After the Asaram Bapu and Ram Rahim incident, it’s time to see and find out how spiritual our spiritual gurus. Over the years many Indian gurus have been accused with charges ranging from sexual assault, amassing huge disproportionate assets, murder and virtually what not.
This is an attempt not to malign anyone but to give an idea about the so called spiritual leaders of India so that the people of this great country can have a face-off with the truth.
What is Spirituality?
There is no single, widely-agreed definition of spirituality and over the years, it has been defined in numerous different ways. However to sum up from all those definition, spirituality is something that includes: a belief in a power operating in the universe that is greater than oneself, a sense of interconnectedness with all living creatures, and an awareness of the purpose and meaning of life and the development of personal, absolute values. It’s the way you find meaning, hope, comfort, and inner peace in your life.
Acts of compassion and selflessness, self-sacrifice, and the experience of inner peace are all characteristics of spirituality.
Who is a Spiritual “Guru’?
Spiritual Guru is the one who imparts knowledge to dispel the darkness of ignorance and helps in the attainment of spirituality. He is a beacon of spiritual light in our world, who teaches the universal spiritual principles and enlightens the mind of his disciple. In essence, a spiritual guru is looked upon as a respected person with qualities of a saint, a pure character and be free from sin, selfless and without desire for money and fame.
India and Spirituality
India is a country which is known for spirituality. From time immemorial, spirituality and mystical charm have always drawn people from all over the world to India. As the world becomes increasingly capitalistic and materialist, the quest and urgency for spirituality grows more and more; the pursuit of happiness is stronger than ever. Spirituality is deeply rooted in Indian culture, tradition and custom.
India has been the birthplace of many great spiritual gurus such as Buddha, Mahavira, Sri Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Shankaracharya, Kabir etc who have selflessly brightened the lives of thousands of people by sharing and imparting the precious knowledge which they have attained. Their simple and selfless life has attracted people from around the globe and they still are revered and worshipped.
But, modern day spiritual gurus or ‘godmen’ are in no way similar to those great personalities and they mostly engage themselves in activities that will fetch them personal gains and that will make their own lives better. As such they employ selfish means to fulfill their wants and this often leads to controversy associated with the spiritual leaders and their task. In today’s profane world the Indian gurus have more of a celebrity image with their savvy, powerful figures who control vast business empires, own enormous wealth, dabble in politics and even manipulate the media.
Let us have a detailed look at some of the most popular but controversial multi millionaire Indian Gurus who are among the biggest money minters of the country.
Who doesn’t know Baba Ramdev? With millions of followers from across the world, Baba Ramdev is known for making ‘Yoga’ a household word not only in India but in many countries of the world. Though Baba gained worldwide acclaim through his morning yoga classes on Aastha TV, he also gained popularity through ventures in Ayurveda and advocacy on Indian political issues; specially on bringing back the Black Money stashed away illegally in Swiss banks.
Just 15 years back Ramdev was often seen in the on the streets of Haridwar, peddling his bicycle as he went to temples and people’s homes to teach them the Vedic ritual, Yajnas to make ends meet. And now the Patanjali Yogpeeth and Divya Yogi Mandir Trust headed by Baba Ramdev have an estimated net worth of INR 1335 crores.
Time again the name of Baba Ramdev has surfaced in many controversies. Some of them are:
- Tehelka journalists have reported numerous financial irregularities and tax evasion being practiced by Ramdev’s trusts. These involve sales tax evasion, forceful land grab from farmers and stealing of electricity by using agricultural connection for commercial use.
- In March 2005, 114 employees of Divya Yoga Mandir Trust, Haridwar were fired for agitating on demand of minimum wages. The matter is still pending with the Labour Commission.
- After Brinda Karat, a politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in January 2006 accused the Divya Pharmacy, owned by Divya Yog Mandir Trust of Baba Ramdev for using human and animal bones in their medicines, four samples were sent to the government recognized Shriram Institute of Industrial Research in Delhi. Union Health Ministry said to have found animal DNA in the samples.
- Income Tax department has sought to know how his closest aide Balkrishna managed to acquire Rs 45 crore in personal assets as on April 1, 2008. Balkrishna, who joined the Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust in 2005, declared in 2008 that his monthly income varied between Rs 1 lakh and 5 lakh in the three years.
- Mystery and controversy further centres upon an island in Scotland named The Little Cumbrae Island that was said to have been gifted to Baba Ramdev by a wealthy couple of Indian origin. According to sources, ED has found evidence that Baba Ramdev and his trusts channeled unauthorised funds to overseas accounts, and has slapped a case of foreign exchange violations worth INR 7 crore.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a world renowned spiritual leader of India. He is the founder of the very famous Art of Living foundation that has an estimated 300 million followers in 151 countries. Ravi Shankar was unheard of, till the early 1980s. Within three decades, however, he built an empire that is said to be worth INR 1200 crores.
It was not too long back when Ravi Shankar, held the system responsible for producing Naxals. Advocating privatization of the educational system in India, the highly revered guru said government schools are breeding grounds for Naxalism. Incidentally, Ravi Shankar, during his visit to Jharkhand in 2009, had even praised the Naxal rebels, saying they were good people and fighting against corruption and disparity.
“Sudarshan Kriya” is supposed to be the thing that makes Shankar so popular. The website of Art of Living says “Sudarshan kriya is a completely natural process that was cognized by Ravi Shankar during divine meditation”. Others claim it is simply old Yoga techniques, rolled into a new and more commercial package.
Ravi Shankar had “Sudarshan Kriya” registered it as a trademark. Does it not seems strange for somebody who does not care for ‘worldly matters’, had to register the trademark, because otherwise others would have done it, and made profit on his expense?
Ravi Shankar says that you have to really try and do it before you can realize what is so different about “Sudarshan Kriya”. But trying it would imply paying quite a lot of money. So, how different is his approach from a salesman?
The list of Indian spiritual gurus who have amassed huge wealth and courted controversy is long and never ending. It’s beyond the scope to cover them all in a single article.
Asaram Bapu is another most controversial spiritual guru. This self styled godmen accused of sexually assaulting a schoolgirl in one of his ashrams on 16 August 2013 has been arrested on 31 August 2013 and has been denied bail by the Joshpur district and sessions court today.
This controversial spiritual guru with an estimated net worth of at least INR 425 crores owns more than 350 ashrams in the country and abroad, besides 17,000 Bal Sanskar Kendras.
He is accused of land grabbing in Gujarat and various other cities. There have also been rumors of “evil activities” at his ashram located on the banks of the Sabarmati in Ahmedabad, after four children were found dead at his ashram a couple of months ago and the mutilated bodies were recovered from the riverbed.
A former member of the Asaram ashram, Raju Chandak, claimed in an affidavit with the police that tantric rituals were being performed in the ashram, and that he had seen Asaram Bapu sexually exploiting women. In a sensational revelation today, the personal caretaker of Asaram Bapu has revealed that the self-styled godman used to meet women alone after 8 pm.
Ram Rahim Baba
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, placed 96th in the list of the 100 most powerful Indians of 2015 by none other than Indian Express, one of the leading newspaper of India.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim became the head of Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) in 1990. DSS was established at Sirsa in 1948 by Shah Mastana Balochistani as a social welfare and spiritual organisation.
On 25 August 2017, Ram Rahim was convicted of rape by a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court. His conviction led to widespread violence from members of the DSS, which left 38 DSS members dead from clashes with police and another 300 injured. On 28 August 2017, Ram Rahim was sentenced to 20 years in jail for rape. He has also faced prosecution for murder and ordering forced castrations.
A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Special Court in Panchkula is all set to pronounce the quantum of sentence to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a journalist murder case via video conferencing. The Dera chief and his three close aides — Nirmal Singh, Kuldeep Singh and Krishan Lal – were convicted on Friday, January 11, by a special CBI court for the murder of Sirsa-based journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is currently serving a 20-year prison term in Rohtak’s Sunaria jail for raping two of his women followers.
There is an endless list of great Indian spiritual gurus who walked on the Indian soil since times immemorial and enlightened the common folk with their knowledge and the pearls of wisdom. These great yogis abandoned all worldly pleasures and practiced rigorous self-discipline for years and encouraged their followers to lead an austere life, while focusing on the purification of soul.
Unfortunately, most of the present generation spiritual gurus are just the opposite. They are highly affluent; remains dipped in luxury and comfort and enjoy a real celebrity’s image. However they ask their disciples to renounce attachment to possession and worldly matters.
The spiritual gurus of today have time again been named for the controversy they create, like financial irregularities, issuing highly controversial statements, sexual abuse and, sometimes, even murder.
So it’s probably the time we start not to take spiritual gurus blindly and be a bit rational in our thoughts. We must now realize that someone who practices the opposite of what he preaches can’t be a spiritual guru and guide us to attain the so called ‘Enlightment’.