Self-proclaimed sainthood and a nubile actress are strange bedfellows as a self anointed godman recently discovered. Faux pas like these give soothsayers cause to jump up and down in glee at the fall of another being who promises you nirvana, but gives you a grainy sex tape in return. In R.K Narayan’s seminal work ‘The Guide’, he tells of Raju, an ex-con who finds himself elevated to the ranks of a godman. As he unsuccessfully tries to wield himself from the role that has been thrust upon him, the deeper he sinks into it. Eventually, he is called upon to rescue a village from abject drought. The novel wisely leaves the ending unanswered but the film plays to the gallery and opens up the clouds, portraying Raju to be someone who had superior powers. But what is telling about Raju’s story is the ease with which the transformation from conman to godman occurs, while in the real world, it most often occurs the other way round.
If anything, the bustling godman market has gotten even more crowded in recent times. But why the insatiable appetite for these purportedly ethereal beings? They are woven from the same flesh as you and me. Their maladies are not wished away by mere thought or prayer. Whatever their claims from glimpses of the afterlife to the self-assuredness of their reincarnation, are born of out insecurities that are present in all of us. And as witnessed again recently their carnal desires are as basic as all of ours. A theory springs to mind while pondering this phenomenon.
When we were young, innocent and naive, our questions were simple, and easily answered. How do I tell mom I flunked in math? Do we play cricket or football today? As we grew older, our questions became a tad embarrassing. How are babies born? Why isn’t there sex education in school? All these were met with cold stares and temporary deafness. At some point, we start asking unrealistic questions that have no realistic answers. Do I listen to my heart or my head? Should I sell my Ferrari to attain worldly peace? Are materialism and joy mutually exclusive? These are tough questions that no one has answers to. No one but the all encompassing godman. And thus begins the journey to vague answers, vague questions and untold millions.
Sample this real excerpt from an interview with a disgraced godman:
Awestruck interviewer – "Swamiji, how do you describe enlightenment."
Rock star swamiji – "It cannot be described, it has to be experienced."
If he were describing an orgasm, the above answer would be acceptable. To hear a legendary sportsman say he’s achieve a zen like frame of mind after years of assiduous practice would be believable. To hear a godman say enlightenment struck after wandering and spending a few days in contemplation would be naive. To attain enlightenment and not be able to fly, that’s a letdown because that’s what is expected when such tall claims are made. To attain enlightenment and chase money, rape minors and women, that’s pitiable.
But in all the criticism, the fault lies within. It is us who make them out to be what they are not. It is us who build palatial walls around them and then tear them down when the shit hits the fan. We expect them to be pure, celibate and possess outwardly powers, all of which are a figment of our imagination and best kept that way.
If there ever were to be something to ask for, it would very simply be this – the common sense to think for oneself. The common sense to learn and not to follow. And of course, the uncommon sense to look out for that elusive hidden camera.