Conmen as godmen

Hinduism & Spirit of Questioning

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev has demanded that all so called spiritual gurus should declare their assets. The demand has come after horrifying stories of sex and sleaze surrounding several such gurus were unearthed recently. It is a clear pointer to the fact how conmen masquerading as godmen are amassing wealth.

Swami Bheemananda Ichchadhari is behind the bars and Swami Nityananda is on the run. In Delhi, one such sadhu has been arrested for raping a mentally challenged woman. Serious allegations have been levelled against Asaram Bapu. The list of saints under cloud is long and they are not the only ones to make fortune and indulge in sex and other sensual pleasures.

Spiritualism has become a corporate enterprise and it is the capacity to con that brings instant success. What these so called gurus are doing is not only against the Indian tradition, but they are guilty of perpetrating the worst sort of crimes for which they must be punished as per law. But unfortunately, they are so influential that even after arrest they are reportedly getting VIP treatment. The question is how do they dupe people?
India is known and revered for its sages and hermits who renounced everything and became ‘aniket’ (shelterless) and led a life of ‘ramata yogi’ (wandering mendicant). Hindus have two sets of scriptures — the Shrutis which deal with eternal issues like the soul and the god, and the Smritis which contain truths as described by Manu, Yajnavalkya, and others and also in the Puranas down to the Tantras.

Shrutis are considered superior and in case of conflict on any issue between the Shrutis and the Smritis, the former prevails. Sages who have recorded truths in the Shrutis were so self-effacing that very little is known about their personalities but they preserved the sublime thoughts for the welfare of the mankind.

In direct contrast, personalities are quite pronounced in the Smritis. Swami Vivekananda has written, “This is a peculiarity which we have to understand: that our religion preaches an impersonal personal god. Except our religion, every other religion in the world depends upon the life or lives of some personal founder or founder. If at any time the historical evidences about the existence of these personages in ancient times become weak, the whole building of the religion tumbles down and is broken to pieces.

We escaped this fate because our religion is not based upon persons but on principles.”
But Vivekananda adds that ancient sages did realise that ordinary man does require a personal god in some form or the other. So they left the people free to worship great personages like incarnations.

Indian tradition

Then there are secondary characters like Rishi, a word which is mentioned copiously in the Vedas. They are the ones who have attained self-realisation and are face to face with spiritual truths. This is the Indian tradition, but in recent decades, there is a mushroom growth of preceptors or gurus who are self-styled god. They have beautifully mixed the dross of the Indian culture which is superstition, which of course is not the sole domain of the Hinduism, with the western culture whose strength is organisation and commercialisation.

The guru has a sublime role of unshackling the disciple from the bondage of ignorance so that he attains self-realisation. In fact, the word ‘Upanisad’ has its genesis in the root ‘sad’ which means to sit down, to destroy and to loosen. ‘Upa’ means ‘near by’ and ‘ni’ means devotedly.

Thus, the word means the sitting down of the disciple near his teacher in a devoted manner to receive instructions about the highest Reality which loosens all doubts and destroys all ignorance of the disciple. Therefore, India has a strong tradition of ‘guru-shishya’. However, it never means that one cannot have the glimpse of god without the inspirational guidance of a guru.

Saints like Samarth Guru Ramdas and Raman Maharishi did not have any guru. Even Mahatma Gandhi did not get initiated by any preceptor as he did not find any one with all attributes that a guru should have.

The modern gurus pose themselves as intermediaries between the god and men, and exploit their superstition to the hilt. It is time that real saints educate people and encourage the tendency to doubt and question. The Hindu tradition never discourages questioning.

In the modern age also there are two paradigms — one representing rationalism which goes from Raja Ram Mohun Roy to Jawaharlal Nehru and the other is theistic which goes from Maharishi Dayananda Saraswati to Mahatma Gandhi. Though Gandhi did not share many views of Dayananda, both were also great rationalists and never advocated abject surrender to religion.

People must be enlightened that it is the renunciation which pervades the Indian tradition. Swami Ramakrishna always said that ‘kamini’ (woman) and ‘kanchan’ (money) are the biggest roadblocks to the path of self-realisation. He also denounced those who impressed people by performing miracles. Those performing miracles cannot create food by their supernatural power to feed the hungry.

Let me conclude with what Vivekananda has said: “Is religion to justify itself by the discoveries of reason, through which every other science justifies itself? Are the methods of investigation, which we apply to sciences and knowledge outside, to be applied to the science of religion? In my opinion this must be so, and I am also of the opinion that sooner it is done the better.”

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