Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Asaram Bapu and Gurukul Tradition


What an irony of fate! The day when the juvenile justice board announced its verdict on the infamous Nirbhaya assault case, another high profile case stormed the headlines. This time, the accused was not someone from the underprivileged section of the society, but a famous and popular man of religion - Asaram Bapu. This made me wonder, is there nothing sacrosanct anymore? Is there no one you can trust? Women are not safe at home, and now, they are not even safe in the abode of god! In Indian spiritual tradition, Guru is someone who guides the seeker towards God. Hindus are supposed to worship their Gurus with unwavering faith and devotion. If a disciple loses his / her faith in this sacred relationship with Guru, then the whole foundation of our belief system takes a tumble.
Asaram Bapu was a road side tea vendor, after which he was a driver of a horse driven coach, till he finally became a spiritual guru. Asaram Bapu has many followers and about four hundred ashrams all over India. Several boarding schools in Gurukul tradition are run by the trust created by Asaram Bapu. Financial worth of Asaram Bapu’s movable and immovable assets is considered to be in thousands of crores. But, for some time, Asaram Bapu and his ashram have been in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Charges of encroachment on government lands have been slapped on him in several states. Few young students were found missing and later discovered dead. Internal organs of young kids were found missing. However, Asaram Bapu and his group have come out unscathed from these complications. But, Asaram Bapu probably crossed the Lakshman Rekha, when the report of alleged sexual assault on a minor came to light. Bapuji had tried every trick in the book to avoid interrogation and arrest by police. This included his supporters trying to muzzle the press by beating up journalists outside one of his ashrams.
Hindusim in India has a vast spiritual tradition and very well developed disciplines for spiritual seekers. Hinduism suggests diverse methods to attain truth or God. One can renounce the world and become a sanyasin. But, renunciation can also be a state of mind. Without donning a saffron robe, one can still stay in society and perform regular roles and responsibilities, while being detached from all vagaries of life.
Hinduism does not proscribe amassing wealth. However, for a person seeking divinity, it is important to be certain about the intent. Is the wealth for personal aggrandizement or public good? Seers like Sri Rama Krishna could not bear the touch of money. On the other hand, Swami Vivekananda collected money to create Rama Krishna Math and Mission. It is only Asaram Bapu who will know what his intent is, to amass so much wealth!
Of different spiritual practices, many consider tantric practices to be inferior. A practitioner of tantra worships God as his lover. Consummation of relationship is considered to be an important ritual. Relationship that Asaram Bapu has been accused of could be part of such a practice, or it could be pure lust on part of an ageing guru. I do not know which one is worse!
I do not know if the charges against Asaram Bapu will remain or not. It may be possible that the family of the victim will withdraw all charges under inducement or duress. However, it is important to note that the sacred relationship between a disciple and his master has taken a beating for the worse. If as a seeker, one cannot have faith in his teacher, then the whole edifice of Gurukul tradition collapses, and in the end, Indian Gurukul is the loser.
Categories: Social
Tags: God, Guru, Gurukul, Hindu, Hinduism, Nirbhaya, Rama Krishna Math, Sri Rama Krishna, Swami Vivekananda,Asaram Bapu,Sanyasin

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