Poverty, Chastity and Piety – search for the basic code of conduct prescribed by any religion for its spiritual seekers, and you will find these three aspects standing out. While piety is more internal and is not for others to see or judge, the first two aspects are for all of us to view and verify. But, just as all things change with Time, these too are thrown in the wind and religion has got into the hands of those who have desecrated these principles and manipulated religions for their own selfish ends.
Saints (!) these days lead lifestyles that can make the rockstars fade in comparison. Swanky mansions, sleek cars, globetrotting habits, private islands, gatherings that can fill huge football grounds to the brim, sprawling ‘ashrams’ – any and every aspect of luxury that an ordinary person can only imagine are at the disposal of these modern-day ‘gurus’. These people have literally started peddling spirituality and god in affordable packages. Affordable for those with bank balances the size of their own egos, that is. There are some of the spiritual ‘gurus’ whose photographs are updated in social media with a frequency that can put a narcissistic adolescent girl’s selfie craze to shame. Then, there are those who perpetrate and permit all kinds of sleaze in the name of ‘spiritual fervor’. Some of these ‘gurus’ have even performed acts that puts them on par with professional pornstars.
As these sacrilegious things continue growing alarmingly these days, there sprouts a question in my mind as to who is to be blamed for all these abominable deviations from the path of the Ultimate Truth. Should we blame those fake gurus and spiritual leaders that charge obscene amounts of money for their mere ‘darshan’ or should we kick those gullible masses that have forgotten what it means to feel silence and solitude in their purest forms.
Gita Mehta’s book deals with one such topic here. India, considered the beacon of spiritual wisdom, has long been the haven for spiritual seekers from around the world. Since the ancient days, travellers from faraway places have flocked to India to partake in her spiritual fountain. In the last century, the advent of air travel has helped more and more such seekers in visiting this mysterious land of snake-charmers and super-power sadhus. While the inflow was comprised equally of those in real spiritual quest and those souls that are simply confused about the course of their lives, India has offered counterfeit ‘teachers’ that can adeptly manipulate the gullible ones for having their own fill of the coffers and coitus.
Gita Mehta displays an amazing sense of sarcasm and wit while writing about the many ways in which these gurus exploit the seekers. Right from the funny encounter of a Western aristocrat that ended up drinking the urine of a sadhu (said to be pissing rosewater) to the painful truth of foreign women that are sexually exploited under the influence of narcotics, this book, written almost three decades ago, holds true to the modern day atrocities committed in India by the fake saints.
Having had the benefit of a Western education, Gita has the advantage of both worlds. At one end, she can discuss threadbare the nature of the seekers that end up in India. Not everyone is thrilled just by the confluence of life and death at the ghats of Kashi. Some of them seek the thrill of the chillum too. On the other, she flays the monks, saints and hermits, having the knowledge of not just the blissful but the banal as well, for exploiting the foreigners in terms of the material and mundane. Drug induced trances, sexual orgies under the guise of spiritual evolution, stupid practices in the name of dynamic therapies - Gita explores the whole razzamatazz that goes in the name of spirituality these days. It informs us also of the sad plight that these foreigners end up in, having lost their all here, forced to sell whatever they have or they can, from pieces of clothes to their flesh to make a living, with little or no chance of going back to their lives in their own countries.
The book is, though, more like a bunch of columns put together than any coherent work. She has put together a lot of anecdotes and observations without a complete flow. While it is obvious that she is writing about Osho and Mahesh Yogi, I wish she had written more plainly about the other such ‘gurus’ too. Also, I found her snobbish attitude a little annoying to be candid. Couldn’t help but feel that she is another of those high-society NRIs with a bit of aversion and contempt for the Indians and their ways of life.
To sum it up all, it is a good book. It goes on to vindicate my feeling that Indian ‘saints’ have thrown the three basic principles of poverty, chastity and piety to the wind and replaced them with the two principles with which the Batman operates – Theatricality and Deception! Reply