Asaram bapu and his fanatical followers are a snapshot of how irrelevant moral behavior is to worship. In the recent past, Asaram Bapu has made headlines for holding the victim of a brutal rape jointly responsible for being raped. He has celebrated a mass holi wasting water in the middle of the worst drought Maharashtra saw in decades. And he was accused of raping a minor daughter of a devotee and threatening her to be silent.
This is hardly a new phenomenon. Asaram Bapu has always has disturbing whispers of illegal dealings from land grabs to tantric rituals. Rising into the religion business after one selling alcohol, he had a formidable reputation of power. Famous politicians and stars have been associated with him. Disturbing reports of threats from his followers (who apparently double up as his henchmen) abound.
So why is it that this person continues to be considered a saint in this country? How is it that in a religious community with an overabundance of Gods, where no two homes have completely similar practices or spiritual leaders, politicians end up so overwhelmingly flocked around the same few messiahs? As I write this post, another God man's dream has sent the Archaeological Survey of India on a wild goose dig for thousands of tons of gold with the blessings of the state.
[Tweet "Why is India so gullible to any conman who claims to know God better than others?"] Why is it that we fail to question God men when their actions are demonish? How is it that we don't question when peddlers of morality break laws and grab land? And how is it that we do not take exception to a "Gurugita" religious book written by a self-acclaimed Godman who speaks of giving your body, senses, life, money, family, kin and even wife to your Guru?
The common man is a blinkered beast of burden, set on a looping track by whoever claims to be superior. Religions in particular are full of endless advice. Eat this, don't eat this, follow these timings for whatever, wear such, don't act such.... and the advice is not only obeyed, it is spread by word of mouth to more unwary blinkered beasts, who will see it as the words of a holy man and act on them.
And yet, there are countless holy men, working tirelessly to better the lives of the people, to nurture our planet and to enrich mankind. They are also Godmen, but they are too humble to advertise their Godmanship in your face and tell you what to do. They die unlamented like the respected Swami Nigamananda, who died fasting to save the Ganga from pollution at the hands of those who were supported by money and power and thought nothing of raping the sacred river.
Unless we value ourselves enough to understand that our respect must be deserved - even by Godmen, we will remain falling prey to fraudsters strutting their fakery and exploiting our brain for their glory (and profit), while those truly reflecting ideals needed more in the world lie discarded for lack of bling.
I am atheist, but I respect a sadhu with the courage to stand up to the sand mafia to protect a river. I am continually perplexed by how far the religion of my birth continues to fall with these pop gurus popping up and teaching values to lead us to ruin.
[Tweet "Unless we value ourselves enough to understand that our respect must be deserved - even by Godmen, we will remain falling prey to fraudsters strutting their fakery"]
Worse, the unquestioning adoration is a direct factor in the escalating influence of such fraudsters. We even have a police officer, in jail for fake encounters suffering silence for years, but the straw that broke his back was apparently a rapist Godman being arrested for rape. The state abandoned him to facing his crimes, but he is outraged that the Godman has to face his crimes too. Apparently the idea that perhaps a Godman should not do crimes did not occur to anyone in the process.
This reminds me of Gandhi's treatment of women around him. The "Mahatma" had a very public sexual life or the lack of it. His vow of celibacy did not consult his wife. Testing that vow with temptation did not consider his wife as "tempting". He slept naked with young girls to test his own celibacy in whatever way, without any consideration for the impact of such actions on the girls, who had not taken vows of celibacy, had they? Yet, he is the Mahatma and God forbid anyone question his character. Whatever else was good or bad about Gandhi (and I agree there was plenty to admire too), it is pathetic that thee wasn't enough objection to what was clearly exploitative behavior. [Tweet "What does it say about India that Gandhi's extremely public perversions were never a deterrent to his stardom?"]
There is hardly a dearth of Godmen engaging in sexual explotation. Nor is it limited to any single religion. It appears that morality flies out of the window when the victim does not have the power to be a threat. The example of Mahatma Gandhi was simply to demonstrate how child sexual abuse can go completely uncriticized if the spiritual guide claims a big enough halo.
Coming back to Asaram, the dirt just keeps piling on Asaram Bapu, with an MMS being recovered from his henchman, hsi son Narayan being a fugitive, changing phones to evade arrest, more complainants coming out of the woodwork now that there is hope for the wrongs to be brought to justice.
The government that prides itself on relegating religious violence to the past, was apparently hesitant to bring him to the state for fear of unrest. On one hand they claim innocence, on the other they unleash the nuisance value of followers.
All I can hope for is that he is hounded down and brought whimpering to the courts and made such a clear example of, that the next time people see a Godman behave in a manner that is not "godly", they do not for a minute hesitate to denounce it. This isn't religion, this isn't holy guidance. Morality cannot be upheld by allowing injustice. Regardless of who the perpetrator is.