Archive for September 12, 2008

the guru, the thumb!

September 12, 2008

Your thumbprint is your vital identity. You cannot lose it.  You cannot forge it. You cannot lend it to someone else. It is a very definitive YOU.

The thumb is also equally important. Even if there is a small boil on your thumb you cannot write. You cannot sign a cheque. You cannot eat comfortably. Losing your thumb is losing your thumbprint. The thumb is your first organ of pleasure. Thumb sucking is an infant’s elementary substitute for the mother’s nipple. Can you afford to lose it?

Let us look at the story of Ekalaiva. We, in India, cannot dismiss any myth as a simple fantasy of yore. There are still people who believe that a geo-formation was the bridge that the mythical hero built! Myths do tell stories. The stories may have developed over centuries, but there are subtexts in myths   that make them meaningful and relevant to any age. A careful reappraisal of a story will always give us information. Coming back to ekalaiva, the story goes like this.

He was a poor boy who wanted to learn. He could not afford to pay fees for his tuition. The tutor who could teach him was employed by the king. Royal benefits were the prime motivators of the teacher, who could not waste time on a worthy but poor student. The poor boy therefore decided to adopt the guru/teacher and engaged himself in a learning process. He became adept. He mastered without the master. When the teacher came to know of the skill the boy had mastered, he demanded his fee! Even without actually teaching he wanted a fee- much like many teachers who demand a salary even without teaching students! As ekalaiva was poor he wondered what the fee would be and how he would be able to pay. The teacher then demanded that the boy cut off his thumb and place it as `the `payment`. Ekalaiva obediently cut off his thumb and placed it before a pleased teacher. The skill he learnt was archery. Without the thumb, he would never again be able to shoot an arrow.

This story has been told to me often in childhood as a lesson on how a good student should obediently accept what the teacher says. Is that all in what  the story tells? The teacher learnt of the skill ekalaiva possessed because his favorite pupil complained. That pupil being the king’s son could not bear the fact that a poor boy from a downtrodden community could learn as much as, if not more than, himself. Is this the story about a good student? or is it a story that portrays the envy of the rich that the poor are becoming skillful? Is it a tale that tells how corrupt a teacher can be? What else do we see in this story?

I see the motif of gurudom in it! The master in the myth demanded and got the thumb. The alleged masters of today still demand the thumb. The guru in the story had the minimum honesty to demand the thumb directly. The `gurus’ of today are dishonest even in this regard. They demand the thumb in the most disguised manner. There are people losing their thumbs to these gurus.

The thumb that is being lost is the mind. The thumbprints that make the thumb unique are the facets of the mind- the intelligence, the life ethos, the thought process, the commonsense.and, the loss of one’s mind leads to loss of self-respect. surrender is the new term for the capitation (or decapitation) fee that neo-disciples pay.

With these basic premises I hope to think more on how we lose ourselves to modern gurus.

i also wish to try to understand how and why some of the current corporate gurus win over the minds of the unsuspecting public, all over the world.