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For the lay, Nithyananda's transcendental lies

Last updated: 18 March, 2010
By Chandan Nandy 22:31 IST

It took A Rajasekharan, alias Paramahamsa Nithyananda, the man masquerading as a spiritual leader and healer of mental and physical afflictions, nearly two weeks to come out and claim that he was in a trance when he was filmed having sex with a Tamil actress. Obviously, Nithyananda, who claims to have experienced truth and enlightenment, is not anywhere near speaking the truth.

The ‘paramahamsa’ does not even have the courage to own up to the fact that he gave in to a moment of human weakness (it is another matter that it was not simply a momentary lapse of ascetic strength; that was his wont and the sine qua non of his so-called spiritual movement). How do we describe such a man? A fraud? A confidence trickster? A villainous manipulator? A sociopath on the loose?

The common dictionary definition of trance is “a half-conscious state, seemingly between sleeping and waking, in which ability to function voluntarily may be suspended”. If Nithyananda is trying to tell the world at large, and especially his disciples, that he was in fact violated by Ranjitha, the Tamil actress he is shown to have sex with, he is lying. For, nobody who has seen the video clips would be fooled about his claim. It is pretty much obvious that Nithyananda was not in a state of trance, or as he put it, ‘in deep samadhi’. He was, to use his own cultic language, in a state of extreme ecstatic bliss.

What Nithyananda has attempted to do through his statements aired via his own website or a couple of television news channels is to sway the flagging support among his youthful followers. The efforts to clear himself by replying to inspired questions put by a researcher of little academic recognition, the use of spurious cultic language (‘deep silent meditation’) and other forms of half-baked comments exposed an essentially flawed and devious mind incapable of taking on the truth. But these, according to sociological studies of the 1950s, also indicated that as a cult leader Nithyananda tried to change his devotees’ and television viewers’ belief systems via ‘sensory overload’ and subverting their ability to reason.

Even if it is assumed that some of the studies used over-generalised stereotypes of deception on the part of cult leaders, there is no denying the fact that Nithyananda is now employing a stratagem to trick people into believing that he committed no wrong. He has persuasion techniques, but part-admitting to have been ‘served’ by Ranjitha and lying on his state of consciousness will not go a long way to establish his credibility among the people at large. In many ways, Nithyananda has been found out. The videos ensured that first and then his statements left no doubt in the minds of the people that the man they watched on the television screen was an inveterate liar.

Credibility

Duping people by half-baked tantric concepts like being in a state of trance will only alienate his cultic order from those who are more rational in judging and concluding the moral worth of a man who claims to be, and is projected by some of his associates, as an ‘enlightened Master’.

Nithyananda was mistaken to be a charismatic leader by members of his cult. A deviant and perverse impersonation of malignity, Nithyananda tried to use the sublime ideals of Hinduism and Brahminism to achieve a rather base objective — wealth accumulation the easy way.

There is a large and established body of scholarly literature, far more credible and grounded in rationality than the mish-mash of Brahmanical and occult practices that Nithyananda bandied about through his teachings and sermons, but which are, to say the least, a perverse attack on the ideals of Brahmanism, Sanatana Dharma and Vedanta philosophy. He tried to hijack all of these in one go without even adequately comprehending them in their fullest depth. He tried to sell them expensive, the cost of which he is now paying by way of social revile.

It is best left to scholars of theology, religion and cults to ascertain what Nithyananda’s organisation, which sociologists would agree was formed to satisfy the personal interests of its leader and a few others, attempted to propagate was impairing and destructive. Nithyananda is no Moses trying to deliver his fringe flock to freedom. His seven-year movement, if it can be described as one at all, is an experiment with a self-deceiving, illusory conception of an alternative way of life that was not altruistic in the sense that it was not directed at ameliorating the lot of the poor, the marginalised, the disempowered and the wretched of society.

Nithyananda tried to engineer the beliefs of many young people that the freedom to lead wholly self-indulgent lives could provide them with the sense of purpose and direction in life they so ardently sought. Having taken the pendulum of freedom to its outermost limits, after throwing hundreds of young minds back into a regressive mode by inculcating in them the idea that he was their Master, the arbiter of their souls, and by telling them that their salvation lay at his ‘lotus feet’, Nithyananda has now found a barren vista.

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