By MR Lalu
It is about 15 years since I had experienced the most divulging spiritual tomfoolery in my life at the banks of mother Ganga in Haridwar. Overwhelmed by the literary inscriptions about the legendary greatness of the holy river in the ancient texts, I was totally thrown into the depth of its unfathomable spiritual realms emotionally and the bedtime stories illustrating its divine perceptions from childhood began to tickle my spiritual impulses once again and I stood amazed and totally lost in the clamour of a noisy crowd around me. I was not bedazzled to see many saffron clad saints on the holy riverside. But the one who came closer to me with a mysterious smile had a notorious intent. Probably, convinced by my stupefied appearance, he asked me to give him 50 rupees so that he could bless me with a divine experience. Deeply animated for an instant divine experience for a pittance was a great spiritual luxury for me. On giving the money, the man with a snake in his hand, magically swayed his hands in the air and returned a bead of rudraksh to me and to my horror I did not know where my currency had disappeared.
Definitely that was not a divine experience but a hallucinatory trick; hence my good sense warned me to stay away from spiritual tricksters. This incident is recalled here to invite the gorge into which our superstitious mind pulls us. India has an ancient tradition that was nurtured by spiritually elevated seers and saints. That was the substratum of our spiritual ideology, without which India remains a mere landscape without soul. Spanning from the days of the Vedas and moving through the enthralling narrations of life intertwined in spiritual values in the epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata to the divine perceptions categorically exhibited by saints like Swami Vivekananda and many others, spirituality in India has been an act of seeking and life-giving values being simplified for the common man. Superstition became a nuisance in India’s spiritual periphery, probably since the advent of occidental faiths.
Spirituality in India is mistaken as mere superstition by many people. Believers throng into temples and other religious places without understanding their spiritual principles but their visit is to primarily satisfy their personal desires. Most of them further try their luck with Babas and fake gurus who lure them with solutions and affluence. What if you find a pastor bringing a dead child back to life with his miracle touch or with the mere gestures of his fingers bless a blind man to light. Unfortunately, such spiritual buffoonery gets easily noticed and attractive monkey tricks in television channels get millions of viewers. The more dangerous aspect of this faith industry is that most of the Babas and religious preachers involved in these acts of spiritual skylarking hold serious connections with politicians. India always remained a spiritual society which believed in Karma and Dharma and considered them as the most religious dictums for the society. Dharmic karma, according to the ancient Indian tradition, was the best of ideals that would show you the real essence of divinity.
The Hindu approach, according to the Manusmriti, categorises various elements of Dharma. It says “Dhriti ksama damosteyam sauchamindriyanigraha, Dhirvidya satyamakrodho dasakam dharmalakshanam.” Patience, forgiveness, constant discrimination, non-stealing, purity, control of senses, righteous action, knowledge, truth and giving up anger- these are the ten indications of dharma. Any activity performed with all these elements of dharma, played with a significant role in its fulfilment is Dharmic. Superstitious beliefs have entered into a plethora of rituals as people began to selectively manipulate their spiritual ideals for personal wellbeing. The damage is devastating. The very spiritual idea that a religion represents is seen through the prism of suspicion by people with logical minds. Moreover, Babas and miracle healing pastors and many in this clan of spiritual racket would downsize the essential humanitarian values enshrined in different religions.
In essence and practice, Hinduism is capable of helping its followers to take pace with the natural rhythm of spirituality ordained in its framework. Imprisoned in the superstitious and speculative narratives and adulterated spiritual theories and practices, a large number of people get boomeranged into the insensitive adulation of fake gurus and acharyas and cross wielding pastors. Real spiritual luminaries from the days of Adi Shankaracharya to the modern days have been sincere social reformers, who rose beyond ludicrous mannerisms of societies. Born in 1824, Swami Dayananda Saraswati was one among those polestars of socio-spiritual refinement. He devoted his life to fight the social evils such as untouchability, child marriage, female infanticide and many more distortions in the society. Swami Dayananda’s reformist propaganda favouring widow remarriage and women education holds meaning and significance even today. Sree Narayana Guru from the southernmost Kerala was another spiritual luminary who fought casteism and social discrimination tooth and nail. When untouchability prohibited marginalised sections of the society from entering temples, Narayana Guru built temples for them. To those who refuted him with contempt, he retorted, calling the deity he consecrated as a representative of the downtrodden. In fact he consecrated Lord Shiva. Revolutionising spirituality to the extent of eradicating the exasperating superstitious system was the mission of those saints. In this context, Swami Vivekananda cannot be left out. His teachings had a huge impact on the social life of India, spiritualising its emotions and elevating its patriotic pride.
Unfortunately, today India witnesses Babas, Pastors, fake healers and preachers enlarging their territory by stealthily sneaking into our houses on TV screens and playing with the element of spiritual ‘fear’ among believers, especially women. Spurious spiritual industry is booming in India while political leaders on the edge of oblivion are seen spear-eagling the power and reach of Babas, who make miraculous success overnight. Totally forgetful of the essence of divinity which is kindness and compassion in itself, millions of people swarm around these fake mediators of God to get healed and blessed and to fulfil their dreams instantaneously. The nexus tailored between Babas and politicians get activated when elections are around. Interestingly, most of the conversion activities among the illiterate, backward tribal communities are done by stage-managed miracle healings by pastors and preachers. You should not be surprised to see a dead man walk and blind woman read. Sinking into the quagmire of frozen intellect, the common man plays into the hands of these fraudsters and fails to reason out the reality. Holy books and real saints become meaningless here. Swami Vivekananda spoke, echoing his sarcasm the best while criticizing superstition. He said, “I would rather see you people as staunch atheists than as superstitious fools. An atheist is alive; he can be of some use. But when superstition takes hold, the brain is almost dead.” We need to pay attention to these legendary words.