Oh my god, he’s just a man
By Shampa Dhar-Kamath | Published: 27th August 2017 04:00 AM |
We Indians are a peculiar lot. We are historically wired to perceive the rich as oppressors and the poor as noble but wronged. We worship Shiva, who’s the embodiment of austerity and renunciation. We revere Guru Nanak, who abhorred ostentatious display of religiosity and preferred the serenade of nature at the invisible altar of God over prayers performed in ornate temples with silver salvers and gold-decked deities. We claim to have descended from sages who proclaimed gnana (knowledge) was the only wealth that man should desire.
And yet, we spend all our life struggling to get rich and, to help us along in our mission, flee from God to godmen. Even as we espouse the virtues of asceticism and simplicity, we abase ourselves at the feet of people who have nothing to do with those values. We turn a blind eye to our so-called spiritual guide’s cavalcade of fancy cars and shady business deals. We ignore tales of his opulent lifestyle and rumours of devious deeds behind closed doors. We explain away his humungous wealth as the generosity of his grateful devotees.
We don’t study if his conduct is in accord with his preaching. We overlook the fact that he demands our reverence even as he tells us to erase our egos. And when he’s exposed for fraud or worse, we attribute it to a conspiracy by his enemies. We don’t question whether the charges are genuine or not. Given the nature of faith, our unquestioning belief in our godman is perhaps understandable. What is incomprehensible is our reluctance to question our own motive for worshipping at his altar. After all, he didn’t force us to go to him.
We went there impressed by the stories of the miracles he’s wrought, the empire he’s built, and the VIPs who march to his tunes. Perhaps we went out of curiosity, but we stayed because of desperation or greed.
Because however much we con ourselves, it’s not our spiritual journey that we’re there to enhance. It’s a child we want, or a promotion at work.
Sometimes, our motives are more sinister. We want to wreak damage on a colleague or a former spouse. Most of the time, we’re there for help with the deepest of our fears—the fear of the future. We comfort ourselves with the thought that the godman will save us from any calamity that the unseen future might bring. The man hears us out, promises us a fix and we are hooked. We shut our ears to any possibility of doubt.
We know, in our heart of hearts, that we alone are responsible for what we have done and what we will face in the future. The waves of life are bound to throw us this way and that. It’s up to us to use our mind, body and spirit to stay on top. For strength, perhaps, we can fall back on the ways of our forefathers, and their emphasis on dhyana, or meditation.
Dhyana means not anticipating or expecting anything. It is not an activity. It is waiting. Prayer means you’re trying to talk to God. Meditation means you’re waiting, willing to listen to him. Not your godman, but your God. Please appreciate the difference.