(Inspired by talks by Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa)
Make your way through this impermanent, transitory life in whatever way you can, keeping the goal of worshiping the Lord foremost in your minds.
Don’t abandon this goal, even in the face of hundreds of dangers, insults, or persecutions.” Shrila Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati Thakur 1874-1937
(I have had requests to write more about my spiritual teacher and my relationship with him so I have added more to this post on November 2016, and again on April 2021 – Chaitanya das)
These days it’s sometimes seen as ‘uncool’ to talk about a guru, or a spiritual teacher.
For many the word ‘guru’ evokes the unfortunate idea of a relationship where there is lack of individual thought, of giving up one’s own free will. I’d like to dispel that emphatically as far as my spiritual teacher is concerned!
‘Guru’ as an adjective means ‘heavy or weighty’ as in ‘One who is heavy with spiritual knowledge and wisdom.’ ‘Guru’ also means spiritual master or one who has dovetailed his body, his mind, his intelligence, and his will with the will of God. In other words, guru means one who is the loving servant of God and the well-wisher of others — not the master of other people.
There are times that I refer to Jagad Guru as my spiritual master, however it’s very important to understand that a bona fide guru never sees himself as the controller or master of anyone. There are so many definitions of the word ‘master’ but the one I am referring to is “One who masters a particular field of endeavour”, in this case, spiritual endeavour.
A genuine spiritual master/teacher never teaches that he is God nor tries to take the place of God in people’s lives.
He is someone who is filled with bhakti or love for the Supreme — and therefore filled with love and compassion for all living beings who he understands are all parts and parcels of the Supreme. He sees himself as the servant of everyone and dedicates his life to helping everyone find true happiness.
If I’m honest with myself, I had very little attraction for any spiritual process when I first met Siddhaswarupananda over 40 years ago, but he challenged me to think carefully about spirituality. Not only to think, but check what he was telling me and what we talked about.
John Church can thank the generosity of Oliver Ditson for his success in business.
Oliver Ditson set up successful businesses and allowed his managers to take them over. This was the case with John C. Haynes, Boston, who made ‘Tilton Improvement’, Bay State, Excelsior and Hub Guitars. Also with George Lyon and Patrick Healy, Chicago, who under the Lyon & Healy name became the biggest manufacturer of stringed instruments in the early part of the 20th century.
Oliver Ditson also set up a music branch in Cincinnati managed by John Church. Somewhere between 1859 or 1871 (accounts are conflicting) John Church was signed over as the owner and he incorporated The John Church Company in 1885. He had a retail arm of all things musical, specializing in pianos and sheet music, and a small manufacturing arm producing the ‘Imperial’ label of instruments.