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Indias Spiritual Tradition, Modernity, Media and Deception

By: Subroto Gangopadhyay
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(The author is a practising physician and an adherent of Sanatan Dharma)

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When the ancient lives through changing times, the mind is presented with contradictory appearances of truth. The absolute manifesting through maya is the phenomenal world and maya is nothing but time space and causation -so asserts Vivekananda. Time and causation have been in constant flux and thus perception of reality in different ages becomes different due to the ever changing veil of Maya. Space too affects perception, even if we take space in the limited context of where we are looking from -the land of our birth (Janmabhoomi) or that sustaining our physical existence (Karmabhoomi).

In matters of spiritual confusion and contradictory emotions, it is helpful to step back in time to look at the tradition dispassionately or else remain a passive observer of time to await revelation of truth. The events surrounding Swami Nithyananda reflect the apparent contradictions between the particular and the general, the symbol and the ideal. Those whose motivation is to destroy the ideal through denigration of the symbol- do disservice to fellow man and represent the very tendencies that the spiritual aspirant seeks to conquer, in his quest for the absolute. Those who are only keen to identify themselves with the symbol instead of the ideal act according to the particular conditioning of their minds through their ahamkara (individuated ego) -here perception of the Guru is related more to personal experiences, access and proximity. If the ideal is absolute truth then the master should be indistinguishable from the ideal ie the symbol should not appear to differ from what it represents -the master having realized truth becomes truth. Actions of such masters do not have human motivations - their proximity to their disciples is the compassionate loving aspect of the divine -it is ageless, sexless, irrespective of ability or success and relates only to spiritual guidance tailored individually, through a uniquely adaptive relationship that forms the core of the Guru Shishya tradition.

Masters who have become indistinguishable from the divine ideal have no human self left to motivate actions that guide ordinary human beings - ambition, success, wealth, name, fame and the need to establish their unique identity within the infinite splendor of India"s spiritual firmament. Each seems to be a pearl that adorns the feet of its master who hands over the keys to the next deserving keeper-thus defining each star in the unbroken lineages of our tradition. The tradition is hardly arbitrary -it is defined and structured as it should be, as each who receives the master"s key now has the task of the master -to shepherd the souls onwards towards their ultimate quest. They are divine masters because they have been divine pupils -they are not spiritual entrepreneurs -even Jagatguru Lord Krishna chose a Guru - he did not call himself Jagatguru or Lord. Lord Rama was no exception. More recently, the great Shankara laid down norms for monastic orders and monks, establishing a definite structure. India"s monastic orders (eg the ten orders of Shankara) do not permit self assignment of titles such as Swami, far less a Paramahamsa or an avatar. Lord Chaitanya did not assert his being an avatar and Ramana did not proclaim that he was a Maharshi. In our mundane material world we do not write Ph.D"s as per our self evaluation -we bow to the traditions of university based learning and value lineages of such institutions - the same is true of the spiritual world - why should the bar be lower for those who guide souls? The ancients therefore created a well ordered, scripturally consistent structure that guides spiritual work - it is only the modern Hindu laity who assume that the flexibility and expanse of Sanatan Dharma is associated with disorder and individual discretions. In very recent times (few decades) we come across masters who apparently have done it all by themselves - truly "self " realized without a Guru or lineage ! If the ultimate spiritual quest were as easy and common as it seems to be now, then one must ask why is it that such self made spiritual masters seek to create organizations, disciples, initiates, monasteries, followers. Why do they need to create brand names for Yogasanas, meditations or attempt to create new traditions? Is it not better to leave wandering sheep alone, to chance upon spontaneous self realization based on their Prarabdha and efforts. After all, how many true masters did these saints create among their disciples ? Why is it, that modern saints need You-Tube videos, advertisement on giant posters; expensive workshops and sales of spiritual sacraments and meditation techniques that our Rishivarga blessed freely all humanity with. Ramakrishna"s or Ramana"s posters do not adorn giant screens and Shankara did not enter homes for a fee, as he travelled the length and breath of India. Vivekananda"s family often starved but neither he nor his master could ask the mother for mere sustenance, despite creating the largest order of monks. In more than hundred years their leadership has laid no claims to divinity - but they are yet to be accused of misconduct in the heydays of anti -Hindu media. Aurobindo, one of the greatest Vedic seers of modern times did not name disciples after himself or sell a unique meditative technique at "workshops" for a fee. None offered enlightenment, none asked householders to sell their homes or quit their occupations or break away from their families. Followers did not feel any need to recruit more followers -they had an individual spiritual quest -they were not driven to capture market share. No spiritual master claimed realization, divine incarnation or a new meditation technique. None had a product to sell, none added his name to any form of spiritual practice - none claimed to rectify a scripture.Their authenticity was in the authenticity of the established tradition. Their actions were guided by spiritual laws, they made no reference to human legality. They did not seek security or shelter from the hostile but provided sanctuary to the fearful. Each master"s validity was his or her life -transparent for all to see, all to feel. Light has no need to proclaim itself, it simply illuminates.

Spiritual masters are understood through their actions, not through their speeches, titles or mystical powers , not even through their scriptural discourses alone -or else one may equally choose Ravana over Lord Rama . Each disciple should seek a master whose actions validate the ideal, whose life reflects non existence of material aspirations, whose spiritual credentials confirm to tradition and who is capable of tolerating the most penetrating enquiry without blemish or fear. It is the mortal who seeks fame, wealth, glory and brand name -not a master. A master does not seek, endorse or grant titles -he is the keeper of a tradition and implements it faithfully -that is why he has his master"s key. He claims nothing for himself, as the self has long been immolated in the fire of awakening. He is only a giver of the most priceless treasures -what is mundane worldly wealth or pleasure to him? He only sees souls around him, not male or female forms. He has no enemies, as he has no friends -it is God everywhere. He lives naturally within spiritual laws and his actions can never be wrong as he is motiveless. Fear is unknown to him as he is the immortal atman -not a body. He has no need of security or lawyers -he is the imperishable divine -the source of all law. He is oblivious of anyone"s judgment being beyond time, space or causation. He enters into a body to deliver souls and he leaves it when he considers his work done. He is here to disentangle us from the phenomenal world of shallow pleasures, not to entangle himself in it. He is naturally righteous as he is incapable of being otherwise. He is innocent, wise and transparent or else how can he be loving , lovable and luminous. He gives us discriminative wisdom, not instructions for organizational expansion. He does not mind scrutiny as he has nothing to hide. If Swami Nithyananda"s disciples have such a master they have no need to worry -divine power does not succumb to human malevolence. They should stop offering public disclaimers or stage managed interviews. They should not shield the master -it is the master who is supposed to shield them from undeserved (from Karmic standpoint) harm. A master has no need to disappear like a commoner. A master must be fearless - if he avoids suffering, why should mere mortals be blamed for choosing pleasure. A master being unattached should be oblivious to pleasure or pain - he does not choose one over the other.

Now the media. The media remains culpable of a great crime - for its attempt to destroy an ideal and selectively, the ideal of Sanatan Dharma. All mothers represent the ideal of motherhood, all fathers that of fatherhood and spiritual figures symbolize the ideal of all ideals -that of the one divine who we seek through many paths. It is never forgivable to desecrate motherhood, fatherhood or sainthood simply because a few did not confirm to the ideal - which in the current context is yet unclear. It is bound to be, that all saints, mothers, fathers, children or citizens may not live up to the ideal. If we fail, It is better in our public and private life to admit that we have failed to live up to the ideal than attempt to bring the ideal down to create an impression that it is the notion of the ideal that is flawed. To exemplify, an uncaring mother is a failed symbol but does not negate motherhood. Further, it is each individual"s inviolable right to worship any ideal through a symbol (living or Non living) of his or her choosing. If one does not resonate with a Pratima or connect with a spiritual figure does not mean that one needs to ridicule or destroy all that they symbolize. M F Hussain"s villainy is in desecrating an ideal since he does not identify with its particular symbolic depiction.. Whether a symbol is faithful to what it stands for, can often be debated but never should an ideal be subject to malefic destruction through the symbol. Innumerable clergy have been found to have indulged in pedophilia and abuse of power but never has the media slanted an article to associate pedophilia with Christ, Christianity or Christian saints. Therefore titles such as HINDU SWAMI ABSCONDING, SEX SLEAZE AND HINDU SWAMI , IS THE SAFRON TAINTED? etc are not innocent. Where are counterparts such as CHRISTIAN PASTORS AND PEDOPHILIA; CHRIST"S ARMY OF SEXUAL PREDATORS; SEX, LIES AND CHURCH; SEXUAL ABUSE AND PERMISSIVE POPE etc? Therefore, media"s intent here is not to examine or report the particular (Swami Nithyananda) dispassionately, but rather seek destruction of the ideal he represents through tawdry visual pornographic depiction or by suggestive reporting. Concurrent coverage was done on several other self proclaimed "spiritual figures" so that by "lumping" all comers -the worst could be assumed for each, if one of them proves to be a charlatan. This is merely the cheap trick of generalization. Further, there seems to be a plethora of unconnected allegations made at the same time begging the question -why is it that each of these were not enquired into when they occurred? The attempt here is to destroy credibility first and then add whatever one can, to convince the gullible that if the video were real then the rest must be true as well. Is the media prepared to play by the same rules - if one report is fraudulent then should one care about anything they report? It is time to hold the media responsible for willful misconduct and seek penalties permissible under law - punishment and social disgrace for moral turpitude and violation of law is not selectively applicable to Hindu spiritual figures only.

There are also issues of concern with respect to those who are offering rebuttals based on incomplete information with the contention that the entire issue related to Swami Nithyananda is one giant conspiracy between a disaffected follower (Nithya Dharmananda -an unfortunate name for one named after Lenin at birth) and the obviously anti-Hindu media. Once again a strange nuance outside the norms of Sanatan Dharma - the practice of conferring titles on devotees .Did anyone in the order ever bother to ask their master what indeed had they done to deserve these titles or indeed what is the scriptural dictate that guides assumption of such names ? Obviously, anyone who accepts the validity of his own spiritual title must attest to the validity of the one granting the title. A slightly different version is seen in academia when obscure universities sometimes validate themselves by granting honorific doctorates to famous luminaries -should they accept, the university grows in credibility. More importantly, it is difficult to mutually reconcile the evolving claims against the offending video - "that it is morphed" (Ashram); "partly morphed-I was present, but in Samadhi" (Swami Nithyananda in later interview); "I was experimenting" (Swami Nithyananda), that "I have done nothing illegal"(Swami Nithyananda); that "This was my offering to him"(Ranjitha -married film actress with children). India"s spiritual tradition does not include Clintonian logic systems - truth expressed simply is a prerequisite to any spiritual quest. Televising the video was not necessary -one would have seen nothing else for years if such videos were mounted in many Church seminaries. Unfortunately, however malicious or selective the media may be, at this stage the particular issue cannot be made a non-issue. The video purports unsavory conduct of a prominent saint with a married woman (illegal in India, for commoners, even if consensual).It is relevant to a spiritual master. Besides, being legal is no standard for a spiritual master -spiritual aspirants function on the single premise of absolute faith - they do not deserve to be deceived by word, deed, appearance, false sermon, hypocrisy, obfuscation and pretension or else future aspirants would be tempted to get background checks on their spiritual masters.

Those who defend Sanatan Dharma must acknowledge that Dharma must be protected by standing up for the principles of Dharma - Sanatan Dharma is not simply a brand name, dear to us, that is to be defended against corrupt aggressors in an asymmetric playing field. The means of defending Dharma are as important as the principle of defending it. Sanatan Dharma is Sanatan because it stands on truth, not on strategy- irrespective of facts. One must yet await for the whole truth to emerge through the veils of deception -irrespective of the pain or impatience one feels. Truth can only be defended through truthful means.
It is disheartening to see Swami Nithyananda unavailable and his congregation fending with technicalities, employing interviews broadcast from secret locations to turn the tide in a public relation battle. Spiritual organizations should not act like corporations. There is also an ominous silence from India"s leading spiritual figures - would it not be their Dharma to defend an innocent saint and stand against a conspiracy. Many have associated closely with Swami Nithyananda to establish other organizations (eg, Global Foundation For Civilizational Harmony) and participated with him in social and spiritual work. Silence does not speak well of a spiritual brotherhood of saints. Lastly, we do not see any mass uprising of the common man against this conspiracy. We saw mass outrage and the spiritual world rise in unison against Jayendra Saraswati"s arrest. We also saw the Shankaracharya accept without fear or favor the dishonor of arrest to vindicate himself in a court of law. The country mostly seemed united in their feeling of violation, rage and pain. It seems to be different this time - neither is the master available, nor have the saints risen in his defense. The common man has been silent with a few expressing outrage -not at any conspiracy but at having been let down. In uncertain times such as these one must take solace in the realization, that the validity of Sanatan Dharma is independent of individual masters or the machinations of human conspirators.

Subroto Gangopadhyay

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