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The whole system of Hindu guru/disciple initiation seems a bad fit forour times. Guru dependency is viewed mostly as a cult oddity that nointelligent person can really buy. If a student wants to form a relationship with a teacher, it should be a natural selection with nobearing on institution or rank. Why scare intelligent people away with guru dependency?

I am not sure I agree with you when you say that the guru/disciplerelationship is a bad fit for our times. Buddhism, for example, is quitepopular these days, with educated Western people--from famous recordingartists and movie stars to college professors and students--entering intodiscipleship with Lamas or Rinpoches as their gurus. In some cases, they themselves have become gurus and opened monasteries. Yourisk insulting many intelligent people when you say, "No intelligent personcan really buy the guru/disciple relationship."

I agree with you that choosing a teacher should be a natural selection. The free flow of faith should prevail, transcending institutionalconsiderations. There should be no smoke or mirrors; only those who have little to offer need to employ such things to secure a following.

I make no claims of perfection, but I cannot deny that by the grace of my own gurus I have learned much, and inspired by this and their example, I have dived deeply into spiritual practice without coming up empty-handed.That which I have gained, I offer to others. To those who find theirspiritual prospect in this, I am their guru, whereas in my own eyes I am a student, as we all are eternally.

How did we enter the karmic cycle of birth and death?

Our karmic implication is anadi, beginningless. There is no oneparticular act that started the ball rolling. It is best to concernourselves with the fact that our material conditioning can come to an endand thus embrace the means to liberate ourselves from the bondage of karma.

I am Hindu girl who is proud to be a Hindu. Recently a person started saying things like Hindus worship animals and human body parts. In fact he told me that the Siva lingam which we worship isactually the penis of Lord Siva. Is it true? If this is true then what isthe significance of worshipping this part of the body?

The linga of Siva metaphorically represents the impregnation of matter byconsciousness. Siva represents consciousness, and his consort, Parvati,represents matter. Such metaphors have their limitations, but before anyonecriticizes Hindus for worshipping the genitals of Siva, they must firstconsider who Siva is and what he represents: all individual units of consciousness impregnating and thus animatingmaterial nature.


Hindus may submit questions for the swami to editor@swami.org. Non-Hindus with questions on Hindu basics or etiquette (such as "What do I wear to a Hindu wedding?") are invited to submit them to columnists@staff.beliefnet.com.

This is an expression of God's joy in divineplay, lokavat tu lila kaivalyam. In the Bhagavad-gita, Sri Krsna invokesthe metaphor of impregnating material nature as follows:

mama yonir mahad brahma tasmin garbham dadhamy aham/sambhavahsarva-bhutanam tato bhavati bharata

"O Bharata, the great nourisher, my material nature, is the womb that Iimpregnate, enabling all beings to come into existence." (Bg. 14.3)


This impregnation mentioned by Krsna is described in other texts as his(Visnu's) divine glance that is Siva (Sambhu). This form of Siva isdescribed this way in Srimad-Bhagavatam: vaisnavanam yatha sambhuh, "Siva isthe best devotee of Visnu." By all means, great devotees of Visnu should beheld in high regard.

In religious practice, material attachment and bodily enjoyment are discouraged. However, in the Kama-sutra the science of sexual pleasure isexplained. How should we understand Kama-sutra and sexual pleasure inrelation to other scriptures that teach pure devotion to God?

There are many Hindu books authored by sages that, while authentic interms of their subject matter, are not directly concerned with spirituallife. Ayurveda, Natya-sastra, Kama-sutra, etc. serve as examples. For themost part, Kama-sutra is not concerned with God consciousness. It delineatesthe art of sexual union. If you want to have sex, read Kama-sutra. If youwant self-realization, read Bhagavad-gita.

Why did God create demons and evil in the world?

This is a perennial religious question. "If God is all good, why isthere evil in this world?" Gaudiya Vedanta acarya Baladeva Vidyabhusanaexplains that God's motive behind the manifestation of the world is onlyjoy or sport: lokavat tu lila kaivalyam. It is not that God gains joy frommanifesting the world, but rather the world is a manifestation of his joy.

However, because we see both godly and ungodly in the world, we are pressedto ask if in manifesting the world God is partial. Is he kind to some andcruel to others? If so, how can he be all good? The Vedanta-sutras answerthis question by stating that the evil in the world is not the arrangementof God. The evil in the world is a result of karma. God merely manifeststhe environment suitable to the karma of the living beings.

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