The Clay Feet on Godmen: "First Believe that I'm Greater than All of You!"

My dad was watching Sanskar channel, and the voices from his television triggered a thought within me.  I recognized what it is about godmen or saints that irks me... that has always irked me, and prevented me from reverentially approaching a person.

What irritates is that one is required to believe that this person is a "great man", and that his thoughts are somehow a lot more profound than yours or mine... even before one listens to the substance of his talk, let alone know him by his actions!

Don't get me wrong... I have respectfully heard a few pravachans in my childhood and youth, and I have learned much from Swami Chinmayananda especially. Ever so often, a pravachan by someone like Bandhu Triputhi or Osho Rajneesh on television captivates me, and forces me to rethink my whole life.

But I hear these people as one person hears another. I regard their words with as much reverence as I might accord to, say, the words of a knowledgeable fellow blogger, or at most, the words of a college professor. I listen with all my critical faculties alert, taking nothing on faith.

If I like what they say, I accept the principle, and resolve to implement it in life. I may feel so enriched or awakened that tears of joy come to my eyes. But I refuse to inwardly or outwardly bow my head to the person who says it. I may silently thank him for giving me the gift of his words, I may bless him with my heart, but I refuse to put him on a pedestal.

Efforts by such people or their followers to induce faith and reverence through certain behaviours are odious to me. When followers go on a bowing or touching-the-feet spree, I take two steps back and refuse to be drawn into the ritual. People who can't resist peer-pressure feel compelled by sheer human decency to bow or touch the feet of the revered person, and not bowing seems like an actual act of disrespect... but that's exactly the sort of thinking that needs to be broken! Because all sort of unworthy people gain great power from ritual genuflecting!

I reserve my touching-the-feet for people I love, like my dad, mom, or wife... and even that has happened only a couple of times in my entire life, when I am feeling particularly humbled. I would rather bow my head to my children -- not as an acknowledgement of any superiority on their part, but simply as a recognition that they too represent an aspect the Supreme Being to whom my head is permanently bowed. And because they are people whom I know intimately. Unlike the guru, my family members have given me ample reason to love them beyond all limits! (But, except for the times when I'm overcome by love, reverence or tenderness, I do not as a rule bow to anybody.)

So I consider the bowing and touching of feet by followers, and their addressing the gurus by exaggerated honorifics (such as Dharma Dhurandhar Param Poojya, Bhagwan, or Sri Sri) as a negation of religion from the very outset. Followers do it habitually, but I regard it as the Guru's method (and his cronies' method) of inducing herd mentality in people who are not his followers.

No, I don't hold the guru or his followers in contempt for such behaviour, but I disregard it all in favour of their overall message... that is, if at all they have any. Because many of these guys don't have anything to say! They would have us believe, as that advertiser's saying goes, "The medium is the message!" So it's like this: "Do you believe in Sai Baba? I do... My whole family does... because we have experienced his miracles. One time, my child was diagnosed of an incurable disease, and my whole family prayed to Sai Baba... and a miracle happened that very same day! He was healed! Ever since then, I'm a believer!" That's it, no message except: Believe!

The way I see it, our lives are a miracle. The unfolding of each day is a miracle, and an answer to our prayers, said or unsaid. We should be bowing our heads every moment to the Omnipresent Spirit in reverence and thanksgiving.

As for the health or ill health and death, etc... it's all part of the same miracle that we call living. How can we give our faith and our heart to one human being, alive or dead, because it seems like he or she "healed" our child on one instance?

Can any of these godmen or saints, alive or dead, cure any one of us of the one incurable dread disease that all of us share -- the inevitability that we will eventully wither from old age and die within a few decades? Can any saint give protection to the millions of humans (not to mention countless millions of animals, plants and other creatures) who die agonizingly every year from disease and natural calamities? No matter how hard we pray -- or how nicely we promise to behave in accordance with the 'sacred rules' that they preach -- the answer is always going to be, NO.

So my thinking is, let's stop praying for any miracle other than the grand miracle of our daily lives together. Let us accept sorrow, misery, disease and death with love, because they are the many colours of that very same miracle. The miracle of birth-and-death. The miracle of health-and-disease. The miracle of joy-and-sorrow.

The daily miracle of life ensures that no man or woman can stand permanently taller, or more holy, than his fellow men and women. One may speak words of wisdom for some days or weeks, only to be reduced to his essential humanness by an itch in the genitals when a female follower, in her unquestioning reverence, shows her willingness to consider his every wish as God's Wish. And then, when the rest of his followers come to know about this, they feel cheated by their god, their Bhagwan or whatever superlative name they address him by.

No, let us not judge their words in the false light of an imagined halo. Let us hear these saints and their words of wisdom, but let us not feel betrayed if we learn later on that they have erred, in big ways or small. Let us keep these two things separate; because even the best and wisest of us will err, given the circumstances.

Postscript: I wrote this in 2006, being triggered by a fellow blogger who wrote that a certain spiritual leader (I forget who exactly) had his balls massaged by followers. Maybe he did, and does, and maybe he doesn't. Maybe he does even worse things. I believe that it shouldn't matter. There is no need to feel betrayed, because he is only human, and is apt to do anything that humans will do. If he has spoken good words or performed good deeds, they stand unaffected by such pervert actions, which are of no consequence whatever! This spiritual leader, and all others, alive or dead -- whether they go by the name of saint, messiah or prophet -- are entitled to only as much reverence as any one of us -- no more and no less. Why feel betrayed when they show human weaknesses?


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