The difference between finding a guiding light and holding onto a crutch
There are multiple times in life when people need to have faith in something or someone to get through hardships. Our nation is deeply rooted in spirituality and religion, during good times and bad times people in our country hold their faith close to their hearts. I do believe this is a sign of character, because once we commit our hearts to certain faith, we let it cement in our minds as well. This is not true for all of us, but is definitely true for some of us. And while having faith in a certain leader or guru is a personal choice, letting that faith cloud our collective conscience is not.
Even though religion and spirituality are two very different things, sometimes cult leaders and gurus will blur the lines between the two to create a hybrid ideology that can provide comfort and guidance to their followers.
Our culture is founded on religious diversity and even though we sometimes forget, we are intended to be a secular nation. In light of the recent rape case that sentenced Ram Rahim Singh to twenty years in prison, it is important to discuss how to differentiate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to religious and spiritual leaders.
For a country that values education and science as much as ours, it is interesting that we leave scientific logic and reason in our mark sheets while discussing spirituality and religion. We rely heavily on scriptures and religious text to understand our faith, and for a lot of people sometimes a medium is needed to better interpret those texts, or more so provide answers that the scriptures and may not provide.
This medium often is a ‘godman’, a self styled guru that will promise guidance and comfort. When these godmen start using their position to exploit the very people that believe in them, maybe then the mask of spirituality needs to be taken off of these gurus.
Vulnerability can be a weakness, and people turn to gurus and leaders for help mostly when their backs are up against the wall, and all else has failed. When a loved when is battling for life in a hospital, when a marriage is about to break or when business is bad, even the most reasonable person will take a chance on something they don’t necessarily believe in to save something they desperately want.
I often hear people share experiences of times when they were stuck in a really bad phase and a suggestion from someone helped things get better. It could be an addition of a letter in their name, an anklet on their leg or even fasting on any particular day of the week. If and when any of these little changes in lifestyle overlap with a positive occurrence, the credit for that positive occurrence is placed on who ever that advice came from- hard work, sheer co-incidence and dedication are not even considered as possible factors.
If it only took faith and a few anklets to be successful, the world would be a much different place than it is. I don’t think I am qualified enough to question the methods or legitimacy of spiritual leaders and other godmen who have managed to convince legions of people to subscribe to their ideology; but I do think as a citizen of a country that is home to people of various beliefs (and also home to people that may not believe in anything at all), I have the right to begin the discussion on where to draw the line between faith and blind servitude.
We all have an inherent moral compass installed in us through our upbringing and experiences in life, and sometimes the difference between right and wrong needs to be a moral question. If a person commits a crime like murder or rape, is it not wrong regardless of whether it was committed by an average citizen or a spiritual leader?
Ram Rahim Singh is only one of many cult leaders to be accused of being a rapist. Asaram Bapu is also currently dealing with a case in the Supreme Court for similar allegations, his son Narayan Sai is in jail for raping many of his disciples.
Aside from sexual violence, there have also been cases of money laundering, extortion, murder and other crimes that certain leaders have been involved in. in each of these instances, the disciples of these leaders have resorted to taking matters into their own hands to defend their leaders. To these disciples I ask, if the tables were turned, would any of the leaders have the capacity to take time out of their lives to serve or save disciples should they be in need of help? Is the reverse justified?
When certain crimes have been committed that are punishable in a court of law, does it matter that there is spiritual permission to commit those crimes? We are not a country governed by religion even if that may be a big part of our identity. We all need guidance and faith to get through the obstacles of life, and spiritual leaders that are convicted criminals or are likely to toy with our faith are perhaps not worthy of it at all.