A couple of weeks back, I shared some excerpts from a long conversation between myself and an accomplished Srividya upasak. This person gave me permission to post this transcription for those of you who might find it useful, but has asked that their name be withheld for privacy purposes.
A number of members told me they found the post useful and asked me to post more along these lines; so here is another, more recent, excerpt. As before, Q is me and A is them:
Q: I wonder if you could clarify something for me. I recently asked you about placing a Sriyantra in my home, but not in the pooja room - and you thought this was not such a good idea. When I asked why, you said: "Sriyantra is to be handled with care. It is a million-volt machine to be handled with care and respect for its powers." A: Yes, that is true. Maybe you could put up some other yantra; something that will be really protective, but not so very finicky as Sriyantra.
Q: You know, I find it fascinating that you keep speaking of Sriyantra in such terms! Here is this fundamental Shakta spiritual icon, and yet you're referring to it as a "finicky machine"!?
A: But think about it, please. What is a machine?
Q: A machine is nothing more than a tool that helps a human to complete a given task more efficiently or effectively.
Q: So if the guru offers to show me how to properly "use" a Yantra, I'm supposed to think of it in the same way I would someone teaching me how to use a sewing machine or power tool. Or how to drive a stick shift. Or maybe a closer parallel is playing a musical instrument: Sure, I could probably figure it out on my own, but if an expert is there to show me the tried-and-proven way, I will at least try to perfect the received method before presuming to adjust tradition to suit my own needs and preferences of the moment.
A: That is absolutely right, which is why I love to discuss these sorts of things with you. And it also brings to mind an idea. If I may, I would like to discuss it with you?
Q: Of course.
A: You know that I am an unconventional fellow when it comes to the question of who can use mantras. And I used to believe that, with proper knowledge, a Guru is not quite essential.
A: Well, yesterday I was sitting - well, I needn't say where I was sitting exactly; let's just say my muladhara chakra was probably stimulated [laughs]. And I was thinking about the problem of those Tantric aspirants for whom just *nothing* seems to work. They do sadhanas very hard and long, but they never get any appreciable results. The problem is often that they have fixed notions - and simple remedies are "below" them. They want only the most elaborate and complicated "Tantric" rituals!
Q: Yes, I see.
A: You know, they believe in the power of mantras all right. But simple things? Ugh!!! [laughs]. And so I know quite a few people who are good sadhaks in the sense that they are sincere - but who get no results, despite intense japa, etc. And it's not for lack of desire! The desire is there! In fact, it is often there with an intensity one cannot imagine. And so I asked myself why. And the only common denominator I found is they do not have is a Guru or someone to tell what to do after viewing the situation dispassionately. [Pause] So maybe a Guru is essential after all.
Q: Oh no, the old Guru question again. I had to work through that very intensely myself. I was quite sure that I did not want a guru. I found the idea very distasteful. I especially did not like the way some people spoke of their gurus - this blind adoration, this uncritical acceptance, this saccharine sweetness that permeates so much of the guru-disciple dynamic in so many cases.
A: My position on that is, never accept anything blindly. Try it. Test it for yourself. Then decide. Somebody else can't do the work for you. They can take you quite a long way. Almost the whole way sometimes. But not all the way. However, yes, I do understand this negative reaction to guruhood - and not only for the reasons you mention, but also the stories of exploitation - sexual, financial or otherwise.
Q: Yes. But I am sorry, I just pulled you off topic. You were talking about people who are good sadhaks in that they are sincere, but who get no results.
A: Yes, you see, these people - I would not call them sadhaks in that term's real connotation - do the sadhana, but not with a spiritual end in mind. They do it with the intention of achieving something material. I keep telling them, "Forget the results; it will follow! Just do it and let go! But they are not willing. [Pause.] Am I sounding silly?
Q: No, not silly at all. But I did notice that you've given two answers to the same question. First you said that these people achieve nothing because they lack a guru; but then you said they achieve nothing because they seek material rewards. So is it one or the other, or both? Will either circumstance - lack of guru *or* material goals - stunt spiritual progress? Or do you need both circumstances to stunt progress?
A: Either one alone is enough. But they are connected. You see, that's what I was saying: A Guru can view the situation dispassionately, can gradually steer a person away from an incorrect or counterproductive goal. You see, the thing is that most of these guys are not doing sadhana for sadhana's sake. They either do sadhana to achieve some material goal; or they do it to get some spiritual benefit - siddhi - so that they can use it for other material benefits. And the aim of Siddhi itself is a drag, which is why I never tell exactly what siddhi a person will get by doing a given sadhana. Would you agree with that idea?
Q: I think so, yes. If the goal of sadhana is non-duality (which necessarily implies siddhis in its realization), then the conscious pursuit of siddhi in itself necessities a denial of the goal of sadhana. Because when you seek siddhis, this means that you are seeking power over something or someone other than yourself, rather than keeping your "eyes on the prize" of experiencing that there *is* nothing and no one other than yourself.
A: Exactly!! You have cleared my thinking by putting it so succinctly.
Q: Well, that is simply mechanics -- I write for a living [laughs]. I'm just repeating what you said!
A: [Laughs] My point is simply that this happens because they have none - none whom they trust, that is - to guide them. They just have book knowledge. And that is the crux of the problem. Many seek Srividya. Many people get to the periphery and think they have it; but really very few get it.
Q: Is there any particular reason you brought this topic up today?
A: No, I was thinking of discussing this with you for some time.
Q: [Laughs] Should I be flattered?!
A: You should feel happy.
Aum Maatangyai Namahe
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