Don’t Insult Our True Saints
The arrest of Sarathi Baba in Odisha’s Kendrapara seems to have opened a Pandora’s Box. The hornet’s nest has been stirred, ashrams have been attacked all over the state and country, and there have been many arrests of self-styled Godmen, who have usurped large tracts of government and forest land. Complaints of coercion, murder, sexual deviancy, cheating etc. are all being made by former devotees, who had chosen to remain silent all these years. Since the time of Alexander the Great, India has always been perceived in the west as a source of spirituality, a holy land where yogis levitate, sadhus tame tigers with mantras, and generally speaking, a nation that has the secrets of the universe all sewn up.
Today, India’s spiritual side is becoming exploited by religious conmen and charlatans, who have millions of followers, both in India and abroad. These Godmen (and God women) know that the fine line between faith and rationality often does not exist. The scenario is such that either one is fooling or being fooled. There is big money to be made. From the prime minister down, politicians know that votes can be gained by paying homage to these well-established spiritual leaders. These Godmen, especially people like Asaram, Rajneesh or Rampal, saw themselves as creatures above the law. Khushwant Singh, a diehard rationalist, had once explained: Hinduism is a very liberal belief. You can say there is one God, a million Gods, no God, or that God is a phallus, and get away with it.
Most of the devotees are incurable idiots. Every year, many Babas are exposed as fakes and frauds and a few are also sent to jail. Even the explicit proof that these Godmen are up to no good, does not shake the faith of their gullible devotees. But the enchantment with saffron robes, flowing beards, and vermillion-stained foreheads never ends. For Indians, they are the indelible symbols of the holy and the sacred.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of Dera Sacha Sauda plays the Rambo role in a film, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar exhorts Indians in Kriya Yoga, while Baba Ramdev insists to breathe deeply, Radhe Maa believes in the hugs, kisses and dance therapy. Nirmal Baba makes crores of rupees (on which he pays his taxes) just by giving advice as absurd as eating samosas with green chutney instead of red. These holy men know how to use the media for their benefit. Their antics are beamed into through television programmes in millions of households. Channels like Aastha, Sanskar, Sudarshan and a clutch of other prathana programmes. These gurus wield enormous power on the lives of the viewers. The sheer scale and size of such a following sends an electoral message to all political parties looking for vote banks. They know that one cannot survive in electoral politics without a Godman or two in the party kitty. A Godman, more than a caste, religion or biradari, is a guaranteed vote bank.
The earlier generation of gurus wanted their followers to be spiritual, today’s Godmen preach that it is correct to be powerful, spiritual and materially rich. The guru-shishya parampara was a hallowed tradition in India. The Guru provided a home, haven and a refuge in a hostile world. Last but not least, one also smells a deep-rooted conspiracy towards the age-old tradition of rishi parampara of our great nation, whose prime focus was on to guide the society on the righteous path. In the present-day India, there are still many saints who preach and follow the path of our spiritual traditions. So, let’s not put together all the good saints and bad saints in a single basket. Insulting a true saint and giving bad names to age-old mutts would end up with a dangerous imbalance in the society. Not mentioning any religion, one also expects to expose all the touts of all the religions under Indian Penal Code.