Fatwas – The Voice of Intolerance

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Issuing fatwas has become fashionable nowadays. If a Mufti wants to gain some popularity, all he has to do is issue a fatwa against a popular celebrity like A.R Rahman. The TRP-hungry media news channels immediately go on a rampage of inviting political party spokespersons, journalists, religious leaders and commentators to debate on the fatwas. The media is good at making a mountain out of a molehill in such matters. In this way, the media is only fuelling the Muftis to attain exaggerated heights of popularity, instead of ignoring their fatwas, like how the individuals concerned also do.

According to a recent news article, a Mufti from an influential Muslim body in Bihar called Imarat-e-Shariya , issued a fatwa against the State Minority Affairs minister Khurshid Alam. This time the reason was that Khurshid Alam shouted “Jai Shri Ram” in the state assembly on 28 July 2017, the same day when the Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, won the trust vote. The fatwa says that Khurshid Alam has no place in the Muslim community and that his nikah (marriage) has become null or void. While the minister has avoided and largely ignored the fatwa, the Mufti later on issued a statement saying that the fatwa was pronounced in a personal capacity. Why then, at all, issue a fatwa in the first place, if it is of no use at all to the public?

In Islam, a ‘fatwa’ is a non-binding statement or pronouncement by a qualified Islamic scholar (i.e. a Mufti) that is offered as an “expert’s opinion”. It need not be acted upon, however, it is usually taken as an expert’s opinion, resulting in it having more weight than a random opinion from any ordinary follower of Islam. Hence, in an ideal situation, the Mufti has an important responsibility of issuing meaningful fatwas that help the Muslim society to reform and change according to time and place. For example, in Indonesia, Islamic clerics issued a fatwa banning illegal hunting and wildlife trafficking. Such a fatwa, even though it is not legally binding, is progressive and has the possibility of enacting real change in a country with a majority of population being Muslims.

In a secular and democratic country like India, however, we have only witnessed a slew of silly fatwas issued by questionable Muftis, which have been of no help in bringing about reformation in Islam. While today we have many leftist liberals questioning the intolerance of Hindutva supporters, where are these liberals when such ridiculous fatwas are being issued? Why are they not questioning the intolerance of the Muftis in India? While many of these Muftis are clearly against secularism and democracy, why is there still appeasement politics being played by the politicians and the paid-media? What difference does it make in letting your religious opinion to be known to the public?

Issuing fatwas does not only indicate the height of intolerance amongst the Muslim clerics, it also exposes their blatant disregard for a person’s freedom of speech and expression. Fatwas restrict a person’s freedom of speech and expression and to a certain extent, it is even a violation of human rights. Najima Bibi, who was the first Muslim woman to contest the Manipur elections, has been issued many fatwas in her 15 years of working as an activist. She has been denied the use of a local village pond for drawing water and most recently, she has been denied a burial space. People associating with her and communicating with her have also been warned that they will face the same fatwa. Such non-binding “opinions” issued by the Maulvis can have potentially devastating consequences for Najima if she were not a strong-willed woman who largely ignored the fatwas issued against her.

Fatwas are not to be misconstrued and allowed to be continued as part of the “freedom to practice one’s religion” clause. What the fatwas are doing is that they are dividing this Nation into believers and non-believers, just like how their Quran does. In June 2017, a congregation of Muslims in Tamil Nadu issued a fatwa against a woman’s father for approaching the High Court to obtain an interim stay on the triple talaq pronounced by her husband, citing that the father should not have approached the Kafirs (i.e. the High Court Judges) for matters relating to the Sharia. This fatwa blatantly denigrated the judiciary and the sanctity of the law. The divisive attitude, the “them-versus-us” mentality and the intolerance of the Muslim clerics, who dictate the Sharia, are largely the reasons why fatwas are unwelcome and not needed. The media should not be giving any publicity and unwanted attention to such Muftis.

Is The MASUKA Fiasco A Distraction

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Source: Yahoo News India

The National Campaign Against Mob Lynching (NCAML) had organised a rally for the Manav Suraksha Kanoon (Masuka) pledge on 12 July 2017. The Masuka law is an anti-mob lynching law proposed for the protection of human lives against crimes perpetrated as mob lynchings. About 30 participants of the rally were detained by the Delhi Police according to this article on FirstPost.

First of all, the Award Wapsi Brigade and the liberals of the media world are devoted proponents of the Masuka law. This brigade is well known for its animosity against Hindus, which may not be obvious due to the liberal and secular garbs they utilise to hide their distaste for the right-wingers. As a result, this entire campaign of ‘Stop Mob Lynching’ has been enacted and on-going for the past 1-2 months in a very systematic manner. The liberals have joined hands to enact a law that will inevitably be needed for themselves in the future, because as we know, the left voice is in its last leg.

This stump in the plan towards enacting the Masuka law is surprising. We have to accept that the liberals are also intelligent, and they very well know how to play victims. Their seamless planning in the introduction of the draft Masuka bill and successful online campaigning, makes one think that they would not have organised any protests or rallies without obtaining the correct permission. Therefore, when the rally that was supposed to happen in Jantar Mantar was moved to outside the parliament, then we have to concede that this was a deliberate attempt to distract and politicise the group’s pledge and their campaign against mob lynchings.

Masuka is a law that is especially being drafted and proposed to protect the minorities in India. Instead of Manav Suraksha Kanoon, they could have named it as Minorities Suraksha Kanoon. Anas Tanwir, a lawyer and one of the key members of the drafting committee for Masuka, said in an interview with TwoCircles.net, “It is a specialized law. Because in many cases of lynching it was evident that cow or beef was secondary but identity of the victim was primary reason of their targeting.” When Tanwir says ‘identity of the victim’, what he means is the religion of the victim. Therefore, it is obvious that Masuka is a law for the protection of the minorities, aka Muslims. The BJP, RSS and VHP often get blamed for playing communal politics, but one has to wonder who here is actually playing communal politics.

A detailed inspection of the Masuka draft bill reveals several sections that may already be provided by other laws in the Criminal Acts / Sections in Indian Penal Code. Certain sections of the draft bill do not have any relation whatsoever to the mob lynchings. For example, Section 10 of Chapter V titled “Other Offences and Punishments Thereof”, described the punishment for dissemination of offensive material as follows:

Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, whoever publishes, communicates or disseminates by any method – physical or electronic, any offensive material, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term of not less than one year which may extend to three years, and with fine which may extend to fifty thousand rupees.

The above law has been inserted into a dubious section of the bill, calling into question the qualifications of the drafting committee. If the Masuka law, which is the Minorities Suraksha Kanoon, ever comes into fruition, this law will stifle the freedom of speech and freedom of expression, which are so cherished by the liberal brigade.

We can only come to the conclusion that the Masuka bill may not even be enacted. Unless of course if the Congress comes back to power, then there is no doubt what is going to happen. The appeasement mentality of the Congress geared especially towards the minorities and the liberal media, is enough to secure this Minorities Suraksha Kanoon. In the meantime, one has to reflect on why the NCAML is deliberately creating a ruckus to gain publicity and instigating the Central government to act. All we can conclude is that this entire ‘Stop Mob Lynching’ brigade is creating a distraction from larger issues at hand, especially to do with the encroaching Islamic terrorist and Marxist problems in India. It would be wise if the Central government does not give much fuel to this burning fire.

I Am A Practising Hindu. My Single Most Concern For India Is…

I am writing this post today as a practising Hindu, grateful to be from a well-to-do-yet-middle-class family in Singapore. I recently read an article written by Rana Ayyub, a left ‘liberal’ and ‘secular’ journalist from New Delhi. I have been contemplating for some time to write a reply to her, but I have decided against it. I would rather give an alternative viewpoint to the issues raised by her in her article, which were mostly just rantings of an ungrateful Indian Muslim living in India.

Like Rana did in the introduction paragraph of her article, it is impossible for me to provide you a proud gist of how great Hinduism is and the number of intellectuals, philosophers, scientists, poets, yogis, social reformers, and teachers it has produced. Frankly, a book needs to be written on it, as there is not enough space here. But sure, let us talk about Islam, because the single most concern I have for India is the rise of Islam and Islamic terrorists in India. The root of all problems that India is facing today is only because of Islam, the politics played in the name of Islam and the lives taken in the name of Islam.

As a teacher of Sanatana Dharma, I will not personally attack anyone for their views. I am no enemy to freedom of expression and freedom of speech. Rana is free to express herself and her views in any way whatsoever. However, truth is always one and two contradictory statements cannot be true at the same time. Being a practising Muslim and being a ‘liberal and secular’ person is impossible, if the words of the Quran were to be entirely taken into account. If Rana’s claim that she is a liberal and secular person were true, then she is not a practising Muslim in the true sense. The real practising Muslims are actually in the Lal Masjid of Pakistan. Maybe Rana should go and take a look at how devotedly they are practising Islam at the Lal Masjid. If she were a sensible liberal and secular person, she would see the fallacies in her reasoning.

Being liberal is akin to being open to changes. In this sense, the Quran and its teachings are already very restrictive, and none of which can be reformed or changed for the betterment of the society and to keep up with the changing times. For example, many communities around the world are more accepting of the homosexuals and transgenders today. However, these same people face significant death threats within their own Muslim community. Therefore, for a Muslim, it is impossible for him or her to be a devout practising Muslim and at the same time accept that the homosexuals of his or her own Muslim community have the right to live, pray and marry.

Likewise a practising Muslim cannot be secular as well. Secular Muslims have often identified that they do not pray five times a day, they do not read the Quran that often, and they do not spend much time in the Mosque. Frankly, many Muslims around the world are not really practising the five basic tenets of Islam at all! In fact, they cannot be referred to as practising Muslims at all! Likewise, Rana cannot be a practising Muslim, just because she claims that she is secular at the same time. The real practising Muslims today are the ones waging the Jihad, and some of them can be found in the Lal Masjid in Pakistan, the country that Rana so lovingly praises whenever she gets the chance.

Unlike Islam, Hinduism does not divide the world into believers and disbelievers. This is the utmost crucial distinction between Islam and Hinduism that makes all the difference between a rigid and cruel religion that condemns the disbelievers to eternal damnation, and a dynamic, pluralistic, and liberal religion like Hinduism. Take for example the Quran (commentary by Muhammad Ali) verse 4.144 below:

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Allah will severely chastise the disbelievers and will reward the believers. The believers should rather be friends with the believers only. Outwardly they may seem to like the disbelievers, but inwardly, they hate them. This is the view of the Quran, the Holy Book that Rana claims to read fervently during the month of Ramadan, and that which she claims teaches her compassion and empathy for the poor and the down-trodden (as long as they are believers too).

This divisive mentality of the Quran can also be found within the Muslims, when they put the religion first ahead of their country, India. This is because their allegiance is more towards Muslim countries where Islam is predominantly practised and where Islam was born. How can they show allegiance to a country that has given birth to idol-worshippers like us? This is why people like Rana praise Pakistan, whenever they get the opportunity to do so, and it shows how they inwardly hate India and the increasing saffronisation of India. By any small chance, even if they do profess their patriotism towards India, it becomes really hard to trust them. Especially when ISI is rampant in India, and they are literally showing what true practising Muslims really look like.

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India flourished when Sanatana Dharma was the only way of living for its indigenous population. For India to flourish again, Islam must go. In fact, all foreign faiths must go. This is the only way India can step into another Golden period. Sensible people will eventually agree that Sanatana Dharma is the only religion that makes perfect sense. For India to prosper and survive, Dharma must spread, and only Dharma will win eventually.

Anti-Hindu Agenda of India Today!

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Indian National media houses these days are spewing so much hatred towards Hindus and Hindu mythology, that it is becoming a norm. The Leftist so-called intellectuals are feeling threatened by the rise of Hindu Rightist intellectuals, and they are ready to be paid to write crap about a subject whose depth they have hardly understood. This is what we Hindu Intellectuals call “presstitution” and we will fight with words that follow the rules of Vak Tapas (austerity of speech); namely satyam (truth), priyam (pleasantness) and hitam (usefulness). Because unlike the pseudo-intellectual leftists, we do not spew harsh words that provide nothing useful and do not stand the test of truth.

India Today published an article on 15 June 2017, titled “8 dads from Hindu mythology we are glad we don’t have”. The article starts with justifying that there are bad examples of fatherhood even in ancient Greek culture and Christianity. But the authors conveniently miss out the worst example of a father who invented the religion called “Islam”, Prophet Mohammad. After allocating just one small paragraph in acknowledging the lack of good fatherhood examples in other religions and cultures, the rest of the article is completely dedicated to dehumanising, degrading and distorting the Hindu “mythology”.

The authors’ understanding of the Puranas and Itihasas is rudimentary and juvenile. They could have just left a single bibliography at the end of the entire article, quoting just the Amar Chitra comics. Let us take the first dad quoted by the authors as an example. The authors mention that Dushyanth (actually it is Dushmantha as per the text, but the geniuses renamed our dad-hero) and Shakuntala fell in love and got married as per the Gandharva ritual. Would the authors care to explain what rituals are involved in a Gandharva marriage? The authors also mention that Shakuntala was cursed by Sage Durvasa. Hope they have a proper Sanskrit verse to quote this detail, but I doubt they would find Sanskrit verses of the Mahabharatha in Amar Chitra Kathas. There is no single reference to Shakuntala being cursed by Sage Durvasa in the Mahabharatha. Neither did the King Dushmantha forget who is Shakuntala. The King has a primary duty towards his subjects and he cannot let any unknown woman to claim that the child belongs to him. The Gandharva form of marriage is devoid of any proper rituals and is not the best recommended form of marriage, also it is not denied for Kshatriyas. The marriage between Dushmantha and Shakuntala happened in the form of mutual and consensual sex, in secret, without the knowledge of the public. Therefore, the King Dushmantha had to publicly challenge Shakuntala to prove herself, despite knowing and remembering her involvement in his life. Shakuntala also clearly owned up to the decision she made in consenting to marry and accept Dushmantha as her husband, and she was determined to go to any lengths to make true the promise Dushmantha made to her before they had consensual sex. The promise being that the son born to both of them, Bharatha as we know now, will be the heir-apparent. She also succeeded in her endeavour. I would say that Dushmantha was a great father and a great ruler! He acted according to Dharma and he also upheld the reputation of Shakuntala and Bharatha.

I can go on to refute every single narrative that the “geniuses” have presented in this article, but I would rather not waste time when there are bigger fishes to fry.

The Leftist “intellectuals” will go to any lengths to smear the meaning of Hinduism. Their knowledge of Hinduism is forever limited and will remain limited because they do not take efforts in studying about Hinduism from the correct Hindu Scholars. Instead they rely on the likes of Sheldon Pollock, Wendy Doniger, Devdutt Pattnaik and the likes of Amar Chitra Kathas for gaining knowledge in Hinduism, conveniently avoiding true Hindu Panditas and Shrotriyas like Swami Dayananda Saraswati (Arsha Vidya), Swami Sathyanarayana Dasa (Jiva Institute) and Dr David Frawley.  It is because of their lack in this discrimination of what constitutes true knowledge, they end up employing hermeneutics of derision. The end result is the perversion of what they refer to as Hindu mythology, which is not even a mythology in the first place!

 

Bharat Mata Ki Jai – A Reply to Sanjukta Basu

With immense amount of respect, I bow down to Bharatha, my punya bhumi and my janma bhumi, the land of Vedic civilization, which has been the only civilization that referred to the world as one huge family; “Vasudeiva Kutumbhakam”.

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Recently someone commented on my social media profile that “Hindutva” needs more women like me. My reply was simple: “If believing that #Bharat is punya bhumi, and if following #SanatanaDharma makes me a Hindutva, then yes I am. But I don’t like labels.”

Terms such as “Hindutva”, “right-wing”, and “nationalist”, are all new to me as I am also pretty new to the Twitter world. I never realized that what I have been thinking, being and practicing is being labelled as such. But as I said, I do not prefer to label myself as a “right-wing” or as a “nationalist”. I give importance to truth and only truth. I give importance to reason and knowledge. Trying to fit me under labels may give others a sense of comfort, but I simply do not care.

Despite having moved to my karma bhumi, Singapore, where I have lived since 1996, I have always felt that India is my janma bhumi and my punya bhumi. Despite the distance between me and my motherland, I find it hard to digest when someone is very unappreciative and ignorant about their own land. It boils my blood to see so-called intellectuals, Lutyen’s media, presstitutes such as Sanjukta Basu cry out loud on why they will not say “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”.

Sanjukta, I have been watching you tweet for some time now. I see the harsh words you spew in your twitter feed, and I see the way you try to pull cheap publicity stunts by calling out on the freedom of expression utilized by actors like Raveena Tandon. I am younger than you, but I can tell from reading your blog, that you have lived a life of seeking outwards for happiness, with no shine of positivity or goodness from within. Otherwise you would not be spewing such hatred and venom in your twitter feed.

Somewhere, somehow, it seems like you have lost your bearing, and that you have lost the rational part of your mind. You have such a skewed view of feminism as expressed in Hinduism. Your idea of a woman adorned in a saree is that she has been “domesticated”. Your idea of liberalism and feminism is that of a jeans and a t-shirt. Your idea of Hinduism and “Hindu Rashtra” is that in which women will be “controlled”, “subjugated” and “forced to breed” many children for the propagation of a Hindu nation. As I type out these words, I cannot believe that I am writing about a TED Fellow, a writer and a photographer. For someone as talented as you are, I simply cannot believe you can be this dumb!

Please watch her TEDx talk here before reading further. Just for laughs!

My issue is not with how Sanjukta looks, nor the way she delivered her talk on TEDx. My issue is only with the content of her talk and her article on Huffington Post, pertaining to the issue of Nationalism and Feminism.

The image of the Bharatha Mata with a lion, a trident, and adorned in a saree with gold ornaments is a narrow representation of India, according to Sanjukta. Isn’t a mother (mata) someone who nurtures you, who provides you food, who provides you knowledge and provides you sustenance? Likewise, the punya bhumi has nurtured you, and provided you food, knowledge and sustenance. We therefore equate Bharatha to the status of mother. Isn’t that why we call it our “motherland”? So, representation and imagery is not the issue here. There is clearly an issue of wrong equivalency, to which Sanjukta has not given much thought.

Apparently, this particular Shankaracarya and that particular BJP MP have said something in the lines of how many children women should have in order to increase the number of Hindus in India! Propaganda media stories are the sole source of information for Sanjukta, which she uses to portray the idea that Hinduism is severely harsh on the women folk, treating them as objects of reproduction and nothing more. In today’s world, she has this notion that women can be controlled, as though they will willingly submit themselves to the cause of Hindu Nationalism. So she uses this narration to discourage women from chanting “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”. How much more ludicrous can this sound? There is no papacy and there is no force used in Hinduism. Who is this Shankaracarya and who is this MP to dictate how men and women should behave? Are their statements substantiated by the Vedas? Sanjukta’s argument is very silly, not properly substantiated, and I really thought she would be more matured for her age and background.

“Hyper-nationalized images of Bharatha Mata strip women of their individual identity and reduce them to objects of patriotic, communal and national gratification.” This is like saying that the imagery of Goddess Parvati, Goddess Lakshmi or Goddess Saraswati, strip women of their individual identity and reduce them to objects of gratification. This cannot get more absurd. In the imagery of Bharatha, the “motherhood” is emphasized. Motherhood is seen akin to Godliness, which is translated to patriotism. What can be communal about motherhood? Is it communal if I see India as my “motherland”?

Comparison of “cow worship”, “yoga, “surya namaskar” to saluting the Indian flag, standing up for the Indian National Anthem, saying “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, and equating both categories to “rituals”, is beyond understanding. Sanjukta has transcended all of us and she is living in a planet called “La La Land”! She denigrates Nationalism to just a performance of saluting to the flag and singing National Anthem. Then isn’t this statement questioning the sovereignty of the Nation? Isn’t this against the Constitution of India?

Nationalism is born out of the notion that we should be a free and distinct nation, governed without any interference from external influences. Nationalism is geared by the recognition of a common identity, not by the recognition of ownership of the land. No land is ever truly owned by anyone. There is only common identity that binds us as One Nation, One India. We are bound together by our cultural heritage and spiritual richness of our Vedic civilization. Anybody who denies this does not truly share the common identity of Indians. It is as simple as that! You may be a Muslim or a Christian in India today, but your cultural roots are always from the Vedic civilization. Truth does not hurt, it liberates!

I am well aware that people like Sanjukta should not be dignified with a response. But if I did not put my opinion and my response out there, there will be many Sanjuktas today blindly following each other and refusing to say something as simple as “Victory and glory be to Mother India”! At the end of the day, a feminist narrative of pro-Nationalism should also be out there for people like Sanjukta, who would never be able grasp the notion of a “Vaidika Feminist” and “Hindutva”. But hey! I do not like labels! 🙂

Being childfree

(Update on 1 August 2018: Recently, my thoughts about children have changed. I’m not sure if it is the age I’m in right now (30) or what else, but I can’t get rid of the thought that if I had married when I was 25 or even 28, I would have a small child right now (or maybe not, given the mentality I had at that age). I seem to be yearning for a kid of my own. I don’t know if I will be a good mum, but I do want to be a mum, whether I give birth to a child or I adopt a child, regardless, I have motherly feelings bubbling inside me, occasionally. I cannot seem to explain why. Revisiting this post, I thought of removing it, but I am leaving it here, with this update. So remember, that the post below were my thoughts since I was 25 years old.)

Children are a bunch of fascinating tiny human beings. They are indeed fun to hang with, as long as they remain cute. I have my share of fun with my friends’ kids, relatives’ kids, and kids in public. I admire their adorable and innocent nature. Having said that, I have never ever felt ‘maternal’, not even once.

My sister came along in my life when I was 10 years old. I have sort of ‘raised’ her since young. I have seen how much my mum had to change her life, being the sole care-giver while my dad was busy at work, around my sister’s waking and sleeping habits.

Bringing up a baby is no small matter. I firmly believe that a child needs 100% attention of the primary care-giver, be it the mother or the father, for at least the first 7 years of his/her life. This means being a stay-at-home mum or dad. Well, who am I kidding, it is usually the mum right? When you bring a child into this world, you are not just a parent, you are a trustee. God has granted you the trust of taking care of His child. The child is, strictly speaking, not your property. So your responsibility is the proper upbringing of the child, and this demands your full attention.

The decision to have a child, is therefore, a conscious choice. It cannot be seen as an obligation. Usually society expects you to have a child as soon as you have tied the knot, let alone an Indian society, in which expectations are even higher. The idea that all women are ‘maternal’ and all women want to have children is taken so much for granted, that there is no room to reject this notion entirely. If you do, then you are labelled as being a ‘child-hater’, ‘arrogant’ and ‘feminist’.

In Indian societies, motherhood is glorified akin to divinity and romanticised heavily. There is nothing wrong with this. However, the notion that only motherhood ‘completes’ a woman is erroneous. The truth is that some women have really good ‘maternal’ feelings and wishes, while there are some who do not feel the same. Motherhood is an attitude; it is not a status to attain, neither does it have anything to do with a biological relation. There are many mothers in this world who do not necessarily have ‘maternal’ or motherly feelings, and yet they are good care-providers to their kids and their family.

I have very briefly touched on this issue of being childfree back in 2007. I had strong feelings about this issue 10 years back, and I am glad to say that my thoughts have not changed at all. People might think that if not today, one day I will want to have children. My views have not changed for 10 years, and I am sure they will never change again. I would rather spend the time in my life focusing on things I want to achieve and things that I am passionate about. I would rather sponsor the education and upbringing of orphaned kids than have my own. I would rather travel around the world and write books. I would rather start-up a small business that I am passionate about. There are so many things in life that you strive for, and kids are a very small part of it.

The choice of being childfree after marriage also applies to men, because men too have societal expectations of becoming a father. However, it seems unfair that when men declare that they do not want to have kids, they are treated less harshly than women. The burden of the decision to be childfree seems to be falling entirely on women these days.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, we all want to live a happy life, doing what we want to do and what we feel passionate about. People who decide to be childfree by choice, or are childfree by nature or if they decide to have children a little later; all of them deserve to be happy in their life, regardless of the choices they make. It will do a lot of good if we all keep a mirror in our pockets to remind ourselves that we should look in our own mirror first before we point and judge other men and women for the choices they make.

 

New-age gurus and cults

Have you ever been in a cult? So much so that you have never realised that it is a cult? It gives you an amazing feeling to be in the presence of “like-minded” people and a charismatic “guru”. I have been through one, albeit for only a short period of a few weeks.

I attended the Youth Empowerment Skills program of the Art of Living while I was in NUS. This was organised in collaboration with the NUS Hindu Society, of which I was the Vice President at that time. So naturally, I was not averse to trying it out, as it was also provided at a discounted price. We did surya namaskars, pranayama exercises and various other games and activities. The program was a success and I came out of it thinking that I made some new friends with whom I really enjoyed spending time.

We decided to keep in touch even after the 5-day program was completed and so we met every Wednesday evenings to continue doing our pranayama sadhana. During my first Wednesday meeting, the leader of the group announced very enthusiastically that “His Holiness” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar will be coming to Singapore for an event he will be hosting. I witnessed at first hand how happy and excited everybody there was to hear this news and the energy in that room at that moment was unbelievable.

The leader then started talking about ticket prices to attend that event and to see Sri Sri. It was at that moment I realised what I had previously noticed before and had not even given a second thought about. Thank God for my skeptical mind, I came out of it as soon as I realised that the people I have befriended were more enamoured by the teacher rather than the teaching. Even today I wonder why it was initially very attractive to me. The moment they started talking about donations and more money towards attending an event just to get a glimpse of their “Swamiji”, it was enough to open my eyes.

I am a happy person. I am naturally in-built to see the positive side of things all the time. I have accepted this as the truth in my life. Oh vey! Even my blood group is B+! So I imagine if the cult had this much effect on me, then what would happen to people who are in a sad and depressed state and are finding for an avenue to search some answers? How much they will be easily manipulated by such cults?

I call these groups like the Art of Living, Nityananda Sangha, and Isha Foundation as cults, because that is what they are! Just take a look at the characteristics of a cult:

  • The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and his/her beliefs and system are taken to be the Truth. (Every time they said something about Sri Sri’s method of pranayama, they used many reasons to justify it. Not only that. Each and every sentence was in praise of Sri Sri.) 
  • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even looked down upon. (The general tone in the room was of total contentment and agreement to whatever the youth leader was saying. None of them raised any questions against Sri Sri, although other questions were easily welcomed.)
  • Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s). (This is very true and it is seen happening in many of the cult-like groups I mentioned above. The devotee believes that he/she is well-taken care of by the cult leader through practising these meditation/chanting techniques, while at the same time paying loads of money to the organisation.)
  • The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, to marry or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth). (We see this happening too, in the Nithyananda Sangha amongst their permanent residents of their Adeenam. Their livelihood is dictated by the rules set in the ashram, but they fail to see that they are just part of a large corporate structure, which is money-hungry.)
  • The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members. (Nithyananda considers himself the Avatar of Super-Consciousness. What else is there to say?)
  • The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society. (The moment you join a cult disguised as a self-help group or a religious organisation, your family and friends may not like and may even discourage you from continuing in it. The cult instils this feeling of you versus your family/friends, and isolates you from your close circle. This way, it will be easier for them to manipulate you.
  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members and making more money. (This is self-explanatory.)
  • The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group. (The so-called “withdrawal symptom” I felt when I decided to get out of AOL and sever connections with AOL members was a sense of “emptiness”. The daunting feeling of “what’s next”. I am sure this feeling will be more intense the longer you stay within a cult.)

I have come to abhor these religious organisations that are centered on a “guru”, who seemingly has no solid and proven sampradaya (or unbroken line of student-teacher tradition) to back them up. Although the teacher may be well-meaning, what is then the need for widespread marketing campaigns, over-priced meditation programs, and solicitation of celebrities and other VIPs into the organisation?

There are many appeasers and apologetics among the so-called “devotees” of these new-age gurus. One has to scrutinise every single detail before concluding the truth. Instead, excuses are often made solely on the basis of a blind faith and trust held on the “guru” personality.

Take “His Holiness Swami Paramahamsa” Nithyananda as an example. It is very important to note that the court proceedings against Nithyananda have not been quashed, as claimed by many of his followers. It has never been resolved yet because on 6 February 2017, the Supreme Court of India stayed the start of the trial proceedings noting that “a number of significant documents favouring Swami Nithyananda had been wantonly suppressed by the investigating authorities and that proceeding with the trial without these critical evidences would be unjust.” This most likely means that the evidence has been somehow mysteriously tampered with and most probably lost forever. Although Nithyananda’s followers are ecstatic about this news, we rational-minded Hindus should be well-aware that justice has only been delayed but not yet delivered. Truth will prevail at the end.

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Are new age gurus causing more harm than good? Are we too satisfied that they are involved in philanthropic activities, that we are willing to close one eye even if a small detail about their largely hidden scandal is exposed to the world? Are we questioning the authority by which a guru can claim himself to be a living avatara (or incarnation) of God, other than his own experiences that he has written about on his website? Are we even taking efforts to check and authenticate the stories concocted by these so-called “gurus”, before we take greater efforts in getting enrolled into one of their 10,000-dollar programs?

Let me give you an exercise. Compare the following two religious organisations using the information provided in their websites. Using your God-given discriminating capabilities, are you able to authenticate which of the two is belonging to an established sampradaya? Are you able to tell which of the two has a genuine interest in the betterment of yourself? Are you able to see for yourself, which of the two is money-minded?  Are you able to identify which of the two is guru-centric instead of being knowledge-centric?

Website 1: http://www.nithyananda.org

Website 2: https://arshavidya.org