One is Free to Regard His Talks As He Likes
Although his audience may be momentarily enamored by what appears to be a description of Indian social customs, a careful listener can grasp the greater context of Prabhupada’s speech: everyone must accept a spiritual master. It’s a heavy topic for a casual audience. What is the need of taking a spiritual master? Isn’t this just for India? But he says, “Everyone should have a spiritual master.” What is a spiritual master, anyway? Maybe he means that accepting a spiritual master is just another cultural item from Hinduism, like the sacred thread, or the part in a woman’s hair, or the widow’s dress. The audience can easily regard the discussion as a kind of cultural exposition, just as one comfortably watches a film about the living habits of people in a foreign land, although one has no intention of adapting those habits as one’s own. The Swami is wearing one of those threads on his body, but that’s for Hindus, and it doesn’t mean that Americans should wear them. But these Hindu beliefs are interesting.
Actually, Prabhupada has no motive but to present the Absolute Truth as he has heard it in disciplic succession. But if anyone in that railroad car-shaped room were to ask himself, “Should I surrender to a spiritual master?” he would be confronted by the existential presence of a genuine guru. One is free to regard his talk as one likes.
May 15, 2022
Sunanda Das, Temple of the Vedic Planetarium