“You will find no rest for the long years of eternity; for you killed a bird in love and unsuspecting.”
These words by Maharishi Valmiki became the first shloka of Sanskrit literature and he then went on to write the entire epic of ‘Ramayana’. The great sage Ved Vyasa gave us our second epic- ‘Mahabharat’. The works of these holy men continue to be the beacon of hope and knowledge for hundreds of millions even after millennia.
India has always been the land of great seers, who have shown us the path of righteousness and have had momentous impact in several phases of Indian history. India’s mystic sages counselled the kings on how to run governments and how to keep the people in their kingdom happy & content. The Rishis, Maharishis and Gurus were considered the representatives of God on Earth.
In time, the concept of sages seems to have got altered and even misused. The seers, who spent their time in devotion to God, have rather nearly vanished and been replaced by a new breed of so-called holy men; better known as ‘Godmen’.
These godmen have fleets of luxury cars, fly in choppers and live in palatial houses. They survive on huge donations from their followers and are extremely well connected. It seems that money is one of the most central things in their life.
If we go back close to two-hundred years, we have the example of a great saint in Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, who used to shriek even at the touch of money. His disciple, Swami Vivekananda’s famous speech at the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago took the entire western world by storm. Reformers likes Dayanand Saraswati took up various social issues and fought against them with unprecedented vigour.
But in the last 50-60 years or so, the entire definition of sage, seer, rishi, maharishi has simply changed.
Money and cult power are a trade-mark of modern-day ‘ascetics’.
That it can get dangerous was clear with the Chandraswami episode. He hobnobbed with highly influential political leaders like Narasimha Rao, Chandrashekhar, Lalu Yadav etc. He even had the Sultan of Brunei and Elizabeth Taylor as his disciples. He had once become the epicentre of power in Delhi, having the ear of the PM. He has been indicted for fraud in cases like the Lakhubhai Pathak case.
Is he then a godman? Conman seems a better word for the likes of him because the list of people he has duped is quite long.
This was what was happening till a while back. But the scenario today is simply horrifying.
The so-called godmen have become much like paan shops at every nukkad. Every part of the nation has hundreds of godmen, who have hundreds of followers. It has clearly become a flourishing, lucrative business: The businesses of making you see God.
The recent arrest of Ichchadhari Sant Swami Bhimanand Ji Maharaj Chitrakootwale exposed the devil that a godman can be. He was running a huge prostitution racket and had more than 1000 girls at his disposal. He was also very well placed in political circles and had an income which could put a rich man to shame. If he was busy spreading his prostitution business, the other swami, Nityanand, was busy in his experiments.
He was caught on camera with a south Indian actress in a compromising position, which he first denied and later defended by saying that he was ‘experimenting’. The actress maintained that she was merely a servant of the swami. The swami said he won’t “experiment” any more. In 2008, the Kochi godman, Amrita Chaitanya, was arrested for swindling the money of an NRI woman.
Are these really ‘Sanyasis’ or ‘Rishis’ of today? They say, in Kalyuga it is the crow that gets to feast on pearls, while the white swan has to make do with worms.
People visit a hospital to cure of a disease, they go to office to work, school and college to gain education, movie halls for entertainment and so on. But sometimes I think why do people visit these ‘godmen’? To gain peace, spiritual enlightenment, or to know about their future and about the ups and down of their life? Is faith really blinding, then?
I completely respect the beliefs and faith of those, who may have achieved some prosperity through the advice of godmen or experienced peace by visiting an Ashram. But at the same time, one must endeavour to understand the difference between a fraud and a spiritual hero. Since in India spirituality has become a business for some, the government should make provisions in law so that these godmen can meet their God at the earliest and hear the judgement.