An intellectual, a Guru follower
To malign all Gurus in the shadow of Ram Rahim would do little justice to those truly preaching honesty and benevolence.
I recently chanced upon a trailer of a Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's movie and the monstrosity of it all had me reaching for the remote in sheer panic. That said, following his recent debacle, I have been surprised at the backlash against various spiritual leaders led by some of India's media houses. Consider me naïve, but the arguments range from absurd charges of equating meditation with violence to accusing spiritual masters of promoting Ayurveda. Somewhere in between, the arguments get blurred and it becomes clear that they are a promotion of the writer's personal bias; journalistic objectivism be damned.
As an attorney, I am your quintessential intellectual. And given how simple the whole exercise is, it seems commonsensical that having a Guru should not be a controversial subject in today's world, where the visit to a therapist's couch is proclaimed through celebrity tweets. I prefer breathing exercises and ancient wisdom tips to anxiety medication and sincerely appreciate the opportunity to live a happier life. What continues to baffle me, however, is that my decision to follow a Guru is one that seems to warrant constant defence. And when media ideologues appear to equate Guru-followers with bumbling idiots, my immediate reaction is a blank faced "huh".
The recent incident with Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is undoubtedly unfortunate. In fact, as a woman, I find it heinous. To equate him with all Gurus, however, does the title a disservice.
Singh's group of violent demonstrators is, simply put, a "violent cult". Any man who rapes and instigates individuals towards violence, irrespective of their religion, is not venerable. In that respect, Singh is much like David Koresh, the Christian evangelist who led 76 people to death in Waco, Texas, in a religion based movement that also included sexual and physical abuse of children. Also, not to forget, the 50 odd Indian clergymen who have been accused of sexual misconduct in the last decade.
If the crime of a non-Guru like Singh is the burden of all Gurus, all hospitals would be closed in a heartbeat for every medical malpractice incident. Not to forget, evangelists would be banned and the Vatican would be out of business after the number of paedophilia charges that have cropped up over time. Just as the latter makes no sense, Singh's conviction is not a license to continue a witch hunt against all cult spiritual leaders.
I truly appreciate the burning need to formulate a one-size-fits-all theory to explain all of life's circumstances. It does make life simpler. However, it is unscrupulous to suggest that the same factors that drive genuine peace-advancing Masters would drive a fear-monger such as Ram Rahim Singh. It does make for better page clicks, given the Gurus' massive international followings, and is a smart marketing move. Unscrupulous, still.
Given the recent debacles of self-proclaimed masters such as Nityananda Swami, Narayan Sai and now Singh, the sexual escapades of Christian priests, and the proven hate-mongering in mosques, individuals undoubtedly need to exercise some form of self-screening before imposing blind faith in anyone. However, to use a handful of examples to negate the work of world-changing Gurus over the centuries would be the opposite of intelligent.
In an ode to the country's spirit, India's Gurus have set the tone for an inclusiveness, respect for diversity, and peace over the ages. Where Alexander the Great abandoned his bloody conquests after meeting his Guru Kalanos in India, Adi Shankaracharya led the time-transcending discourse on peace and faith. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced life-changing meditation techniques. Recently, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ended a 52-year-old war between the FARC and the Colombian government through his spiritual guidance alone. Indeed, it is important that the society that rightfully denounces Singh does so without belittling the work of those truly working toward the betterment of humanity.
(Deepa Karthik is an employment attorney who represents small and big international employers, a creative freelance writer, and certified Art of Living instructor. The views expressed are strictly personal.)