The rise of Godmen in Indian in recent years is indication enough that it is a profitable profession to pursue. The lavish and extravagant lifestyle of these self proclaimed leaders under the ‘spiritual’ vertical has raised many an eyebrow, but - ours being a religiously inclined nation, not too many ‘direc’” questions have been asked.
India has been the land of sages, saints and sadhus, many of whom have actually put India on the world map. Their teachings continue to breathe in our nation’s psyche and philosophy. India has been lucky to have an endless stream of spiritual leaders who have guided and inspired generations. This band of spiritual leaders seldom talked of a religious divide; in fact, they helped society to think beyond narrow domestic walls and to uplift the human spirit into freedom from anything petty.
Our land, India has been like a magnet attracting people in search of ‘inner peace’ and our spiritual leaders were there to embalm the troubled souls. Pilgrimages in our country rake in a major chunk of money for the tourism department. For the average Indian, a few days of holiday with a visit to a couple of holy shrines, make for an ideal break. It is rejuvenation for the mind and body.
With the progress of time and lifestyle, this ‘spiritual’ sector has also undergone deep-rooted change. Today’s religious leaders usually portray themselves as modern and liberal to become more acceptable. Luxury items like air-conditioners, long tailed cars, all modern amenities including rooms with attached bath are available in most ‘abodes’ of the Godmen.
Who exactly are these Godmen? Is their claim to fame a reflection of the progress made by India in the spiritual field or is it simply the result of innovative marketing? Or is it about being in the right place at the right time that has led to their meteoric rise? Hectic lifestyle of people and stress has led people to look for ‘alternative’ cures for wellness. Balance in one’s life has become the proverbial golden deer. Consequently, the need for an external support has grown in mammoth proportions preparing a fertile ground for the Godmen to grow in strength and number.
Much like a menu card handed at plush restaurants, these Godmen serve (not cooked food but) food for the soul in different wrappers, each with its own price tag. India can pay and they did. The success of this brand of spiritual leaders soon led to more getting allured to the profession. They did some good too. Some made the country practice yoga. Some took people back to herbs and roots for treatment or for diet. Some even pointed out how living could be an art form. It became a flourishing industry. So the external support that people sought and got slowly penetrated deeper and became an invisible walking stick for many who soon needed it for taking every step.
Somewhere the lines blurred and Godmen heads were bobbing in almost all spheres of life - politics, sports, entertainment and films. ‘Godmen Houses’ became summit joints where national and international leaders met and exchanged ‘unofficial’ views. Godmen acted as messengers carrying ‘secret’ messages to and fro. They even intervened in high profile abduction or murder mysteries. India watched with baffled reverence as to how all intelligence and state forces were reduced to mute spectators when the Godmen resolved situations with their ‘divine’ interventions. Some even used science to produce ‘miracles’. Reverence comes easy to us. Early childhood lessons have taught us to pay respect and not to ask too many questions about anything that may have a ‘divine’ tag attached.
Coming to the user friendliness of the modern day Godmen, their attire also changed from meager pieces of cloth to cover their body, to long flowing robes made of plush material. Some even sport colour co-ordinated headgear and other accessories. Sages over the centuries walked bare feet to the Himalayas or to the ocean but now the Godmen use SUVs and even Harley Davidson. Most sport expensive shades and keep themselves very well groomed. Many of the Godmen in this modern clan are extremely well read, and have denounced corporate or business careers to take up this path. Oratory too has changed. While our scriptures and spiritual leaders explained the complexities of life with the help of simple mundane examples, nowadays Godmen use superfluous language packed with jargon. Got to move with the times is their motto, and anything they do, say or endorse is in keeping with this motto.
Much like this article, real spiritualism got left behind somewhere, lost in the maze of products on offer. Our ancient spiritual scriptures teach a man to travel through his life and ultimately walk the last part on his own – in deep communion with his spiritual goal. The modern breed of Godmen has got people entwined around them so they can never leave ‘home’. Be it business advice, health, marriage or marital discord in the family, the Godmen are the one-stop-solution for all. People knowingly, and more so unknowingly, have become dependent on this external support. In such scenarios, certain amount of exploitation is very natural.
But not all is coloured in dark shades in the ‘Godmen industry’. Schools, hospitals, charitable institutions have been built in India and all around the globe by some spiritualists (or should we say industrialists?). Many people receive free treatment, vocational treatment and training in these institutions. Some of the Godmen have become powerful brand ambassadors of our country, carrying the message of peace and love while sashaying down congregation hallways with a divine smile plastered on their face, and a hand of assurance raised. It works like magic. An invisible yarn of divinity settles on the people bringing about a feeling of calmness.
Shattering the calm in this world of reverence was the news of one septuagenarian Godmen who was accused of sexual abuse, that too of a minor. This is not the first case of its kind - and unfortunately may not be the last one either. Escapades of Godmen have rocked the headlines off and on but this recent case has shaken the country. One can only hope this shake leads to a lasting awakening.
Men are mortal and just that. God is divine and just that. There is no real need to make a cocktail of everything. People must realise that all strength is within, and middlemen are best avoided, be it in a house deal, matrimonial negotiation or in communication with God.