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The Swami Syndrome

March 8, 2010

Another day. Another Swami. Over the last few days, all television channels have been abuzz with news of the Nithyananda scandal, a sting operation which has captured the swami in a compromising position with a popular actress. As expected, this has incensed the general public who have damaged his ashrams and burnt his effigies. A swami getting exposed is not a new occurrence. In spite of this, why do people fall prey to these fraudsters time and again? To understand this, one needs to take an in depth look into this complex relationship.

A country like India has never been in dearth of religious gurus. From the usual street corner tantrik or fakir to high profile gurus such as Sai Baba, Amrita, DGS Dinakaran etc, the gurus are many. In fact, the gurus would probably outnumber the different gods of all religions put together. Traditionally, their roles were mostly restricted to performing gimmicks such as vomiting lingams and necklaces, giving out oracles (arul vaaku) and spewing out some Sanskrit mumbo jumbo which no one can make any sense of. People like DGS Dinakaran made their riches by organizing miracle gatherings where ‘acts of god’ were performed. This included things like people suffering from incurable diseases being cured instantly, the physically challenged being able to walk etc. In addition to making millions out of people’s misery, these people often wielded powerful political clouts which gave them elite status. Most often, the people who were followers of these gurus were poles apart. They were either the super rich or the very poor. But this trend took a change during the mid 90s. With the advent of globalisation, not only did the society in general begin to evolve, so did the gurus. With a burgeoning middle class, the swamis adopted new techniques to tap this new market.

Though globalisation has been a bane for many, it has also been a boon for some. With more and more multinationals setting shop in various metros, the young and educated middle class benefited the most from the job opportunities created by these new ventures. Though their new careers helped them procure the material comforts which they have always dreamt of, the stressful work life left them burnt out with little time or energy to enjoy those riches. Instead of introspecting into the reasons and system which has led to such a situation, more of these ‘educated and knowledgeable’ people went in search of gurus who will be able to rid them of all these worries. The gurus capitalised on this need and came up with different fancy ideas to make money. Programs such as ‘The Art of Living’ by Ravishankar, ‘LifeBliss Foundation’ by Nithyananda, “Transcendental Meditation movement” by Mahesh Yogi claim to show us how to lead a better life through Yoga and meditation.

A closer look at all these programs and discourses will show all that these gurus preach are basic facts of life known by everyone. But each one claims that their program is the only means by which one can achieve happiness and peace. And these programs do not come cheap. They are specifically designed for the corporate world and cost thousands of dollars. Naturally, the participants feel rejuvenated at the end of the program. If someone is housed in a serene environment with all facilities for a few days and does nothing but relax and enjoy clean and fresh air, they are bound to feel good. There is nothing spiritual or magical about it. But this temporary escape will vanish when reality returns. When these gurus get exposed, it obviously aggravates the followers because all these days they were being fed with crap that ‘worldly pleasures’ are bad and one needs to rid themselves of such ‘pleasures’ in order to achieve ‘true happiness’. When they see the same guy who said such things indulging in those ‘pleasures’, they feel cheated. Their misery is analogous to that of people who lose money by investing heavily in chit funds. They are not angry that they have been foolish enough to let themselves be cheated by someone who only told them those things that they wanted to hear; they are just angry that they didn’t choose the ‘right’ guru.

Even when these swamis get defamed, no doubt some people will still continue to stand by them. Others will continue their quest to find a ‘more effective’ guru. Its almost as if they need one guru or the other to tell them how to lead their lives. Unless they realize that the real reason for their miseries is the capitalist fueled economies and that these gurus are actually encouraged and supported by the very same biggies who exploit them, there will be no reprieve from this syndrome. Today, it is Nithyananda. Tomorrow, it’ll be someone else.

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5 comments

  1. varada..

    first of all.. its a very intriguing topic you have wrote about, and am glad you took the pain to do it.

    but as a perspective, whats your point. am not challenging, rather contemplating

    especially here

    “If someone is housed in a serene environment with all facilities for a few days and does nothing but relax and enjoy clean and fresh air, they are bound to feel good. There is nothing spiritual or magical about it. But this temporary escape will vanish when reality returns.”

    what is reality as you think it ought or should be. please explain


    • Yuva,

      The notion that one can achieve ‘inner happiness’ and peace merely by attending a camp or discourse is nothing but sheer escapism. The ‘enlightment’ which people supposedly attain after attending such programs is only momentary and will never provide a permanent solution to their stressful lifestyles/problems. As mentioned in the post, people need to understand the stark reality that they are being milked to the hilt in a society where they are nothing but pawns. They need to look at ways to change the system to put an end to their misery. Looking elsewhere for solutions will only lead to further despair. Thanks for the comment.


    • The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober on. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality.

      G.B. SHAW


  2. First, Kalki,
    now Nithi,
    next Sri Sri of Art of Living,

    check out

    http://www.artoflivingfree.blogspot.com

    to know what really happens in this chaste and pure organisation


  3. Please check out the other side of the coin too…

    MUST READ !!

    http://artoflivingfreefree.blogspot.com/



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