Ritesh K Srivastava
Religious or spiritual masters are considered to be a source of transcendental knowledge and are held in high esteem because they initiate seekers into spiritual practice and help them lead a life free from sins.
There is an endless list of great yogis, hermits and monks who walked on the Indian soil since times immemorial and enlightened the common folk with their knowledge and the pearls of wisdom attained through years of penance. These great yogis abandoned all worldly pleasures and practiced rigorous self-discipline for years and encouraged their followers to lead an austere life, while focusing on the purification of soul.
Through the ancient Guru-Sishya Parampara, these men of great wisdom passed on their legacy to their disciples who carried forward the good work of their masters and spread brotherhood, tranquility, equality and peace in the society. These enlightened men have also been the harbinger of a change in our patriarchal society for generations and have used their influence to break the shackles of orthodox traditions, caste barriers and other prevalent ill-practices of our society.
There is so much to say about these illustrious men, their divine teachings and their lineage that words will fall short to describe their nobility, strength of their character and their role in the nation building.
Since these illustrious souls have had great influence on the common man their utterances are often considered as the Supreme Being’s own wish or command.
And in this context it is mandatory for such enlightened souls to exercise greater self-restraint while speaking on tricky public issues.
Unfortunately, some of the present generation spiritual leaders are completely out of sync and have no control over their blabbering tongue.
These affluent spiritual gurus are issuing highly controversial, regressive, uncharitable and objectionable remarks, triggering demands for a censorship on free speeches by these public figures.
What is more disheartening to note is that these self-styled Godmen often don’t realize the sensitivity of the matter on which they have chosen to speak and are unapologetic of their remarks.
They have absolutely shown no regret for making such illogical, inappropriate, condemnable, bizarre and regressive remarks that insult a particular section of our society and hurt the sentiments of the masses. And what is more shocking is that the huge brigade of their supporters is always ready with tailor-made excuses to defend their master or term the entire controversy as a malicious propaganda.
It was not too long back when the revered spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, known worldwide for his Art of Living course, held the system responsible for producing Naxals. Advocating privatization of the educational system in India, the highly revered guru said government schools are breeding grounds for Naxalism since private schools were never indoctrinated into such extremism.
The Art of Living founder probably didn’t realize that most students who attend government schools cannot afford highly expensive private education, and if government schools were to be closed, it would deprive millions of poor children of basic education.
Incidentally, Ravi Shankar, during his visit to Jharkhand in 2009, had praised the home-grown rebels, saying they were good people and fighting against corruption and disparity.
Recently, Asaram Bapu ran into a hail of protests for holding a 23-year-old paramedical student responsible for her gang-rape by six men on a moving bus last month. Asaram`s statement came shortly after "sexist" and "misogynic" remarks by a prominent Congress politician.
The self-styled guru, who has in the past courted controversies for land grabbing, sexual misconduct, occult practices and mysterious deaths of minors at his ashram, suggested that the Delhi gang-rape victim could have saved herself by addressing her violators as bhaiyya and beseeching for mercy.
He further aggravated the provocation by claiming that an "anti-men" campaign had risen in the aftermath of the Delhi gang-rape incident, and if a new anti-rape law is enacted it will be prone to be similarly misused as anti-dowry laws and SC/ST Act. The popular spiritual leader remained unapologetic till the end and even declared a cash reward for anyone who could prove that he had blamed the rape victim for the incident.
And more recently, the Puri Shankaracharya blamed western culture for rising rape incidents in the country. There have been numerous instances when highly influential public figures have made such disgusting remarks.
Due to their unmindful utterances, these people have been blamed for the creation of a misogynist society. Their bizarre utterances are a pointer to the fact that they are narrow-minded and far from reality, leading people to question their mental make-up and the motive behind such remarks.
Such people should refrain from commenting on sensitive issues in the first place, and if they do address them during their religious discourses, they should first realize the sensitivity of the matter. The present generation of spiritual leaders, who live in king-size ashrams worth crores with modern state-of-the-art facilities, forget that their first duty is to spread social harmony and strengthen the secular fabric of the nation.
It should be the solemn duty of these saintly figures to establish noble traditions which lead to the moral uplift of the common people. Regrettably, it appears that these men themselves need urgent intervention of the Supreme Being for their own resurrection.