The candid anatomy of belief in godmen

Recently, one already controversial 'swami' Nithyananda fled the country. His Ahmedabad ashram was a den of illegal activities and he usurped the land, kidnapped, raped and did all sorts of nefarious and abominable things. How could he spread...

The candid anatomy of belief in godmen

Recently, one already controversial 'swami' Nithyananda fled the country. His Ahmedabad ashram was a den of illegal activities and he usurped the land, kidnapped, raped and did all sorts of nefarious and abominable things. How could he spread his 'spiritual' empire despite getting implicated in a rape case in 2010 is an enigma. But the far greater conundrum is: Why do his scores of followers still believe that their guru is above reproach? It's like Caesar's wife must be above suspicion. The mushrooming of babas and gurus in recent times is a phenomenon that needs to be studied and analysed. And despite their misdeeds, esp. (s)exploits, their followers' blind faith in them entails a comprehensive psychological study of the whole shebang, called gurudom or babadom.

According to Genetic Biology and Theory of Evolution, humans are still evolving and evolving almost imperceptibly. To quote German iconoclast Friedrich Nietzsche, "Humans are still standing on the lowest rung to the ladder of evolution." And mind you, before criticising Indian or oriental gurus and babas for their shenanigans, one mustn't forget that the Western world also has babas, gurus and a spate of cults, albeit with ostensible differences. Otherwise, what's the Doomsday Cult with many shades and shrouds or innumerable Psychic Cults and their dubious gurus and clairvoyants? The popular televangelists like Pat Robertson, Faye Bakker, Jerry Falwell, among others are Christian gurus to their followers. Exiled preacher Zakir Naik of India is guru to the Islamic world. After all, human spirit is the same everywhere. Fools are everywhere. So are shrewd people, ever-ready to exploit the foolishness of the masses.

The West can't deny that Jabalpur's ordinary Mahesh Yogi returned to India carrying the tag of Maharshi given to him by the Beatles and western world. That he tried to molest Mia Farrow and Paul McCartney got disillusioned with him is inconsequential. Yet another controversial Jabalpurean Rajnish, who rechristened himself as Osho, and suave spiritualist Jiddu Krishnamurthy got more fame in the West than they did in the country of their birth. The point is: We're all equally credulous when it comes to believing in such high or low profile spiritual gurus as per their appearances and utterances. A garish and gaudy Gurmeet Ram-Rahim could also have a huge fan-following and he still has many followers who deify him or one fancy motorcycle-borne articulate Sadguru, promoted and projected by one of India's leading English dailies, is popular among 'refined' and English-speaking gentry for which spirituality is a new-age drug to be popularised through bespoke spiritual sessions.

In his book, The evolution of god, the origins of our beliefs, the writer Robert Wright has lucidly explained the whole enchilada of gurus, babas and people's unquestioning faith in them. Pascal Boyer already descanted upon human credulity and our faith in babas in his book, Religion explained: The evolutionary origins of religious thought (Basic Books, 2001). Both the neuro-scientists opine that human brain (not mind; mind is intangible and it doesn't exist) is genetically programmed to believing in supernatural and esoteric mumbo-jumbo. This is the outcome of thousands of years of uncertain existence in pre-historic era. Robert Wright writes, "A frightened brain is always vulnerable and a vulnerable brain is susceptible to unseen phenomena and thinks them to be supernatural. This susceptibility percolated down to 'modern' humans with slowly evolving brains. The unfortunately fatal combination of susceptibility and vulnerability engendered all types of religions, cults, gods and also godmen." Somewhere, even a believing brain knows that the idea of a god is intangible, unrelatable and even dubious, but brain works in the manner of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 'Willing Suspension of Disbelief' and finds some relatable alternatives for the very survival.

A godman is that earthly alternative for a celestial esoteric being that's perpetually beyond the reach of humans. In other words, he (guru) is what the doctor prescribed! We, therefore, invest all our energy, faith, reason and rationale in a godman or a god-woman in such an exhaustive manner that we're left with nothing. The very capacity to question gets weakened and it ebbs away eventually. Moreover, all these godmen and godwomen exhort their followers to follow them without a shred of doubt and misgiving. Until a few years ago, inscribed were the words at the entrance of Osho Commune in Pune: Please keep your mind out with your footwear! This unconditional submission acts as a stupor. Mind you, unquestioning submission is a sine qua non in the spiritual market all over the world. The brain gets doped and unable to discern. Sigmund Freud termed it 'Hypnotized Trance.' Got to say, a very apt term. Visit any commune or the so-called satsang (religious gathering), you get to see spellbound zombies in a state of trance. They call it ecstasy. But this euphoric ecstasy is simulated. Human brain thinks it to be real.

Harper and Moir of Kent University, England are of the view that a believing brain is invariably drawn to a guru, baba or godman. Because, a believing brain is a weak and timid brain. The submission to a godman is the submission to god, whom no one has seen. Neither will anyone ever see. The spiritually subservient nature of human brain causes us to tie our apron-strings. That's the reason, all gurus (good as well as bad) have been able to cast a spell on their followers and they (followers) too don't want to break that spell because that spell gives them a faux sense of security, serenity and stability. Furthermore, the pineal gland in the brain, which secrets melatonin, is linked to the God-Spot in the brain that gives us blissful feelings when we get to hear the recondite spiritual gibberish of all ' spiritual masters.' When they say, 'super-consciousness', 'transcendental reality', 'unalloyed unity' or 'universal synchronicity', we don't understand even a bit (neither do they), but these term give us a high like LSD's after-effect. The followers deliberately put their brains on the self-deception mode to be one with their gurus. After all, Mundus Vult Decipi (The world wants to be deceived) and Homo Vult Decipi; Decipiatur (Man wishes to be deceived; deceive him). Benjamin Franklin aptly said, "Who has deceived thee, as often as thyself?" 

The writer is an advanced research scholar of Semitic languages, civilizations and cultures.