I’m not attracted to being the slave of someone. Some people are. The Master/slave Conference is dedicated to “exploring dominant/submissive relationships.” Many websites and weblogs, such as Magdala’s Submission, are devoted to the M/s and BDSM lifestyle.
All that is fine with me. Whatever turns you on. But melding dominance and submission with spirituality strikes me as strange. I’ve never been able to look upon God as someone who desires a Master/slave relationship with the beings He/She/It has created. Yet religious and mystical literature is replete with claims that God desires just that.
Here are some excerpts from “Sar Bachan Poetry,” a book published by Radha Soami Satsang Beas. It contains writings by Soami Shiv Dayal Singh, a guru of the late 1800s who emphasized the importance of total submission to a spiritual Master.
Admirable, among all disciples, is the one who has earned the pleasure of the Master. For if the Master is pleased, the Creator is pleased…So do what you can to please the Master—trying to please others is of little advantage.
Do not think of the Master as a human being—he is the very life and spirit of Sat Purush, the true Lord.
My Guru is the benefactor, I am the slave.
The basic Christian-like notion here is that God has taken on a human form: the guru. So whatever you do for the guru is done for God. If you want to get into God’s good graces, then suck up to the guru. Then word will get passed on to God that you’re a devoted dude or dudette, deserving of salvation.
Now, I’ve got problems with this theology. To pick one quibble among many, I find it exceedingly difficult to accept the anthropomorphism that the highest divinity gets pleasure from being obeyed. Wouldn’t you think that God is beyond such egoistic concerns? As would be, by implication, a guru who supposedly is one with God?
Yet Soami Shiv Dayal Singh says:
Live in the will of the Master, my friend, and hold it dear to your heart. Consider as kindness whatever the Master does and accept with an open heart whatever the Master says. Learn the meaning of gratitude, O thoughtless one! He will give you happiness or pain as he in his wisdom thinks fit. Your indulgence in sense pleasures is a perversion for which, out of his love for you, he might punish and chastise you… Serve the Master, please him with your service.
A woman into BDSM speaks similarly in her “The Submissive’s Prayer.”
Let me be able to show Him each day my love of my service to Him.
Let me open myself up to completely belong to Him.
Let my eyes show Him the same respect, rather I sit at his side, or kneel at his feet.
Let me accept my punishment with the grace of a woman.
Let me learn to please Him, beyond myself.
Grant me the power to give myself to Him completely.
Give me the strength to please us both.
Permit me to love myself, in loving Him.
Allow me the peace of serving Him.
For it is my greatest wish, my highest power
To make his life complete, as he makes mine.
As I said before, I’ve got nothing against freely chosen dominance and submission relationships. A woman who calls herself Rarejewel speaks quite eloquently about “The Power of Submission.” But this essay is on the cuffs.com web site. People attracted to a Master/slave approach to spirituality might do well to keep this in mind.
Plus, fear is a prime motivation for obeying the guru. Soami Shiv Dayal Singh says that if a disciple doesn’t do everything possible to please the Master and questions the guru’s godliness, that damnable heretic will be taught a lesson by the angels of death. Creepy. Sounds like the Old Testament.
If someone attempts to please everyone else but is hostile towards the Master, not hesitating to find fault with him and taking him to be a mere human, consider his actions to be suicidal—the messengers of death will pull him down. Learn from this and understand, brother, and make every effort to please your Master.
This morning I was reading Alan Watts’ last book, “Tao: The Watercourse Way.” His description of the Taoist conception of obedience is far removed from a personalized Master/slave relationship. For a Taoist, the goal is to flow with the entire river of life, not to try to conform to the command of any particular entity.
Wu-wei is to roll with experiences as they come and go, like a ball in a mountain stream, though actually there is no ball apart from the convolutions and wriggles of the stream itself….There is no resistance to the up when now going up, and no resistance to the down when now going down. To resist is to get seasick.
Acquiescing to the natural movements of the cosmos makes sense to me. What else can we do? Becoming the slave of another human being--that's unappealing.