The path of the rationalist movement is full of difficulties and challenges. One of those challenges is the spiritual pretensions of the god men. The nature of Adhyatma (spiritualism) of these men is different from that of the traditional Baba-Buvas. Their language is modern and sophisticated. With a few exceptions they refrain from performing miracles. They guarantee ethical sublimation to their disciples. Their spiritualism has a philosophical foundation and is coupled with some social service or other.
One tends to ask at the first glance, ‘So, what is wrong in all this?’ The people of this country are enamoured of the word ‘Adhyatma’ and all the practices and rituals that go with it. Although there are different opinions regarding the concept of Adhyatma there is some common understanding about its nature. Generally it is believed that – Adhyatmic principle is different than the material principle in that unlike the material principle it is a vital principle; for various reasons it gets shrouded in ignorance and becomes impure; being caught in various bindings it suffers. When this vital principle becomes aware of itself, i.e. realizes what it is, the vital principle- Atma becomes one with the Paramatma it attains unending bliss. This certainly is a very charming idea and we need not enter into the debate whether it is scientifically true.
For the present let us only consider how to recognize such a sublime Adhyatmic (spiritual) person? There is a standard answer to this. Such a person is self restrained, virtuous and would never take what belongs to others. Truth and non-violence are the core principles of his life. He is moved by the sorrow of other people and acts for the good of human beings out of compassion. He is an idol of purity and piety. He lives in this material world but his life illustrates that there is some thing more precious and beatific beyond this material world and it is several times more valuable than this corporal life. Swami Vivekananda, Gadge Baba, Gandhi, Vinoba and a few others
are excellent examples of this.
A number of saints in Maharashtra with this line of thinking did valuable social work. Charity, forgiveness, truth and altruism are the most cherished values in the literature produced by these saints. Gadge Baba used to say, ‘God does not reside in the temples; he stays in the hearts of human beings.’ This is the back ground against which we should examine the present abundant crop of spiritual Buvas and Babas. On one side is the saint Gadge Baba a standard bearer of selfless service while on the other side are rallied our modern spiritualist self styled Baba, Maharaj, Swami and Acharya.
These so called Adhyatmic personalities never think of liberating the ordinary men and women from poverty, hunger, ignorance, diseases, exploitation, ritualistic practices, etc. They did not care to teach them dignity of labour or strike at the senseless superstitions; nor did they endeavour to purify the concept of god and religion in the minds of the common people. Instead of caring for the lame, helpless needy people, these modern spiritualists wrest personal service from them. Instead of pulling out the ignorant from the quagmire of rituals they organize big pompous and wishful Pooja rituals for satiating their vainglory. They wear garlands round their own necks but do not remove the noose round the neck of the common man. Of course cleaning the streets with a broom in their own hands, excavating gutters, living in a hut, wearing tattered clothes and eating only a small piece of bread from the palm and gulping it with water is not their cup of tea. This was Gadge Baba’s mission which he observed throughout his life.
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?
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, 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.
Yet another god man 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.
Despite these and many more revelations of wrongdoings and corruption by the god men, their roaring business remains in tact. It is, therefore, all the more necessary and urgent to begin a harsh criticism of this phenomenon, for, this ‘Buvabaji’ is leading the public away from the legitimate social problems and their solutions and changing their awareness and understanding regarding the real causes of their difficulties. Under the influence of the Babas and Buvas taking action to solve the problems is altogether out of the question.
People today are more self- centred and absorbed in themselves. They do not like to talk about social commitment or equality and want immediate solutions to their own problems, stresses and strains. The modern Adhyatma offers ready made answers to their problems. The answers are deceptive but appealing and capture the imagination of educated young generation. In fact the path shown by these god men leads our young generation to run after the mirage called “Moksha’ that brings all investigating endeavours to a stand still. It contains the seeds of demolition of the social fabric. If the crowd that is presently enamoured of Adhyatmic Buvabaji is diverted towards progressive social organizations then we can hope for some social change.
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.
Today all our energy is spent in fighting superstitions of the primary state. Those who do not openly indulge in deceit and exploitation but harbour very regressive thoughts and act accordingly as do the Maharaj are unfortunately left alone. And the fight against the Acharya is altogether out of the question. Such Babas hold workshops for personality development provide health facilities and also do some other socially useful work. But they also generate indifference and aloofness towards progressive movements, administration, community life and even generates religious hatred at times.
All this leads to the destruction of youth’s reasoning and gives it a wrong direction. This is quite dangerous and does not have a simple solution. We can only chalk out the direction thus: on one hand there is the responsibility of determining what is truth and what is not, what is right and what is not right.
For centuries, religion provided the answer to this. Scientific outlook fulfilled this responsibility in the field of investigation of knowledge and this was accepted by religion too. But in addition, with the help of rational thinking, scientific outlook also could find answers to questions such as- what kind of life should one live; what is good and what is bad; what should be the ideal of human life, etc. in the behavioural field. Adhyatma might do it too. But in the field of ethics, the difficulty Adhyatma faces is that the scriptures and the prophets’ words of different religions differ widely and at times contradict each others. Many times the ethical grain gets lost in this confusion and attention is concentrated on the sheer husk of rituals that remains. We all experience this every day.
So even in the ethical domain rationalism will have to undertake a critical appraisal of what is a ‘good life’. On the other side, in action, every rationalist will have to resolve that he will never loose the faith he has in himself. Dignity of a human being lies in living one’s life with the humanist stance, how and to what extent they can be solved. We all have a Guru in our own honestly and with courage. With the help of reason we are capable of identifying our problems and also understanding rationality to make us aware and alert. The individual’s journey on the path of life, under the guidance of his Guru within, is the essence of his life, liberation from Adhyatmic Buvabaji and also foundation of a healthy society.