Culture/ Vulture Mix

Sat Nam Dear Family,

Did you ever wonder why some perceived spiritual leaders really don’t experience as much of their religion as they should, and, others, who may appear irreverent at times, surge higher? I did. I wanted to understand the truth in this anomaly.

Yogi Bhajan, the Siri Singh Sahib, our beloved teacher, used to marvel at some well respected priests who act as if they were the holiest of holies. One priest, leader, teacher in particular could quote the scriptures in his sleep.

I personally saw this. On a warm September afternoon in Riverside CA, a student was reading from the scriptures while this priest (by priest, I mean a priest of any religion) sat nearby with his head bowed to catch a few winks. All of a sudden, this priest came to life, his head popped up and he began to correct the students pronunciation of a specific phrase. I was shocked at this exquisite training.

Along with this elegant display, this priest was one of our organization’s harshest critics. In fact, there was even some awareness that physical harm may be on his agenda if we didn’t shape up and follow what he said was right. So, from our perspective, he was a fake priest. Oh yes, he was influential, and, yes, he was highly respected, but we saw his actions as not representing the true teachings of any major scripture. I wanted to understand why. Why everything.

“Sir, how can this man get away with maintaining his reputation? Doesn't the community see his manner is not consistent with the compassion found in any great teaching? Why is this such an issue?” Our teacher answered my question with one word. But, here’s the test, that one word isn’t easily truly understood.

Nevertheless, I was lucky to get an answer. Many times I was just left hanging with no response to a question I asked. When he didn’t answer, I knew that meant that his consciousness wouldn’t allow him to discuss this issue. It did teach me what was off limits and taught me not to go there.

His answer was simple: “Culture”. Well, that seemed easy enough. Culture makes a big difference. The real question is why, why culture allows a fake man to flourish. It’s a question as old as history. It’s been a long journey to figure this out, and there have been many fascinating enlightenments along the way but when culture and religion mix, something happens. What is it?

I finally understood. Culture, most times, is at odds with religion. Culture and religion have a life of their own. Their enemies. Sometimes they learn to live with one another for some period of time, but if there is a chance, one or the other will attack. In the case of culture, when they attack it actually means they make their way into the structure of religion. The result is that religion and the culture become one, become intermixed. The ratio is the variable.

The result is that all structures like religion, philosophy, lifestyle, you name it, are practiced in a less than a pure state. The discipline may be practiced perfectly, but the results will be clouded through cultural diversions. It’s like eating a macadamia nut (a very hard shelled nut) with the shell still on. It takes great effort to get to the nucleus and rarely can it be reached. And, here’ the kicker, the game only truly begins when the nucleus is reached.

All structures fall victim to this battle. Purity is always under challenge. The cultural alternatives are too attractive: cultural alternatives are usually easier, there more comfortable, there easily rationalized, there full of immediate rewards, and purity is not for everyone. So, leadership must lead the way through teaching and leading in securing and maintaining the purity of the teachings.

I learned much more than intended. First, I learned that when purity and culture butt heads, culture usually wins. Nevertheless, the story doesn’t end there. I learned how important it is to maintain purity, this is the true lesson.

The corruption of purity begins, and usually ends, with a with a culture infiltration. If the practice of a Giani, a priest, a theologian, a teacher, a community, etc. is corrupt, the practitioner will never truly experience the teachings. So, both the Giani (teacher) and the students fall short. It’s simple, it’s karma. Stay tuned,

In the Humility of Service and Gratitude,
MSS Hari Jiwan Singh Khalsa
Chief of Protocol

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