What we can learn from Sri Prem Baba in Brazil.
Recently, Brazilian spiritual leader Sri Prem Baba acknowledged that he had sexual relationships with two of his female disciples, at least one of whom was married at the time. The Hindu master had given the impression that he was celibate at the time these relationships occurred. Prem Baba has since written that he “should not have involved myself with these two disciples. This is a fact. I regret it tremendously.” He also asked for forgiveness from his followers “for the suffering that you have experienced because of me.”
Faced with the recent news involving Prem Baba, I felt the desire to share my feeling and thoughts. In both a video and a letter, Prem Baba has said that, despite his awakening process, he is a human being limited by his ego and his physical body. He acknowledged that his awakening is still a work in progress, and that he is “a human being that is subjected to making mistakes.” In his response, Prem Baba has neither defended nor justified himself, nor attempted to martyr himself. He has acknowledged his mistakes and apologized.
This moment is a good reminder that leadership is the art of humility, the acceptance of our fallibility and the courage to be vulnerable. It is also a reminder that we do not have to be perfect to exercise our leadership, and that dedicating your life to serving others does not necessarily mean meeting their expectations. The path of self-development, of self-discovery, is continuous. The ego – known as the “lower self,” the opposite of the higher or divine self – is an integral part of our human reality. We must assume responsibility for it, recognize it, integrate it, include it in our concept of self and accept it. Only then can it be transcended.
This reminder, which takes place during a political moment in which Brazil is choosing new leadership, invites us to make a necessary change in the way we relate to our leaders. We have unconsciously and inadvertently deposited a load of super-human expectations and impossible demands onto the figures of external authorities. We do this in the childish hope of having our needs met and our security safeguarded, without the counterpart of self-responsibility.
This process is usually unconscious, and part of our evolutionary process is to bring the unconscious into consciousness. In this case, we do so by honestly observing our emotions in relation to leading figures in our lives. Indignation, resentment, despair, hatred and sarcasm towards an imperfect leader usually indicate that, at one time, we probably thrust at this leader some deification, blind devotion, idolatry or childish projection – with little or no connection to the human reality of the leader in question.
Perhaps we need this reminder that the only supreme authority is the inner one. No external authority, be it a religious or political leader, can replace our responsibility for the creation of our own happiness. Through our connection with our inner authority, we can meet our own needs, or even discover that we are capable of withstanding the frustration of not having them immediately met.
It is the acceptance of our own imperfection that will allow us to have discernment and clarity about how and which leaders to follow. By developing a deep self-responsibility, we can take the power of life into our hands and be the leaders we want to see out there.