Friday, April 2, 2010

A Bad Month for Indian Holy Men

March 2010 proved to be a bad month for holy men in India. At the beginning of the month one of these gurus was arrested and charged with running a brothel in Delhi. I guess being a holy man wasn't paying well enough or something, and sure enough, the brothel was bringing in the cash.

Media predicts that Shiv Myra Dwivedi earned $10 million [£6.5 million] from the racket, but local media reports said his earning could have reached more than ten times that figure. Shiv Myra Dwivedi alias Ram Murat Dwivedi alias Rajiv Ranjan Dwivedi called himself Ichchadhari Sant Swami Bhimanand Ji Maharaj 'Chitrakoot waale' and claimed to be a disciple of Sai Baba.

Police said Mr. Dwivedi, who boasts a religious following of more than 100,000, was arrested with another alleged pimp and seven prostitutes, including one British Airways and another Indian airlines flight attendant. According to sources, two of them are air-hostesses, one an Masters of Business Administration student and the fourth an aspiring Bollywood actress. The girls are aged between 22 and 25 years. The accused supplied sex workers in Delhi. This included clients who flew down to Delhi and stayed in five star hotels.

Indian police are also looking for a prominent astrologer named Siddesh who is charged with kidnapping and raping an underage girl. This goes to show how dangerous perceived spiritual authority can be in the hands of a truly psychopathic individual.

“It is only since a year that we know Siddesh . We did not suspect him. He often took my daughter to Mastamma Devi temple at Jogimatti,” said the girl’s father. The traumatised girl who is undergoing treatment at the district hospital told Deccan Herald that after her father dropped her at the school, she came out to buy a pencil from a shop, when she was pulled into an auto, gagged and taken to some place.

“Siddesh, who was there said he would marry me. They made me wear a red sari, bangles and perform pooja. There were four more men along with Siddesh. I did not know any of them. They gave me some sedative and raped me.”

Now running a brothel constitutes a criminal enterprise in most parts of the world and rape is just plain heinous and awful, so I think it should be clear that there's nothing holy about the spiritual leaders involved first two cases. This last one, though, strikes me as a different matter entirely.

At the end of March another holy man, Nithyananda Swami, resigned as the head of his spiritual center following the release of a videotape showing him "frolicking" with two women.

Video footage allegedly showing Nithyananda Swami - head of Dhyanapeetam, or 'knowledge centre' - frolicking with two women angered hundreds of devotees so much that they tried to ransack his centre outside the southern city of Bangalore this month.

The 32-year-old has denied any links to the women and said the tapes were doctored, but the police are investigating whether he has 'outraged religious feelings' and have asked people to come forward with evidence.

Now if the women were somehow coerced that would be one thing, but the information in the article suggests nothing of the sort. I'm continually disappointed by people of many religious traditions around the world who seem to have the idea that sexuality is incompatible with spiritual realization. In fact, in my experience it's the other way around - denying part of your fundamental nature is to divide consciousness rather than exalt it. This strikes me as the pathway to spiritual failure, not enlightenment or metanoia or whatever term your tradition uses for spiritual realization. I know that I would rather have a guru who has a positive attitude toward his or her sexuality rather than one who considers it debased or evil.

UPDATE: A month after stepping down as the head of his spiritual center, Nithyananda Swami has been arrested and presumably charged with the aforementioned "outraging religious feelings." I'm guessing there are at least a few American religious figures caught in scandals over the last several years who are very glad we don't have that particular law here in the States.

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Gordon said...

A clean-up is definitely called for -especially in India. There are some really preposterous people making the most absurd claims.

Did you catch this article in the Times of London? "Sceptic challenges guru to kill him live on TV."

Scott Stenwick said...

No I hadn't seen that - it's pretty ridiculous.

Anybody who's cast a working death spell should know that they need to run for a couple of months in order to be effective. Even a month isn't usually long enough, let alone a couple of minutes. The fact that this guru thought otherwise marks him as profoundly ignorant.

Gordon said...

Yep, yep. Hence India being in dire need of a shake up of its guru economy.

Finding spiritual guidance is difficult enough as it is. Throw charlatans in the mix and it's nigh on impossible.

Anonymous said...

Funny thing about that "Tantrik Challenge"... the guru who attempted to kill the skeptic on TV was supposedly a famous magician with many highly placed clients, yet no one seems to have heard of him before that event.

Try Googling for him. There are no pages with references to him prior to the date of that broadcast.

I tend to agree with the Satya Sai Baba people that the whole thing was probably a set-up by that "rationalist" group:

Scott Stenwick said...

That is suspicious, especially considering that it sounds like this supposed "Tantrik" wasn't even performing his spells correctly.

I don't know that it was necessarily a setup, but you're right that it could have been. It might also be the case that this individual was the only magician they could find who was willing to try, precisely because he was so ignorant of how such spells work.