Miracle or Mirage?

Prabhakar Nanawaty

Who are you,
Who am I
And who is he
He is the who of the you in the I of the you in which the he in which you are the I and I is the you and that you in you and he in you……
Can you make out anything meaningful in this blabbering? Impossible. This is what generally goes in the name of spiritualism by the so called Godmen (and Godwomen too!). Of course, at least inIndia, these Godmen resort to flowery regional language and mesmerize the gullible audience with their command of oratory, impressive personality and aura that had been created around them. ‘ Satsang ‘ is the name for these sermons  and one will find hundreds of followers gather at a designated place and listen to this chattering for an hour or so and go back to their respective places fully satisfied, mentally ‘fit’ and carrying the burden of blessings to do whatever (crooked!) business in which they are engaged.  Surprisingly the majority of audience attending these Satsang is normally aged (and obese) women folk who probably force their men and young ones to attend the Satsang so that their sins will be washed out during that brief period of lecture by Godmen. If one listens to these sermons carefully, one will not find anything meaningful, useful or ethical. There is no iota of truth in what they say. Sometimes they may quote some eternal truth for which the audience gets excited and praises the Godmen for the quotation and their mastery over spiritualism. Audience is indebted to Satsang and often visits as long as Godmen is in the town. An expensive and decorated platform, huge Pendal or a hall for seating arrangements and high tech (Dolby/ Bose) sound system and lighting arrangements hypnotise the newcomers. In the gathering there will be number of Godmen’s paid agents who prompt the audience to praise the Godmen at times. However, nothing is free in this world, including Godmen’s blessings too. Satsang listeners have to shell out hefty donations so that Godmen and his cronies have all the comforts in the world and amass the wealth at the expense of the gullible audience.
Nowadays where ever you look around , you will find these cult figures – self proclaimed great spiritual men (and also women) – with supernatural powers spreading their net to catch their prey from all walks of life, all strata of society, rich or poor, young or old, men or women. This ever spreading Godmenship bewilders a rational mind. However every strata of the society has its own Godmen depending upon its paying capacity. It is like a medical treatment.
The medical treatment of any particular illness differs according to what the family can afford; the same principle of affordability applies to the supply of Godmen and their crafts. An ignorant woman from rural area takes her sick child to a village physician while a middle class woman at a Taluka place sees a medical practitioner with some qualification in medicine. For the same illness a higher middle class woman from a city will approach a child specialist and a child from a very rich family will avail itself of the services of a team of specialists and a well equipped hospital all for the same illness.
Like medicine these so called faith healers  too work at different levels differently. A Bhagat or a Devarishi is consulted for overcoming difficulties by poor and ignorant toiling masses in the villages; those who are a little bit educated approach an astrologer or a palmist for their problems or to a road side bogus man  who has a parrot that comes out to foretell the customer’s future. Talismans, amulets, charms are, of course, always there to mitigate difficulties. The educated middle class man with a good job or business undertakes the traditional rituals or visits the temple of his faith, or approaches local Godmen  to find solutions to his problems and finds fulfillment of his life in their service. The Godmen  at the highest pedestal work for the people at the highest rung of the socio-economic ladder. Leading politicians, big bureaucrats, wealthy industrialists, art and sport celebrities require equally high class Babas (and Matajis). So they call upon either Mata Amrutanandmayi or Ravi Shankar, or Ramdev Baba  and attribute all their achievements so far and their assured future success to the favour and blessings of these great agents of the God.
This all pervading maze of Godmen cult is utterly baffling. The electronic media had accelerated the process of this cult by telecasting their rattling on one or the other channel at all hours of viewing. In fact there are channels especially for the devoted (God, Astha, Sanatan etc) that would get (perverted) satisfaction to view and listen to the programs telecasted on these channels. But nowadays even news and entertainment channels are also telecasting  these Satsng lectures and thus forcing the innocent viewers to shut down the TV (forever!). One wonders who pays for these expensive TV cost.
A little in-depth deliberation on this point will reveal the real nature of Godmen. Sometimes one wonders in spite of the number of Godmen who actually treat in some way or other or perform any miracles is not significant; and there exists a great number of Godmen who do not do anything by way of treatment or miracles and yet have a massive number of followers. These followers find their respective Godmen their sole protector and savior. These Godmen, instead of actually treating the people or performing miracles they still loot and exploit gullible people in the name of salvation, devotion to god, divinity, divine knowledge, etc. Their power does not rest in the ability to deceive people. It is rooted in something else. These Godmen very skillfully link with themselves the amazing longing for beatification that is traditionally rooted in the minds of people. Therein lays their power. This can be called ‘debauchery in salvation’.
There are amazing types of Godmen. Every profession these days has many branches and sub-branches. The ever prospering business of Godmen is no exception to this. The Babas, and Maharajas can be classified in many ways. There is no intension here to insist on a particular classification, but the nature of their operating suggests the following types.

  • Mantrik (one who uses mantras i.e.      chants), Devarishi (who treats visitations from deities), Bhagat (one who      deals with daemons). Not only do they cheat and misguide people;      they also commit grave, culpable criminal acts.
  • Many      Babas and Mahrajas promise to cure the chronic illness of the patients.      Their treatment appears simple and innocuous. The needy poor find it      supportive and consoling but in reality the patient’s life is at risk.
  • A      few Godmen acquire their popularity by performing so called miracles which      are nothing but magicians’ tricks.       Satya Sai Baba was the best example of this category. He used to      wave his empty hand in the air and captures sacred ash or silver and gold      rings. Science tells us that such miracles just cannot happen. The claim      of these Godmen and women performing miracles is one more type of Godmen      cult  that exploits the emotions of      the gullible faithful.
  • The      Godmen cult that couples spirituality with science. This cult is carried      out by coupling traditional spiritual concepts with auto-hypnosis.
  • A      few Godmen acquire their name by using       philosophical and spiritual language, and hypnotism: Acharya      Rajanish who later became Bhgawan Rajanish, still later   called      himself Osho is the best example of this class. His deep study of      philosophy, impressive eloquence both in English and Hindi, magnetic      personality and use of hypnosis helped in firmly establishing his      reputation. He was convicted and asked to leaveAmericaor else be sentenced      to 125 years of imprisonment. Many countries refused to allow him asylum      on their soil. This exposes his so called spirituality and philosophy.
  • Sometimes      you come across mentally retarded person had been elevated as Godman. He      is mentally ill or plain stupid. He does not have an opinion of his own or      not even awareness. He does not abide by any rules of cleanliness and      decent attire or by conventions of speech or eating habits. But the      traditional Indian society glorifies such people as Videhi (weaned from      earthly pursuits) or Avaliya (absorbed in contemplation). Some people      develop great respect for such a man. Their admiration and reverence for      him is utilized by a few shrewd men to convert the mad man into a Baba.      The gang then can use this Baba to establish a roaring business.
  • Some      Babas use debauchery techniques to attract women folk.  Why women become victims of the Godmen’s      lust is a topic of continuous discourse and difference of opinions. But      that the Godmen take unwarranted advantage of women’s sentimental nature,      helplessness and pent up emotions has been proved over and over again.
  • The      Hindus believe in the phenomenon of incarnation. Some Babas exploit this      belief in incarnation to become popular among the people. They declare themselves      to be the incarnation of this or that god. At present one such Baba, who      calls himself Kalki Bhagawan – an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is doing      roaring business in the south of the country.

If one tries to study the psyche of the disciples of these Godmen, one will find that there are numerous reasons to fall as a victim to the Godmen cult. There may be

  • Helplessness, lack of stability, guilt feeling
  • The fear of calamity
  • Fulfilling the unfulfilled desires
  • Mental illness
  • Psychosomatic illness
  • Exorbitant price and lack of health care      facilities
  • The frustration
  • Atma (Soul), Paramatma (Supreme soul), Brahma,      Parabrahma, Moksha (emancipation), Mukti (liberation)
  • The power that controls the universe and the      theory of Incarnation
  • Need to express culturally
  • Non-critical Social psyche
  • Gaining Social Prestige
  • Intimidation by money, power, media and      gangsters
  • Dread of evil powers
  • The business racket
  • Government recognition and acceptance by      society
  • Rumour and mouth to mouth publicity
  • Lack of soldierly attitude and ennui
  • Insatiate sex life of desire remains      unfulfilled.
  • Falling prey to professional techniques  used by Godmen

It is well known that a visit to a Godmen brings some relief to an individual but it has nothing to do with the miraculous power attributed to the Godmen. The solution to the crises and the relief may be due to

  • Method of exhausting the mind and the body.
  • Secretion of endorphin, a biochemical substance, in the brain that induces the feeling of well being.
  • Behaving as per suggestions – psycho-somatic illnesses are cured by giving suggestions to the mind, for which the Baba gets the credit.
  • Placebo effect – The trust that Baba’s blessings are a sure way to recovery brings relief to the patient.
  • Self curable disease – Some diseases are cured automatically after some interval. If the patient receives Baba’s blessings during this period, the Baba gets the credit.
  • Counseling – Talking with the Baba or seeking his advice is a kind of counseling which proves effective at times and the credit goes to Baba’s divine powers.
  • Spontaneous Regression – Patient’s immunity increases all of a sudden and the disease subsides. The reason of the sudden increase in immunity has not yet been discovered by science. But the so called miracle is attributed to the Baba’s blessings.

In fact man’s love of congregation – man’s critical faculty becomes dim in a group. His ability to discern right from wrong, proper from improper and true from false- his capacity to reason disappears. The huge crowd that gathers in Baba’s congregation extols Baba’s virtues and powers. So the individual caught in such a big crowd feels that his problems are being solved. These are typical of the wizened sages to whom otherwise-sensible people give their devotion and unquestioning obedience, surrendering their independence, willpower, and life’s savings in the hope of realizing for themselves “enlightenment” as they ascribe to the “perfect, God-realized” master.
As Meera Nanda puts it, it is a God’s Market. There is a very strong pull of market forces and there is a possibility that you will be next victim unless you protect yourself. Don’t let it happen to you. Don’t get suckered in. Be prepared. Be informed.