Aasharam Bapu is in news because he has made this weird comment about the late gang rape victim. According to this so called satsang leader, the victim should have taken the name of god, folded the hands before the rapists and said that they were her brothers. This would have prevented the brutes from committing the murderous act on that hapless girl. In a way he puts the onus of crime on the girl. It is her lack of fear for god, which had caused her subjection to brutal force and eventual death, according to this so called spiritual leader. This statement also could be further interpreted that the girl was not a custom fearing one. She did not fold her hands before the rapists and did not remind them of their brotherly duties of protecting her dignity. This ‘spiritual’ man must have said it in all good faith according to his belief in Hindu Dharma, which he has wrongly understood as a set of codified laws that subjects women. For him even at the direst of situations a woman should not resist instead she should supplicate so that her rights will be delivered ‘naturally’.
Imagine we are living in 21st century. And we let people like Aasharam Bapu to speak like this. Our politicians and law enforcing agencies let these people to talk like this because politics, business and religion have become one and the same thing with the same vested interests. We living in time where people are asked to fear god not to love him/her. When people are asked to fear or when they are threatened by greater calamities from above, people subjugate themselves to the forces of power. God unfortunately has become a symbol of power, which is menacing and threatening. God has become a thug turned politician who speaks to people about socio-spiritual and politico-economic reformation holding a weapon right at their temples. Fear is the biggest point of investment for both the political and religious leaders. They threaten people with dire consequences. So people stand in queue to vote for their tormentors and queue to worship them.
(Akshay Kumar and Paresh Rawal in Oh My God)
First of we have to understand a few things. This is a country where the movie ‘Oh My God’ (OMG) was successfully ran and collected. Kanji Bhai (Paresh Rawal), a confirmed skeptic files a case against all the religious leaders in this country as the Insurance agency refuses to pay the damage of his business citing that ‘the acts of God’ cannot be compensated. So Kanji Bhai goes to court saying that if it was an act of god, his retailers on earth should pay him. Lord Krishna befriends him in a contemporary guise. Kanji becomes famous because his arguments in the court are simply logical therefore valid. The religious leaders are brought to answer the questions. Kanji, prodded by Lord Krishna (played by Akshay Kumar) reads Bhagavat Gita and finds points for his arguments. And just to make Kanji understand that there is god, Krishna gives him a paralytic attack and saves him from it also. When Kanji is in hospital the religious leaders start a sect on Kanji Maharaj and invest Rs. 400 crore rupees to pay the damages to people who are affected by ‘the act of God’. They are shrewd enough to start a sect in the name of Kanji so that they can earn the money back in no time. Finally Lord Krishna’s presence is proved by a key chain, which a recuperated Kanji is asked to throw away by Krishna’s voice and he does so.
Despite this film’s success and message if still Indian people are thronging before shrines, temples and spiritual gurus like Aasharam Bapu, they have absolutely missed the point. First of all they missed the point in the act of throwing away the key chain. The key chain flies towards a temple. But the director has very consciously made it fly beyond the temple and disappear in the infinite vastness of sky. It is a moment of revolution in Bollywood films but nobody recognized it. Most of the Bollywood films social ills are justified or the acts of cruelties are corrected through godly interventions manifested through a storm starting from a temple idol or the clanging of temple bells or something. Religious sanction is (mis) interpreted as social sanction. But in this movie, the key chain of Krishna does not go into the temple. It goes beyond pointing out the Sanatana Hindu Dharma philosophical fact the god resides in the universe and the individual’s search should be to attain that without mediation but through meditation. The jeevatma (individual soul) would merge with the Paramatma (eternal soul/god) through yogic meditations. No priest is needed for attaining godhead. Besides, Hindu philosophy says that Jeevatma and Paramatma are not different they are one and the same. Only the realization is needed to attain than undivided selfhood, where even self does not exist.
The second point that we missed in this movie is the last statement or a challenge thrown at Kanji Bhai by a spiritual leader (an effeminate leader as a spoof of some real spiritual guru) played by Mithun Chakravarty. He tells Kanji Bhai, look man, the spiritual pursuit is quite addictive. People are afraid of god so after some time they would come back to us. In fact, what lingers on from the movie unfortunately is not the brave act of Kanji Bhai but the brutal and fatal statement of the spiritual guru who knows for sure that his establishment thrives on the fear of people who are bound to be afraid of anything and everything. This film should have changed the mental make of the common men in this country. Perhaps, if it was promoted in the right way (not as an Akshay Kumar starrer) and brought into the attention of the international intelligentsia it would have created much better results in our society. The film is absolutely uncompromising. But somehow it failed to reach people with its pivotal message: discard all religious and spiritual leaders.
Religion is an anachronism and ‘spiritual leader’ is a linguistic aberration. Religions are establishments formed around the philosophies propounded by the seers and sages. Their philosophies were the essence of human sublimation mostly originated out of going deeper into the reasons for the human existence and the pertaining issues. Most of the sages and visionaries had reached a stage of realizing the god where the experience of it is the ultimate. To tell this to the world, they needed to find words. It was really difficult for them to express the experience which is beyond words through words. Hence they created a language which was metaphorically loaded. These metaphors paved way for symbolisms and they were the corner stones of the establishments that became religions. Religions were formulated for decent social conduct. The establishments were the necessity of the times in order to sublimate the human beings from the crass animality. By now we have reached to a stage where we do not need religions as those establishments do not solve any of our problems in our lives. But of course, the philosophies definitely give us solutions if we have the mind to study them and become aware about our own existence.
Similarly spiritual leadership is a linguistic aberration. It is a linguistic aberration because spiritual pursuit is not a collective thing or mass movement. Only for a mass movement leadership is needed. Gurus are not spiritual leaders because they do not lead a pack and they do not establish a religion. They are just helpers in realizing the people to become aware. That’s why it is said that Buddha was not a Buddhist, nor Jesus Christ a Christian. People built establishments around their words became Buddhists and Christians and any other religious followers. Establishments originate out of fear and out of instilling fear amongst masses. A frightened mass needs leaders to lead them to some destination. In the case of religions the destination is abstract. And most of us forget the fact that spirituality resides in one’s own self. It is here and now and it is sitting within this ‘I’. Once the I is understood spiritual liberation is manifested. The process is spirituality and the life invested for this realization is a spiritual life. Such lives do not need any leaders.
Any act could be a spiritual act in our lives provided if one does it with complete awareness. I look at the kids and their activities. They are not conscious of what others are thinking about their acts. They act and they themselves become the act and the acted. They do it in complete awareness though they do not translate that awareness into spiritual terms. Hence, anything that we do with complete awareness and are not conscious about what others are thinking about us and are not pre-occupied with the worldly judgments and achievements, our acts too become spiritual act. Giving alms to beggars or doing charity work cannot be spiritual acts because when we do it we do it with a sense of achievement or a sense of getting liberated out of our sins or something of that sort. But if giving becomes the most natural thing and also receiving becomes the same, we become spiritual. We don’t need any Aasharam Bapus for that.
But people prefer Aasharam Bapus and they kill a Buddha. People prefer A.Bapus because they are afraid of what they do not know. How can one be afraid of what one does not know? That’s why people say that you should be beware of your friends than your enemies because the friends know you well and you don’t know your enemies at all. When you don’t know your enemy you don’t have enemies either. That means when you don’t know god you need be afraid of god. If someone frightens you in the name of god you need not feel challenged at all. The moment you understand god as your friend you need to worry. But the moment you realize that god is not a different person sitting up there you just become aware that god is not a stranger, he is you only. How are you afraid of yourself? How can you say that your hands would grab someone else’s dignity without your knowledge? When you realize that you are god, the establishments vanish, only the philosophies remain. They remain because they are pure poetry. Poetry is not an establishment.
People do not see the god in themselves. So they go behind A.Bapu’s. They consider a physical trainer as a sage. They regard an interpreter of slokas and poetry as god. Total misunderstanding is what brings people to satsangs and shivirs. The danger of these spiritual leaders is also the same as their followers. They slowly start believing that they are really gods or spiritual leaders. They act according to what the frightened followers expect from them. This is a mutual blackmail. The more a spiritual leader becomes successful in gathering people around him or her the more he implements the strategies of fear and threat. These spiritual leaders would not tell them to leave their fear. Instead they would tell the people to read more and more scriptures without understanding a word, make donations, do exercise, go on certain diets, visit temples and so on. And inadvertently all those become a part of the larger establishment called religion/s.
(A temple in Vakkom where I used to spend a lot of time in my childhood- It was just a temple with no boundary walls and all then)
Having said that, one might ask me whether I am against all religions or going to temples or things like that. I am not a hypocrite. I am not against religious philosophies. I am against religious establishments. But then you may ask why do I go to temples? I am not an avid visitor of religious places. But I have visited a lot of religious shrines both popular and lesser known, and absolutely unknown temples. I have visited churches and mosques. If given a chance I don’t mind going to a place of worship and sit there for some time. I am not a hypocrite to say that I do go to places of worship in order to see the architectural beauty or their art historical relevance. I do stand in front of the shrines, fold my hands and try to pray something. But each time I try to meditate in this way, I ask several questions to myself. The more I ask the more I go away from meditation. I think. I keep thinking. The more I think I remain in the plane where I stand. So I cannot say that I have attained any kind of spiritual union with god or I have realized god in me. What I could say is that I do things with maximum awareness so that I need not worry or regret about my actions.
Does my visit to temples differ from those people who are not ‘educated’ like me? Do they look inferior in my eyes? Not at all. According to me, temples are the places created for the congregation of people to worship a deity in the middle of all sublimated things. All what is related to a ‘temple’ has a lot to do with human education and piety. It has all forms of arts in its complimentary edifices and rituals including music, literature, fine arts and performing/performance art. All these things could together create an ambience in which a devotee could transpose him/herself to a state of godliness, which in fact a realization of god in oneself but manifested in the temple idol. A temple is meant for such realization. But today temples have become problem solving centers and god had become a chief consultant with a lot of sub consultants around him. If you have a bank loan, you consult god. God’s mediator tells you to visit that temple on Tuesdays and do a particular puja for six months. But that mediator does not tell you that you need to pay the installments on time. So in fact they defer the real issue. Temples are not meant for that. Also I do not visit any commercial temples which are created for business purpose. Nor do I believe in temples that are famous for their wealth. But I have visited most of them and come out with a sense of dejection.
(Any place could be a place to meditate)
As places of meditation one should be going to very small temples where there are not much organized rituals. If you really want to meditate, in fact you need not even go anywhere. As you are the center of the universe, the focus of all the universal energies is in the place where you sit. So you just need to sit where you are sitting or standing or walking. One just needs to be aware of that place and become one with that place. People travel to hills to meditate or sea shore because they just don’t want to sit in the same place they have been sitting for long. It is just to change the ambience nothing much. A hillside will not bring you better meditative effects than the fourteenth floor of an apartment building where you are residing. A forest will not bring you more calmness than a city center provided you are unreceptive of the energies around you. Then one more thing, you need not sit cross legged to meditate. You need not know the chakras and energy points in your body to meditate. You need not do pranayama and other exercises to meditate. You just need to do whatever you are doing with complete awareness. That's why a butcher gets salvation and good sleep while a professional sage worries about his bank balance. Mediation does not come from learning, it comes from being meditation itself.
The day you become aware of what you are doing and you become one with your deed, you don’t need any more A.Bapus because you have overcome the fear of a punishing god. You have become the friend of your god and you have become a great friend of yourself. If so how can you think of violating anybody’s rights and dignity, whether you are drunk or not.