have often a deep suspicion of 'gurus' and are wary of anything which has a
'Hindu' flavor. It is true that some of the gurus teaching in the West might
have brought a bad name to Hinduism; but is this a reason to clamp them all
together under the same 'fake' label?
journalists unfortunately share often the same resistance to gurus as their
Western counterparts. And one can also understand their misgivings, given the
problems there has been in India with certain gurus having political
connections. But these are the exception to the rule. Why then brand all gurus
as 'godmen,' a negative and slightly cynical term, as many Indian journalists
do? Or why always ask gurus the same pointed and devious questions about their
opinions on Ayodhya and 'Hindutva?'
it also strange that Indian journalists do not display the same aggressiveness
towards Christian bishops or priests, whom they never call godmen, but 'holy
father?' They also like to question the 'miraculous' powers of Indian
gurus, as it was done a few months ago in an issue of India Today
targeting Sai Baba. But is it less rational or Cartesian to think, as the
Christians do, that Jesus Christ multiplied breads, or resurrected the dead?
down Hindu culture and Hindu gurus is fine -- but a huge majority of the Indian
population -- which, let us remember, is 85 per cent Hindu -- sees nothing wrong
in this culture: ordinary Indians meditate, do pujas, perform asanas,
chant bhajans, or practice pranayama. There is no
sectarism here, no fake mysticism, no pagan obscure rites. The
irony is that this very spirituality on which Indian intellectuals tend to look
down, is taking root in the West: more and more sportsmen, for
instance, are using pranayama to enhance their performances; ordinary
Americans are meditating by the millions (see this week's Time magazine
showing American children learning meditation); hata-yoga has long
taken Europe by storm and has been copied by all kinds of gymnastics or
India need the West to realise what an inconceivable spiritual inheritance it
has in its hands? A knowledge which once roamed the shores of the world, from
Mesopotamia to Egypt, from Greece to Babylon, but which today has disappeared in
a world peopled by intolerant churches? Do Indian schools have to wait for the
United States, before they start teaching Indian children their own culture?
Sri Ravi Shankar, for example, the founder of the Art of Living has also been
catalogued as a 'godman' by The Deccan Herald. Yet, he too is helping
to spread both in India and abroad this wonderful spiritual inheritance,
promoting as much the revival of Sanskrit and Vedic knowledge, as an ecological
concern for plastic disposal, or trying to save the centenary trees which are in
danger of being chopped down on the Bangalore-Kanakapura road, as it is being
numerous associations prove that he is not only a "guru of the rich,"
as he has been accused by The Indian Express: his village schools, for
instance, do so well, that children have a 95 per cent rate of success in exams;
his youth training programs bring to India's remotest hamlets in Karnataka or
even in Naxalite infested Bihar, Housing, Hygiene, and Human values. His
volunteers work with their own hands in villages to clear the garbage, clean the
sewage infested roads and generally renovate the place. Finally, the
medically-tested Sudarshan Krya technique is today taught in Tihar jail, or in
corporate offices in California.
Kumbh Mela has just concluded. It was an extraordinary event: probably the
biggest spiritual gathering in the history of the human race. At a time where
the West has lost its spiritual moorings and when, even Eastern countries such
as China or Japan are submerged by Western culture -- MTV, Coca-Cola and
McDonald's -- India has shown that in spite of tremendous odds, she has
succeeded in keeping her spirituality alive. But once again during the Kumbh
Mela, the Indian media coverage showed the same Western slant against gurus,
saints and sadhus.
of highlighting the remarkable degree of cleanliness, orderliness and efficiency
demonstrated by the organizers, the UP Government and the police, it chose to
focus on naga sadhus smoking ganja, or the VHP "hijacking the mela,"
or on Western "hippies" in search of enlightenment.
journalists could have shown a little more pride in their own culture by saying,
for instance, that it is miraculous that there are still men in the world who
are ready to give-up everything, including their clothes, for the love of God;
or that as long as Indian villagers were smoking ganja, they did not
beat their wives, gobble-up their salaries and drink themselves to death, as
they are doing today, now that (foreign owned) alcohol has invaded India; or
that any religion worth its name tries to protect its own interests, as the VHP
is doing (the VHP is not trying to convert other religions, yet
they are subjected to a much greater bashing by the Indian press than Christian
priests or Muslim mullahs); or that it is to India's credit that Westerners come
here searching for the spirituality they can't get any more in the West.
is part of the freedom of the Press to be able to criticize anything and
anybody. And we must acknowledge that Indian journalists have often played a
positive role by highlighting injustice or corruption in public life. But the
spitefulness that they sometimes display towards the saints, sadhus and gurus of
India seems a little bit unfair. For however much poverty there is in this
country, however many problems it is facing, India's gift to the world in the
21st century will be its spirituality, this eternal knowledge which alone She