and continued guidance are for all our disciples and devotees unconditionally without any expectations at all and this will always remain so.
Thus such a "Guru" cannot speak any unpalatable and true words to the disciple even if the disciple is wrong and wayward as per the scriptures because the so-called Guru is so attached to the donations he receives from the disciple that he has to keep his mouth shut. Such a Guru is only a farce and cannot benefit his disciples in any kind of way because he himself is materially motivated to receive facilities from his disciples.
Such a Guru himself donates to altruistic and social welfare activities just to show his disciples how charitable he is and so that his disciples keep on giving
him more. If someone challenges the authority of such a Guru to raise funds or demand money from his disciples, the Guru comes down heavy-handed upon that person. All this is going on.
In this way, the so-called disciples of Kali Yuga actually bribe their Gurus because they want him to tell them what they want to hear and not what is
actually spiritually beneficial to them. So because there is a demand for such kind of bogus Gurus, therefore there is so much supply for them in the Kali Yuga
I personally accept and use the donations the disciples and devotees send spontaneously and voluntarily in the service of spreading the Holy Names of
Nityananda, Gauranga and Hare Krishna. Even if nobody sends spontaneously, I have personally decided to serve Lord Gauranga and His Holy Names by
distributing His Names and Messages as per the resources available but never ask from my side for resources to individual disciples and devotees. Also I
personally use the meagre personal donations I receive immediately to spread the Holy Names without storing or accumulating them for security etc. When we are always dependant on Lord Nityananda's lotus feet and shelter, why should we bother to make our ownselves safe and secure in this material world. Whatever He sends, we use it in spreading His own Holy Names.
I am simply thankful and grateful for the oppportunity to serve the disciples and devotees by imparting them the most merciful Holy Names and the right
knowledge to be successful in achieving the Lord in Kali Yuga and thus I do not desire to ask anything from anyone. The very fact that my disciples are chanting the Holy Names of Nityananda, Gauranga and Hare Krishna daily and regularly is the most pleasing thing to my soul.
I am in the Holy Dhama of Jagannatha Puri Gambhira and I can manage to serve the Lord if I get some little prasadam daily and have my japa beads, Shri Chaitanya Bhagavata and mridanga and kartals. I am fully satisfied by the causeless mercy of Lord Gauranga-Jagannatha upon me to allow me residence in His own abode and to chant and preach His Holy Names and thus I do not desire to ask anything from anyone.
We are chanting the Holy Names of Lord Gauranga, Who is the Husband of the goddess of fortune Shrimati Lakshmipriya devi and thus we always have full faith that Lord Gauranga Himself will send resources if He thinks we need resources to spread His Holy Names.
And if Lord Gauranga thinks we do not need resources to spread His Holy Names, then He will not send and we will still remain fully satisfied in chanting and
preaching His glories with whatever resources He has given us. If anything is required to spread the Holy Names, we will post it on this forum at
http://forum.gaurangapada.com or some webpage and we will let Lord Nityananda Prabhu arrange for it. If the Lord does not provide, we will profusely thank Him for that too, and we will be more than happy to continue with the same enthusiasm for spreading His Holy Names through other available means.
Availabilty or non-availability of resources will not hamper our intense enthusiasm to spread the Holy Names of Nityananda, Gauranga and Hare Krishna
around the world. In all situations, we remain the unconditional servants of Lords Nityananda-Gauranga, burning with only one intense desire which is to
spread Their most rare and unknown Holy Names & Pastimes far and wide around the world. I hope this helps to answer your question. I had to give my personal example as I felt that in that way I could answer your question in a better way.
Regarding management and politics, even a very small Trust or Society involves management. Plus a Trust or Institution or temple structures leads to so many
problems including the entry of deceitful people in the garb of devotees who have ulterior motives which destroys the whole sanga. As per Jaiva Dharma, a
sannyasi or spiritual teacher should never get personally entangled in management but always be immersed in lekhana (writing Holy books for the benefit
of the world), shravana (hearing), kirtana (chanting), and prachara (preaching of the Holy Names throughout the world). In the ancient times, the Kings or
Managers would manage everything and whenever required they would go to the forest to meet the great spiritual sages who used to enlighten them with the
spiritual knowledge and perspectives of how they could perform their managerial duties better and suggest spiritual solutions for the problems the managers are facing.
The spiritual masters and sages would remain in the forest without getting directly involved in the management and politics of ruling the state and would
give their spiritual guidance whenever sought by the kshatriyas, kings and managers. They would impart such spiritual guidance very soberly and neutrally
without any expectation or attachment or force that the kings or managers should implement it. Due to the influence of Kali Yuga, even though there may be many good politicians, politics in general has become such a power-hungry rat race for money and fame that a spiritual Guru should not have thing to do with it even in the most remote manner.
The spiritual masters and sages of our Vedic times were very powerful and influential and even kings, politicans and managers used to fall at their feet
because of their totally staying aloof for all these materialistic activities. To the extent that spiritual teachers get involved with the management, flickering politics, social welfare work, fund raising and such other mundane activities, to that extent they loose their spiritual potency and respect from
the common people and society. Not only they loose this respect, but since the people of Kali Yuga tend to generalize so much, even the pure spiritual teachers who have no such motivations and interests are clubbed together with them and they also become condemned in society because the activities of these other leaders.
Again coming back to the point in question, we personally do not believe in hoarding donations or accumulating them. I immediately use the meagre personal
donations I receive to spread the Holy Names without storing them or accumulating them for security etc. When we are always dependant on Lord Nityananda's lotus feet and shelter, why should we bother to make our ownselves safe and secure in this material world. Whatever Lord Nityananda sends, we use it in spreading His own Holy Names, then He will send more if He so wants and desires.
As per Shrila Prabhupada's instructions, I immediately use the small personal donations I receive in spreading the Holy Names through the internet (Holy
eBooks, Audio eBooks, Websites etc.) or to translate and print paper books or pamphlets on Nityananda Gauranga without holding back anything. In this way I will always remain dependant on Lord Nityananda Prabhu.
So we do not need a Trust or an Organization because we do not want to construct an empire nor to accumulate wealth nor to have huge temple structures. It does not matter if we do not get many followers because we do not have huge temple structures and elaborate arrangements. We have only the merciful Holy Names of Nityananda, Gauranga and Hare Krishna and our teachings and writings to offer to the people and we are satisfied with that. Due to Lord Nityananda's causeless mercy, we have somewhat widely and successfully preached the Holy Names of Nityananda, Gauranga and Hare Krishna so far with hardly any money, resources, structures, or institutions. The power of spreading the Holy Names is given by the Holy Names Themselves and not by some material arrangements.
The Supreme Lord Gauranga Mahaprabhu Himself did not build any Institutions or Trusts nor did he construct any temple structures nor did He directly instruct any of His devotees to do so. He was still the most successful in spreading His own Holy Names. So we also want to humbly follow in the footsteps of the Lord and the Acharyas and prove to the world that His Holy Names can surely be spread without any beaureaucratic institutions or sectarian considerations or huge temple structures. More important to us, is the temple of the offenseless Holy Names of Nityananda, Gauranga and Hare Krishna in the hearts of the people. The Ray of Vishnu Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada and Shrila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada did establish lots of big temple structures and institutions as an exceptional case since they were very powerful personalities and they were directly ordered by the Lord to do so.
In my case, I prefer that
devotees start Holy Name Preaching Centers on the internet and in their homes
if they want to preach the Holy Names and if required rent a hall to have a big
gathering weekly or monthly or whenever required to hold Nityananda Gauranga
Nama Katha festivals and attract the souls.
The chanting and preaching of the Holy Names of Nityananda, Gauranga, and Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, is much more important than building huge temples in Kali Yuga.
When Lord Gauranga was asked by the people of Navadvipa about how to achieve perfection in life, He did not ask to them do Deity worship at Home or to establish temples and maintain or attend elaborate Deity worship in temples nor did He instruct Them to build big temples. Instead He gave a very simple instruction. He told them to gather together in their homes and to sing and chant His Holy Names in kirtana daily by clapping the hands or with karatals and mridangas if available. This is the only simple formula required for spiritual perfection in Kali Yuga.
Regarding the tax exemption being difficult without a Trust, we personally are not so keen on accepting huge donations from people who are non-devotees because such kind of money is not conducive to nama bhajana (chanting) and even prachara (preaching) in the long run. Devotees do not ask for tax exemption but give their support and resources because of their genuine love and desire to spread the Holy Names of Nityananda, Gauranga and Hare Krishna not for saving some tax. We want people to first become devotees, factually understand Lords Nityananda-Gauranga and Their Holy Names and Their paramount importance in Kali Yuga, start practicing the chanting of the Holy Names (which is the most important) and then if possible voluntarily help and support to spread the Holy Names of Nityananda, Gauranga and Hare Krishna all over the world in whatever way they can.
If I can make one devotee to chant the Holy Names of Nityananda, Gauranga and Hare Krishna regularly or if I can make Lords Nityananda Gauranga widely known in this world, that is infinitely more important to me than getting a donation of millions of dollars from a person who is unwilling to chant the Holy Names of Nityananda, Gauranga and Hare Krishna or accept Shri Shri Nityananda Gauranga as the Lords of all Gods and Origins of all creation. Other may have their own opinion on these issues but we have the right to have ours as per our Vedic scriptures. I hope this reply is helpful to you. I had to use my personal example many times to explain my reply in a more understandable manner so I hope you can bear with that.