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Improving Our Behavior with the Help of the Guru Part 4

Part 4 of 7 - Continuing Bodhinatha's first Guru Purnima class on the role of the guru and his task of helping us improve our behavior, we look at rung number 4 on the anger ladder, swearing, and how it influences our spiritual life. Gurudeva writes on it at length in Living with Siva. Swearing will ruin one's life and break up the home, stimulate the lower chakras and invoke the asuras, or demonic beings of the lower astral world.

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Questions? Bodhinatha is the successor of "Gurudeva," Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. If you have questions on subjects about spiritual life you will find answers in Gurudeva's books and teachings. Learn about ways to study these teachings by visiting The Master Course site or writing to

Unedited Transcript:

Let us look at rung number 4 - swearing, to assess how it influences our spiritual life. Gurudeva writes on it at length in 'Living with Siva'. Gurudeva states that habitual swearing unleashes a negative force that will ruin one's life and break up one's home. He continues that swearing is a good way to curse oneself, to build up a big balloon of negative energy. Swearing stimulates the lower chakras until one day swearing will turn into screaming and yelling, demands and threats and so on.

Some people habitually swear and they don't think anything of it. It is just acceptable behavior as long as you know you're just with your friends at work or something. You are not at some dinner party and you speak out in a swearing way, but you're at work, sometimes physical work particularly, people swear all the time and don't think of it as wrong. They think of it as acceptable behavior.

One of the problems of human nature is that it is easily influenced by our companions and that is why companionship is very important. We take on the qualities of those we work with, those we spend time with after work, more than we realize. We think a certain quality is ours but really it has been stimulated by the people we are with. If we work with people who are constantly swearing, we have to be very careful not to pick up that habit ourselves and not to think swearing is acceptable for those who are on the spiritual path. Because it is not. It is the fourth rung here on the ladder, we are down much further than we realize. As Gurudeva says at length in 'Living with Siva', it is stimulating the lower chakras.

So if we are swearing, it is so easy for that to turn into a more overt form of anger. We start yelling at someone, we are prone to yell and blame and so forth, much more so than if we weren't swearing in the first place.

There is a nice message from Gurudeva that resulted from going to Malaysia in June of 2000. He was invited there by Dr. Paramasivam, who was selling a Do- it-Yourself home agni kit, home-homa, doing a fire ceremony in the home. That sounded innocuous to Gurudeva and sounded wonderful. So Gurudeva went and he found out that the people involved in the organization and lots of people who were performing the homa were prone to serious anger, something he hadn't envisioned. So he came back with new insights into what happens if an angry person does a puja or what happens if an angry person does a homa, what happens if a priest who has been arguing at length with the trustee does a puja, when anger is present. He became very outspoken in that instead of invoking spiritual beings, they are invoking asuric beings. They are bringing in people that are in the inner planes, invisible people that are going to cause mischief, that are going to harm us rather than bless us.

So, he came back with some very strict guidelines. He came out with the message that people prone to anger should definitely not perform a fire ceremony and not even a regular puja, which involves passing of flames. All that they should do is a simple waving of incense before the Deities. Of course, it is alright to attend a puja, conducted by someone else. He also became very sensitive to certain temples which had lots of arguments going on between the priests and the trustees. Some of the temples even have lawsuits, the situation has gotten so out of control. Like the Malibu temple in California, the priests and trustees have gotten along so badly that they are suing one another. Of course, that creates a terrible atmosphere in the temple, a place you don't want to go to worship.

Gurudeva went on to say that once anger is experienced, 31 days should pass to close the door on the chakras below the muladhara before puja may again be performed by that individual. A simple waving of incense before the icon is permissible, but not the passing of flames, ringing of bells or chanting of any mantra other than simple recitation of AUM.

Sometimes we're asked how much anger needs to be expressed before we have to shut down our shrine room for 31 days, hang up our japa beads on the wall. When we look at the ladder here, Gurudeva didn't say, but to me it has to do with step 4, not swearing per se, but screaming and yelling, when we're starting to get out of control. It is that element of having lost control, which first starts in our words and can go down further in our fists and our actions. We have lost control over ourselves. That means the lower chakras are really spinning and it takes time for them to calm down.

Gurudeva said a normal emotional upset takes three days to calm down. If you just have a kind of big upset with someone, neither of you get particularly angry, it takes three days to recover from that. If you allow yourself to lose control and start yelling or screaming or grabbing someone or so forth, then 31 days is necessary to recover from that kind of expression.

But not something smaller, simple swearing or blaming and shaming, unless you lose control. Even in blaming and shaming, you can lose control. It starts to turn into screaming and yelling.

I'd like to take another five minutes and a little self-reflection. See if you can relate to any of the rungs on the ladders. See if you're climbing this ladder or if you're still on the ground. Be honest again, no one will see this. You're just being reflective on if anger in its subtle forms is something you are experiencing and can improve upon. We are just writing it down in order to objectify it so we can improve upon it, do better.

We'll give that five minutes.