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Debasement of spirituality?

Debasement of spirituality?
Highlights

In the land of spirituality, God and godliness are getting horribly mixed up with sex, sleaze and everything else that is mundane. Our scriptures, saints and sadhus, who have made the Himalayas their abode to keep themselves above earthly trappings, profess the transient nature of the physical body and the indestructibility of the soul.

In the land of spirituality, God and godliness are getting horribly mixed up with sex, sleaze and everything else that is mundane. Our scriptures, saints and sadhus, who have made the Himalayas their abode to keep themselves above earthly trappings, profess the transient nature of the physical body and the indestructibility of the soul.

The ultimate goal of the human being, spiritually speaking, is to escape the cycle of birth and re-birth and attain moksha. Gautama the Buddha called it nirvana. If it is the raison d’ etre of human existence according to the Hindu faith, why spiritual gurus, godmen, swamis, self-professed religious pundits are increasingly landing themselves in controversies like any other mortal and getting treated like ordinary criminals?

That was not the case a few decades ago when great men like Ramana Maharshi and his disciple Swami Vivekananda and a host of others had explained and carried the quintessence of Hinduism to other countries. In a sense, they proved German philosopher Max Mueller right when he observed that “India is the fountainhead of spiritualism.”
Barring a few, if we look at the current crop of godmen whose following is legions, both Indian and foreign, they seem to be more interested in making moolah for themselves than teaching their followers how to attain moksha. If the self-proclaimed gurus are really interested in making their disciples self-realize, why should they indulge in self-propagation and, at the same time, denounce others and lead a luxurious life?
A lavish lifestyle epitomizes the weal of certain categories of people, but not those who are supposed to set an example for others to lead a simple life, thinking high, if they want to reach a higher plane of their existence. Still, in a dichotomous way, many gurus and swamis mix dollops of divine knowledge with earthly earnings and make a cocktail to satisfy the body, mind and the spirit.
If the world is dual in nature, the three-in-one formula will assure the believers wealth, health, happiness and prosperity as long as they live and the rest of unseen things that are supposed to follow them into another world after death. That’s self-assuring for the gullible because when the best of both worlds is served with hope and promise, logic and rationality make little sense. In the age of despair, despondency and high-pressured life, mental peace and physical well-being are the two most important elements to keep the body and soul together. Whether they are godmen or New Age Gurus, surely they offer solace to the troubled minds and soothe the frayed nerves of working men and women as well as the aged and the deprived masses.
Religion need not necessarily be the opium of the masses, as the former Chinese helmsman Mao Zedong opined, but anything that remotely connects the present life to post-death with a hope and promise of salvation has an addictive effect on the human psyche. Call it a weakness of the mind or our strong belief in destiny or faith in a force that is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent, we are attracted to a medium that unravels the mysteries of life and death. Doesn’t matter, in the process, a lot of mumbo-jumbo can be passed off as voice of the Vedas.
There is a void between the laity and the learned. And, it is exploited unashamedly, nonchalantly and in many cases with impunity. The reverence with which holy men are worshipped, the respect and gifts showered on them and the way they are deified they assume larger than the mortal image. Once they attain the stature of demi-gods, they think they have transcended human frailties and are above laws made to discipline society. That is the rub and the conflict between modern societal enticements and our unshakeable faith in the unknown. Unfortunately, none, including those who profess by God and sermon us from the holy pulpits on the virtues and vices (the standard of which had been set by some sensible people long ago) and realization of self is above reproach or beyond weaknesses generally attributed to the common people.
For most of the Old Age or New Age swamis, the lure of lucre is irresistible. In the same vein, add a dash of sex, a romp of politics and fly-by-night business deals to expand spiritual operations. We can find all these in 21st century spiritual India. That is the saddest part because at least some have downgraded Indian spirituality and brought disgrace to it by indulging in activities unthinkable of them. A few feign innocence and accuse others, mainly political parties, of leveling charges against them either to malign them (for what, nobody knows) or to take up cudgels against opponents.
Even if one gives the benefit of the doubt to character-assassination attempts for reasons best known to them, the question that should be raised and answered is: Can politics and spirituality co-exist? For that matter, why a spiritual leader who is expected to enlighten people should become the target of a vilification campaign? If he keeps himself above board, does he invite people’s wrath and police intervention in acts of omission and commission? Once he is besmirched, how can he command respect of his followers?
Somewhere down the line, our practices of faith and those who profess them have lost their righteous path and strayed into commercialism with the sole objective of profiteering with divine blessings. In the process, even those who have no inclination of knowing what divinity is are joining the bandwagon to have a finger in the pie, making the red line between the two worlds fade and ultimately disappear.
The Asaram Bapu case may be the latest in scandals involving godmen with mass following. But it won’t be the last; nor can we expect it to be, as spirituality and its manifestations have become
tradable.
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