Kauai's love for Gurudeva

Gurudeva taught us the importance of giving to the community in which we live, and Bodhinatha discusses various activities that the monastery is involved in with the local island community. People on the island love Gurudeva so much. Bodhinatha tells us why, and explains the difference between "spiritual" and "religious" leaders.

Unedited Transcript:

Well this morning, I don't have a major address, just a few simple thoughts. We are still digesting everything we experienced during the Innersearch and Satguru Purnima festival.

I will tell a few stories here. Stories are always nice. As most of you know, some of our activities are community-oriented. Gurudeva always stressed the importance of giving to the local community, not just taking from it, giving back to it, helping in various ways, community service.

Some of our activities involve meetings at which the Mayor is present, Mayor Maryann Kusaka. She is in her last few months of term and a great supporter of Gurudeva. We were at a meeting yesterday and she was there, meeting for the Island Endowment that Gurudeva help start. Kauai Aloha Endowment is an endowment to benefit the island of Kauai. It is a fund that Kauai community foundation and it is up to a $100,000.00. Small fund, but it is growing, it exists and it is doing its work.

So we were at a meeting and the Mayor asked the lady who was conducting the meeting, who has been on the island for a number of years conducting seminars, a very skilled person, "Have you ever met our Gurudeva?" Those were her words. She had a big smile on her face, "Have you ever met our Gurudeva?" It was just the way she said it, it just struck me and I had to think about it.

It showed the special place in her heart that Gurudeva holds. Then we went outside and we were talking to the doorman, we started talking about Gurudeva and he said, "You know, when Gurudeva comes, he just gets out of the car and there he is and wow, you know ..." We were running into our local 'Gurudeva Fan Club' at the hotel.

Which made me think, what is it that impressed so many people on the island about Gurudeva? I remembered a story, a story that involves the Mayor. It happened a few years ago when the Mayor was on County business in Seattle, doing some promotional work. A lot of her work involves going around the world and trying to convince people to come to Kauai. She was going off to Japan in a month. So, she was in Seattle. The work she was doing was a bit tedious and so she was on a break. To enjoy her break and relax, she was shopping. She went shopping to have some fun and take a break from the tediousness of what they were doing. She was feeling a bit discouraged at the moment because things were not going as well as she had hoped and she was tired and so forth. Her phone rings and who is on the phone but Gurudeva! I don't remember all the details but for some reason Gurudeva felt compelled to call the Mayor at that particular point. Just to cheer her up, I guess was the idea. So Gurudeva calls and talked to the Mayor and the Mayor never forgot that. "Gee, Gurudeva was somehow so sensitive to my needs that he called me and cheered me up and it made a big difference in the whole experience we had in Seattle."

I think that is what many people on the island feel toward Gurudeva, that he encouraged them, he inspired them in whatever they were trying to do. It is not like he gave them something to do. He wasn't going around, "You should do this, you should do this, you should do this." No, people have things they want to do, things they are trying to do in their lives and Gurudeva encouraged them, inspired them to do those things successfully, to do them well, to keep trying not to give up. Quite often we face obstacles, things don't go as easily as we had hoped. We experience difficulties we didn't foresee and we become discouraged, lose our inspiration, it happens all the time.

Gurudeva never lost his inspiration. He was always inspired and he was able to encourage others, to reinspired others in whatever they were trying to do. I think that is one of the reasons so many people on the island look to Gurudeva in the way they do, because he touched their life in that regard, probably many times.

In thinking about that, I remembered having reflected on the United Nations gathering. There was a gathering about two years ago, I think, of 'Spiritual and Religious Leaders for World Peace' at the United Nations. The name of the event caused me to think. What is the difference between a spiritual and religious leader? Why do we have two words, why does it not say, 'spiritual leaders' or say, 'religious leaders'? No, it says 'spiritual and religious leaders'. Whatever group named the event saw a difference between a religious leader and a spiritual leader. So what in the world is the difference?

A spiritual leader is someone like Gurudeva who inspires you, someone who raises your spirit, lifts you up. That is a spiritual leader.

For example, after September 11th, many people went down into the realms of fear. Some went into anger. Consciousness went down in many people because of September 11th. They were going along fine but September 11th happened and their consciousness went down. A spiritual leader is someone who steps forward at a time like that and helps people bring their consciousness back up, so it doesn't go down first into fear and then anger and into violence. It is going the wrong direction. We want it to come up into understanding and compassion and wise action. We don't want to act from anger. We want to act from wisdom.

That is another way of looking at what I was talking about earlier, the idea of inspiring people, encouraging people. That is an important quality in a spiritual leader. A spiritual leader is someone who does not get discouraged when the world falls apart. Things are not other than they should be, to a spiritual leader, things are always as they should be. He manages to hold that perspective. But this is how things should be, okay. Nothing is wrong, this is how things should be. What do we do next? What is our next step? It is coming from a wise, stable consciousness.

All religious leaders are not spiritual leaders. Religious leaders are affiliated with a recognized religion. But all religious leaders don't have the ability to lift you up or don't even have that concept that it is something you are supposed to do, which is okay, it is not wrong. Some religions are not trying to do that.

So we can have religious leaders who are spiritual leaders and some who are not. We can have spiritual leaders who are religious leaders, meaning they are affiliated with a religion and some are not. It is a very interesting way of looking at it.

That was yesterday. That is yesterday's story, encountering the Mayor. We had a small glitch. They tried to feed us some chicken for lunch. They did not realize there were some vegetarians present. So they bring out all these plates and a piece of chicken sitting there in front of the monks. The Mayor, she called the waiter over and said, "Can't you make a nice salad? Do you have any tofu?" She was instructing the waiter what to do, it was very thoughtful of her.