AFTER LEON MACLAREN
It has been discussed that the function of the school founded and headed by Leon MacLaren was to bring the advaita vedanta teaching to the West. In addition it was to help people in their spiritual work. Mr MacLaren stated to a group of people, that the sankalpa given by His Holiness Sri Shantanand Saraswati had been achieved.
I have a Shuddha Sankalpa that through the agency of Mr MacLaren, the School may achieve full development, people should achieve wisdom through proper study and serve their nation through practical and spiritual means.
So where would Mr MacLaren’s school go from there? The school had quite clearly had its flowering. There were now two directions that were possible, Katyayani or Maitreyi, i.e. descent or ascent. Nothing in the creation stands still.
His Holiness Shantanand Saraswati said:
The spiritual knowledge on the way to self realization will manifest as power, as power of knowledge, efficiency and dynamism. Power can easily turn into pride although its purer manifestation is humility and renunciation. Although rise of ahankara as pride does not necessarily follow from higher levels of power, it is possible because it is seen to happen again and again in the spiritual realm, apart from worldly affairs and positions. People, having acquired a higher level, take a little turn, fill their mind with pride at the wonderful knowledge, efficiency and dynamism, which they have brought under their control. They do not necessarily depart from the spiritual way, but it does unnecessarily hinder their chances for further transformation.
When Yajnyawalkya reached a stage where he wished to go into seclusion, he called his two wives Katyayani and Maitreyi and informed them of his need for seclusion. He wanted them to share whatever he happened to have. Katyayani agreed to the proposition but Maitreyi wanted to join the search for that wealth for which the sage was ready to renounce the wealth of this world. Here again, it is shown that ahankara or pride acts as a hindrance, whereas renunciation becomes a bridge to transcend.
Even today, one can see Katyayanis running various ashrams and institutions of spiritual knowledge, without really going for advaita and the Atman. Those fortunates are very few who transcend it all and realize total freedom which is total control without any attachment or desire to control. Ahankara is left behind and the Atman shines. Maitreyis are so few, and they do not mind to conduct spiritual discourses even under a tree.
During his life Leon MacLaren had said
The practical business of a preparatory school is to produce a man to hold the straight gate.
The existence of a group is related to function. A group has a specific function and its members are selected accordingly. Once born, a group will go out of existence when its work -or the work of the School – is completed and there is no further need for it.
Gurdjieff made a similar statement in In Search of the Miraculous. P 313.
The quicker a man grasps the aim of the work which is being executed, the quicker he can become useful to it and the more will he be able to get from it for himself… When the work is done the schools close. The people who began the work leave the stage. Those who have learned from them what it was possible to learn and have reached the possibility of continuing their work independently begin in one form or another their own personal work.
His Holiness had stated
If only half a dozen men could be led to real understanding, a new generation could evolve.
People should reach up to their leader and get what they can.
If imparted to the deserving, the transmitting agency (ie Mr MacLaren) will unite with me.
Those who chose to hold to Mr MacLaren after he died could do so. They had the direction from His Holiness on how to go about that. Their personal work was not dependent on an organization. They could remain in the organization fulfilling their duties but without any attachment or claims to the organization. Some did this, others left and made their own way and connections.
Leon MacLaren had never wanted to appoint a successor. He only did so under great pressure. When told he was dying, Mr MacLaren stated to his assistant, in front of the appointed successor and others “The leadership is now ended”.
Mr MacLaren passed away on 24th June 1994. In 1995 a letter was received from His Holiness by the successor stating that
“Prior to the establishment of new relationship it is necessary to be fully informed about the state of Advaita Philosophy……in the schools world over”
It is clear from this statement that there was not an automatic transference of the Master – disciple relationship which had generally been presumed. His Holiness at that point in time did not have a relationship with the successor who never met him. His Holiness Shantanand Saraswati passed away on 7 December 1997. Amongst other things, he said to some of his close associates that Mr MacLaren’s successor must find his own guru.
His Holiness stated this with respect to the organization
The essential teaching as described applies everywhere. Wherever there is an opportunity for spiritual discourse and discipline there will necessarily evolve an organization; and with every organization, physical elements and a hierarchy will come to fulfil the needs for the real work of search for truth. The moment importance is switched to the organizational work of the institution, the real work of truth will be compromised. Organization is necessary and those who help to do that are equally necessary. But they should never be allowed to dominate the real work. In fact, it is so common for this to happen. Therefore great care must always be taken that spiritual work remains paramount and all material and organizational work remains secondary.
In speaking of the function of the Leader of the School, His Holiness made this statement in 1971:
Shantananda (1971.7.1 & 2):
For justice, one needs to know only Truth and stand fast by It… In conducting the affairs of an organization at any level, Truth is necessary. But the only point of assuring Truth flowing freely is the starting point, the top man. If he follows Truth in Its totality, every level will learn to appreciate Truth and act accordingly. Even if they did not act accordingly, when they would come face to face with the man who follows Truth, they would not be able to conceal, for it would become obvious out of their own mouths. So it is entirely up to one single man to stick to the Truth.
Leon MacLaren stated in a letter to a school leader in 1977 :
It might be useful if I were to set down certain principles relating to the management of the School organization. In any School organization the decision of the head of the School in that place is always final on all matters. Sometimes one finds oneself in a minority of one, but that does not make any difference. The position of Leader is such that he or she will see things which nobody else in the School can see, because they do not hold the position. This is of the necessity of the case and cannot be helped.
As the School expands, you will gather around yourself those who are best able to forward the work of the School. Some of these will necessarily be concerned with Board functions, such as I have described. Others will not. The management of the School in its essential work is one thing; its business management is another, and there is no need to confuse the two. On both sides, the School Leader’s decision must be final.
Anyone who has had any dealings in business will know the truth of this. Any company or organization is only as good as the man at the top. Indeed this principle is demonstrated in politics as well. If the man at the top is a good man of understanding, that ethos will permeate through the organization. Where there have been spectacular company collapses, it often becomes apparent that the culture which has permeated the company has little to do with proper business principles, and that comes from the man at the top.
The one thing Mr MacLaren was respected for was his love of Truth. In stating the principle, his Holiness was also enunciating the principle of the Oral Tradition which flows through individuals, not through organizations. In one sense, this principle places enormous responsibility on the man leading an organization. The organization can only ever reflect the level of understanding of the man heading it.
Since Mr MacLaren’s death, there are those at the very senior end of the school who have chosen to argue that Mr MacLaren was under a contract of service as an employee to the executive of his school. Now if something is true, it is true at every level. One cannot argue that Mr MacLaren was an employee under contract to the executive at one level, but the leader to whom all respect must be given at another level. Indeed His Holiness and Mr MacLaren both stated the principle very clearly and would never have accepted that proposition. It is diametrically opposed to the Oral Tradition.
In the early 1970’s one of the schools decided to leave the world-wide organisation. The leader and virtually the whole school left en masse. When told, Mr MacLaren immediately accepted the situation without comment. He never expressed one word of criticism or negativity over the event. His only action was to immediately go the place where this happened and sit quietly for two or three days. About half a dozen people came to see him to express the desire to remain with his school. He then met with those people together to explain to them the mechanics of how they could do this, and said he would continue to visit them each year.
Mr MacLaren’s actions demonstrated an example very contrary to the way the West normally works, which reflects the desire for position and power, and to control…. The very things which the rishis in 1855 stated stifle the growth of spirit. He demonstrated completely the acceptance of, and following of events in that situation.
All this indicates that very few people had a real connection with Mr MacLaren and more importantly, really understood the principles he taught. But then it is said, a man needs to spend a lifetime just trying to practice and understand one thing.
In the last two years of his life, but more particularly in the last year, Mr MacLaren withdrew considerably from his school. People no longer came to see him. Yet during this period there was a transformation in him, and only one or two people saw what was going on and received instruction from him. His school organization had become a well oiled machine that went on under its own steam.