By Swami Sadyojathah, Jun 10, 2010, The Times of India
I think 30 years of selfless service has not attracted the eye of our media as much as a bullet. Ironically, the victim had to justify why the bullet was found close to him!
A Swami is expected to remain silent irrespective of the seriousness of offence against him whereas strong voices of support are heard for terrorists and anti-social elements. Corrupt officials are not condemned and the society’s silence implies it is fine with them.
‘Swami’, a title much revered in India in the past only raises eyebrows in suspicion now. Swamis and Sadhus were respected for dedicating and sacrificing their lives for society and now they are being condemned. This shows the unfortunate deterioration of the Indian culture. Is it not a systematic psychological warfare against Swamis?
We also see a section of the media in our country jumping to hasty conclusions especially in matters concerning swamis and spirituality.
‘You have the right to remain silent…’ is usually a warning given to a suspected criminal under arrest. However, paradoxically if you are a Swami or a Guru, you are advised to remain silent even if you are a victim. In spite of being a victim, you are perceived to have done something wrong. The overwhelming undercurrent of prejudice against Hindu swamis and Gurus cannot be underlined enough.
How strange that a culprit can walk away, but the victim is doubted, questioned, harassed and expected to prove his innocence! The Indian Constitution holds that you are innocent until proven guilty, but a swami is necessarily guilty until proven innocent.
This has been the way of the world, which has always demanded from the living legends to prove their innocence. Be it Kabir or Jesus or even Mahatma Gandhi who was called a fraud a number of times. The degradation of society is measured by its attitude towards its spiritual leaders. Is it not Kaliyuga where the onus is on the victim to prove that he is not guilty?
Usually a victim is encouraged to speak up. But if you are a swami, you are counseled to forever hold your peace, even if you are surrounded by white lies.
The other thing is that it does not pay off in the worldly sense to keep calm and live in knowledge because the gap between the real world and a meditator’s world is far too much. A layman may not understand the world of yogis, where they remain poised, calm and there is not an iota of worry or concern in their expression, even in extenuating circumstances. This is baffling to the common man or in this case of gun shot the investigating cops.
Recently, I was at a function in Vigyan Bhavan in Delhi, where I observed the sheer reluctance of people in interacting with a Swami in saffron robes sitting in the front row of the audience. This was immediately after the scandals of some so-called swamis had hit the headlines in the media. Nobody wanted to look at him, let alone talk to him, as if he were an untouchable. It was appalling to see the prejudice against Hindu swamis. In a way it was beneficial to the swami because he need not care what the world thinks of him, but for an onlooker it looked odd how people were overtly prejudiced.
In Bollywood, in the last 15 to 20 years, since Dawood Ibrahim ostensibly started funding the film industry, a man with a tilak or in saffron robes has been systematically depicted as a villain or part of villain’s team. This portrayal has only added a mass prejudice and overwhelming bias against the swamis of India.
The two main allegations against swamis are sex and money. A true swami will never fall prey to fleeting attractions of sensual pleasures. Without adequate investigation, this kind of blanket generalization is unfortunate and highly deplorable. Every spiritual organization is supposed to do charity and one cannot do charity with an empty bowl. There is no point in taking charity and doing charity. Earning money is not a crime but doing so in a wrong way definitely is.
The idea that all spiritual education should be free, or the notion that spiritual training was free in ancient India is a fallacy. Spirituality is also an education and all education needs to be paid for. Those who know their history know that people in Vedic times had to “invest” far more to get a spiritual education than we do today!
The concept of ”Dakshina” is from the ancient Vedic times.
The vow of poverty is a concept alien to our land. Here, the primordial Guru, Lord Narayana is wedded to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Material progress goes hand in hand with spiritual growth. There are some pseudo intellectuals and historians who argue that only Ramana Maharishi and Mahatma Gandhi were genuine. They praise only the dead and abuse the living. One historian while condemning the appearance of spiritual masters in media went to the extent of saying that Sri Aurobindo never appeared on television, forgetting that there was no television at that time in the first place! Going by the fact that Sri Aurobindo had used the print media so well, I am sure he would have done the same with television had it existed then.
Another much-misplaced conception is that a true spiritual person should remain poor and that Gandhi never associated with the rich. They conveniently forget that Mahatma Gandhi has lived and died in Birla House, one of the most affluent people of that time.
Of course, every field will have people who are not genuine. However, that doesn’t warrant every one being painted with the same brush. It is as foolish as saying that because you unearthed a quack one day, we should shun all doctors.
It was Pandit Nehru who said in the assembly debates, “If I was asked what is the greatest treasure which India possesses and what is her finest heritage, I would answer unhesitatingly—it is the Sanskrit language and literature, and all that it contains. This is a magnificent inheritance, and so long as this endures and influences the life of our people, so long the basic genius of India will continue”.
It was Babasaheb Ambedkar who had proposed Sanskrit as the first language of India and who had great reverence for sadhus of this country, Kabir being his most favorite. It was Mahatma Gandhi who would read the Bhagawat Gita every day and meditate and do satsang with people from all religions.
The father of our nation is a saint. The architect of the Indian constitution, our first Prime Minister and countless others have sung praises of the spiritual knowledge of our saints. Then, I do believe, a sensitive and responsible Indian should take a proactive role in reinstating these values and arrest the prejudice drive against the swamis and saints of this holy land.
(The author is director, international affairs, The Art Of Living)