The master servant relationship

The master servant relationship is a lynchpin in the structure of humanity but one that holds it back from reaching its full potential. I should start by admitting that I consider myself a servant and have for many years. It may help by looking at Nature first. Every species seems to have a pecking order and we see it especially around mating, however no species apart from humans expect to have servants. Respect is one thing and what we might call a subservient attitude in the presence of the top dog, who may well steal the food others have caught, but I can think of no other species that will make the master’s bed for him, run his bath and stand in line to be inspected by him every morning.

I was brought up very aware of the master servant relationship. I have had friends who lived in castles, stately homes or two thousand acre farms and seen how the servants were treated. I have seen the earl inspect his gamekeepers in the morning, standing in a line in his hall until he is ready for them after his breakfast. Sat in his special pew facing the congregation in his church, been served grouse at his table by his servants. I have lived in the village where the manor house was inhabited by a family who had lived there since the Norman Conquest in 1066 and considered themselves Lords of the Manor AND the village. Now it probably belongs to the chief executive of some vast corporation but I am sure he is no different, has servants and demands the same respect from the villagers, many of whom will probably rent their cottages from him.

We are brought up in families that usually have a head of the house who issues the orders but it is when we get to school that we get the first real inkling of the relationship. The teachers were always called ‘masters’ in my youth. A few years ago I was working with a family of travellers, gypsies some would call them. The boy was sixteen but could not read or write, had been disruptive in every class and school he had attended, got into frequent fights, refused to take orders and predictably was eventually excluded from school altogether. He was difficult to talk to about this but after a few weeks managed to sit with me for a few minutes and told me what he wanted to be – basically a self employed scrap dealer driving his own lorry. I explained that meant passing a driving test which now includes a written test, that people could no longer pay someone else to take it for them and that he must spend the rest of his life trying to escape the fact that he could not do what every six year old can and thus be labelled stupid or worse. He eventually started attending writing classes for adults but could not break with his life long habit of disruption and lateness, along with a surly and disrespectful attitude. When I looked at him and his family it was as if he was ‘natural’ in many ways, unwilling to be broken like the rest of us, but of course he was putting himself at a huge disadvantage in life and getting into fights and theft is very antisocial usually bringing harsh consequences in our world. But he could see the essence of the problematical master servant relationship clearly.

It is even more true in our religions and the attitude they expect towards their deities and even their human representatives. Below is an article about the mysterious Suta family who appeared to a group of Indian ascetics at some time in the distant past. These men were clearly the masters of a subject that they were teaching but that was not good enough in the eyes of the guru who is relating the tale in our own time. He considers that a Suta was not a pure bred, high class Brahmin and therefore this guru states that he cannot have achieved true enlightenment, could not have reached the heights as that would mean being born into a high caste family. He goes on to say that because one Suta does not stand up when some deity arrives, the deity correctly kills him for his disrespect. The author also mentions another much more recent case where he feels this also happened. The man who states this is the guru Prabhupada who started the famous Hare Krishna movement. In fact ’Suta’ was not really killed by a deity, he was an emanation teaching a group of saddhus, but it is true that he was not a pure bred Brahmin. The point is that Prabhupada is displaying incredible ignorance in assuming that being in this caste means anything at all in spiritual terms. I suspect he tells this story to underline to his mostly international non-Brahmin followers that he is a class above them all and they must come back in later lives as high caste Brahmins if they wish to emulate him. It is nonsense, but dangerous nonsense, and illustrates something that corrupted religions more or less from day one:

Note the picture at the top of Suta dying of fright! Below is what is actually related about the Sutas which Prabhupada has grossly distorted for this master servant relationship:


“Ugrashravas (Devanagari: उग्रश्रवस, also Ugrasravas, Sauti, Suta, Sri Suta, Suta Goswami) was the narrator of several Puranas, including Mahābhārata, Bhagavata Purana, Harivamsa, and Padma Purana, with the narrations typically taking place before the sages gathered in Naimisha Forest. He was the son of Lomaharshana (or Romaharshana), and a disciple of Vyasa, the author of Mahābhārata. Ugrasrava belonged to the Suta caste, who were typically the bards of Puranic literature”



“King Adhisima Krishna (alternatively, Asima Krishna) ruled the earth well. During his reign, several sages organized a yajna (sacrifice) on the banks of the sacred river Drishadvati. The river flowed through the region that was known as Kurukshetra.

The sacrifice went on for a very long time and the sage Lomaharshana came to visit the sages who were conducting the ceremony. Lomaharshana was so named because his recitals thrilled (harshana) the body-hair (loma) of his listeners. Lomaharshana was the disciple of the great sage Vedavyasa and had learnt the Puranas from his teacher. He was also well-versed in the Vedas and in the stories of the Mahabharata. As soon as Lomaharshana arrived, the other sages greeted him warmly. Lomaharshana greeted them in return. The assembled sages told Lomaharshana, “Great Suta, we are gratified that you have decided to grace our ceremony by your august presence. This is an auspicious occasion for telling us the stories of the Puranas. You have learnt them from the great Vedavyasa himself. Please recite the Puranas and slake our thirst for knowledge.” Lomaharshana belonged to the suta class. A suta was the son of a kshatriya (the second of the four classes) mother. Looking after horses and acting as charioteers were occupations that were prescribed for sutas. In addition, they sung the glories of kings. The accounts of the Puranas state that sutas were first born when the great king Pirthu organized a yajna. They accordingly became raconteurs of the great deeds of Prithu, and thereafter, of all kings. They also recited the stories of the Puranas.

“I am a suta,” replied Lomaharshana. “It is therefore my duty to recite the Puranas. You have asked me to do that which is my duty. I shall gladly accede to your request.”

The ancestors (pitri) had a daughter named Vasavi. She was cursed that she would be born as a fish. This fish had a daughter. The great Vedavyasa was born as Satyavati�s son. Vedavyasa learnt the Vedas from the great sage Jatukarna. He also composed the Mahabharata and the Puranas.

“I have learnt the Puranas from Vedvyasa,” continued Lomaharshana. “There were several sages who lived in the forest known as Naimisharanya. They requested the wind-god Vayu to tell them the answers to many questions. Vayu’s replies constitute the Vayu Purana and this is the text that I shall recite for your benefit. It is the most sacred of all the Puranas and is full of wisdom.”

“What is this business of Vayu reciting the Purana to the sages of Naimisharanya?” asked the assembled sages. “We are not aware of it. Please tell us about it first.” Lomaharshana complied. Naimisharanya forest is on the banks of the river Gomati. At a time when King Pururava used to rule the earth, many sages organized a yajna in Naimisharanya. The chief priest at this ceremony was Brihaspati, the preceptor of the gods, and the ceremony went on for twelve long years. When the ceremony was over, the wind-god Vayu recited the Vayu Purana to the sages. In reciting the text, Lomaharashana began with the account of the creation.


When Lord Baladeva heard that the Pāṇḍavas and Kauravas were about to go to war, in order to remain neutral He left Dvārakā on the pretext of going on pilgrimage. The Lord bathed in sacred places such as Prabhāsa, Tritakūpa and Viśala, and eventually He came to the holy Naimiṣaraṇya forest, where great sages were performing an extended fire sacrifice. While being worshiped by the assembled sages and offered a seat of honor, the Lord noticed that Romaharṣaṇa Sūta, sitting on the speaker’s seat, had failed to stand in deference to Him. Greatly angered by this offense, Lord Balarāma killed Romaharṣaṇa by touching him with the tip of a blade of kuśa grass.

The assembled sages were disturbed by what Lord Baladeva had done, and they said to Him, “You have unknowingly killed a brāhmaṇa. Therefore, even though You are above the Vedic injunctions, we request You to set a perfect example for the general populace by atoning for this sin.” Then Śrī Baladeva, following the Vedic maxim that “one’s son takes birth as one’s own self,” granted to Romaharṣaṇa’s son Ugraśravā the position of speaker of the Purāṇas, and in accordance with the sages’ desires He promised Ugraśravā a long life with unfailing sensory capacity.

Wanting to do something more for the sages, Lord Baladeva promised to kill a demon named Balvala, who had been polluting their sacrificial arena. Finally, on the sages’ advice, He agreed to go on a year-long pilgrimage of all the holy places in India.

How is this killing of Romaharshana (for simply not standing up) justified?

Does Balarama ever regret his action? If not, what is the point of going on a pilgrimage?

It is simply a ‘lesson’ and one well learned. The deity appears to kill the teacher for disrespecting him but the students make a stand against him for doing this and he has to put the matter right. A real master is one who cares for and teaches his students. Not some aristocrat or deity that expects to be worshipped and cared for by them. It is the reason so many gurus start their own sects and have followers who must pay them and look after them in their old age. A true leader is at the front, not sitting in some protected bunker ordering his troops to attack his enemy and get killed for doing that. But that is what we get and what is wrong. You will not see a chief executive get his hands dirty these days. He or she expects to be driven around in some prestige car, dine at the most expensive restaurants, be paid a fortune and be lord and master to all the employees. How did we get to that?

I would point out that the system is just as true in the communist countries we have seen as it is in the capitalist ones, monarchies, democracies or republics. We are not all equal in the eyes of man. Nor am I advocating anarchy. We cannot have anarchy in our classrooms, workplaces, homes or communities. But law and order do not really require some class to give orders to an underclass and to throw them into prison, evict, sack or kill them if they do not follow these orders. Deities are no exception, but ‘deities’ are used to keep this system afloat. Unfortunately the real law and order – Dharma and Karma – are grossly offended by this unjust behaviour and I might add the grotesque inequality that is its direct result. This is where our physical world grates against the spiritual, where illusion disguises the truth.

We have an excellent phrase – public servant – which often means nothing of the kind but reflects that certain people serve their communities. And we rely upon these people – firemen, medics, police, council workers etc – to maintain our world. Politicians like to call themselves this too but are the ones responsible for the total mess and mass of corruption overtaking humanity. The real role models of service are extraordinary. Nurses are one wonderful example, carers another. Doctors who spend years studying, need the highest qualifications to get to medical school and end up working in very difficult situations for most of their lives are another example. If only our chief executives were half as worthy of our respect but the ones I have come across were not really worthy of any respect. They have been deceitful, autocratic and corrupt while serving an interest that is certainly not that of the community they should have been serving. Politics have much to answer for. I will give just one example of this. Twenty years ago our councils looked after a huge stock of housing, mostly for the poorer people in our communities. The rich either owned or rented more prestigious accommodation. But the council housing was the replacement for the slums that the poor endured for centuries. It was of good quality and maintained with rents that were affordable for nurses, low paid council workers and even the unemployed. These people had what were called secure tenancies to protect them for life.

Then politics intervened. The politicians did not like this and decided to allow some tenants to buy the council housing if they could afford to. They told the councils to hand over the properties to housing associations which traditionally had performed a similar service. Bear in mind that a Council Housing Director probably earned about £50,000 a year back in 1993 and was responsible for thousands of homes. Now look at what happened – the housing associations put up rents year after year, even if they are still deemed ‘affordable‘. The idea was to close the gap with private landlord rents, enabling them to levy vast increases too. The housing associations formed boards of directors to run the operations. I have blanked out the names to spare them embarrassment

Highest paid housing association chief executives 2015/16

Chief executive Housing association Total pay Rise/fall
1 £528,870 9.8%
2 £400,010 12.1%
3 £355,105 32.1%
4 £340,000 6.6%
5 £320,933 6.7%
6 £273,242 1.6%
7 £261,873 2.9%
8 £251,478 9.8%
9 £251,281 10.1%
10 £245,996 1.9%

Bear in mind that these are basically not for profit charities and that the frontline workers have seen a constant increase in their workloads but many are still paid around what was paid back in the 1990’s. Also bear in mind that the other directors (financial directors, human resources directors etc) in these associations are also earning fortunes. They would argue that this is to attract the best people and to provide the best service but I have worked in them and it is not! It is all about the master servant relationship and the widening of the gap between the new masters and their servants. This is no longer about aristocracy but plutocracy, however whatever we call it this system is destroying and disgracing humanity. One in three children in Scotland where I live are in poverty while we pay fortunes to all these so called executives who once were ’public servants’.

Here is a bit of the history to this:

“Housing associations first appeared in the second half of the nineteenth century as part of the growth in philanthropic and voluntary organisations brought about by the growth of the middle classes in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. Early examples are the Guinness Trust and Peabody Trust.

They increased in importance over the last decades of the twentieth century due to changes to council housing brought in by the Thatcher government, when rules were introduced that prevented councils subsidising their housing from local taxes, channelled grants for construction of new social housing to housing associations and allowed council tenants to buy their homes at a large discount. This, combined with cost-cutting initiatives in local government and a housing benefit scheme that was more generous to housing associations than local authorities, led to many councils transferring their housing stock to housing associations. These organisations are often referred to as large-scale voluntary transfer organisations or local housing companies.

The Housing Acts of 1985 and 1988 facilitated the transfer of council housing to not-for-profit housing associations. The 1988 Act redefined housing associations as non-public bodies, permitting access to private finance, which was a strong motivation for transfer as public sector borrowing had been severely constrained. These new housing associations were also the providers of most new public-sector housing. By 2003 36.5% of the social rented housing stock was held by housing associations” Wikipedia

I could have pointed to many other facts in our society but housing is a very basic right. One denied to far too many people born into a world which has already been carved up and where the richest have almost all the land while the poorest own very little or none. Is there a spiritual basis for this?

I recall working in the 1970’s for a man who started by selling ice creams in Scotland and finished owning a chain of 800 hotels. I have known quite a few such people. One invented a food mixer which he made in his garage at home. He lived in our village and I went to school with his sons. It became a world famous brand. Some people make things happen and I would call them masters, teachers if you like. They invent. I have also worked with men and women who worked very hard to make things happen. But these days we have corporations run by trained leaders, men and women with MBA’s. The top 100 companies in Britain pay these people an average over £5 million a year, not including their bonuses, golden handshakes, pensions and share options. This is the modern ‘master’ in our world and they take over the many smaller enterprises often created and run by the kind of people I described above. It is a huge change from the days when perhaps very rich men ran coal mines on their land or imported cotton and made fabrics in their mills. These people are now anonymous shareholders who charge the professional executives to run their vast corporations. And there is a huge difference. The difference between the king riding to war at the head of his army and the men and women who calmly despatch professionals to do this for them.

So we must go back to Egypt for the explanations. At one time kings were not hereditary there but were carefully chosen and only ruled until such time as they were deemed too old, then ritually killed. As you can imagine it was not a job that everybody wanted. The test of the king’s ability and age was a race with the high priest and this was called the Heb Sed. So important was this race that after the first pharaohs arrived and took control around 3500BC they kept the Heb Sed, in fact it lasted for hundreds more years well into the 2000’s when it was enacted around the pyramids. But in these later races were mere tokens or ceremonies by then. The king did not die and probably did not even run.

“Despite the antiquity of the Sed Festival and the hundreds of references to it throughout the history of ancient Egypt, the most detailed records of the ceremonies—apart from the reign of Amenhotep III—come mostly from “relief cycles of the Fifth Dynasty king Neuserra… in his sun temple at Abu Ghurab, of Akhenaten at East Karnak, and the relief cycles of the Twenty-second Dynasty king Osorkon II… at Bubastis.”

The ancient festival might, perhaps, have been instituted to replace a ritual of murdering a pharaoh who was unable to continue to rule effectively because of age or condition. Eventually, Sed festivals were jubilees celebrated after a ruler had held the throne for thirty years and then every three (or four in one case) years after that. They primarily were held to rejuvenate the pharaoh’s strength and stamina while still sitting on the throne, celebrating the continued success of the pharaoh.


Detail from an ebony label of the First Dynasty pharaoh Den, depicting him running around the ritual boundary markers as part of the Sed festival

There is clear evidence for early pharaohs celebrating the Heb Sed, such as the First Dynasty pharaoh Den and the Third Dynasty pharaoh Djoser. In the Pyramid of Djoser, there are two boundary stones in his Heb Sed court, which is within his pyramid complex. He also is shown performing the Heb Sed in a false doorway inside his pyramid….. Wikipedia

But soon things changed in Egypt and one change was that the monarch ruled for life, usually having a vizier to run his day to day tasks. The other was that the monarchy became hereditary. This is the foundation for inheritance these days where titles and estates pass to the oldest son if there is one. Meanwhile the pharaohs insisted that they were incarnations of gods. Even this has carried on with what is called the ‘divine right’ of monarchs to rule. But these very alterations started the rot of humanity. No longer were the leaders real leaders. They were seldom the warriors or people who cleared the land and grew the food, defended the villages from predators. They used professionals for all of that, with some notable exceptions, but these exceptions were often men who did that and ended up taking over the monarchy.

Almost everybody wants to leave whatever they have collected and created in their lives to their children. It is considered a natural desire to want to protect our young. And no different whether it is an empire, a house or just a name and reputation. But it leads to a vast inequality and is certainly not justified by the merits of those inheriting. One child ends up a vast landowner another a humble tenant, even slave. The child of a slave is a slave as surely as the child of a king is not.

Anyway the system originated long ago, perhaps in Egypt, and has lasted ever since. So too has the master servant relationship and imprinted in it a spiritual base namely that the monarch is the incarnation of a god. This is Prabhupada’s misconception but easy enough to assume ie that any god or goddess would surely choose to be a monarch if incarnating here, and any enlightened one must therefore choose to be a pure bred and high caste Brahmin. It is nonsense but also a licence for corruption and theft. However this master servant relationship is so highly prized in its present form that any challenge to it is branded the most unholy crime of all, both heresy and dangerous antisocialism.

It is the Maya or illusion that covers our eyes from birth, that tells us to accept our lot in life, even that this is what we deserve because of the actions or karma from our previous lives.

It is not my intention or work to change any of this but merely to explain the consequences. We need stability in our world and it is founded in this system. Revolutions never change the system, just who the people are in each of the roles which is no better. But even if the kings no longer face de-selection and a ritual death they nevertheless have inherited a mighty responsibility and in many ways that ritual death would be far preferable to what they do now receive. Our executives in whatever roles must account for their actions when they die. Very few will be judged to have earned a good karma, almost all will have to pay the heaviest of prices for their actions. For most of us we are merely responsible for our own actions but these ones are responsible for millions of actions. If they make wars they face the most horrendous justice as a result. But even if they exploited their staff, caused poverty or eviction they will suffer grievous consequences. There have been many attempts in the past to explain this to them but it is countered by others telling them what they want to hear, that they are divine in many ways and this is their right.

If you want true enlightenment do not fall in this trap. This is why we choose an ascetic life without followings. More to the point it is why we choose real ‘public service’ to create a positive karma. All of us are servants unless we master some art. I am sure the MBA’s consider that business administration is an art and perhaps if handled in an enlightened way it could be, but the pursuit of profit is not. The rich have a huge responsibility to the poor and unless they exercise that wisely they face the most awful afterlives. I have seen what happens over there and was so horrified that I complained and objected, however it is what they do to themselves. We cannot avoid that which we do to others being done to us and if we do it to millions the pay back is awful to behold. Whether we like it or not we will all serve karma and dharma eventually because we create them in our lives. We all have a part of us watching our lives and testifying against us when we die. Hiding this fact is what enables a ridiculous and totally irresponsible system not only to thrive but now to threaten humanity’s very survival.


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