Monday March 19, 2018

Godmen and Teachers: Separating the genuine from the fakes


By Nithin Sridhar

A God-woman from Mumbai has been accused of instigating a man and his family to harass his wife for dowry. Radhe Guru Maa, whose real name is Sukhvinder Kaur has been accused by the victim as influencing her husband, and her in-laws to ask for dowry, even though she had already given the in-laws a jewelry worth 102 crores. She is also being sued by a Mumbai advocate for “obscenity”.

Another God-man Nirmal Baba faces many cases of fraud and cheating. He has been criticized for giving simple but absurd solutions like eating kheer or paani-puri to people who came to him seeking solutions to some personal problems.

Previously Swami Nithyananda was accused of sexual harassment and a video allegedly showing him in a compromising position with an actress had also come to light.

Whatever may be the content of these allegations, the truth will eventually come out as it did in the case of Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati, who was arrested in connection with a murder, but was later acquitted by the court as being “innocent”.

But, what is undeniable is the fact that, there is a huge mushroom of God-men, God-women, and Spiritual teachers with a large following cropping up everywhere.

People are following this saint, that teacher, and some other God-man indiscriminately. Not all saints and Gurus are frauds. But, many fraudsters do exist among the genuine people like a sheep in the wolf’s clothing. These fake and self-claimed saints have not only brought a bad name to the institution of Sannyasa, but also maligned the name of entire Hindu religion and India. The issue is further complicated because certain sections of the media and the intellectuals have used this as a weapon to discredit the entire Hindu tradition and philosophy as a superstition.

Therefore, it becomes vital to separate the genuine Gurus from the fake God-men, the teachings of Hinduism from the fraudulent advice of these God-men, like one separates the wheat from the chaff.

Who is a Genuine Guru? What Hinduism says about a Guru

The Hindu tradition advices people to test a person thoroughly before accepting him/her as a Guru. The unfailing shraddha (faith) in the Guru must be developed only after testing him and his actions to see whether he conforms to the tenets of Dharma as laid down in scriptures.

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Photo credit:

The Mundaka Upanishad (1.2.12) says that a Guru is one who is well versed in Vedas and who is well established in Brahman. That is, a Guru must not only have an extensive knowledge of the various scriptures, but also must have attained “Self-Realization”. The same is repeated in Bhagavad Gita (4.34). Therefore, the two important criteria for a Guru is that: one, he should be well versed in scriptures, he should know what is dharma (righteousness), what is adharma (non-righteousness), and practice them in his own life; two, he should be Self-realized and firmly established in God (Brahman).

Adi Shankaracharya in his Vivekachoodamani (verse 33) elaborates on this. He says, a genuine teacher is one, who is well versed in scriptures, who is pure and non-afflicted by desires (i.e. dispassionate), who is ever established in Supreme (i.e. Brahman), who is always calm and merciful, and who is like a friend to all those who surrender to him. In other words, a Guru must also be pure of heart, detached and dispassionate, and a well-wisher of his disciples.

The same has been stressed by Swami Sivananda as well who says: “If you find peace in the presence of a Mahatma, if you are inspired by his speeches, if he is able to clear your doubts, if he is free from greed, anger, and lust, if he is selfless, loving, and I-less, you can take him as your Guru. He who is able to clear your doubts, he who is sympathetic in your Sadhana, he who does not disturb your beliefs but helps you on from where you are, he in whose very presence you feel spiritually elevated—he is your Guru. Once you choose your Guru, implicitly follow him. God will guide you through the Guru.”

Therefore, it is clear that Hindu philosophy and tradition lays down various characteristics using which one can differentiate between a genuine teacher and a fraudulent saint.

Fraudulent Godmen not unique to Hinduism

Pastor Benny Hinn is a popular Christian televangelist who conducts regular “miracle crusades”. He claims to have cured many people of various illness like blindness, cancer etc. In 2007, when Benny Hinn came to India, his program was attended by more than 7 million people. He claims to have got healed by watching his own healing video.
Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

But, he is not alone in claiming to heal people through miracles. Many Christian pastors and missionaries use the same tactic in their evangelism activities in rural parts of India, and many uneducated people are fooled to convert to Christianity. Many allegations of financial corruptions have been made against the Church and other individual evangelists like Benny Hinn as well.

Further, many people inside the Kerala churches including few pastors and bishops have been accused of sexual harassment. A Maulvi of a mosque in Karnataka was accused of molesting a minor girl.

Therefore, fraudulent God-men, miraculous healers, and other men of God accused in various immoral and criminal activities are found in every religion. And most of them have a large number of dedicated followers.

People at fault, not religion

The root cause of this whole business of being God-men and making money is rooted in people’s need to find a spiritual meaning to their life.

The society has been largely secularized and de-hinduized, due to which common Hindus have very little understanding of Hinduism. But, they have a faith in God and want to discover a way to connect with Him. They look for a divine help in solving their day-to-day problems.

An atheist or a secularist may dismiss these feelings of people as superstition, but this attitude itself has been the root of current malaise. India has always been a land of culture and spirituality. Real men of God have always lived in this land. From Veda Vyasa to Adi Shankara, from Gorakshanatha to Ramakrishna, Anandamayi Ma, Ramana Maharshi and Neem Karoli Baba in the recent times, hundreds of genuine teachers and saints have led a divine life and guided people to perfection.

But, the current secular education has created an artificial boundary between the sacred and the secular, which is alien to the Dharmic world-view of India. This artificial division has created a spiritual void in common people’s life. They try to fill this void by searching for people who can guide them and help them in their lives. But, because of being uneducated in Hinduism themselves, they end up following fraud God-men and God-women. Many fraudsters are putting on orange garb, or conducting satsang’s (spiritual gatherings) precisely to exploit this spiritual void created by secular education.

The only effective solution to all this mess created by mushrooming fraud God-men, is a proper dharmic, spiritual education of common people about Hindu religion, philosophy, and tradition.

Swami Sivananda advises that if one fails to get a proper Sadguru with all the qualities that a Guru is supposed to have, then one should try to find a Sadhu (saint), who is on the path of Sadhana (spiritual practice) for some years and is genuine, and have some knowledge of scriptures. And if one fails to find even such a Sadhu, then one should learn and practice the teachings provided by genuine masters of the past like Shankara or Dattatreya etc.

Therefore, instead of rushing from one God-man to another, people should be educated in Hindu scriptures and philosophy, and should be taught to thoroughly examine people before taking them as Guru. Otherwise, they always have the teachings of genuine masters of the past to rely on.

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Next Story

Arrest of Dr. Kafeel Khan on Eid: This is how Fanatics at Twitterati reacted to it

Should an accused not be arrested just because it happens to be a festival day?

Eid is a muslim festival on which Dr. Kafeel Khan was arrested
Eid is a muslim festival on which Dr. Kafeel Khan was arrested. Wikimedia
  • The intermingling of Crime and Religion occurred  when a doctor named Dr. Kafeel Khan was arrested on grounds of medical negligence in Gorakhpur Tragedy
  • It is not wrong to arrest an alleged criminal on a festival
  • Some people are making Dr. Kafeel Khan’s arrest a communal act

New Delhi, September 4, 2017: Crime and Religion are separate entities altogether but sometimes people blur the lines between the two in order to save an alleged criminal giving religion as an excuse. We should not support a criminal or an alleged criminal even if he belongs to our religion as by doing that we are creating an unsafe environment for others, it can lead to communal violence, it’s wrong from humanitarian perspective, a criminal can do no good for the society (and also for the people belonging to the same religion as him).

There have been many cases in the past where people of India tried to save a criminal because of him being a Godmen (who can’t do anything wrong) like Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Asaram Bapu, Paramahamsa Nithyananda many others. What connects these self-appointed leaders of religion is that their blind followers tried to defend them in spite of them being proved criminals. Such is the case with Indians and Religion that they try to defend criminals in the name of religion.

Also Read: Gorakhpur Tragedy: UP Police arrests Pediatrician Dr. Kafeel Ahmad on grounds of Medical Negligence

The intermingling of Crime and Religion occurred again when a doctor named Dr. Kafeel Ahmed Khan was arrested on grounds of medical negligence in Gorakhpur Tragedy. Whats the catch here? Why will people support an alleged criminal? Why will people speak against an alleged criminal getting arrested? We have the answer, it’s because Dr. Kafeel Khan is a Muslim man and was arrested on the day of Eid which according to the world of twitter is wrong.  Read the tweets below to find out the explanation given by people on why he should not be arrested on Eid:

An alleged  Criminal is an offender in eyes of law, the police can decide on what day he/she should be arrested and a festival falling on that day shouldn’t change the date of arrest. It is not wrong to arrest an alleged criminal on a festival. Should an accused not get arrested just because of a religious festivity?

Some people are making the arrest of Dr. Kafeel Khan a communal act. He was not arrested for being a Muslim, he was arrested for alleged acts of omissions and commissions as an administrator in the hospital in Gorakhpur where several children died allegedly due to lack of oxygen.

Muslim supporters of the doctor are playing the victim card and there are some people who agree on this.

In 2009, Dr. Kafeel Khan was accused of impersonating someone in the National Board Exam for medical registration.The Doctor was arrested due to rape allegations in 2015 but after the police investigation, he was proved innocent and was thus released.  All these past charges were brought into highlight by the social media.

The media hailed the doctor as a hero based on Dr. Kafeel Khan’s statement that he shelved money from his pocket to buy oxygen cylinders on 10th August. But we don’t know if what he said is true or he just said that to escape punishment. The social media played a big role in exposing the past charges.

We can smell hypocrisy here.

Also Read: Gorakhpur Tragedy: Infant Deaths, Principal of Gorakhpur Medical College Rajeev Mishra Resigns

But there are some people who know why intermixing of Crime and Religion is a harmful practice. An alleged criminal was arrested for the crime he did and not because of his religion. It’s shameful that people are defending him, saying it is wrong to arrest a Muslim man on Eid.There are 365 days in a year and on many days various festivals of Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christians fall. By this logic, the police should not arrest alleged criminals on the day their prime festival falls which is impossible. This shows a reserved mindset of people who live in the 21st century and still mix religion with the crime. We should not support criminals or alleged criminals even if we share a common religion as ‘Criminals have no religion’.

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