The recent arrest of a so-called god Siva Shankar Baba from Tamil Nadu for sexually abusing young girls has once again exposed the murky world of false gods who have become law for themselves. The baba, who is also the founder of a school, posed as an educator and preyed on vulnerable girls. The unsuspecting parents of these abused girls could never have imagined that the school was in fact a hotbed of human vices and perversion. It was only after these girls confided in their parents about the baba’s shenanigans that the police arrested him.
The case of Siva Shankar suggests that these so-called spiritual gurus veered off course and lost their moral compass to such an extent that they would always come to a head. But despite all this, why are these god-men becoming the magnetic attraction of the spiritual market among the rich, middle class and illiterate? These cunning and manipulative gods know very well that most of us, at times, find life difficult and experience mental stress and other daily problems. Listeners soak up the mi-cuit gyan that crosses their pravachan and fall into a dreamy and confused state. The gurus assure them that their souls would swim in ineffable happiness and that his blessings would guide them through the labyrinth of life like breadcrumbs. The faithful almost find it difficult to escape the fervor of the personalities of these babas.
They are good at playing the collective psyche and work miracles to influence us. These babas can be seen milking their devotees until the last drop of applause. No wonder the human brain is genetically programmed to believe in esoteric and religious gibberish. In the process, we end up endowing them with a halo of undeserved piety. As a result, many of these spiritual preachers are really starting to see themselves as an agent and messenger of God, infallible and, above all suspicion, as Caesar’s wife. These sneaky and dubious babas sneak their way among the gullible masses like the plague. There are many cases of promiscuous babas turned crooks physically exploiting young girls and women in their ashrams under the pretext of curing them of certain ailments. We have seen that these illiterate devotees, including women, willingly rest their faith in the god-men by agreeing to do what they want, to the detriment of rationality and good judgment.
Our self-proclaimed and flaky spiritual gurus are extremely wealthy, not to mention the ashrams spread across different cities. They enjoy a hedonistic lifestyle and possess properties valued in crore. Snuggled up in the amniotic fluid of the patronage of politicians and businessmen, these high-level spiritual babas and swamis can be seen hanging out with the great and powerful, attending weddings and other social functions of business tycoons, netas and abhinetas. Politicians of all stripes support these babas because they can turn the political fortunes of a party upside down by asking their followers to vote for a certain political outfit. In return, these spiritual gurus are assured of being protected from politicians so that they can build their illicit empires and conduct their nefarious activities without any fear of the law.
Spiritual gurus convey deceit and religiosity in the name of God. Before their arrest, Baba Ram Rahim and Asaram Bapu managed to pull wool over the eyes of their worshipers for decades. These two popular spiritual gurus not only enjoyed massive political patronage, but also commanded huge audiences among the well-educated middle classes. When the police raided their ashrams, they came across evidence indicating the sex and murder, allegedly committed there. These godmen have lived a life of dissipation and have gotten away with such dishonesty for as long as they have. This can be attributed to the flourishing link between political power and religious establishments. In 2004 Sri Jayendra Saraswathi, the high profile leader of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, was arrested as he turned out to be one of the main defendants in the murder of a temple director. Then there is the curious case of Santhosh Madhavan aka Swami Amrita Chaitanya, who was charged with the rape of three underage girls and a 22-year-old woman, financial fraud and possession of narcotics. In 2015, a reality TV actress filed an FIR against controversial godwoman Radhe Maa for sexual harassment. Many movie personalities and politicians are said to be his followers.
It takes courage to go against the grain and stand up for what you believe in. When Rajkumar Hirani in his film, PK (2014) showed that not everything related to the world of men-gods and swamis is transparent and blameless, hell has broken loose. . There was a big kerfuffle as people took offense at the negative portrayal of religious gods in the movie who appeared to be fake idiots. The film, starring Aamir Khan and Anushka Sharma, showed how some self-proclaimed spiritual gurus exploit superstition and use fraud to turn people around. In the film, Aamir plays an alien who comes to visit the earth and is a victim of human greed. He discovers that most man-gods use religions for business and plucking their own nests.
In Satyajit Ray’s Bengali film Joi Baba Felunath (1979), a local god of Benaras, who calls himself Machhli Baba, is portrayed as a con artist who colludes with a wealthy Marwari businessman, who has laid eyes on a rare and priceless statue of Ganesh.
However, it is a little unfair to tar all spiritual gurus with the same brush. There are also exceptions to this tribe of deceptive divine men. The late Bhaiyyu Ji Maharaj was one of them. A few years ago, a state’s chief minister waved a party post carrot in front of him for a while, which he flatly refused. Bhaiyyu Ji was satisfied with his philanthropic activities like adopting villages and revitalizing water bodies. His death, even today, remains steeped in mystery.
In his famous novel, Father Goirot, HonorÃ© de Balzac says: âWhat moralists call the darkest depths of the human heart are only deceptive thoughts, involuntary impulses of self-interest. These sudden turns are calculated movements in the pursuit of pleasure. The same applies to most of our self-proclaimed fake babas and swamis, who in the name of religion deviate from the law and the narrow, and play their devotees as fake for self-interest. They have slipped their moral moorings. It is high time to see through their deceit and hypocrisy and to see them for what they are: leading opportunists, impostors, rapists and hedonists.