One has seen many a types of saints. During medieval period the Bhakti and Sufi saints stood for reform of society, emphasized on moral values of religion and included all in the fold of their community. They talked against blind faith and emphasized on the unity of all human beings. That’s why we see that people cutting across religions flocked them.
One would like to believe that our world’s recognized saints and sages have the best interests of everyone at heart in their thoughts and actions. One would also like to believe that the same “divinely loving” and enlightened figures would never distort truth to suit their own purposes, and would never use their power to take advantage (sexually or otherwise) of their followers. They would, that is, be free of the deep psychological quirks, prejudices, hypocrisy and violence which affect mere mortals. One would further hope that the best of our world’s sages would be able to distinguish between valid mystical perceptions and mere hallucinations, and that the miracles and healings which they have claimed to have effected have all actually occurred. Sadly, none of those hopes stand up to even the most basic rational scrutiny.
Today it seems that a large genre of those wearing holy robes are revivalists, pushing back the social values and exclusionary in their approach to the society. Their main focus is on giving calm and tranquility to the affluent, to be close to those with money and power. They are mute against the evil practices of untouchability, bride burning and manifest caste system. There are a few celebrities in this field who are quite notorious in their style, speech and approach.
Frauds in the Garb of ‘Saints’-
Baba, Maharaj and Acharya: The deprived poor people of the ‘Bahujan Samaj’ turn to the ‘Babas’ to get relief from their poverty and the accompanying difficulties. The well-to-do educated middle class go to the ‘Maharaj’, who preach ‘live and let live’ policy. And the highly educated higher middle class go to ‘Acharya’ in search of ‘the art of living’. All these three institutions-Baba, Maharaj and Acharya- are individual centred. They start with the dictum-if the individual changes, the society will change. Next they preach the audience to uplift their own selves and progress. Finally they ask them to leave all the problems of their lives to the Adhyatmic powers of the god man and surrender to him. The audience is convinced that their beatitude lies in the total surrender to the god man. This whole process gradually de-socialises the individual
Satya Sai Baba: Recently Satya Sai Baba celebrated his 80th birthday with all pomp and show. The birthday bash was dutifully telecast by all TV channels and reported in the print by all news papers. In the prestigious daily, Hindustan Times, Veer Sanghavi, the noted journalist raised some questions in his article ‘The Truth of Satya Saibaba’. He writes, you get a number of evidences of Satya Sai Baba’s perverse homosexual activities on the internet with the help of Google search engine. All these victims of Baba’s lust were in earlier times his devotees. A few of them might be bogus but all can not be so. How can hundreds of them publicly complain of sexual exploitation? This Baba performs miracles like pulling out gold chains, costly watches from thin air and a ‘Shivalinga’ from his mouth. This he or his devotees claim to be the sign of his divinity. But such miracles are common for any magician. Why doesn’t the Baba allow others to examine him before performing these miracles to prove his divinity? Why does he not pull out from thin air any thing that is bigger than his fist? Why did this god man hide himself in the bath room when his own disciples attacked him?
Asaram Bapu:Another example is Asaram Bapu of Surat in the Gujarat state. This whole sale trader in Adhyatma secured for his institution a huge piece of land worth Rs. 40 crores for a throw away price of Rs. 29 lakhs. The Gujarat High Court castigated the authorities severely and ordered that the land be freed from encroachment by the Bapu’s institution and handed over to the District Collector within three months. Asaram Bapu has established Ashrams in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgad and Bihar which are presently in dispute.
Narendra Maharaj:Narendra Maharaj, one more godman openly talks about creation of a Hindu Rashtra (not secular but Hindu nation) and brazenly challenges the constitution. He instigates his disciples to indulge in violence against his opponents telling them to cut off their hands and feet. When he was asked to keep his religious sceptre away from him, while in the aeroplane, his disciples created a riot on the airport damaging its property.
Aniruddha Bapu:Yet another godman Aniruddha Bapu claims that he knows the past and future births of all his disciples and also that he appears before them as different deities. The famous Ramdeo Baba gives a list of incurable diseases like cancer, AIDS, epilepsy, etc. on his website and claims that all these diseases can be cured by Ayurvedic medicine and regularly practicing Pranayama. The central ministry of health have served a notice on him in this connection. This Baba who is building ‘Patanjali Yoga Peeth’, a university for Patanjali Yoga, at a stupendous cost of Rs 100 crores does not pay his workers in the Ayurvedic medicine factory even the minimum wages. He maintains that there is nothing wrong in it.
Minor Godmen/Godwomen: Besides these famous names, there are thousands of minor players who exploit the susceptible by promising health, wealth, prosperity and peace of mind in exchange of money, devotion and sometimes sex too. They exhibit their ‘godliness’ by performing so called miracles to attract the gullible into their net. Most of the time these miracles are cheap tricks performed by any road side magicians. But the disciples of the Godmen consider them as god’s gift which in turn elevates the persons to God stature. In fact there appears to be no gender discrimination in this ‘spiritual field’ where more and more numbers of women are also joining the flock.
Generally these minor godmen will have some icon which will distinguish from others. They use their icons effectively to spread a word about their potential. Most of the time mouth to mouth publicity works in this field. No one suspects that something fishy is happening till last moment or some one exposes them and put them in jail. These Godmen chose a remote place, adhare to some particular day/hour to offer the blessings. The cronies around godmen take care of financial matters and in turn they too become rich.
Exposure by ANS Activists-
The activists, spread all over Maharashtra, keep watch on these fraudulent Godmen. They alert other ANS activists and thoroughly investigate the method of operation of the Godmen and their cronies. After the investigation they generally inform the police authorities about the malpractices of the godmen before exposing the Godmen in public. One or two activists pose as though they need assistance from the Godmen. Godman in turn promises a solution and suggests to come back at some appointed hour and to bring certain materials and/or pay certain fixed amount. The activists accompanied by local police authorities (and some time willing media personalities) visit the place and pay the demanded amount. Activists start asking questions about the efficacy of the treatment/promise made by the Godman. Since Godmen cannot defend the case the police will intervene and initiate the procedures. However most of the time these Godmen confess about their misdeeds. ANS activists allow them to be free on the promise that they will not repeat the same in some other place. ANS has exposed thousand of such deceitful godmen/godwomen in the last twenty years.