Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Of Swamijis, cults, crooks and Indian economy

As cult leader Nithynanda is caught in a sex scandal and his organization torn down in India, it is time to ponder on this spread of cultism and proliferation of “holy men” in India. I asked spiritual oriented elders in my family about this and they believe that such enlightened masters are very few in any society. They come once in a generation. But India has now got millions of such guys who claim to be “enlightened”. How?

Since 1990s, the “holy men” count in India has grown manifold. (If only India had half as many scientists as saints we would invented time machine.) They come in all forms, all kind of hairstyles and all kind of fashion. They all establish a big temple and organization around themselves, throw out some general good statements (like Dont be evil, don’t lie"), quote from Hinduism’s holy scriptures and sooner or later the sheeps in Indian society will declare them as saint and god.

Till late 80s there were only a handful of these groups, but suddenly what happened? Is there some cosmic event that created 1000s of saints out of ordinary mortals? Well, it has probably got less to do with religion and spirituality than about economics.

As India got economically liberated in 1991, people particularly those in IT found new wealth, new dreams and new environments. When wealth comes so sudden, so is fear, anxiety and doubt. People were also more staying more away from families and work pressure & competition. They took on more adventure activities like hiking and river rafting to relieve the pressure, but it was not getting enough. They needed some spiritual adventures. Everybody wanted a slice of this nice thing called “enlightenment”.

In economics supply always meets where there is demand. In come all these ordinary joes in saffron. They claim to have an answers to these spiritual problems. They throw out good feeler words and slowly build a cult. Most of these cults are centered around India’s IT clusters – in Bangalore and elsewhere, because that’s where the main market lie. These fellows also frequently visit the US, where diaspora Indians, hippie Americans and Caucasian females – provide a very lucrative market to them. They collect a lot of money, build huge temples and (sometimes) even some good things like schools and hospitals. They create an aura where everything in the ashram moves around them.

As they say about “markets are the best instrument to separate money from the fools”, the Indian IT folks were pouring money on these cult leaders. There are 3 day, 3 week and 3 month courses on enlightment from these cult leaders that charge outrageous sums of money. What these paying guys were secretly wishing is for a short cut road towards spiritual enlightenment. And everytime they wish for these short cuts they strengthen the crooks and charlatans.