Why Do Great Masters Fall?


We often see our spiritual mentors and teachers revealed as less than perfect. Clay feet are exposed as the dark secrets of the guru seep out through the inner-circle, and leave us heart-broken and disillusioned. There are too many to name and I don’t wish to bring attention to any particular human being, but rather to consider why this occurs so frequently.

In his book on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Swami Krishnananda offers a very down-to-earth explanation. Those of us who have been practicing meditation for many years will understand how difficult it is to control the mind and the five senses.

It is our nature (Prakriti) to think of one thing and then desire it – and then another and another. The mind is constructed to form thoughts that will lead us into the temporal illusory hologram, that wonderful adventure we know as Life. When we become weary of chasing our desires, we seek liberation (mukti) from the endless cycles of death and rebirth. We begin on our Path Home.

We learn to walk on the Razor’s Edge. To avoid falling into the Abyss, slowly over time, we endeavor to become master of our self through a real understanding of who we are - and therefore our thoughts. This is not an easy task, but most of us are driven to it because we have lost interest in everything else.

This apparent loss of interest can be deluding, because the forces that have been put in place to drive us into expressing in our hologram will remain in our spirit or astral body (puryaSTaka rUpa) – what I like to term the data-collecting vehicle - and this is the source of our trouble. If we simply suppress our desires, they may come back to torment us like the proverbial woman who has been scorned and hell hath no fury like her!

“… the starved emotions and the frustrated desires have a strength of their own. They are not weaklings.” (Krishnananda on Patanjali’s IV.27)

In fact, these forces of Nature – Prakriti’s gunas – are the instruments we ourselves designed to explore and experience this universe. They are our own creation. They are very powerful and we must respect them. The human will cannot undo so quickly what the God-within has created.

Krishnananda’s solution is simple – he advises more meditation. He defines meditation as the search for the God-within and I find this an excellent characterization of a word that has come to mean many things. The idea of a direct return to focus on the immutable and imperishable internal is useful here.

However, I believe that there is another solution based on a slightly more refined understanding, which I have come to in reading the great Kashmir saint Abhinavagupta and related texts, such as the Shiva Sutras.

The Shiva Sutras tell us that we don’t have “to lock ourselves in a room and plunge into a trance in order to realize the delight of the Self (the God-within). He can find delight in the ordinary, normal course of life if he is mindful…”

In fact often what we see in cases of people who deny themselves any ordinary joy, there is a terrible rebellion that ensues and is often sadly destructive to the otherwise dedicated soul. Instead of forcing our mind and the five senses to reject every aspect of the Life we ourselves have created for our own enjoyment, perhaps it is better – even more masterful – to live in such a way that we see God in every act. As they say in India: “God is the cooking pot!”

Surely the higher state of consciousness and self-mastery is to be found in embracing every moment knowing that it is God. When you wash the dishes, know that they are God. When you embrace your love, love the God-within them. When you are kind to a stranger, see them as God and realize that you are being kind to God. Thus the highest challenge is to be profoundly aware of God in EVERYTHING at all times.

This will not be so easy and it may prove to be more arduous than giving things up. Consider the thought that the rejection of Life is more Kali Yuga confusion. Would we have even needed to meditate in the Satya Yuga? Would we not have simply continuously been in the highest state of consciousness.

When you know you are everything in this universe and that you as the God-within created it all, then what is there to be afraid of? What attachment can possibly bind you? What remains to desire?

“… if on the occasion of every bit of knowledge, he looks within, he will have a feel of the Self which alone makes that knowledge possible. In that feel of the Self, he will experience the perennial joy of I-consciousness. This is the ever-present joy of samaAdhi … His delight is infectious.” (Shiva Sutras I.18)

If we can live in this way, constantly aware that God is everywhere, ubiquitous, then perhaps we will not make our consciousness vulnerable to blowback. The very mechanism that we created to explore this amazing Earth plane will not overwhelm us and leave us in pain, once again lost.




The Study and Practice of Yoga, An Exposition of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Vol. II, by Swami Krishnananda; The Divine Life Society, Uttarakhand, Himalayas; 2007.

Siva Sutras, The Yoga of Supreme Identity, translated by Jaideva Singh; Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private, Ltd., Delhi; 1979.


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