H.G. Matsyavatar Das

Monday, 17 May 2010

Imitating or Following Someone’s Footprints

By Matsya Avatara Dasa

Should we imitate wise men, the spiritual master, the acarya and the prophets or follow their footsteps?

Imitation or simulation of a behavior results in copying someone, sometimes it can be some kind of deceit, which is much different from following the footsteps of an elevated model in an honest and sincere attempt to activate latent faculties within ourselves that are still unexpressed. Following the steps of elevated people will allow us to grow and will help us if we practice it with humbleness by giving benefits to others.

The spiritual master must not be imitated, but followed and used as a model to creatively apply his teachings on one’s life. If we humbly strive to follow his footsteps, we gradually build in ourselves all of our inner requirements that will turn his model into our model. This would be an experience and a patrimony that step by step we can capitalize on. Vice versa, if we imitate him without performing a deep inner work, we will have the illusion to fly but we will discover that we have no wings to fly on. Only he who follows the footsteps, slowly gets close to who imprints these footsteps.

Therefore, imitating doesn’t bring any long term benefits. Instead it exposes us to many dangers. Following the footsteps allows us to develop and earn the qualities that we take as a model.

Shila Prabhupada used to say: “If you are not humble, act as if you where, If you are not a devotee yet, act like a devotee.”

“Acting as if” is a practice that can help us significantly in our spiritual journey. If I act as if I was a devotee, by maintain conscience of my limits and trying to overcome them, gradually, I will become a devotee. “Acting as if” allow us to progress in the same measure as we practice without pride and haughtiness, without pretending to ourselves and to others that we have already arrived.

If we follow the footsteps of those that are humble, we can also gradually become humble without making the mistake of building an illusion, however sincerely striving to find in ourselves that elevate quality of the soul. In reality virtue and knowledge already reside within us. We must realize existence and free ourselves from conditioners. Socrates used to define this teaching with the concept of maieutica and used to explain it as follows: what I do is simply putting people in the right conditions to
“give birth” to their knowledge. We can teach a child how to speak only because he already has in himself the faculty of speech, instead we could never do it with a monkey no matter how much effort we would put in it. By cultivating spiritual knowledge already intrinsic in our inner self and by practicing it in our life, we can awake in ourselves our superior nature, the only one that really belongs to us.

If we think that goodness, humbleness, justice, truthfulness, compassion, tolerance, mercy and love are qualities of our inner self, by practicing these values with faith and under the guide of who lives them coherently, we can gradually rediscover them by realizing who we are. We won’t realize it only at the intellectual level, but also by experiencing a superior flavor of those values, on the strength of an emotional wave that connects us permanently to our inner world. By doing this and predisposing ourselves in the best way with prayers and meditation, by looking for help from Shri Shri Guru and Krishna, we can achieve excellent progress, even though we are still prisoners in our bodies. This is because we will reconnect to the universal archetypes and to that cosmic harmony that guarantees evolution and wellbeing of all the creatures and that allows us to transcend the narrow limits of conditioners: space and time.

Imitating means depriving ourselves of that very precious personal contribution called creativity. Knowledge applied without creativity and artificially emulated, does not bring results. This is why we should not imitate the acaryas but instead follow their footsteps, by acquiring their teachings and making them ours, by expressing them through our individuality and personality with our peculiar feelings, with faith and purity. We need to ensure that those teaching become our voice, our perfume and our existence.

When a person imitates someone, that person is not himself. He can act well his part but inside him there won’t be tangible and significant changes as soon as the mask is off. If instead a person engages himself to apply the received teachings without fakeness, by expressing himself in every circumstance, without putting up any artifice, even if sometimes it would be evident that he doesn’t understand or he makes some errors, he would however have a bigger chance to evolve spiritually in comparison to a perfect imitator.

The Guru’s teachings must serve as orientation. The compass shows the destination, but we must undertake the journey to reach it.

To follow the Spiritual Master’s footsteps we must engage ourselves by utilizing every resource to continue on the indicated path. Our path leads to the same goal that we have undertaken as a model, but if we reach it on our own, maybe out feathers will be a little worn out, but we are the ones who reached the goal after we have undertaken the entire journey.

By imitating, we don’t do a true job on ourselves and therefore we don’t feel satisfied, instead by following the footsteps we experiment a great joy and a continuous increment of our gratitude toward he who has showed us the way and helped us undertaking it.

Along the path we can sometimes encounter some obstacles such a stream that interferes and confuses us because we cannot see footprints in water। That would then become the chance to deeply question ourselves, to internalize even more the received teachings and understand how to proceed by using all the means at our disposal. Following footprints requires all of our participation and this allows us to develop a taste for knowledge and for its application. When we can climb some evolutionary step, it becomes our conquest and the gratitude toward those that have inspired and educated us on our journey becomes ever greater.

Between imitating and following footsteps there is a great difference, mainly a different flavor. Following footsteps we can learn to apply teachings with our intelligence and creativity, by purifying and continuously renovating our motivation to reach ever higher equilibriums. If in this journey we wear out our feathers or our hair turn white there is no reason to complain, instead we should be proud that we spent our lives in pursuing noble ideals. There is no other valuable purpose in this world. He who dreams to be happy with the pleasures of the senses is like he who in a mirage sees water in the desert. Does our vision then oppose matter to spirit? No, the vision that the acaryas have donated to us integrates Hearth and Sky. In fact, even in this world and with the things of this world we can experience happiness, but it is real only as long as we are connected and we connect everything to the Spirit, the world and Its Creator along with the create and the creatures. Beatitude becomes possible even in this world when we contemplate and serve God in every creature.

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