Friday, April 28, 2017

Holy crap!

Growing up in India, I have met and interacted with many 'holy' people, since my mom, out of fear and desperation, sought out those who promised that their influence with the Gods would make desirable things happen. I still remember 'Sami ma'. Mom would travel great distances to go meet her. I went once. She was this middle aged lady with visible health problems- overweight, arthritic ... she'd sit down and start rubbing the floor with one hand, murmuring some chant. In the end, she'd open her hand and reveal a palmful of holy ash.
Many questions ran through my mind when I saw this-
Isn't that a fairly simple magic trick?
How can a holy person have health problems? What influence, exactly, do you have with the divine, if you cannot even help yourself, for something as material as the flesh?
Why do you need money from other people if you have truly renounced desire?
If you are God's child, and so is everyone else, why do you allow people to bow to you? Or else, why don't you bow to them too? And fall at their feet like they do?

This last bit is what especially enrages me when I see it on TV. It's not a matter of pride- I understand that falling at a person's feet is a matter of interpretation. Even at its spiritual best; as a gesture of acknowledgment of the divine, why is it one sided? Why do these so called holy people set themselves apart? To sit on a higher dais or chair, to allow themselves to be anointed with perfumed concoctions, flowers, prayers...

Here is an excerpt from an article written by journalist Manu Joseph-
"There is a spiritual movement among the urban affluent to understand life through a guru who is differently dressed but is not expected to do magic. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has filled this slot through entrepreneurial brilliance.
A few years ago I interviewed him at a Malabar Hill house (of course). On the floor were seated Vinod Khanna, Nagma and others like them. On a throne was Sri Sri. I was supposed to interview him in front of his devotees, some of the most influential people of Bombay. As I sat in a chair facing Sri Sri, there were gasps. I was expected to sit on the floor (a journalist before me indeed had sat that way). But then I am such a boor."

I'm not going to go into the debate of why an all powerful entity requires a flesh born mouthpiece. Let's let that one slide. Say you are a channel, a divine messenger- won't that make you even more aware of His design, His creation of all things equal, ahem, including you? 

And the people! The people! What do you really believe, if you can fall at the feet of a fellow man and believe he will make things happen for you? What kind of God do you hold in your heart, if He favors a few above others and lets them perform the miracles that he denies to you? Why is your faith so shallow and unthinking? 

If I saw an enlightened person, I'd be inspired by them. To better myself, to do more to uplift my wisdom and awareness. I cannot imagine anything more pathetic than to grab at their feet and pray fervently that some of their energy will rub off on me simply by physical contact and desperate prayer. Where is the personal responsibility in that? The basic lesson - to face one's good fortunes and bad with the knowledge of one's own will power and force of thought? 

My mom never asked Sami ma the most important questions- What is happiness? What is my purpose? How can I attain peace? Like most followers, she just wanted to know when she'd get her desires fulfilled. Don't give me knowledge, just the outcomes. It took years of being duped for her to finally realize the truth. I watched with horror when a Saibaba picture made its way into the puja room, to be adorned with flowers and lamps. "Who are you praying to, ma? What is he?" I wanted to scream. It's gone now. I'm glad. 

What a beautiful thing faith is, when you think about it. It's like trust. Like handing your child over to your best friend and saying, 'Take care of her for a day.' It's a kind of peace. And like most things, it can be bastardized. A man or woman can rise up, tweak their appearance, say wise words and just like that, can command the faith of thousands. 

If you want to find a truly holy person, here's how you can recognize one. He'll say just two words- 'question everything'.

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