Gone with the Guru!

If secularism in India is in the ICU of Hypocrisy Hospital, it is at least in elite, albeit equally sick, company. The next bed is occupied by spirituality. Though at present sight both appear to have nil hope of survival or salvation, secularism can hope to be clinically alive on constitutional ventilators. But spirituality is in critical health with the life support systems being painfully withdrawn by the very people drafted to sustain it.

And that brings us to the misty, mystic, mysterious world of Gurus. The furore over the appointment of the controversial Nithyananda as head of the Madurai Adheenam is the latest of Hinduism’s famed fancy for self-goals. The comic capers on public parade aside, such episodes rock the very foundations of spirituality, more specifically, the spirituality of these ‘spiritualists’. First, what is the claim to glory of these much acclaimed Gurus? Their so-called spiritual orientation or succession to a plum post? Either way, susceptibility of the followers is the platform, but does that exonerate the erring Gurus?

A bit of Guru gazing across the religious spectrum would reveal that institutionalised Gurudom has risen only on the debris of spirituality. A new Guru of a mutt does not just inherit a mantle but often also huge monetary legacies besides a captive band of faithfuls. The modern demons of money and power have successfuly evacuated original dwellers like truth and peace, real spiritual hallmarks, from human habitat. This can be pardoned in the case of the multitude of ordinary mortals who are deemed ordinary only owing to such misplaced priorities. But ‘self-realised’ Gurus indulging in the same material wranglings is an utter perversion of spiritualty. After all, the sight of the new pontiff, N-nanda, perched on a pompous pedestal and pontificating, not on God and His inscrutable ways, but about court cases, media matters, inter-mutt politics and funds, not to mention flaming hot filmstars, did not quite seem all that spiritual. The sight of saffron in several unsavoury situations in the last few years is indeed sickening.

To say that corporatisation and controversies dog all religions is a lame lament. Bharath’s Sanathana Dharma lays claim to a longer vintage, larger world vision and a lasting vitality and should display a lot more virtue. That responsibility vests with the Gurus who are the visible front-ends and torch bearers, assumed or otherwise. Also, Gurus here have a duty to lead by personal example because religion in this land is not congregational but individualistic. One can choose one’s own path, pace and process to realisation and Gurus are supposed to help in the aspirant’s progress after understanding his or her attitude and aptitude. Organised religion on the Western model, with stress on uniformity and conformity, may help fight temporal battles with peer faiths but certainly goes against that very grain of spirituality, namely, the personal soul search. Also the wisdom and greatness of exalted Gurus cannot be passed on through hierarchical or hereditary channels. Reason why most mutts, across castes and sects, falter and flounder after a profound founder’s demise and become mere material miasmas.

There are bigger holes in these Gurus’ spiritual landscapes. The goal of spirituality is to understand and identify with one’s true self. But no soul realisation can happen without the help of mind and body. The mind particularly, with all its sensory demands and external provocations, is the key. A change in its direction, inward instead of outward, is a decisive first step. A mind in control, then, is a sure and safe vehicle for the inner journey that is spirituality. A scattered mind focussed on the external, on the contrary, is a non-starter. I wonder how the likes of N-nanda, so pre-occupied with worldly burdens, not all of them pious, still have mindspace for spirituality! That being so, what of the fate of the followers wanting to extract a slice of the masters’ mind for their own salvation?

Small wonder that the Madurai mutt head and his steamy successor have recommended, not soulful devotional art, but sensuous singing and delirious dancing for some quick bliss. So why not wine and cocaine or pubs and discotheques which offer identical results? Indeed, their attempt to pass ego-ticklers, physical ecstasy and mental highs, rather than soul elevation, as spiritual bliss is a sin against spirituality. Such prescriptions seem all the more vulgar considering their attire and stature! And what ignorance for realised souls! Is not spirituality all about contemplation, meditation and quietitude? Is the soul to be sought out in the silence of the inner sanctum or in the salacious sounds of a spirited orgy? Indeed, many such pseudo spiritualists, who have become immune to all spiritual sensitivities, can give an inferiority complex to atheists and rationalists!

True mahans do not announce themselves. Nor do they arrive on thrones and with crowns or leave behind treasures. And they don’t certainly advocate lusty physical exertions. But the land is littered with many holy humbugs seeking a fast buck or some other form of luck. The few honourable ones too have to tread carefully lest the difference diminishes. In this scenario, true spiritualists would only retreat deeper into the realms of anonynmity. What poverty of spiritual preceptors in a land that throbbed with many such holy souls even a few decades back!

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Jawahar T R