Godmen or businessmen?

I respect faith particularly when it concerns other people. This article isn’t therefore meant to mock anybody’s ashtha or belief in the goodness of saints, seers, yoga gurus or spiritual healers they trust and are willing to deify. It’s their business altogether so long as such belief doesn’t intrude into public space that’s common in a democracy.

My belief (yes that’s the word I want to use) as one who hasn’t yet hitched on to any so-called godman’s bandwagon is that all those who preach must practice the wisdom they distribute. Simple living is a pre-requisite for high thinking, like the ascetic (perhaps Dandamis) who ticked off Alexander’s emissary Onesikritos.

“The son of the mighty God Zeus, Alexander, sovereign of the world, commands you to go to him. If you comply, you will be rewarded. If not, your head will be cut off,” said Onesikritos. The ascetic replied: “I’m content with what I have. I don’t need any gifts. If he cuts off my head, so be it. God receives all when death sets them free, which is better than being received by Alexander the man. But for now, please move aside and allow the sun rays to fall on me…”

Swami Nigamanand who fasted to save the Ganga was an inspirational ascetic who died for the cause he undertook. But what does one make of five-star godmen with huge followings and huger treasure troves with lorry-loads of gold, silver and unaccounted cash? Don’t the Sai Babas, the Sri Sris, the yoga teachers and the modern day bapus (of Gujarat) who abound the God market imbibe and spawn as much black money as the corrupt political and corporate class?

If that’s so, should they be spared the scanner so rightly prescribed for the political class, just because a part of the high-value donations and offerings they get are used for helping the poor and promoting development projects in their areas of influence? Their devotees include film stars, politicians, business tycoons, influential civil servants, jurists and other professionals whose wealth isn’t always lily white. Many among them aren’t the most honest taxpayers. One doesn’t know whether what they share with their gurus is lawful pelf or bandit’s booty?

Anna Hazare does not fall in that category. Neither did much taller leaders such as Vinoba Bhave or Jayaprakash Narayan whose campaigns against corruption and social evils became catalysts for change purely on the strength of their credibility. The same cannot be said about godmen and gurus who preach transparency while presiding over billions worth of opaque empires. What’s the colour of their money? Is it any different from the black some among them want unearthed?

Long years ago, there was a yoga guru named Dhirendra Brahmachari who flew in planes and dealt in guns. He was hounded out because of and despite his proximity to Indira Gandhi. Need for an encore to similarly sort out his equally unworthy successors in the trade?

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