As a culture, India has no sense of morality. We have never focused on morals and ethics in this country. There is a strong sense of morality in Western countries — they do not always adhere to it, but that’s another matter. In India, by contrast, we always saw morality as constricting human consciousness. We did not want to structure our lives — as well as behaviour — around morality; we also did not want morality to govern our relations with the world.
A sense of morality makes a person repetitive in thought and action. Such a person will obviously not get anywhere. So, in India, we took the risk of raising human consciousness. A large segment of the population has invested itself to raise human consciousness — not to teach morality. It is a far riskier path, but it is ultimately the only way to work with humanity. If you impose morality on people, they will find ways to circumvent their guilt. They will make offerings to temples — or other places of worship — but also continue doing things that make them feel guilty. Religion today has largely become like this.
An American Airlines aircraft was once flying over Alabama. The aircraft developed engine trouble. The pilot said, “I will try my best to make sure the plane lands. But actually there is nothing much we can do. All of you just sit tight in your seats, tighten your seat belts and do something religious.” So one passenger immediately got up, took his hat and passed it around the aircraft. Because in most people’s mind, religion means asking for money.
Such behaviour is the outgrowth of a rigid set of morals and ethics. People will invariably break such rigid norms and then feel guilty about that. The feeling of guilt will make their lives miserable and they will look for a way out. What is the way out? Make a contribution to religious place and you will be pardoned. That is what happens in many religious places. At some of these places you may also see notices which specify the amount of contribution for each sin.
Once you set morals and place restrictions, there will be violations. When you stop people from doing certain things, there is a good chance that they will do exactly what they have been told to abjure. That is how human nature is.
There is no “thou shall not” in this country. Nobody ever told you what you should do and what you should not. We only told you how you should be, which is a more difficult lesson to impart. Ten commandments can be written down, but creating consciousness among people does not come easy. It takes a lot of work, and works best only when it is widely imparted — so that it is there in the immediate environment.
If parents, neighbours and the immediate milieu is steeped in a certain kind of consciousness, there is a good likelihood that children will grow up with the same consciousness. Not much effort will be required to raise consciousness in such a society. But we are at a crossroads in this country where not much has been done to raise consciousness. At the same time, we don’t have a shred of morality. We are trying to pick up a few western ethics. These are alien to us, and do not work. They have not worked even for people in the West.
At times, it appears easy to sermonise on morality and ethics. But morality and ethics appear good only when applied to others, never on oneself. But a person is imbued with consciousness, does not have to be told, “Do this or do not do that”. Such a person will act appropriately and according to a given situation.
Everywhere else in the world they try to tell you what is right and what is wrong. In this country, by contrast, you are not told what is right and wrong. You are only told what is appropriate in a given situation. What is appropriate today may not be so tomorrow. All the embodiments of the divine you worship — Rama, Krishna, Shiva — cannot call be called morally correct figures. They are not. Because it never occurred to them to be that way. But they are the peak of human consciousness.
If you want something indigenous — not indigenous to this nation, but germane to to your being — do not impose rules; do not dictate, “thou shall not”. That is because people will bypass morality at the first opportunity they get. Let us make the necessary effort to see that human consciousness operates in a certain way because that is the only insurance — and the ultimate one — that we have.
The writer is a yogi, mystic, visionary and bestselling author
-A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said it was for the first time we are seeing an ashram where only minor girls are being kept confined. “You expect us to close our eyes to this and treat this as normal? What kind of spirituality is it when people are kept confined as animals in cages? We do not understand it. Where is the concept of free consent or spirit when you are not allowed to meet your family or friends or wear what you want to? You keep someone under your control for decades, then there it is not free consent. It is a strange set up that hundreds are lodged in closed confines,” the court said.
During the hearing, the court also questioned the spirituality imparted at the ashram and the claim of its lawyer that the women and girls were there on their own free will. “It is a strange setup where hundreds are lodged in closed confines. Where is the concept of free consent or spirit when you are not allowed to meet family or friends or wear what you want to or cannot go out when you want to?”
The bench also noted that the ashram or vidyalaya, which it claimed to be, did not appear to have any legal status as it is neither a registered society as per the law nor a trust or company.
The observations by the bench came during the hearing of a PIL by NGO Foundation for Social Empowerment, which informed the court that several minors and women were allegedly being illegally confined at the spiritual university here and were not allowed to meet their parents.
People fall prey to godmen
So how do these often aged and supposedly holy men take advantage of women while preaching against vice?
Bhavdeep Kang, author of "Gurus: Stories of India's Leading Babas"
believes that godmen are rarely held accountable, least of all by their devotees.
"The centrality of the godman in the lives of their flock - as spiritual preceptor, family confidante and business advisor - creates a dependency syndrome, making the devotee as invested in the purity of the guru as the guru himself," Kang told DW.
She reckons the self-styled gurus assume the role of counselor, offering an answer to the dissonance and stresses of modern life, triggered by high-speed socio-economic transformation, dislocation of communities and the atomization of society.
Millions of Indians seem to be in thrall of the smooth-talking "godmen" who have built vast empires preying on their gullibility
"The scope for abuse of trust is enormous. Often, even the family of the alleged victim prefers the guru's version to that of a blood relative," she explains.
Prabir Ghosh, general secretary of the Science and Rationalists' Association of India, believes devotees are beholden to these holy men by becoming part of the faithful.
"We Indians are great believers in miracles and feel that somebody can get us out of our miseries. This is the prime reason we fall for these godmen," says Ghosh.
Starting out as small time preachers from villages and towns in the country's rural hinterland, these so-called holy men cultivate a relationship with poor locals and over time, they acquire cult status commanding a huge following (and sometimes even political connections) to camouflage their nefarious activities.
"People everywhere in India are prone to mystics. Many fall prey to the saffron robes these godmen wear believing they are true saviors, and afterwards blind faith takes over," Pradeep Singh, a sociologist, told DW.
Despite the scandals and the fall from grace, there is no dearth of self-styled godmen operating in the country. Faith in the unreasonable and irrational remains firm.
It is not uncommon for the sprawling network of godmen, gurus and swamis in the Hindu-majority country of more than a billion people to commit sexual crimes.
Strangely, millions of Indians seem to be in thrall of these smooth-talking "godmen" who have built vast empires preying on their gullibility.
Three years ago, police had to battle the supporters of Rampal Singh Jatin, a controversial guru from the northern state of Haryana before they could arrest him. Their investigations uncovered sordid details about the supposedly holy man's sex life - a world of abuse and excess that was just as remarkable as his sprawling abode.
He preferred "hostesses," whom he called "sadhikayaen" and during the raids police recovered pregnancy kits from Rampal's room, besides sexual potency drugs.
"For a man who claimed to be an incarnation of the 15th century mystic poet Kabir
he had all the trappings of luxury. Women were integral," an investigator told DW.
Another self-styled spiritual godman, Asaram Bapu, was arrested in 2013 after a teenage girl accused him of rape. She claimed that the guru lured her by promising to cleanse her of evil spirits.
"The Hindu religion is a guru's gig, where ego is a dirty word and only supplication to a master can kill it. The closest thing I ever get to understanding the guru thing is my constant ability to fall in love with lead singers and bass players...I am not willing to touch the feet of any sadhus Ive seen so far. Its hard enough for me to surrender to a faith let alone to a fallible human...
"Besides, I am finding the guru mentality all too manifest in other areas of Indian life. I join Neeraj and Titi (two other reporters covering the Mela) at the media tent, where they are still awaiting a press pass...As we fill out more forms in triplicate, the press infomormation bureau officer sits behind a huge table revelling in his own authority to forbid filming.
(Corboy note: Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, sums this us: "India is the country of 'No'." )
"Not that we believe in censorship but we have had to start checking some stories and changing bits"
I try to speak. He shows me the hand.
"Madam, even though it is impossible for us to be offended, because we respect all opinions and criticisms, the Western media has offended us by showing naked sadhus."
Macdonald writes, "I can't get a word in to tell the Raja of Red Tape that hte local media has featured more racy bits than the international press. As (the Press Information Officer speaks), four men watch, drinking in the glory of their Goebbels. They prostrate themselves before him, vigorously nod and fall over with laughter when he tries to be funny. They're unpaid crawlers, men with not enough work and too much time who just love to sit at the feet of someone more successful than themselves. Indians adore authority. To these guys, this middle ranking offical is a Buddha of bureaucracy and a priest of paperwork. To me, he is a dickhead of the highest order."
In the Bombay I grew up in, being Muslim or Hindu or Catholic was merely a personal eccentricity, like a hairstyle. We had a boy in our class who I realise now from his name, Arif, must have been Muslim. I remember that he was an expert in doggerel and instructed us in an obscene version of a patriotic song, “Come, children, let me teach you the story of Hindustan”, in which the nationalistic exploits of the country’s leaders were replaced by the sexual escapades of Bombay’s movie stars. He didn’t do this because he was Muslim and hence unpatriotic. He did this because he was a twelve-year-old boy.
Now it mattered. Because it mattered to Bal Thackeray.
The Shiv Sena shakha in Jogeshwari was a long hall filled with pictures of Bal Thackeray and his late wife, a bust of Shivaji, and pictures of a muscle-building competition. Every evening, Bhikhu Kamath, the Shakha Pramukh, sat behind a table and listened to a line of supplicants, holding a sort of durbar.
There was a handicapped man come to look for work as a typist.
Another man wanted an electric connection to his slum.
Husbands and wives who were quarrelling came to him for mediation.
An ambulance was parked outside, part of a network of several hundred Sena ambulances ready to transport people from the slums to hospitals at all hours, at nominal charges.
"In a city where municipal services are in a state of crisis, going through the Sena ensures access to such services. The Sena shakhas also act as a parallel government, like the party machines in American cities that helped immigrants get jobs and fixed streetlights. But the Sena likes to think of itself not so much as a political party but a social service organisation. It functions as an umbrella for a wide variety of organisations:
a trade union with over 800,000 members
a students’ movement
a women’s wing
an employment network
a home for senior citizens
a cooperative bank
Kamath was a diplomatic sort, hospitably showing me around his terrain. He had the reputation of being honest.
“There are very few people like Bhikhu in the Sena,” said Sunil (a deputy leader of the Jogeshwari shakha, or branch, of the Shiv Sena). “He still has a black-and-white TV at home.” But he could be a street thug when the occasion warranted. And through his connections in the state government, he provided political cover for Sunil.
‘The ministers are ours. The police are in our hands. If anything happens to me, the minister calls,’ boasted Sunil. He nodded.
“We have powertoni.”
He repeated the word a few times. Sunil had hired a Muslim boy in the Muslim locality for his cable business.
“He has twelve brothers and six sisters. I give him money and his brother liquor. He will even beat up his brother for me. I hire him for powertoni.”
Likewise, the holy man who exorcised his daughter had powertoni. Then I realised what the word was: a contraction of power of attorney, the awesome ability to act on someone else’s behalf or to have others do your bidding, to sign documents, release wanted criminals, cure illnesses, get people killed. Powertoni: a power that does not originate in yourself; a power that you are holding on somebody else’s behalf.
It is the only kind of power that a politician has: a power of attorney ceded to him by the voter. Democracy is about the exercise, legitimate or otherwise, of this powertoni.
All over Mumbai, the Shiv Sena is the one organisation that has powertoni. And the man with the greatest powertoni in Mumbai is the leader of the Shiv Sena himself, Bal Keshav Thackeray.
His monstrous ego was nurtured from infancy. Thackeray’s father considered himself a social reformer and anglicised his surname after William Makepeace Thackeray, the Victorian author of Vanity Fair. Thackeray’s mother had given birth to five girls and no sons. She prayed ardently to the family deity for a son and was blessed with Bal. He was therefore considered a navasputra, a boon directly from God.
Thackeray, now in his seventies, is a cross between Pat Buchanan and Saddam Hussein. He has a cartoonist’s sense of the outrageous. He loves to bait foreign journalists with his professed admiration for Adolf Hitler. Thus, in an interview for Time magazine at the height of the riots, when he was asked if Indian Muslims were beginning to feel like Jews in Nazi Germany, his response was,
“Have they behaved like the Jews in Nazi Germany? If so, there is nothing wrong if they are treated as Jews were in Nazi Germany.”
A woman in the Jogeshwari slums observed, “Thackeray is more Muslim than I am.” He is a man obsessed by Muslims. “He watches us, how we eat, how we pray. If his paper doesn’t have the word ‘Muslims’ in its headline, it won’t sell a single copy.”
The organ of his party is the newspaper Saamna (Confrontation), which, in Marathi and Hindi editions, distributes Thackeray’s venom all over Maharashtra.
Thackeray, like anybody else in the underworld, is called by many names: the Saheb, the Supremo, the Remote Control, and, most of all, the Tiger – after the symbol of the Shiv Sena. The newspapers are full of pictures of him next to pictures of tigers. Public billboards around the city likewise display his face next to that of a real tiger. He has taken pains to be present at the inauguration of a tiger safari park. He is a self-constructed mythic figure: he drinks warm beer, he smokes a pipe, he has an unusually close relationship with his daughter-in-law.
Tales of the Shaheb
Sunil and the Sena boys described the Saheb for me. It was impossible to talk directly to him, they said; even an eloquent and fearless man like their Shakha Pramukh became tongue-tied in front of him, and then the Saheb would berate him. “Stand up! What’s the matter? Why are you dumb?” It was impossible to meet his eyes. On the other hand: “He likes it if you are direct with him. You should have the daring to ask direct questions. He doesn’t like a man who says ‘er... er...’”
Sunil’s colleague talked with great pride about the time every year on the Saheb’s birthday when they went to his bungalow and watched a long line of the city’s richest and most eminent line up to pay homage. “We watched all the big people – ministers, businessmen – bow and touch his feet. All the Tata-Birlas touch his feet and then talk to him.”
“Michael Jackson only meets presidents of countries. He came to meet Saheb,” his friend added. The president of the giant American corporation Enron had to go to Thackeray to get a power deal cleared. When Sanjay Dutt, son of the principled MP Sunil Dutt who resigned in disgust after the riots, was newly released from jail, his first stop, even before he went home, was to go to the Saheb and touch his feet. Every time one of the corporate gods or a member of the city’s film community or a politician from Delhi kowtowed before him, his boys got a thrill of pride, and their image of the Saheb as a powerful man, a man with powertoni, was reinforced.
They told me what to say if I met the Saheb. “Tell him, ‘Even today, in Jogeshwari, we are ready to die for you.’ Ask Saheb, ‘Those people who fought for you in the riots, for Hindutva, what can your Shiv Sena do for them? Those who laid their lives down on a word from you? What can the old parents of the Pednekar brothers, who have no other children, do?’”
I felt like a go-between carrying messages from the lover to the loved one:
“Tell her I am ready to die for her.” But there was a hint of reproach in their questions, as if they felt their Saheb had been neglecting them, these people who had died for his love. As if the blood sacrifice their comrades had made had gone unacknowledged.
Scores of letters confiscated at the ashram run by Baba Virendra Dev Dixit have come under the scanner of the Delhi High Court (HC). The court was informed that the letters - written with a motive to shield the accused from any action taken by authorities concerned - made allegations of sexual harassment levelled by ashram inmates against own relatives.
Even the inspection committee formed by the Delhi HC, comprising Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Swati Maliwal, and advocates Ajay Verma and Nandita Rao, admitted that the language and pattern of writing in the letters were almost identical.
The bench of acting Chief Justice Geeta Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar observed:
"It is difficult, if not impossible, to believe scores of women living under one roof levelling similar allegations - all against close relatives. The fact that these complaints have all been bunched up, and were under the control and possession of the ashram casts doubt on their veracity."
The members of the inspection committee told the court that these complaints might have been lodged to prevent people from getting any trace of their relatives in the ashram. The HC has also given the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) a month's time to find out the whereabouts of Virendra Dev Dixit.
The court said that while it will not interfere in any genuine, legitimate and honest spiritual activity, it will also "not countenance any fraudulent or illegal activity". On Thursday, both the counsel for the ashram and the alleged close aide of Dixit, Deepak d'Silva, refused to have any knowledge about the whereabouts of the accused.
The bench also said that the entire organisation was run and managed by Dixit and arguments to the contrary by the ashram's lawyer were "falsified" by information on the website as well as YouTube videos.
DCW chief Maliwal told the court that during the inspection at five other ashrams across Delhi, the team had found some literature that had objectionable contents.
The CBI on Wednesday registered three cases in connection with the alleged illegal confinement of girls and women, and rape at an ashram run by self-styled godman Virendra Dev Dixit in the Capital's Rohini area.
The two cases against Dixit were of alleged rape and criminal intimidation, while one case is against unidentified people for allegedly obstructing the work of an HCappointed committee, which went to the ashram on December 19 last year.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Foundation for Social Empowerment that informed the court that several minors and women were allegedly illegally confined at Rohini's 'spiritual university'
KOLKATA: Allegations of a sleaze racket being run by a selfstyled 62-year-old godman in Burrabazar on Friday led police to unearth an intricate maze of hidden rooms shielded by a trapdoor in a nearly centuryold mansion off MG Road.
Pramod Singhania, who partly owns the "Singhania House" at 8, Shambhu Mullick Lane, is on the run. While locals alleged Singhania, who professed to be a devout religious man and called himself a disciple of Baba Ram Rahim, used to run a sex racket in the house, police are not ruling out a larger conspiracy by property sharks to grab the lucrative Burrabazar property.
Last week, a group of local residents stormed into his house and allegedly caught a group of young men and women in compromising positions. Some locals then had beaten up Singhania, following which he allegedly used a trapdoor to escape from his room into another a floor below and flee the spot. Singhania apparently hasn't returned since then.
"He used to run a sleaze racket here. We have asked him several times to stop this business but he would not listen. He would claim himself to be a godman and said he knew "tantrik vidya". He also claimed to have good relations with the local police and dared us to take any step against him," said Gajendra Chowbey, a local resident and one of the complainants.
Police said they found that Singhania had built trapdoors and used makeshift ply-board partitions to segregate structures which doubled up as guest rooms. These, he had earlier told police, were used by small-time traders from other states who came to Burrabazar wholesalearkets and needed a cheap place to put over for the night. Some compartments were also given on rent, where people lived, while some were used as offices
For the rest of the story, go here:
Google search - January 12, 2018
Sex racket busted in Kolkata's Burrabazar - ANI
7 days ago - One hidden tunnel was found through which the landlord had managed to escape. An enquiry revealed that Singhania had made some make-shift compartments in the premises and used to let these out to traders who came to Burrabazar for some business-related matters. The police said an investigation ...
Sex racket of 'Gurmeet Ram Rahim's follower busted, accused ...
zeenews.india.com › India › City › Kolkata
6 days ago - The key accused, Pramod Singhania, calls himself a follower of Baba Ram Rahim and used to run flesh trade in his guest house in Kolkata's Burrabazar area. ... NEW DELHI: The West Bengal Police on Friday raided and busted a sex racket operating out of a guest house in Kolkata's ...
Sex racket busted in Kolkata's Burrabazar - Yahoo News India
7 days ago - Kolkata (West Bengal) [India], Jan 5 (ANI): The Kolkata Police on Friday raided the residence of a person in Burrabazar after locals complained of a sex racket being operated out of it. The locals complained about an illegal sex racket being run by the landlord, Pramod Kumar Singhania, who calls himself.
16:25 01.01.2018(updated 16:28 01.01.2018) .
An Ashram (spiritual center) run by a self-styled Godman in New Delhi has come under the lens of the law after it was revealed that hundreds of women were confined in inhumane conditions. Police suspect 300 other centers run by the Godman could be hubs for human trafficking.
New Delhi (Sputnik) — The perils of Indian society are deeply entrenched in religious traditions that manifest themselves in various forms, including the traps set by Godmen of all faiths. Recently hundreds of girls were rescuted from the ‘spiritual learning center' of a Godman in Delhi. The Women Commission of Delhi, backed by the police, suspects taht hundreds of girls are still trapped in Ashrams run by Godman Virendra Dev Dixit, who is on the run after a missing woman's family approached the court for help.
Sunday Times unravels the insidious power 'godman' Virender Dev Dixit wielded over his followers — to the extent they gifted away their money, land and even daughters in his 'seva'.
"I don't know where my daughter has been kept, in what condition, I have not been allowed to meet her. I have come to know there is some ganda kaam (dirty things) happening in the ashram."
"When we met our daughter, she said she was happy and wanted to stay in the ashram. But she looked weak and scared. I think she is being pressurised to give such statements. I beg you to bring my daughter back.''
Such letters from distraught and helpless parents are piling up on lawyer Shalabh Gupta's desk. In the month since the raids on self-proclaimed godman Virender Dev Dixit's Delhi and Rajasthan ashrams, scores have written to Delhi Police and Gupta, who represents the Foundation for Social Empowerment, the NGO which first filed the FIR against the godman. TOI's conversations with Gupta and many 'bhakts' revealed the inner workings of the unholy empire Dixit built in the last four decades.
Most of the 75-year-old baba's victims were followers of Brahma Kumaris, a sect that Dixit had links to in his early days but later fell out with. Dixit had set up an elaborate network of "matas'' and "bhais'' who held satsangs or Gita path in lower middle class neighbourhoods in UP and Rajasthan. These agents would gradually introduce the followers to the idea that the soul of Brahma Kumari founder Lekhraj Kripalani had transferred to Dixit. The disciples would then go to a seven-day meditation camp where they would listen to Dixit's sermons. Many of them came back convinced he was the real McCoy.
"We used to think he was God,'' says K Garg, an assistant sub-inspector of police and former follower.
The disciples had to follow a set of rules — refrain from sex with spouse, eat simple food and keep away from social functions and people, says Gorakhpur-based Vinita who was also a follower. Over time, says Garg, they were so indoctrinated that they would happily part with money, property and their daughters.
he MODUS OPERANDI
Dixit's MO was quite simple but still people fell for it. Followers were told that he was God, and that the world would come to an end in 2020. If they wanted to survive, they should make "sacrifices" in the form of donations. Banda's Savita, who alleges she was raped by Dixit while being a sevadar (servant) at his ashram, sold off 10 bighas and donated Rs 10 lakh. Not only that, she even surrendered her daughter to Dixit's ashram in 2007. Savita escaped with her daughter in 2015 on the pretext of bringing in more followers.
"Hum dhoondh rahe the bhagwaan, aur woh nikla shaitan (We went searching for God, we found the devil),'' says the disillusioned Savita.
SHUT PARENTS OUT
In the guise of giving them a spiritual education, Dixit lured girls, some as young as 14. The first thing he did was shift them out of their home state so that the family contact was limited. The Delhi ashram which was raided had several small cage-like rooms, CCTV cameras and areas that were restricted even to inmates.
NEW DELHI — India's self-styled "godmen" have legions of devoted followers but many are dogged by scandal and several have been charged or convicted of crimes.
The latest example is Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh — known as the "guru in bling" — who was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison for raping two of his female followers.
Gurus — often Hindu ascetics — have long played an integral role in the daily lives of many Indians, who believe their teachings provide a pathway to enlightenment.
But sceptics say some of the newer "godmen" are nothing more than confidence tricksters who use their often poor followers to win power, fame and riches.
Many lure supporters with free canteens, clinics and other services not provided by the state.
But experts point out that among their devotees are wealthy and educated Indians and say they also provide a sense of community and purpose in a rapidly changing country.
Here are some of the more famous godmen:
In 2014 Rampal Maharaj barricaded himself into his ashram, guarded by devotees armed with stones, petrol bombs and other weapons, after a court issued a warrant for his arrest on a series of charges including conspiracy to murder.
It was days before police were finally able to clear the giant complex and arrest the guru, who considered himself an incarnation of a 15th-century mystic Indian poet. Six people died during the siege.
Followers said the guru regularly bathed in milk, which was then used to make kheer, a sweet rice pudding that they believed could cure illnesses.
Devotees of Ashutosh Maharaj, who died in January 2014, are preserving his body in a freezer and insist he is in a deep meditative state.
The hugely wealthy founder of the multi-million dollar Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan (Divine Light Awakening Mission) sect apparently died of cardiac arrest.
But his followers say he is in a spiritual state called samadhi and have kept his body in a freezer at his heavily guarded 100-acre (40-hectare) ashram in the northern state of Punjab.
One man who claimed to be his former driver has alleged that followers were refusing to release the body because they wanted a share of the guru's assets.
Asaram Bapu, a white-bearded guru who once condemned Valentine's Day as encouraging young people to engage in "dirty acts", is charged with several offences including rape, trafficking and sexual crimes against minors.
Police arrested him in 2013 after a 16-year-old girl accused him of raping her on the pretext of ridding her of "evil spirits".
Hundreds of the 76-year-old's supporters clashed with television news crews and police after his arrest. Since then at least three key witnesses have been shot dead.
In his preachings, he had urged followers to live a "pious life" free of sexual desires.
Indian guru Swami Nithyananda faces a series of assault and sexual abuse charges, although he has never been convicted.
Five women accused the 40-year-old of abusing them at his Hindu religious retreat in the southern state of Karnataka. He was held in jail for 53 days in 2010 after a sex video scandal.
When a local television station aired the footage purportedly showing him fondling two women, angry villagers attacked his ashram, where devotees practise yoga and follow spiritual teachings.
Nithyananda, who also operates a meditation centre in Los Angeles, has claimed to possess paranormal powers of levitation.
Sathya Sai Baba
Sathya Sai Baba was one of India's most famous and widely followed spiritual gurus, known for his vast charitable empire.
When he died in 2011, he was given a state funeral attended by tens of thousands of followers, as well as then-prime minister Manmohan Singh and cricketing icon Sachin Tendulkar.
But his charitable trust was often criticised for lacking transparency. After his death 98 kilos (215 pounds) of gold, 307 kilos of silver and 115 million rupees (around $1.8 million) in cash were found in his private quarters.
At public meetings, his showman antics — in which he would miraculously produce gold coins or watches on stage — brought him both fame and notoriety, with critics accusing him of being a fraudster.
The godman is believed to be in intimate contact with ‘higher’ reality and has the power to make it accessible to his followers. He or she (for this also holds true for the godwoman) is the culturally sanctioned addressee of an ancient civilisational longing, a collective request for the transforming experience. His reputed ability to induce euphoric states in the follower carries a conviction of his divinity that is impervious to scepticism and disbelief. The follower cannot be shaken out of his belief in the godman with appeals to reason or evidence, answering anyone who would doubt with, “I don’t believe, I know.”
The promise of transformation, an entrance into realms of higher reality, goes beyond healing in its narrow sense. Yet, for the followers it is the stories of the godman’s miraculous healing powers that are the most convincing proof of his intimate connection to higher reality, helping in further swelling their ranks.
Apart from the godman, there is the appeal of the identity one gains by being a member of his sect. Between the vast traditional majority, ensconced in their caste and other group identities, and a small minority of the individualised, a large, transitional sector of India’s population, living in towns and metropolitan areas, is the natural reservoir of the godman’s sect.
Membership of the sect provides a person with a new group identity to replace the village or caste identities which have become shaky. Standing between the individual and impersonal modern institutions, the sect also offers substitutes for community and professional associations.
The mutual obligations inherent in sect membership are not limited to fostering each other’s spiritual progress but also extend, say, to the clearance of a fellow member’s income-tax return or helping him get an undeserved driving licence
One of the funniest stories by the late Indian writer R.K. Narayan is a true one, set in America. The story, recounted in an essay from his book Reluctant Guru, unfolds during the author’s stint in the 1960s as a visiting professor in the Midwest, where he is treated on arrival as a sort of saint.
He blames themes in his work for the confusion — the occult, afterlife, holiness — but also his Indianness.
So strong was the “belief in my spiritual adeptness,” he writes, that he began to relate to his most celebrated work, the novel known as Guide, once subtitled “Story of a Reluctant Guru.”
In the essay, whose title echoes that phrase, Narayan identifies with “Raju, the hero of my Guide who was mistaken for a saint and began to wonder at some point himself if a sudden effulgence had begun to show on his face.”
He ends with the tale of a 4 a.m. phone call from a young Indian colleague, demanding a prediction of the fallout after a shake-up at the university. Why, Narayan asked, such a question, at such a time? “Don’t you get up at four for your meditations?” came the reply. “I thought at this hour you’d be in a state of mind to know the future.” Narayan reads the call as a new measure of just how far an Indian man can go in pretending to be superhuman. “Evidently this scientist had caught the general trend in the atmosphere,” he writes. “While I could appreciate an average American’s notion that every Indian was a mystic, I was rather shocked in this instance, since I expected an Indian himself to know better.”
Even Indians can fall for the mysticism of an Indian man who looks the part. That point clarifies just why the focus on Sheela perturbs me so much: Bhagwan’s legacy informs a larger story, on what we allow a certain sort of man to get away with, in America, India, wherever. Perhaps there’s a cautiousness among sensitive folk in questioning a brown man these days. Reading reviews of the Netflix series though, I feel I am witnessing a repeat of Osho’s vanishing act, of the man behind the Oz curtain.
In ancient times, the guru worked mainly for shishyas, or students, imparting knowledge, serving the people around him. Mega-gurus like Osho are just the opposite, taking rather than giving. Still, one deduces from Wild Wild Country’s reluctance to question the implications of his legacy, Osho is exempt from reproach, no matter the lack of depth his actual filmed speeches reveal. A student of the hypnotic induction used by cults, Rajneesh perfected “the art of being vague, while pretending you are being profound,” as one critic noted in an epic, damning New Republic analysis of Osho’s empire. In this ability to elide critique, he paved the way for what one might call “having it both ways” gurus, from Sri Sai Baba, whose closed chambers held nearly 100 secret kilos of gold found after his death, to arguably the most powerful guru in India today, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev.
These gurus twist the notion of divinity to serve material ends, dismissing the concept of god even as they situate themselves as living gods. They do so through various means — Sai Baba was known to produce gold watches through sleight of hand, a masterstroke that guaranteed followers, as well as debunkers. Osho introduced a different kind of magic trick, continued by Vasudev today. Call it “simple psychological projection,” a phrase he himself used, contemptuously, to belittle belief in god.
Arguably no religious tradition enshrines the act of projection as Hinduism does. Hindus see meaning in a slab of stone. Priests spend their days tending to these mute icons, washing them, dressing them, offering them food. In return, the idols technically do nothing, though the faithful would argue the work they do occurs at the cellular level — of a life, mind, soul, planet.
My experience of the Hindu act of projection occurred in a temple, perhaps the most famous in the world, known as Tirupathi. When I went I was hormonal and 14 or so, with a spotty face and resentment in my veins at having to go with my family in public anywhere. I hated the masses of people, whom I imagined stared only at me, as if they’d received warning ahead of time that a profoundly awkward teen from America who didn’t quite belong here or there would be approaching.
When I learned the entire trip, the hours of driving, the subpar toilets, the extended family time, the crush of human mass — all of it was for a single moment of glimpsing an idol — I felt simultaneously in awe and contempt, of the scope of human emotion, the need for salvation, or security, or change, so strong we enter into arrangements that require imagination to make sense.
We stood in a line for hours, my limbs pressed by women as if to erase me. Then I saw the idol. He is Venkateshwara, the god of my own family’s house, and so I have seen him many times before and since. But no view has been like that long-awaited one at Tirupathi. All around the sensation enveloped me, of people staring, crying, sending their needs and wants to the stone slab and seeming to gain relief in return. I felt conscripted in a double conversion in that halt in time: of the slab to a god, of myself to a worshipper.
Osho mocked the sort of projection that converts stone, but he benefited from its force.
A soul in belief is a delicate thing — it can be exploited or liberated, depending on circumstances. The stone, the object on which projection occurs, remains a neutral party. A guru, a living idol, requires constant maintenance.
Osho usurped the idol’s position while nursing a respect for cash, calling himself the “rich man’s guru,” and reportedly amassing more Rolls Royces than anyone in the world. Jaggi Vasudev, his closest modern analogue, opts for motorcycles.