Swamy & friends

Having a personal swamy is fashionable like never before, realises Revathi Siva Kumar

It’s easy to see why gurus are in fashion. Anyone who preaches detachment while rolling in luxury helps everybody to feel good that they are doing something about abstinence without doing it.

That is why the guru today is an important home accessory. The heavier he is on the pocket, the easier he becomes on the conscience. Do your darkest, but do what the guru does, and you can sleep happy. Flaunting the family guru is like flashing your moral card or public chastity belt. It is no wonder, then, that my guru, his mass base and credibility become more important than the Jones’. How would I have a cleaner conscience if I didn’t get a more popular swamy?

So, swamis are today’s fashion statements. Don’t listen to the nitpickers who ask why they have stepped out of the funnies. Okay, much of their dress sense could belong to the extremely trendy and beautiful people’s — of the 10th century, and those long beards and hair went out of fashion in the ‘60s, anyway. Yet, you have half the world salivating after them with tongues hanging out and tails trailing, isn’t it?

God’s rep?

This is mainly because swamis today are symbolic of God’s omniscience. When I was small, I was told that God is everywhere, and now I’m seeing these guys proving it to me everyday, everywhere. On hoardings, walls, TV programmes, dailies and magazines. Wherever I look, I see one of these avatars. And wherever I don’t look, I see one too.

That is why I know that the more I spend on swamy accessories and the more time I say I spend on meditation, the greater will be my access to truth and social standing. The other day, I was delighted to stumble upon this special store for guruphilia at the city’s biggest mall. It had everything I needed: yoga mats in exclusive colours, a tourist guide listing special-discount retreats to cultivate detachment towards money and rare how-to attain-spiritual-humility books by ‘Star Swamis’. There were other pills, potions and lotions to help your hair grow, skin to become fairer so that you can get married with less dowry, and organs to improve in vitality and energy so that you can er…um, never mind. Some people might call the products outrageously expensive, but I bought the whole lot, knowing that they were concocted by pure people who had left the world.

‘Guru’ mania

Anyway, the reason for guru mania today is twofold: trade and tradition. Firstly, with swamis and gurus being India’s biggest export products, you like to be one of the international crowd that buys them. So, if you see a lot of white population at the ashrams, it makes sense to join the touristy do and buy a season ticket for the nirvanic trip.

Secondly, it’s got to do with tradition. Gurus are important in an oral religion, to transmit the original wisdom, we’ve been told. So even though everyone knows that it was actually the Beatles who invented them, the gurus have piled on to us over the centuries since the days of those bestsellers, the Vedas.

And the dudes who’re more vocal and oral than others are better gurus, and therefore get more flocks around them. Watch Facebook, Twitter, television, printed publications and bookstores — swamis swill and hiss and spit everywhere. “Sign up for a fortnight’s retreat,” they shout. “Sylvan surroundings and profound wisdom, truth and enlightenment handed down through the ages at  a special offer of just half the price.”
In fact, swamidom has become cool enough to claim another resource in society: young boys. My friend’s son, Atul, for instance, decided the other day that he was not really cut out to be an engineer. After careful analysis of all the professions, he decided to become a guru.

I was amazed and concerned. “Why?” I asked. “Why do you want to pursue social service so early in life?

He stared. “Social service? On the contrary, I want to leave it. I cannot do IT all my life, for it calls for too much of abstinence and sacrifice. Besides, I’m not hardwired to be an engineer. But I do have a special talent for communication and selling.” He listed the cool professions that could build on legitimised conning and playacting: actor, TV anchor, politician, swamy.

Rising popularity

I was woebegone, still, I admit that you’ve got to give it to the gurus for their special draw for the youth nowadays, and for being so grounded. Look at the amount of ground they buy. The very physical extent of their kingdoms should be enough to impress and stun the youth with the force of what they say — as the aspirations of both meet and match.

Last week, I opened the gold-fluted gates of a large, beautiful ashram in the city. Walking down the stately lawns up to the huge, pink, marble, lotus-shaped edifice, through a security battalion as big as a small army squadron was a nirvanic experience by itself. It brought home to me strongly the value of the homilies I could hear blaring over the hoarse-throated loudspeaker — simplicity, sacrifice, humility and poverty. That was why I responded so quickly and immediately to the fifth quality they advocated — charity. Give, give, give, they chanted, and I emptied my pockets and bank balance.

The experience reinforced the lesson that Atul had taught me — that the secret of the modern guru lies in his oratorical ability, his skill in transmitting fire over the wire in the shortest and most effective manner. In the process, the orally transmitting viruses become more important than the original Vedas (now, what were those?)

‘Guru’ traits

That’s why some of the biggest blockbuster gurus have some common traits: a fantastic public relations wing that masks the delightful vagueness that never exactly hits the nail on anybody’s head. Walk into any ashram and you’ll see what I mean. Of course, it’s your fault for being so philistine and spiritually challenged, but still, you find it tough to get the drift of what they are saying, because, most often, they don’t get it themselves.

So, select your own guru carefully. Go with the one who has a cleaner reputation and a larger mass base. Sit down, close your eyes, take a deep breath and listen closely. You will find yourself drawn in so deeply, close your eyes so tightly and meditate with so much focus that you will be No Wiser for it at the end of it all.

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