When you need to go, you’ve got to go. Peeing is simple. At least, it should be.
But when going to the bathroom gets mixed up with religious dogma, organizational rules, and guru worship, it’s amazing how much controversy arises about getting up to go during a “sermon.”
My post about blind obedience being a hallmark of cultish religion got noticed over on the Radhasoami Studies discussion group. I’d talked about how the leader of Radha Soami Satsang Beas, Gurinder Singh, objected to having his photo taken in a public place, and how devotees tried to force a man to surrender the film in his camera.
I made no mention of peeing. Nor did the discussants of some group messages, “Don’t take my picture and more on Gurinder’s control tactics—from Brian Hines” and “To Brian Hines.” (scroll down to see the message threads)
For a while. But somehow the cyber conversation turned to needing to pee during a satsang (talk) given by a guru, a subject I addressed several years ago in my “God’s here, but I’ve got to go” post..
That led to a flow of responses to “‘To pee or not to pee, that is the question’—Brian Hines.” Why, the debate just kept on gushing. I guess people couldn’t hold themselves back.
I unzipped my brain and let loose with a few comments of my own. Including:
You can't believe how much enjoyment I've gotten from observing the (entirely justified) interest in photos and peeing. These are subjects--particularly peeing--that deserve both serious and non-serious discussion.
My own take on having to pee during a talk is this: I've given lots of talks. I've never minded a bit when someone got up from his or her seat and walked out of the room. To pee, or any other reason. And I'm a huge egotist.
Shouldn't someone who supposedly has lost his ego, having merged his soul with the Lord, be hugely more humble? Can you imagine Jesus orBuddha going along with "Sit down! No peeing during the sermonizing!"
I see them smiling a generous "Go right ahead, my friend; I want you to be comfortable."
So what this pee discussion points to, in my opinion, is the seemingly strange situation of a guru acting less compassionately and naturally than an average human being.
I can’t agree with those who said that forcing audience members to stay seated during a talk by a holy person, no matter how great the urge to go to the bathroom, is entirely reasonable. Somehow I can’t imagine Jesus giving the evil eye to someone who walked off to relieve himself during the Sermon on the Mount.
Peeing is natural. As spirituality should be. Thus this semi-comical “to pee or not to pee” debate points to a serious issue: the artificiality of dogmatic religious practice, and the control tactics used to keep the faithful in line. Cults often don’t let members go to the bathroom without permission.
Neither do most schools. But like this child advocate says, “Using the bathroom is your right, not a privilege!” Right on, sister. Power to the pee-er!
During another of my Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) security stints, back in my devoted days, I was assigned to be outside the auditorium during a talk by Gurinder Singh in Palm Springs. I felt an urge to urinate, so sought out a restroom in the hotel complex.
Finding a men’s room, I walked in the door. And almost stumbled over a man who was sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall. He was another RSSB sevadar (volunteer) who’d be assigned to keep the restroom empty in case the guru needed to use it.
Now, I understand why a personage is entitled to privacy when he takes a leak. Especially if there are reasonable security concerns involved. President Bush doesn’t use a public restroom either. But this anecdote points to the obvious: everybody has to pee, gurus included.
It’s natural. As I said in my original post on this subject:
It was natural for me to want to go to the bathroom after drinking coffee and sitting for hours listening to the guru talk. Why couldn’t I feel comfortable standing up, walking off to a toilet, and then coming back to hear the rest of his satsang with a calm mind and empty bladder?
I’m not attracted to a spirituality founded on artificiality. Let me pee, or let me be.
I like the notion of a “refrigerator friend.” This is someone who can unhesitatingly walk into your house and open your refrigerator without asking. Doesn’t even need to say, “I’m hungry, what do you have to eat?”
To me, god or guru should be an even more intimate friend, someone you feel completely at ease with. No pretense. No formality. A bathroom friend who lets you know, “No problem with peeing; when you need to go, you’ve got to go.”