It’s a seasonal fact that every few months there’s some religious ‘leader’ or the other in the spotlight, romancing a peculiar colour of controversy. Just when Baba Ramdev was feeling lonely with all the love, a merry old cannon-mouthed man named Zakir Naik joined the hot hum of summertime news.
I belong to the tragic sort who follows nobody. A perpetual nomad; a pretty blissful one at that I’d say. While this gives me plenty of room to sit back and laugh at the comedy, it also affords the the kind of distance one would need to objectively look at the circuit of this circus.
Have we considered what is implied in following somebody, in being a ‘follower’? To feel a sense of being rewarded gives quite the kick. It is very pleasurable to belong to a group — religious, political or of any sort. When there is a religious leader at the eye of the cult, one has the feeling that one is party to a great work, a divine idea, and one must obviously be rewarded for the obedience, sincerity and sacrifices made towards the group. If not a reward in this sense, it could be the recognition that one has grown spiritually, become more advanced in the path to salvation. Or, like in a conventionally run organisation, one’s efficiency is applauded to stimulate one to perform better.
We live in a world where ‘success’ — whatever that means — is idolised. It is regarded as a self-advancement that is encouraged in all of us, right since we were born. Success in religious life has a peculiar aura to it, one that is quite above the secular successes of business, academics and the rest of it all. But I hope we see that the worship of success — namely of the religious type — leads to many ugly methods of exploitation. Do we see why? When it comes to questions of God, mysticism, spirituality, etc., — subjects which are inaccessible to the instrument of a logical mind — a person who comes along and says that he ‘knows’ and that he can ‘teach’ you to know as well places himself in a seat of authenticity which none of us can verify. How are we to know the truth of what he’s saying? So we submit our selves at the feet of this ‘authority’ and send our mind off on a fatal holiday. We become intellectual sheep, renouncing the facility to think and work things out for ourselves. We sport the words and ideas of the leader without chancing upon things on our own and in this whole affair we become second-hand human beings.
The day I decided not to bow before any gurus or Gods, I saw the ability to separate the sublime from the ridiculous and enjoy inspiration from the poet and the prophet, the guru and the goonda, the jester and janitor. Both the divine and the profane lent themselves to a much more serious engagement and learning.