The importance of Shishtachar

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  • Author tells about the importance of conduct. 

Shishtachar….is a Word That Precedes Samskriti - the word has been translated in English as “Etiquette", a set of customs and rules for polite behaviour. It is further explained in the lexicon that "If someone has good manners, they are polite and observe social customs. If someone has bad manners, they are not polite and do not observe these customs.”

Shishtachar is something that is taught by parents at home, and enhanced by teachers in the school. The role of present day KG and Primary Teachers, therefore, is very important. If the children are not taught to behave properly at that age, it will not be possible to inculcate higher values later on.

Shishtachar is the Very Foundation, upon which Samskriti - the infrastructure of Human Culture - is built. A shishya or student bows down, lowers his shish or head, and obeys his teacher because of his faith in the wisdom of the teacher. A child moulds their character, not only according to what he learns from the acharya or teacher, but also by observing his exemplary life - this is shishtachar

The understanding of this meaning is very important before we go any further. Let us reflect upon this meaning, and ask ourselves, have we been ideal shishyas? Have we moulded our character according to what we learnt from our parents and teachers?

At the same time, parents and teachers must also self-introspect. Have they raised their children and students to become good mannered and polite in their behavior?

Remember! We are yet not talking about Samskriti….

As Parents and Teachers….. do we have shishtachar? Have we obeyed and followed the bidding of our acharyas? We are not yet talking about Guru Shishya Relationship, in the sense of a relationship with a spiritual mentor or guide. This is still about Shishya or Students and Acharya or Teachers.

The Acharya knows his shishya in and out, in the sense all about his/her shishya’s carried forward samskars, vikaras, and vasanas - the inherent good qualities, bad qualities, and the natural tendencies. For, it is only then that the Acharya can polish his shishyas according to their potential.   This is not a supernatural feat, this is perennial psychology. Without knowing his/her shishya in and out, no Acharya can work.  

Based on such knowledge, then, the Acharya advices his shishya to follow certain disciplines, and to keep to their maryada, that is, while behaving with dignity, they must also know their boundaries, and not cross them.

Krishna Tells us in the 18th Chapter of Gita that good actions may initially bear bitter tasting fruits. But, at the end, the bitterness turns into nectar. A bitter medicine can be beneficial and cure us of our disease. Whereas bad actions may bear sweet fruits, but they may not beneficial. Indeed, they may be poisonous.

The immediate praise we receive for our performance from our audience can derail us from further progress. We feel elevated, we are thrilled, and the ego creeps in, “Look how good we have performed!” And, we may bookmark the performance. We may consider that as our best. Thus, denying ourselves the possibility of better performances in future. 

If we relate it to our sadhana, our spiritual practice, then our loss is even greater. Performances and ego trips do not please the Lord. In the 12th Chapter of Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells us the qualities of the Bhaktas or Devotees, Disciples that He loves. And, ego is not one of them.

My Guru - Now We are Touching the surface of Guru-Shishya Relationship - used food as a tool to decondition us, to drop our personal likes and dislikes or raga-dvesha emanating from the ego. He never approved of the idea of having separate canteens for Indians and Westerners. But we stuck to our preferences. We did not listen to him. We found ways to interpret him in such a way that our ego was satisfied, and soon there were separate canteens for Indians and Westerners.

After such segregation, Master would often not even touch the dishes sent to him. Those serving in the canteens very conveniently concluded: “Master is not hungry. Furthermore, he is the Lord… What is food to him?!”

But, One Lady from Delhi, who would always cook for the Master whenever in the Ashram understood the reason. Yet, she asked him. And, the Master answered: “How can Swami eat? The food is like poison. They create separation. While cooking, they have bad thoughts, they speak bad things. They send food considering it as a duty. No devotion. But, now Amma (Mother), you have come, Swami will eat." I heard this from the horse’s mouth, the Grand Old Lady herself, who is no more. She had the vatsalya bhava toward the Master. She loved him as a mother would love her son.

It was not only about cooking and sending food to the Master's quarters, she would also make sure that the food was served in the way he liked it. The veggies would be cut into small pieces. Then, the Master remarked, Amma, now every time there are some guests. So, send food for 7-8 persons. Served in the same way.” The Mother understood what he meant. She never returned to Delhi. She made the ashram her home. 

Time and Again the Bhajan (Devotional Songs) singers would ask the Master: “We are invited by so and so for Bhajans, which songs should we sing…?” Or, what to speak, what to do. And, the Master would guide them. Many a time the Master would just nod his head and bless them, “Santosham - happy!” 

But, there were times when he would be very specific what to sing and what not. What to speak and what not. What to do and what not. Yet, some singers would find ways to do their own bidding, not his bidding, and land into problems.

This is going against shishtachar and maryada. We cross the boundary set for shishyas. So, as the Master often said, “No matter how powerful is the magnet, if the iron is rusty, it cannot be drawn, cannot be attracted.”

He Told Us: “You can leave me, but I shall never ever leave you. I shall always protect you as the eyelids protect the eyes."

But, what do we do? We leave him by going against his teachings, against his clear instructions. We place our ego and satisfaction over and above the will and pleasure of the Lord - whoever we consider as our Master, it does not matter. Thus, we also prove that we have no faith in him.

Our Guru opens himself, herself up to us, not because of our merits, but out of His Mercy, Her Compassion. But, we open up to others, to the world and worldly, thus creating unnecessary and unhealthy leakages in our system, which can be used by the dark forces not only to harm us, but to attack our Guru, once again whoever is our Guru.

This is our sad situation.

But, our Lord is full of Mercy. He is Patita Pavana, the Uplifter of the downtrodden. No matter how low we fall, His Divine Hands ever reach out to us to lift us up. Jai Gurudeva!

Author is a Spiritual Humanist born in Indonesia, is the author of more than 180 books in Indonesian and English. He is also the founder of Anand Ashram (www.anandkrishna.org, www.anandashram.asia). Proud of his Sindhi-Indian ancestry rooted in the Glorious Sindhu Civilization and Culture, also referred to as Shintu, Hindu, Indus, and Hindia - of which Nusantara or the Indonesian Archipelago has been a part since ancient times - Anand Krishna was born in Solo (Central Java), which, as predicted by the Śukā Nādi (thousands of years old oracle), is his Karma Bhumi, his work field.

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