Ever since I met her, I’m been trying to convince my wife that I’m God. It just seems so obvious: I understand Windows XP and can fix her computer when something goes wrong; back when we used a VCR, I could program it to do whatever we wanted; I know how to hang a picture so it is centered perfectly over a piece of furniture.
Yet my husbandly divinity remains unrecognized. For some reason Laurel focuses more on such things as: my inability to put the kitchen sponge in its holder, rather than on the bottom of the sink; my incapacity to fold t-shirts properly and place them neatly in their designated drawer; my reluctance, after cutting off a slice of bread, to reintroduce the whole wheat loaf back into the bag where it is supposed to stay fresher.
Guess I should start calling myself a guru. Then my human failings could be construed as signs of my godliness.
This is what I learned by reading the May 2006 issue of the Western U.S.A. Newsletter, published by Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB)—America. Every month the RSSB representative for the Western states, Vincent Savarese, writes an article about some aspect of this organization’s teachings.
The issue that just arrived in the mail speaks about the guru as God-man, someone who has merged with God and so has no imperfections. If you want to know God, supposedly you have to be accepted by a guru.
The saints tell us that we need to find and associate with someone who is perfect. We say God is perfect and is absolute reality. But we haven’t seen or met God. Can we see that Perfect Being without an intercessor? Unequivocally all saints and masters say we cannot. We need a teacher who has met God and merged with God, an enlightened being, a God-Man, a Sat Guru, or Perfect Master.
Isn’t that amazing? Walking around on Earth are perfect beings who are incarnations of God, just as Jesus and Krishna were considered to be.
Why is it, then, that the multitudes don’t fall at their feet and worship them? What explains the fact that, back in the early 1990s, my wife got to sit just a few feet away from a purported God-man (Gurinder Singh Dhillon) and came away from a lengthy meeting with him saying, “I didn’t feel anything special. He just seemed like a regular person to me”?
Savarese offers up the reason:
Saints and mystics tell us only the soul is perfect and so also the Perfect Master. The Perfect Master is perfect within at all times and can be perfect outside if he wishes, but he guards his perfection very carefully…What is confusing to many people is that Masters may act forgetful, show fatigue or annoyance, may mispronounce a written name or call a female a male or vice versa.
Ah! This is exactly what I’ve been telling my wife! My seeming imperfections are just a necessary disguise to cover my Godliness. Otherwise, I’d be spending all of my time fending off wanna-be disciples who would desire to give me their devotion, money, and, in the case of young attractive women, their bodies. (Hmmmm. Now that I think about it, why would I want to disguise myself?)
So it turns out that there is no way to judge whether a guru is merged with God. If the guru acts perfectly divine, this is proof that he is an enlightened being. If the guru acts imperfectly human, this is proof that, in Savarese’s words, “He chooses to play the role of an ordinary man much of the time.” Why? Because, “If he didn’t he would attract all manner of miracle seekers and not the truth seekers he was meant to meet.”
Pretty good gig. Perfection means godliness. Imperfection also means godliness. It’s akin to a band being able to play as many off-key tunes as they wanted, because the audience would believe them when they said “We mean our songs to sound that way; if you are our fans, love the way we play them, not how you want to hear them.” Savarese writes:
For the disciple of the perfect Master, for the gurmukh, for the servant of the King, there is one simple and urgent rule…obedience. Logic and self-preservation, self-importance, must be set aside. He will provide everything for the thoroughly obedient disciple.
But not, apparently, for the disobedient disciple. As someone else put it, “He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!” Santa Claus, guru, God: what’s the difference? They all reward obedience and punish independence.
The nagging problem, though, is that nasty old fly in the ointment: reality. If Santa Claus, guru, or God aren’t really what we believe them to be, what then? Does it make sense to keep believing in the absence of evidence? What makes children stop believing in Santa Claus? Is this a mark of increasing maturity or a disturbing loss of faith?
Which brings me to the question with which I began: is the guru a God-man or an Asshole? Perhaps these seem like harsh choices. Indeed, previously I’ve suggested another option, the guru as loyalist (adding to the three traditional “L” options of the Lord, a liar, or a lunatic).
However, upon further reflection I’m beginning to think that loyalist and liar belong together in the broader “Asshole” category. This reduces the choices to two: God-man or Asshole, assuming that lunatic doesn’t fit. I realize that this may offend those who consider that the guru is God.
But here’s why it shouldn’t: if the guru truly is God, notwithstanding the lack of evidence, he, like God, isn’t affected by anything I or anyone else says about him. Heck, the same is true even for ourselves, really. I get put down, insulted, and criticized all of the time by other people who comment on my weblog postings and send me emails. By and large, it washes off my back. With God, it wouldn’t even come close to his back.
On the other hand, if the guru really isn’t God, I don’t see how he deserves any other title than Asshole. What else should you call a man (or woman) who accepts the fervent devotion of his followers, who fails to dissuade those who consider him to be God incarnate, and who encourages absolute obedience to his dictates as the only means of spiritual realization—yet isn’t who he claims to be?
For many years, before I’d meditate in the morning I would carry on a one-sided conversation with the guru who initiated me: Charan Singh. “Good day, Master. How are you? Hope to see you soon, inside or outside, in the heavenly regions or when you come to visit us physically.” And so on.
I still talk to him. But in a different fashion now. “How’re you doing, Asshole? Don’t like that name? Well, either you’re God and am aware of me speaking to you, or you were a fake and aren’t aware of anything now that you’re dead. So, if you’re God, come and talk to me now that I’ve got your attention. If you’re not, then Asshole is the perfect name for a man who claimed to be a Perfect Master for almost forty years, but knew that he wasn’t.”
It’s a conundrum. I don’t know which is true: God-man or Asshole. All I know is that for me, seeing is believing. I’ll believe someone is God when I see unequivocal evidence of this (as to what that might be, all I can say is that I’ll know it when I see it). Until then, if you say you’re God, I’m going to use my alternative title for you.