Yogi Bhajan, Obedient is not Lenient

January 3, 2013 |

Categories: Our Stories

Shared by Hari Jiwan Singh on January 3, 2013

Sat Nam Dear Family,

The Siri Singh Sahib, Yogi Bhajan used to tell a lot of stories. In the early days we were like children learning by example. Stories were part of these examples. They were a means for him to create his own teaching design. A story which has followed me through decades is a story about faith, but it took faith to another level.

On an autumn evening in 1977 our Master was teaching his usual Thursday evening class at the Los Angeles Ashram. He told a story about a good student of a well know Teacher in India many years ago. One day this student was visiting with his friend when the conversation turned to his Teacher. This student began spouting superlatives beyond comprehension. Finally, his friend had had enough. His experience with this Teacher was different. “Do you know who your Teacher really is?” “What do you mean,” the student asked. “I mean do you know what your Teacher is doing right now,” the friend responded. “Of course, he’s doing his evening prayers and meditation. That’s his daily schedule.” “No, you’re wrong. I don’t want to offend you, but I feel I’d do you a greater injustice if I don’t’ let you know what he really does,” the friend pleaded. “Right now, your Teacher is living a lie. Come, go with me and see for yourself.”

So, off to the Teacher’s home they went. “See,” the friend said as the front door was flung open. “I told you didn’t I. Just look at him drinking wine with no clothes on, look at all these naked woman prancing about.” “I see nothing of the kind,” retorted the student. “I see my Teacher in meditative pose chanting God’s name.”

When I first heard this story, I thought it was about obedience, trust, faith. After all we Americans have no identity with spiritual obedience to a living Teacher. The Master used to say, ”The power to obey is the power to command.  Here in the West, to surrender, to be humble, to obey is considered to be slavery, but actually it is the power of the self. Only the most exalted, most powerful character can surrender.”

The Master was teaching us innocent Americans the power, sacrifice, and blessing of surrender. Most importantly, he was teaching us what true strength is. The strength to surrender is only truly available to the lucky person who has the character that God likes. A relationship of trust must be established between the Teacher and the student so that judgment and doubt can be suspended and the wisdom of the Teachings can be transferred. This is true. This story is about this, but there’s more. As with infinite truth, there are layers. And here’s the best part, as the layers fall away like a rose bursting through time lapse photography, one layer never compromises another. It’s a beautiful thing to be wrong and right at the same time. That’s the gift and beauty of true intuition. The power to surrender brings the gift of intuition. So, I guess, obedience isn’t such a bad thing after all.

After contemplating this story for a while longer, I further concluded that this story was about never denying your Teacher. This is also true. As the saying goes, “Once you commit to someone, grab their hand and never let go; let your head roll before letting go of that hand.” So, if you know whose hand you’re grabbing, it’s easier. Nevertheless, devotion and obedience are the antidotes to give yourself a chance to elevate no matter whether it’s easy or hard. That’s a karma thing.

Then I thought that this was a story about intent. If your intent is pure, then it doesn’t matter what your Teacher was, is, or will become. You see only the good. Well, that sounded good, but how was I not going to leave myself vulnerable to being misled if all I see is positive in spite of any direct knowledge? The answer was easy. It’s been pounded into my head since I first came on board, “never forget your duty.” So, yes, intent is a great starter, but it’s not the whole formula. Duty must match intent for delivery, success to be born. So, not only see only the best, but always remember the best is living the Teachings.

But, the question always lingered as to what I’m surrendering to. After reminding myself of this story periodically because I knew there was more to it, I began to think that this story was also about blind faith. How can you see only good when there’s obviously not so good as well? How can this student not see the debauchery in the Teacher’s actions? How can he put his faith in a lying and, obviously, false Teacher? Well, this conundrum took a while to figure out. The answer lays in the purity of the Teachings, not the Teacher. Yes, it’s easier if the Teacher is real, but, really, how many real Teachers are there? The Teachings are what matter. The Teacher brought you to the Teachings. So, with that acknowledgement, the Teacher is always protected and respected. The student didn’t put his faith in a false Teacher; he put his faith in a true Teaching. Before a student ever selects a Teacher, the criteria should always be that the Teacher teaches a true Teaching and not a personal devotion alone. This duty protects a potential student from false Teachers.

So, this story has become the answer to all who have asked me over the last forty years of my service to Yogi Bhajan, how can I put my life in the hands of another man? First of all, I’ve been really lucky to have committed to, not just another man, but to a true Teacher. That makes it much easier. Next, our Master always directed us to the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, the Guru’s Teachings. Again, the Teacher took us to a true Teaching beyond himself. And, lastly, our Master never challenged my trust in him as he only lived an exemplary life. His life was a true example of the Teachings of and the blessings from Guru Ram Das.

We are really lucky to have such an easy path which is not challenged by the mundane inequities of most Teachers. This allows us to focus on the more subtle aspects of the Teachings. I mention this only in so far as it provides great comfort and gratitude for the blessings we’ve been given. Through some process in the universe and through our good karma, we’ve been afforded a much easier and graceful path to liberation. Take advantage of it, it’s to your advantage. Keep practicing the Teachings until they become an automatic part of your psyche. 

In the Humility of Service and Gratitude,

MSS Hari Jiwan Singh Khalsa

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