Worshipping the Guru’s Feet – Georg Feuerstein – Laughing Man Magazine





Worshipping The Guru’s
Feet 

Georg Feuerstein

Laughing Man Magazine

Vol. 4, NO 4, 1984

Georg A. Feuerstein lived a profoundly productive life of
humble service and made a peaceful, conscious exit from this
world on Saturday, August 25, 2012 near his home in Southern
Saskatchewan, Canada. (Traditional
Yoga Studies
)

The following article appeared in Laughing Man
Magazine, Vol. 4, NO.4, 1984 where Georg was an editor while
a devotee of Adi Da Samraj (Master Da).

Last year I sent a homemade
card to Master Da Free John, who resided at Tumomama
Sanctuary in Hawaii at the time. The card was a simple ink
drawing of a hammock strung between two palm trees. The
hammock was occupied, but of the occupant only one foot
could be seen peeping over the edge. The foot belonged to
Master Da. The message beneath the drawing was equally
straightforward. I thanked the Spiritual Master for the
“regal kick” that he had meted out to my wife and myself to
unglue us from our conventional approach to spiritual
practice.

The image suggested itself to me because Master Da was
sitting in a hammock when he welcomed us to Tumomama
Sanctuary. Neither of us expected a response to the card. We
were, therefore, all the more surprised when, a few weeks
later, we were informed of his comments about our
communication. And his comments were eye-opening indeed! He
remarked that I had obviously noticed something about him
putting one leg forward as I approached to greet him, and
that I should look up the story of Shankara meeting his
Teacher.

After traveling a long distance, young
Shankara arrived at the forest hermitage of the
illustrious Sage Govinda. Desirous of being
initiated into the Wisdom of the Absolute, he
consulted the ascetics living in the hermitage.
They accompanied him to Sage Govinda s residence- a
cave with an entrance no more than a cubit wide.
Shankara circumambulated the area surrounding the
cave three times, and prostrating himself in front
of the entrance, he began to chant a devotional
hymn in praise of the Sage.

Govindacarva promptly emerged from his
Ecstatic absorption, asking: “Who are you?”
Betraying his own Illumination, Shankara replied:
“Revered Sir, l am. neither earth nor water,
neither fire nor air, neither ether nor any of
their properties. I am also not the senses or even
the mind. I am Shiva, the impartite Essence of
Consciousness. “

Upon hearing these words, imbued with the
spirit of nondualistic understanding, Sage Govinda
was greatly delighted. He said: “Dear child,
through the suprasensuous knowledge gained in
Ecstasy, I know that you are the great Lord Shiva
who has incarnated on earth in human form. ” Then,
in observance of the age-old custom of establishing
the sacred relationship between Teacher and
devotee, Sage Govinda extended his feet through the
opening of the cave. Shankara worshipped the Sage’s
feet with heartfelt devotion and proper
ceremony.

Although a person may have an inborn
intuition of the Truth, it is prescribed in the
scriptures that one should be duly instructed by a
Teacher.

Hence Shankara performed the ritual worship
of the Guru and, subsequently, through his devoted
service to the Sage, became the object of
Govindacarva’s loving Regard. Highly pleased with
his devotee’s service, the Sage imparted to him the
Wisdom of the Absolute.

Adapted from Madhava’s Shankara Digvijava,
chapter 5.


“The tradition of the Guru or
Spiritual Master, who is of ultimate significance
in the disciple’s life, is incomprehensible, absurd, and
offensive to most Westerners.”

 

As I heard this, I suddenly remembered how everything in
me had wanted to honor him by bowing down to embrace the
Guru’s extended foot, but how my complicated intellect had
frustrated this spontaneous impulse toward bodily surrender.
What seemed natural enough to my heart was completely
unacceptable, even ridiculous, to my doubting mind. I had
forgotten about that incident. He had not.

The tradition of the Guru or Spiritual Master, who is of
ultimate significance in the disciple’s life, is
incomprehensible, absurd, and offensive to most Westerners.
They balk at, and reject, the idea that any one person
should or could be so instrumental in determining another’s
fate. In their eyes, the Guru is a direct threat to personal
freedom and the psychic integrity of the individual. This
widespread view is understandable considering the narrow
materialistic bias of the critics of the Guru tradition.

What might seem surprising, though, is that this
ill-judged opinion should be shared by a large number of
people who profess to engage spiritual life on some level or
other. On closer examination, their lack of comprehension of
the Guru’s role has the same ideological and psychological
roots as the negative attitude of the secular mainstream of
our society: materialism on the one hand and fear of
self-loss on the other.

The spiritual function fulfilled by the Guru is
intelligible only within a non-materialistic framework of
thought, in which the psycho-physical nature of the world is
fully taken into account. And the Guru is a psycho-physical
event. This is what many so-called spiritual seekers fail to
grasp. And their fearful rejection of Spiritual Masters is
merely the inverse of their cleaving to worldly life – even
the semblance of a spiritual life.

When, aged fourteen, I first encountered the idea of the
Guru, I had an altogether different response. I was
curiously excited – almost feverish about this discovery.
Nothing in my environment or upbringing had suggested the
possibility of the existence of such beings. Yet, it made
instant and complete sense to me, and it seemed to give
anchorage to my groping understanding of the structure of
spiritual life. I appreciated the fact that the relationship
between Guru and disciple or devotee should be quite unlike
that between secular teacher and pupil. In fact, I rejoiced
in it, because at the time I was still suffering firsthand
the failure of our banal, materialistic education.
Admittedly, I did not yet have a clear sense of the
spiritual process itself. Still, I tacitly understood that a
complete and radical personal transformation was entailed
and that the Guru’s purpose was to help bring this
about.

Only much later did I comprehend the profundity of this
process and the immense responsibility that the Guru assumes
voluntarily, out of compassion. Then I also learned that
spiritual self-transformation is a “sacred ordeal,” that it
is as demanding and difficult as it is joyous. In between my
initial discovery of spiritual life and the figure of the
Guru and my later immersion into the actualities of
spiritual discipline, there was a long period of dabbling
with different techniques and methods of self-actualization
and self-improvement, interspersed with countless moments of
self-doubt and doubt about the authenticity of spiritual
paths and teachers, even the whole spiritual adventure
itself.

My own oscillation, stretching over more years than I
care to remember, between an affirmative attitude toward the
spiritual dimension and a frustrated (and frustrating)
skepticism and crypto materialism, allows me to empathize
with those who still question the role and function of the
Guru in spiritual life. The Guru is a difficult factor to
reckon with. Indeed, the Spiritual Master spells difficulty:
That is his responsibility in the spiritual process. He
constantly pushes the devotee beyond all self-imposed and
comfortable limits. His efficacy can almost be said to be
directly proportionate to his being a disturbance, a
turbulence, in the life of the spiritual practitioner. A
consoling, indulgent Guru, in other words, is worthless. I
did not understand this fact fully until I had come into
contact with the Teaching of Master Da Free John, who spells
out the rousing role of the Guru in frank terms:

“The Guru is a kind of irritation to his friends. You
can’t sleep with a dog barking in your ear, at least most
people can’t. There is some sort of noise to which everyone
is sensitive, and it will keep them awake. The Guru is a
constant wakening sound. He is always annoying people with
this demand to stay awake, to wake up. He doesn’t seduce
them within the dream. He doesn’t exploit their seeking. He
is always offending their search and their preference for
unconsciousness. He shows no interest in all of that. He
puts it down. He is always doing something prior to the
mind. He always acts to return you from the mind, from
fascination. ” –
Da Free John, The Method of the
Siddhas. rev. ed. (Middletown, Calif.; The Dawn Horse Press,
1978), p. 152.

 

“It is certainly incomparably
easier to tinker with spiritual practices on one’s own terms
than it is to respond to the Guru’s incessant appeal for
ever more comprehensive self-transcendence.”

 

This is not gray theory, either. Master Da does not
belong to what he calls the “talking school” of spiritual
life. He takes the function of Spiritual Master seriously.
No doubt, this is the reason why apparently eager “spiritual
seekers” have been slow in submitting themselves to actual
practice under the guidance of an Adept. It is certainly
incomparably easier to tinker with spiritual practices on
one’s own terms than it is to respond to the Guru’s
incessant appeal for ever more comprehensive
self-transcendence. So long as one purports to follow the
“Guru within,” the tempo of spiritual practice is apt to be
comfortable enough for the ego. But the Spiritual Master
never allows his disciple to lie back at his ease.

Authentic spiritual life consists in the voluntary
frustration of one’s habitual tendencies toward stasis and
self-pleasuring. Master Da Free John speaks of boredom,
doubt, and discomfort as the three afflictions that we
ordinarily seek to circumvent by all possible means of
self-comforting.

However, the genuine spiritual practitioner embraces
every opportunity to stew in his own juices. Nothing morose
or neurotic is involved in this! He does not invite
suffering, as appears to be recommended in certain quarters
of Christianity. Rather, he faces squarely boredom, doubt,
and discomfort, regarding them as opportunities for
intensifying his self- transcending disposition.

The Guru, wholeheartedly committed as he is to his
disciple’s Enlightenment or Liberation, will always
frustrate the practitioner’s tendency to escape boredom,
doubt, and discomfort, and to settle for a
pseudo-equilibrium. In fact, the Spiritual Master provokes
crisis after crisis in the disciple, obliging him to clearly
see and understand the numerous ways by which he contrives
to avoid the spiritual process by relapsing into the
dreamlike semiconsciousness that is the substance of the
so-called waking state of our everyday life.

Of course, the disciple or devotee must be basically
attuned to the Spiritual Master’s Work with him, and he must
also be capable of responding to the spiritual demand that
the Guru represents. In the past, therefore, the Guru would
carefully assess the potential disciple’s bodily,
intellectual, and moral capabilities before consenting to
Teach him. For, the relationship between the Spiritual
Master and the devotee is a two-way obligation, which lasts
until the Guru’s supreme condition of Liberation has been
duplicated in the disciple. In a modified form, this
relationship continues even after the devotee’s
Enlightenment.

Understandably, no authentic Teacher or Sadguru would
enter this contract lightly. The Sanskrit scriptures relate
many stories of long testing before a petitioning disciple
was at last formally accepted by the Teacher.

Such testing, not surprisingly, is also part of the life
of the novice of Master Da Free John’s Way of Radical
Understanding. The testing-ground is the community of
practitioners, though sometimes – as in my own case – Master
Da might spontaneously decide to hurl at the beginner some
boulders of his own: whatever serves the person’s practice
best.

Basically, the purpose of this initial interplay between
Spiritual Master and novice is to define and ground their
relationship. The practitioner must come to understand the
Guru’s function. The Guru, again, awakens the novice to the
point that he may begin to appreciate the Guru’s spiritual
Presence. In this way a basis of mutual trust is created.
Failing this, the practitioner is likely to suffer from
chronic doubt, which would only undermine his practice.
There must be a fundamental recognition of the Guru as a
wholly metamotivated being, who has no ulterior motives in
his Teaching Work, but is solely prompted by a compassionate
desire to draw others into the same Realization that he
enjoys.

The Spiritual Master, on his part, will be looking for
evidence that the practitioner is able and ready to be
instructed, to handle the intensity of the Guru-disciple
relationship. Nevertheless, the Spiritual Master always
assumes a prior loving relationship with his disciple,
however recalcitrant and full of weaknesses he may be. But
he is waiting for concrete signs that his transforming love
is capable of being put to good use, which necessarily
requires that the love be returned. Trust is the
precondition for that love in the devotee, and gratitude is
the vehicle by which the devotee consciously expresses his
love for the one who will make his Liberation possible. Once
trust is established, the disciple becomes open to the
Guru’s Transmission. Die remainder of his practice will be,
in essence, a step-by-step discovery of the Spiritual
Master’s true nature. As Master Da Free John explains:

“The Way is marked by a progressive recognition of the
Spiritual Master as the human individual who is the source
of the Teaching. That individual is a particular
spirit-entity located in a particular time and place in any
moment. But as individuals begin to mature, they begin to
recognize the Spiritual Master through the process of
spiritual location. In other words, they recognize the
Spiritual Master as the one whom they see as a spiritual
entity in the time and place, the human being, but they also
recognize the Spiritual Master as a Presence. They find that
Presence when they are in the physical company of the
Spiritual Master and they find It at other times. When they
realize that It is the same Presence, then they have entered
into the next stage of recognition of the Spiritual Master.
They are associated with the Spiritual Master then in more
complex terms. He is that human individual who influences
them in various ways, he is an Adept, a Siddha3
magnifying the Divine Presence to them, helping them in
various ways, and he is also omnipresent, always present,
not moving around but Present, to be located even in every
moment.

As the spiritual process matures, that same one is
further recognized as Transcendental Being, the
Consciousness in which attention is arising. Then another
stage is realized coincident with the recognition of Nature,
in which the Spiritual Master is located as the Light of
lights, and core Light, the white Brilliance at the center
of the Cosmic Mandala4, the five-pointed
star.5

 

3. A Siddha is literally a “Fulfilled” or “Perfect One,”
one who has Realized God permanently and beyond doubt and
who is naturally moved to Awaken others

4. The Cosmic Mandala is a visionary manifestation of the
Universal Energy of the Cosmos. It appears as concentric
differently colored circles of light progressing to the
Ultimate White Brightness in the center of the Mandala. In
perfect God-Realization, the Conscious being stands beyond
the whole cosmic configuration and the mechanics of Nature
which it represents. For a full discussion of the Cosmic
Mandala, sec Easy Death, by Da Free John, especially part 4,
“Transcending the Cosmic Mandala,” pp. 223-88.

5. Da Free John, The Fire Gospel {Clearlake, Calif.: The
Dawn Horse Press, 1982, pp 50-51.

 

“The main reason why so many
apparent spiritual practitioners choose the “inner Guru” or
the “Wisdom within” over the external Guru is that they are
fearful.”

 

Obviously, there is no way in which the Spiritual
Master’s nature and function could be made sense of within
the context of a materialistic world-view. The Guru is
intelligible only in terms of a spiritual interpretation of
existence. It would, therefore, be quite futile to champion
the Adept to a hard-nosed materialist. However, I feel this
consideration should be of interest to those who, without
seeing the necessity of a Spiritual Master, are positively
oriented to a spiritual philosophy of life.

I have already indicated that the main reason why so many
apparent spiritual practitioners choose the “inner Guru” or
the “Wisdom within” over the external Guru is that they are
fearful. And what they fear is that the external Spiritual
Master will prove an interference in their lives. Instead of
recognizing this to be the ego’s bid for the status quo,
they shortchange themselves by rationalizing their
resistance: The Guru is held to infringe the disciple’s
personal liberty so that his spiritual growth will not only
not be promoted but actively stunted.

Related ideas are that the devotee becomes emotionally
enslaved to the Guru, and is perhaps even tricked into such
dependence in order to be exploited by the Guru for entirely
selfish or at least deluded purposes. There is also the
suspicion and fear that the Guru seeks to mold the
disciple’s psyche and mind according to some preconceived
pattern that is reflective of the Guru’s own personality. In
other words, the Spiritual Master is believed to be intent
on refashioning his devotee in his own likeness-by means of
indoctrination and, if necessary, by sheer coercion.

The anticult literature is replete with case histories of
“cult victims” who have been “brainwashed” to the point
where they become incapable of functioning “normally.” The
cases of abuse reported for some cults, even though
oftentimes vastly exaggerated, would seem to confirm this
widespread phobia and distrust. Certainly, Jonestown is a
vivid example of blatant personality manipulation and
coercion on a large scale by a ruthless and obviously
psychopathic cult leader.

 

“The popular mind wrongly
associates this kind of autocratic leadership with the true
function of a Spiritual Master.”

 

Yet, the popular mind wrongly associates this kind of
autocratic leadership with the true function of a Spiritual
Master. There is a momentous difference between cults of the
type of “The People’s Temple” and an authentic spiritual
tradition or group, and between the sort of cult leader
exemplified by “Father” Jones and genuine Spiritual Masters
of the stature of Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna, Swami
Ramdas, Sri Aurobindo, or Anandamayi Ma, who were respected
and loved by countless people in India and elsewhere in the
world. That these distinctions have become blurred is
symptomatic of a widespread failure to understand the
dynamics of the Guru/ disciple relationship.

People distrust the Guru’s demand for surrender. Their
apprehension is natural enough. But it is also based on a
serious misapprehension of the spiritual process and the
Guru’s role in it. First of all, there is a fundamental
confusion between the concept of personality and the concept
of ego. The two are not synonymous.

Whereas the personality is a particular configuration of
the world-process, the ego is simply a superimposition on
the play of Nature, on the natural differentiation of the
manifest world. The ego or separate self-sense is the
habitual movement in us to arbitrarily define ourselves in
terms of a specific body-mind or personality. The sense of
individuality arises as a natural function of conscious
existence and as such does have a biological or evolutionary
usefulness. Yet, it becomes dysfunctional when it
crystallizes into the principle of one’s existence and thus
begins to stand proxy for the All-Identity of Transcendental
Consciousness. The ego is, in other words, a false pretense,
a lie by which we delimit ourselves to an aspect of the
Total Reality that we are in truth.

The “ego death” invited in true spiritual practice is not
tantamount to the crucifixion of the personality, the
annihilation of individuality, the deadening of the psyche,
the obliteration of the mind, or the utter disregard for the
body. Ego-death is simply perfect self-transcendence, which
is equivalent to Enlightenment or God-Realization. The
spiritual process does not wipe out personality
characteristics. Enlightened beings do not look, talk, or
act alike. What they have in common, however, is the
continuous transcendence of all apparent differences and
distinctions. They are identical on the level of
Transcendental Being.

Therefore, the Guru is not interested in coercively
suppressing his disciple’s personality or mind. Rather, he
fully appreciates the fact that different disciples have
different personalities. In his interaction with devotees he
will, consequently, respond to their individual needs and
aptitudes. And the essence of that interaction is always the
enhancement of the devotee’s innate capacity for self
transcendence, for going beyond his apparent identity as a
particular body-mind or personality. Ultimate Enlightenment
is the discovery that one is that Single Identity in which
all differences- all individual beings, all personalities-
arise. Thus, nothing is lost, but literally everything is
gained.

The Guru steps into this process because the ordinary
being is obviously unable to unlock the ego’s cage, to
dispel the illusion of confinement to a body-mind. Having
passed through the spiritual process and being firmly rooted
in the Transcendental All-Identity, the Spiritual Master
offers himself as a concrete focus for the devotee’s
self-transcending struggle. And that focus is not the
apparent body or personality but the Total Field that the
Guru represents.

The genuine Teacher will not tolerate cultic attachment
to his person, for in the last analysis, this is always only
self-indulgent and self-serving. The devotee’s attention
must be on the Reality or Spiritual Presence for which the
Guru’s physical form is both symbol and psychophysical
instrument. This is how Master Da Free John explains the
extraordinary relationship between Guru and disciple:

“The human Spiritual Master is an agent to the
advantage of those in like form. When one enters into right
relationship with a Spiritual Master, changes happen in the
literal physics of one’s existence. It is not just a matter
of ideas. I am talking about transformations at the level of
energy, at the level of the higher light of physics, at the
level of mind beyond the physical limitations that people
now presume, at the level of the absolute Speed of ultimate
Light. The transforming process is enacted in devotees,
duplicated in them in and through that Living Company. It is
not a matter of conceptual symbolisms or emotional
attachment to some extraordinary person. It is real physics.
And it is to the advantage of people when someone among them
has gone through the whole cycle of Transformation, because
they can then make use of the Offering of that Process, that
Company. “7

7. Da Free John, Scientific Proof of the Existence of God
Will Soon Be Announced by the White House! (Middletown,
Calif.: The Dawn Horse Press, 1980), p. 364.

When, during my visit at Tumomama Sanctuary, I felt the
impulse to embrace Master Da’s extended foot, 1 had for a
fleeting moment no sense of worshipping an individual or a
personality. It was only when my conventional mind intruded
that I fell victim to the behavioral stereotypes of my
Western upbringing. And instead of enacting bodily the
self-transcending gesture I was feeling in my heart, 1
allowed doubt and awkwardness to disrupt the spontaneity of
devotional surrender to the Great Reality.

To worship the Guru’s feet is a poetic metaphor for the
spiritual process altogether. For, the feet of the Spiritual
Master are not attached to an earth-bound ego. As Master Da
Free John states in his adaptation of the Guru Gita – The
Hymn of the Master – “His Feet are Planted in the Heart
of God” (46)
. There is not the slightest trace of
subjectivity in the Spiritual Master, who is wholly and
irrevocably surrendered to the One Reality. Nor do we need
to take the Teacher’s word for it. For, the Condition of
which he speaks is magnified in his presence. “By their
fruits ye shall know them”
(Matthew 7:20).

There is so much more that could usefully be said about
this important subject, but I have already run out of space.
Still, I would like to conclude as I started this Editorial
– on a personal note:

First I came to appreciate and admire Master Da Free
John’s Teaching as a flawless intellectual consideration of
spiritual life. Then I began to respect him as the
originator of that Wisdom Teaching. Later I learned to
recognize and love him as the embodiment of That Which had
attracted me to his Teaching and drawn me into his company
in the first place. But before I could respond in this
heartfelt manner, I had to become certain of his own love
for me, the devotee. And now it is beginning to dawn on me
that this loving relationship is as old as the history of
sentient life itself, as ancient as the Play between the
first Guru and his first devotee.

The Spiritual Master “always already” waits in the
disciple’s heart. The Guru’s feet are where we are right
now.


Beezone Note

I knew Georg personally during and after his ‘time’
with Adi Da Samraj. I also knew his wife Patricia (then) and
knew of the personal reasons why both he and Patricia
decided to leave Adi Da and his community in 1989 after
seven years as devotees. After leaving Adidam (the community
of Adi Da’s devotees), Georg began expanding his publishing
and writing work with the Yoga Research and Educational
Foundation. In 1991 Georg wrote ‘Holy Madness’ – The Shock
Tactics and Radical Teachings of Crazy-Wise Adepts, Holy
Fools and Rascal Gurus where he warned neurosis and poor
judgment can survive enlightenment. In the book, he is
highly critical and sounds the alarm about Guru’s and what
they do in the name of enlightenment. Although his
controversial change from devotee to skeptic and ‘watchman’
of enlightened fools falls into the camp of D. Lane and
others, secretly he was always respectful of what he learned
while in the company of Adi Da Samraj. As he so rightly
stated in this article, “It is certainly incomparably easier
to tinker with spiritual practices on one’s own terms than
it is to respond to the Guru’s incessant appeal for ever
more comprehensive self-transcendence.”

Ed Reither, Beezone


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