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Merchants Of Faith

Merchants Of Faith

The large number of causalities in the wake of the widespread violence, arson and police firing in Haryana triggered by the rape-conviction of self-styled Godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is another shameful reminder of the clout wielded by the large number of spiritual-gurus who proliferate the country over the gullible many of whom take pride in being acknowledged as their ‘devotees’.

In an age where the tensions and stresses of daily life brought about by the tedious lifestyle that the human race has fallen prey to, succor in the form of spiritual solace is being dished out by people who promise eventual bliss to those who subscribe to their teachings.

It is now estimated that the entire worth of the spiritual-market in India is several thousand crores of Rupees which in itself is a whopping sum when compared to the earnings of a standard business Corporate. And why not, considering that it is the material gains that the spiritual-masters seek in return for the ‘tranquil mind’ and a ‘healthy body’ promised to their followers.

So blind is the faith reposed in them by the ‘disciples’ that for a moment it is forgotten that they too are creations in flesh and blood susceptible to all the follies of a normal human being.

But recognizing them as Gods and in a bid to build an aura of divinity around them, the followers are not averse to turning a blind eye to their wrong-doings. History has been replete with the ‘misdeeds’ of many such Gurus with sustained campaigns against their fraudulent practices exposing them for what they actually are.

The manner of amassing wealth and their sexual misdemeanors have grabbed headlines so often, yet the blind-faith they command allows them to maintain the garb of saintliness that has endeared them to their disciples.

Although great spiritual leaders whose very deportment exuded an aura of saintliness about them are revered to this day in India, their teachings and works which have had a stellar effect on a society plagued by numerous social evils then speaks for their commitment to the times they lived in. But none of them ever dared call themselves an avatar of the Gods!

The rishis and munis of the Vedic period would be ‘enraged’ to the point of cursing their ‘colleagues’ in the present era for the lifestyle that in no way restricts itself to the frugal means prescribed. Foregoing simplicity and austerity, sprawling ashrams and habituation to the best of luxuries epitomize the everyday life of the current corps of spiritual gurus.

These merchants of faith preach divine, all the while engaging in the pursuit of wealth. Karl Marx stands vindicated today: “Religion is the Opium of the masses”. How true! Nothing sells like religion today!

The spoils that come of marketing spiritual atonement to a nation of ‘sinners’ guilty of being ignorant about their own faiths and beliefs has seen a phenomenal rise in investments by self-assuming ‘qualifiers’ who promise the flock an easy passage on to the threshold of spiritual bliss.

Designing the entire campaign around the ‘assurance’, it is now left to the ‘investor’ to give face to his unique selling proposition. The USP in this case is the innovative methods devised to draw attention to the manner in which the matter of giving spiritual comfort is intended. For, if the method is not ‘only one of its kind’, the ‘investor’ risks the chance of jeopardizing the whole proposal. 

Initially it was a proficiency in Sanskrit language and an intrinsic knowledge of the art and science of Yoga that abetted those staking claim to a share of the nation’s ‘spiritual empire’.

Sanskrit because it is the language most of our holy scriptures are written in and Yoga, the origins of which is speculated to date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions, has that mystic symbolism attached to it which has the group of physical, mental and spiritual disciplines that describe it still held in awe by the new generation.

Preaching love, many of the spiritual gurus in the past have found themselves condemned and hounded by the law for the outrageous approach adopted. The present clique is however different considering their ‘worldly outlook’ and the shrewdness that allows them to reach out to a larger consumer base.

Yes, spirituality can now be easily equated with any other business and as is expected of any thriving venture, expanding to larger and fresher avenues is an option that is always open to be capitalized upon for an astute entrepreneur.

Moving over to the consumer market would only be possible if they were to bring in a spiritual variant to their new enterprise. Well realizing this, the concept of ‘healthy bodies’ thus came up for due consideration along with ‘healthy minds’. A healthy mind in a healthy body!

News that retailing empires are a new fad with the present corps of spiritual gurus should give an inkling of the business acumen of the genre doling out ‘peace’ and ‘love’ as a commodity.

From soaps and detergents to cosmetics, edible oils to energy drinks, rice, flour, sugar, you name it; the foray of a prominent self-styled yoga guru into the consumer market has spelt a new dawn in the history of spiritual propagation in India where spirituality and consumerism is being bracketed together for economic gains.

How shocking that all the ancient sciences, especially ayurveda, have become a ‘trademark’ of the ‘divine community’! Endorsing Ayurvedic practices solely for the reason that this system of medicine in vogue from ancient times in India emphasizes the unshakeable connections between the body, mind and spirit, the contention that perfect health is a balance between these components has enabled religious teachers to establish a link between spiritualism and ayurvedic philosophy.

Whichever way one looks at it, the increasing demand for herbal products across in India is the catalyst that is responsible for the trend. The Babas and Gurus have only capitalized on this craze, effectively monopolizing the demand and supply chain.

With another popular Guru throwing his hat into the ring, it is apparent that the competition between these ‘corporate gurus’ now promises to move out of the spiritual domain into a materialistic one.

The consumer market in India is all set for a ‘spiritual revival’!

It is time the generation woke up to the stark reality that the concept of ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’ is one’s own creation, a personal initiative that requires no ‘enforced’ help from any self-styled Godman!

(Published on 11th September 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 37)