“The climate of India has always been productive of prophets and messiahs. Every age has had its quota of men and women claiming kinship with God; some even claiming to be His human incarnations. Neither the march of science nor the spread of Marxist atheism has made the slightest impact on the widespread belief in the spiritual powers and missions of these Gods in human form.” (From Kushwant Singh’s Gurus, Godmen and Good People). The fondness for elevating mere human-beings as beatified sentinels of one’s faith is an aspect of Indian religiosity that is indeed amazing. No wonder then that India is known as a land of living Gods!
However, where the proliferation of religious teachers, spiritual gurus or Godmen in essence should have put India on a course of spiritual enlightenment, the country finds itself marred by a series of incidents in the recent past that has served to cast doubts over the veneer of inviolability associated with them.
Blasphemous though their acts have been, it is the manner in which the followers of these charismatic gurus have disbelieved the strongest of evidences of their complicity to maintain unwavering faith in their religious masters. The violence in Punjab the wake of the arrest of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim convicted for rape is in itself a statement on the blind-following enjoyed by these pretenders to sacredness.
Over the years quite a few of the self-styled Godmen have been tried and imprisoned for their criminal transgressions. Unlike some of the organizations that stay on to expand their activities with the baton of the high-priest passing on to the next-in-line or the anointed, almost always the colossal empire built on the faith of millions in such cases struggles to stay relevant. The very fact that many Indians, irrespective of their religious leanings, pay homage to some living saint or the other whom they regard as God incarnate has aided the spurt of Bhagwans, Babas, Swamis and Acharyas in the country. However, it has been observed that the lives of most of the holy seers are cloaked in a veil of suspense and secrecy.
In recent times though, it has been the controversies haunting the ‘saintly abodes’ that have not only thrown a big question mark over the sanctity of these places but also created suspicions over these locales serving as dens of vices. If the revelations about the ‘divine preoccupations’ of Godmen in the sacred precincts of their ashrams have been appalling, the necessity to dispel myths built around their quality of being God and the inherent supernatural powers they boast of is being felt as never before.
The obsession with Holy men and spiritual gurus over the years has only exposed the country’s religious primitivism and the present heterodox opinions that go on to make Gods out of mere mortals. But have these charlatans ever deserved the faith that their gullible followers reposed upon them! With a strong affinity towards a life of riches and luxuries that is quite an antithesis to one we have come to expect of hermits and mendicants, the religious teachers merely come across as the biggest exponents of spiritual opportunism.
If the intrigues of Chandraswami and Dhirendra Brahmachari startled an entire nation for the enigma surrounding them, the contemporary saga of Dera Sacha Sauda exposes the gory side of religious abuse. The proximity to powerful leaders and the unflinching loyalty of their followers cultivated over a period of time give the religious gurus their air of omnipotence. Politics and religion is indeed a heady combination!
No surprises then that such lurid incidents of sex, murder and mayhem reportedly enacted in the confines of their religious establishments went unnoticed and the Godmen were able to pursue their aberrant interests for years without attracting attention of the state. More than anything else it is the alterations in the social order of the society portrayed by receding values, caste discrimination, gender disparity, wild beliefs and superstitions which have driven man to seek solace in the arms of such fraudulent characters promising absolute bliss and nirvana to their followers.
Moreover, the mere fact that sex and murder play a pivotal role in their ‘religious transactions’ lends a criminal guise to their very identity. Giving into carnal pleasures, if those revered as Gods by their followers are to prey upon their female disciples and indulge in orgies with children, how do these despicable acts differentiate them from ordinary mortals! Presumed devout, if the very actions of the holy men are in sharp contrast to the ‘holy’ perceptions of their devotees, what gives them the moral right to continue with the unnatural and potentially harmful charades!
Negative emotions like hate, anger, envy and lust cannot be ascribed to those who as religious teachers and spiritual gurus are the guiding beacons of the society. But a manifestation of these thoughts overwhelming their very being has conclusively exposed the ‘saints’ for their sinful and loathsome demeanour. Moreover, when the horrors of rape and other atrocities against women have brought the masses on to the streets agitating against the incompetence of the government at tackling the malaise, which in turn has necessitated the introduction of stringent laws aimed at deterring such demeaning acts in future, reports of these Godmen violating all norms of social and moral decency is indeed worrisome!
The sentencing of self-styled Godman Asaram Bapu to life in prison after a Jodhpur court found him guilty of raping a teenage girl in his ashram five years ago could not have come at a better time.
With insecurity of its young girls weighing heavily on the conscience of the nation, it comes as a big relief then that even highly worshipped Godmen who continue to sway public opinion in their favour whenever cornered for their misdeeds are not above the laws of the country.(Published on 14th May 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 20)