Friday, March 05, 2010

On Spiritual Gurus and Swamijis.........

This post has been selected for BlogAdda's Spicy Saturday Picks. Thank you BlogAdda for the recognition.
Of late we have been tortured with non stop information about 3 godmen and their activities. TV channels never seem to have enough of sensational news and the hype they create. Sickening is the word and I truly long for the good old days when DD I was all we had and the remote was unheard of. As it is I watch very little TV with my husband monopolising TV time and deciding to switch channels every 2 minutes. Thank God for the computer and the fact that he doesn't come anywhere near it unless there is something particular that I want him to read/see like my grandchildren's photograph or a particularly good piece forwarded by my friends. But I digress. Let me come to the point.

We all seem to blame these Swamijis for whatever they are accused of doing. Like for instance we are outraged that Kalki Bhagavan charges 5 lakhs to bless a person or that Bhimananda was supplying girls to important people in and around Delhi. It was Premananda some years back and Nithyananda now. It is time we stopped blaming these godmen and tried to do some introspection. Like the corrupt bribe taking government officials these godmen flourish only due to public support. The person who offers to give Kalki Swamy 5 lakhs to be blessed by him certainly did not get that kind of money by fair means. He seeks the blessing of the swamy not for spiritual upliftment but for success in all his money grabbing endeavors. Correct me if I am wrong.

I wonder why most of these godmen get involved in sex scanadals? Take for instance Swami Nithyananda. Whether the video that was telecast happened to be authentic or morphed is not my question. However, this could not have been done without the support of insiders and it was probably done with the sole intention of extracting money from him. When the man did not yield, the video was put up for public viewing. If the intention was good there were umpteen other ways of bringing him to book other than whipping up public sentiments and increasing the viewership of the news channels. What was the government doing all this while when foreign money was being pumped into the Ashram? That money corrupts is common knowledge. But what are the measures taken to ensure proper channelizing of funds that are being thus collected? What is the purpose served by burning the Ashram and destroying property?

A few years back I was on my way to Chennai. The news of the head of the Kanchi mutt being arrested on murder charges was doing the rounds and I expressed my anguish at the turn of events to a co passenger. He spoke of another Ashram, no less popular, as being used for every conceivable illegal activity and being controlled by the so called devotees who pump in money and therefore have a say in how it should be run. According to him, the very purpose of running an ashram for spiritual upliftment of the masses had taken a beating.

It took several years of penance and meditation for our sages to come up with what we now sum up as Hindu philosophy. They led a restricted life and shunned wordly pleasures. There can be no short cuts to success. Yet we see ashrams coming up over night and each one seems more opulent than the other. Westerners are influenced enough to participate in programmes conducted by them. But not all of those insiders who witness the accumalation of easy money are saints. Some have devious minds and want their pound of flesh so to say. I do not emphasize or overrule the possibility of these godmen - I don't mean anyone in particular - being tempted to lead double lives. They are after all human. My only suggestion is for them to restrict the flow of money and to be as transparent as possible in their dealings. Excessive flow of money causes trouble in ways unforseeable. 'Hasty climbers are soon to fall' claims a popular adage. I feel inclined to believe it when I see the rise and fall of such self proclaimed gurus.

Finally, I do not understand why a person needs to look for god in their fellow human beings and seek enlightenment through them. We all have our own inner voice directing us towards appropriate behavior and should that not suffice? In our own way we too are responsible for propping up these swamijis. Suranga speaks of the joy of giving in her latest post. I agree with every word that she says. One can give food for the hungry and clothes for the needy in a quiet, unassuming way and feel uplifted. One can spend a quiet afternoon in an old age home or orphanage and feel enlightened. Were it not for public support it would never be possible for self styled gurus and swamijis to flourish. It is time we seriously thought of channelizing our time, money and energy for the upliftment of society. Upliftment of the soul will automatically follow.

One last word - this post is not aimed at anyone in particular. Just my anguish over the kind of message we give the world that looks upto India for spiritual guidance and leadership. I do not want my country to be made a laughing stock by sensationalizing such negativities instead of dealing with them in a firm and objective manner. That's all.


Ugich Konitari said...


Yes, the less said about these channels, the better. I sometimes feel they end up hindering investigations most of the time.

I honestly feel people are so insecure today, and look for quick answers. Its become a question of , have-money, will-solve. These people are the ones who prop up these fake swamis. Led by politicians, the biggest crooks. I hear the Nityananda expose was done by some neighbor big-shot who is involved in a land litigation with the swami.

What a terrible image of our country we convey...

BTW, thank you for putting in a link to my post .

Smitha said...

Couldn't agree more with everything you've said here.

If the public is ready to deify people and be 'guided' by them - things like this will happen.

'I do not understand why a person needs to look for god in their fellow human beings and seek enlightenment through them. We all have our own inner voice directing us towards appropriate behavior and should that not suffice? ' - So true.

All that can be done is, as you say, deal with such crooks firmly, so that nobody else has the guts to try it again.

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

I am aware of a family friend who took the path of sainthood and his guru was Nityananda Swami .... His parents were not too happy about the path taken by their son .... the son has a very respectable job and donated all his earnings to the Ashram. He continued to do this for almost 5 years ...
Just about a year back, the son somehow felt he had not renounced all the materialistic pleasures and was not being the truthful and hence decided to convert back to "Samsarika" (family man)

And to think of this guy was an IIT topper and Phd holder from a top University in US ... how did this person get so influenced by this swami is just beyond me.

starry said...

It is a terrible image and cannot agree more with all that you have written.I think itcomes from having too much of money and power.

Aathira Nair said...

I is beyond me that why someone would look to a fellow human being in being shown the right path. Is it that the person in question is any less capable of knowing what is right and wrong?

I doubt it, I think it is the feeling that I am following someone's orders and so that you can shun responsibilities for your stupid actions which makes people turn to these swamijis.

This is just my view and maybe I am not completely right here.

Renu said...

If the intention was good there were umpteen other ways of bringing him to book other than whipping up public sentiments and increasing the viewership of the news channels..exactly the same thing I due to so much of materialism we have so much stress in life that everyone wants a quick remedy and anyone who promises is succesful.

starry eyed said...

You know, my husband said the exact same thing...'The faster they climb higher, the harder is the fall'.

I agree that this and other non-news has been unnecessarily sensationalised. It's only an opportunity for some people to get a moment in the media spotlight. The violence is not justified...but the lack of control and monitoring by the authorities is also a glaring problem. And your para about looking inside ourselves and our deeds is spot on!

shoba said...

I typed a long comment that got deleted.Here is a short one.. :-)

I think media sensationalizes to make money. It is part of their job and should not be blamed.

For the likes of Nityananda, who feed on gullible people, it could be a vicious loop.He might have started with good intentions,and with increase in people's support comes money, with money comes luxury and thoughts change.. I remember this guy coming to Cal, with people flocking over him.A pity.None of these so called popular sanyasis practice real SANYASA.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you've written.

The comments on twitter about this scandal particularly shocked me. I have no idea whether Nityananda is guilty of what he is accused or not, but neither do those writing outrageous comments on him!

Any scandal just becomes a media and internet circus these days, with no one thinking about the important issues like those that you have raised here.

Hip Grandma said...

ugich:People look for quick answers partly because they are insecure but more so because they do not want to try at all. They want success minus the labor and perseverence.

smitha:i don't even want to label all swamijis as crooks. They allow anti socials and vested interests to take over and tht is unfortunate. At some point of time spirituality takes a back seat and the greed to grab remains.Ofcourse there are some who put on a facade and use their popularity to indulge in all kinds of unsavory acts.

CA: This is something I cannot understand. On the one hand one does meticulous research and fails to analyze the character of these godmen. Research in a particular subject ought to change one's way of thinking. yet they get influenced enough to abandon everything for a particular person. Iam glad the young man decided to become a samsarika. It would be a pity to see a brilliant mind go waste.

starry:Money is for us to use. you cannot let money use us. And this is exactly whatis happening.

Aathira: one should identify problems that trouble them and address it at a personal level as far as possible. Trained counsellors may help if one cannot solve it him/herself. Yoga and meditation help. But there is no short cut solution as offered by some fake godmen. Not necessarily the ones who are being currently discussed.You are quite right in what you say. i've said more or less the same things.

renu;the sad part is that these swamijis get exposed from time time but no lesson is learnt. And because of a few all are maligned.

starry eyed;It is the usual practise for the law makers and minders arrive at a scene after the law breakers have done their bit. i sometimes wonder if our police is perhaps afraid of the criminals and wait for them to depart so that they can safely enter the scene of the crime and pretend to do something.

shoba:in these materialistic times sanyasa or renounciation is hard to practise. So it is high time they stopped misleading the people while leading luxurious lives themselves.

manjjoglekar:first time here?welcome. wherever a tread of discussion is started a few don't allow the discussion to be balanced and productive. They comment as if they were eye witnesses or some such thing.

Ugich Konitari said...


Congratulations on your BlogAdda Spicy Saturday pick !

Poornima said...

Fantastic one HHG! Actually, why should there be people who PRACTISE religion?? Like, to support their families? You practise your profession, & BE religious in your house, isnt that how it should be??

God & Godmen! Hmmph!

Anonymous said...

Why are Gurus expected to be celibate these days? Do we forget that Krishna was in love with multiple gopikas at the same time? He was not even married to his spiritual consort Radha. Radha was in fact married to someone else. Yet we revere them. What about Vishwamitra who gave us the famous 'Gayatri mantra'. He had multiple affairs and fathered many children. In the modern times Ramakrishna Pramahansa/ Sharda Ma. Why do people get upset if a saint choses to start his grishasta life after he starts his public life?

Anonymous said...

Shirdi Said Baba also asked for oil from the vendors to light his lamp. Not just that, he often asked people for money. So would he be considered greedy? If he was alive the channels would have shown videos of him screaming at people and hurtling objects at them and declared him a mad fakir.

Anonymous said...

We often think of saints as "fellow human beings" when they are alive and elevate them to sainthood when they die. Why? It is often said that a grandfather enters the home only after he dies. Till he is alive people confine him to a room and wait for him to die. Once he dies they frame his picture bring him to the pooja room and revere him with the rest of the Gods. For the same reason it is easier to relate to the photo of a guru. A photo cannot get angry with you, you cannot see a photo getting intimate with anyone, you cannot see a photo eat or do anything human. You don't see his physical side, only his spiritual side ie his teachings. As long as the guru is alive, the feeling or 'why should I bow before him?' always lurks somewhere and is not easy to overcome. Most of these saints had a close group of followers when they were alive. But their movement practically exploded after they took samadhi.

Anonymous said...

India is a spiritual land of gurus and guru-shishya parampara. In spite of what the channels are trying to convey, we still have great saints in our midst who have valuable knowledge to share with us. Look at Chinmayananda and his amazing mission. There are others like Ramakrishna mission and Yogananda's self realization fellowship. These saints were alive not too long ago. Luckily they escaped the high tech internet and media. Sathya Sai Baba provides free medical care through his hospital. There are many more like them. There may be something valuable that every guru has to offer. Let us enjoy being in our spiritual land-India and learn from our gurus and their experiences. We need to be aware that crooks exist, but let us not start believing that every popular guru is a crook.

Unknown said...

Here are some of my thoughts. I am a nithyananda devotee.

"Finally, I do not understand why a person needs to look for god in their fellow human beings and seek enlightenment through them."

--> Seeing god in a fellow human being is empowering. It means that the "god" state is not beyond the human state, and it can be realized by a human being. If a human being comes across the idea that such a state (it has been called enlightenment, moksha, liberation, satori, jeevan mukti, "end of suffering", or god state) is within his reach, he starts searching for it. The hindu scriptures mention that such a person should seek the help of a guru. A person does not seek enlightenment through a guru, she asks for their guidance. Even for acquiring common skills and knowledge, for e.g. computer programming, doing a PhD, becoming an auto mechanic etc., we seek guidance from teachers, mentors and advisers. Then how can we do without a guru for realizing the "Ultimate knowledge"?

We all have our own inner voice directing us towards appropriate behavior and should that not suffice?

--> Yes we do have an inner voice, but the inner voice need not direct us in the appropriate manner. The scriptures mention a mix of tendencies (or gunas). These are sattva (the "true" or "natural" tendency), rajas (or restlessness) and tamas (aka sloth). Of the three sattva is most suited for enlightenment. Most human beings oscillate between restlessness (rajas) and laziness (tamas), with very little sattva.

That said, there have been cases like Ramana Maharshi, who spontaneously realized, without the help of a guru. But such cases are rare. A guru can catalyze the process of enlightenment, shortening it by several lifetimes (i.e. if you believe in reincarnation). Kashmiri shaivism has a concept of "shaktipat", where the energy of enlightenment is directly transmitted from the master to the disciple through touch. My personal belief is that a living guru is indispensable for the majority of people looking for the "ultimate knowledge".

Sumana said...

I have always heard and read that Guru mukena (through the guru) one can attain salvation. But that does not mean to say Guru to be the god whatever he does. How can people just blindly follow is out of my mind.

Hip Grandma said...

ugich:thanks.i checked it out after I read your comment.i almost missed it.

poornima:Religion is not a compulsory thing. One may or may not subscribe any particular religion and yet be a good human being. Being honest to one's self and society for instance does not need a religious sanction. If one follows a particular faith and adheres to it as far as possible one can be called truly religious even if he claims to be an atheist/agnostic.

anon:No one expects a guru to be celibate. krishna's interaction with the gopikas or Radha was an open thing. So also is the fact Vyas and Vishwamitra had fathered many children. The society endorsed such things in those days. Draupadi married 5 men and each one among the pandavas had a different father. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa did not marry Ma Sharada on the sly. So also if and when Nityananda Swami decides to give up sanyasa and marry a woman of his liking and choice, his devotees would definitely accept her as Guru Mata and respect her too. We do not even know if the video released was authentic or not. So why talk as if it was and defend him by comparing him to other saints? Only if it is proved that the video released was authentic does one have to question why he did not openly acknowledge that he had a liking for the particular person and marry her the proper way. Till then let us not assume anything.

anon: Shiridi Sai Baba was indeed called a mad fakir during his life time and it was only in the last 10 years of his life that his devotees considered him to be an incarnation of god. Till then he was known as a mad fakir and hakim. About his asking for money it is said that he distributed whatever he received and died a pauper. In fact Sai Baba wanted people to give up the desire for money and women and even now in many temples for Sai Baba there is an area where women are not allowed. when public money pours in questions are bound to be asked isn't it? One should be prepared to answer these questions honestly.

anon: 'India is a spiritual land of gurus and guru-shishya parampara'

It is therefore all the more important for us to send the right kind of message across the globe. My write up was more a lament on the manner in which the media handled the issue and the purposeless vandalism that followed. I don't question the integrity of the saints you mention. But I hope you will agree that once a person becomes a celebrity for whatever reason his responsibilty and accountability also simultaneously increases. The problem is that like money popularity also makes one imagine that he/she is invincible. As Shoba pointed out their intention is good but their direction changes after sometime and this is partly because those in his immediate circle start mishandling things. It happened in Kanchi mutt too and in all likelihood this could be the reason for the furore regarding Nityananda ashram.that Satya Sai Baba is doing a lot for society is commendable. But does he also not have detractors?It is unfortunate that due to a few all gurus are labelled as fakes.

srikant: welcome here. Your comment regarding the need for a guru was pretty insightful and one is indeed lucky to find a guru to lead him/her. But neither can all teachers be equally good nor all students equally receptive and it becomes important for a person seeking spiritual upliftment to make a wise choice after careful evaluation. I repeat what I have said before that this post was not aimed at exposing or endorsing any or all of the godmen mentioned. But releasing video tapes of the kind shown in our channels cannot be called responsible reporting.They only had their TRP rating in mind.

sumana:The whole thing about Swami Nityananda has been blown out of proportion because people failed to understand that he is as human as the rest of us and there were other ways of dealing with the situation. when a person is elevated to god like levels the expectations become unrealistic.

Tys on Ice said...

to even think that our own salvation will come from someone else is against whatever our so called hindu philosophy states. Iam not against these godmens/women...they too are in the business of god and the general populance's spiritual drooling...

my question is why the expectation? why is there a required decorm or our own defined job description for such people? Is it becoz we put them there so we make and bestow upon them an image which they then have to live it wrong step we also will pull them down..

personally iam not very surprised...everything fulfills needs...everything is the reflection of the society its is erected in...

Hip Grandma said...

tys on ice: exactly my point.why elevate them to god like levels and smash them on the ground when they fall short of one's expectations?

kurrodu said...

wonderful post! True, Money and Fame if left unchecked corrupts absolutely.. I can understand that some people look for something external to hold on while facing a crisis in their personal lives and these spiritual gurus fulfill that void.. Its more of a demand and supply issue. The growing stress in lives of ppl where couples remain isolated without the support framework (parents and extended family) results in a growing demand for such seers for support.. In our country, one would rather seek a seer's help rather than a psychologist or a psychiatrist to deal with a personal crisis. Eventually, they deify him to the extent that he is tempted to make the self-destructive choice of leading a hypocritical life..

Vishesh said...

Oh! people are foolish aren't they :P I mean those who go after blessings and stuff..can't they see people are making a fool out of them?

Real 'swamijis' aren't Godmen..I studied in Chinmaya Vidyalaya and now am in Vivekanada people are different...

Hip Grandma said...

kurrodu:'In our country, one would rather seek a seer's help rather than a psychologist or a psychiatrist to deal with a personal crisis.'

well said. My servant had gas problem and she went to a tantrik for remedy. he gave her some powder to apply on her forehead and that was it. she felt better. I insisted that all she had was indigestion but she believed that someone's evil eye was the cause.

vishesh: Chinmaya mission and Vivekananda's teaching have been tried and tested over several many years and their rise to fame and recognition took time. people like Nityananda are yet to prove themselves and perhaps this is the litmus test and the truth behind the scandal will soon come out either in his favor or against him. either way his devotees have a right to know as also the rest of the world.