Swamis in Scandals: What Keeps the Faith?

Twenty-seven-year-old Priya, a devotee of Paramahamsa Nityananda Swami, can’t believe a video footage where the Karnataka-based spiritual guru is allegedly shown in a compromising position with a Tamil actress.

“I still doubt whether it is swamiji or it is a graphic gimmick,” a shocked Priya told IANS.

Nityananda Swami’s is not the first reported case of a person in religious garb being caught in a scandal. Of late, a number of swamis have been in the news for the wrong reasons.

Ichchadhari Sant Swami Bhimanand Ji Maharaj was arrested for running a multi-crore rupee sex racket in Delhi involving former air hostesses. Kumar Sahai alias Swami Ji was arrested from Ghaziabad, on the outskirts of Delhi, for kidnapping a girl.

Guru Asaram Bapu is still under the police scanner for the deaths of two minor boys in his ashram-run gurukul in Ahmedabad, while several years ago Kancheepuram mutt head Jayendra Saraswathi was charged with the murder of a former employee.

Although many blame followers for not being discerning enough, more interestingly what has emerged is the unshakable faith that devotees, particularly women who seek solutions to personal problems, have in them.

Swami Shantatmananda, secretary of the Ramkrishna Mission, told IANS: “One should seek god through prayer and scriptures and not through fake godmen.”

“They thrive due to thoughtless followers who have not understood the true meaning of spirituality. Ignorant, miracle-and-fortune-seeking followers are the ones who help such fake swamis prosper in our society,” he said.

According to Swami H.H. Sukhabodhananda, founder of the Prasanna Trusta, “Like fake doctors and engineers, there are also fake godmen in society.”

Kamini Jaiswal, a senior Supreme Court lawyer, who has fought a case against Sathya Sai Baba, blames blind followers for such incidents. “It is shocking to see that well educated people are followers of such godmen,” she said.

Police say they can’t act against fake swamis until they get a complaint. “It’s a social issue, with proper evidence, police will do its duty and arrest fake godman. As for the public, it’s high time they recognised such fraudsters,” Rajan Bhagat, Delhi Police spokesman, told IANS.

Sudha Sundaram, general secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), says their should checks and balances.

“The government should come up with a state-level monitoring system to check the registration of an ashram and its source of income before providing monetary support,” he said.

But there are those who are angry with the names of gurus being dragged into scandals. One of them is yoga guru Ramdev, who said the recent arrests, were “a very big conspiracy”.

“Some politicians and communal forces are conspiring to malign the name of Indian saints by trapping them in cases related to fake currency, rape, murder, sex scandals and drugs,” he said.

Agreed Anitha Swaminathan, a member of the Theosophical Society in Chennai. “Our country has veteran sadhus and swamijis. Such fake godmen are just a bubble in the water,” she said.

The arrests have not altogether made much of a dent in the mindset of people or deterred them from following a guru who would show them the light in their day to day problems. But it has helped them understand the need for the right one.

Naunidhi Kaur, a follower of Radhaswami Satsung, said: “There are numerous ashrams and satsangs that stand out for their spiritual teachings and true selfless service to mankind. A follower just needs to be more knowledgeable about the faith and not just be a blind one.”

Summed up Balakrishnan, who follows the preachings of Jiddu Krishnamurti: “I am not a follower of any particular swamiji. But I have come across many sadhus who are true. With just one or two involved in such cheap incidents, we cannot condemn the whole community,” he added.

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