Of sex swamis, lies and videotape

April 26, 2010

The recent scandals over two spiritual gurus have shaken the collective faith of their followers in India.

A sadhu holds a trident in New Delhi August 2, 2006. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/FilesThe sanctity of religions or the people’s faith is not being questioned but these controversies put the spotlight on the uniquely Indian phenomenon of mortals given the status of gods.

Cities across the country teem with astrologers, tarot card readers or some self-proclaimed guru. Saffron silk robes, turban cloth and rosaries are available off the shelves in plenty.

It’s an irony that some of these gurus are courting controversies such as sex rackets, money laundering and child trafficking.

Spiritual gurus in India draw millions of men, women and foreigners to help bring them on a divine path. And there’s no denying that they have done a lot of good work and helped alleviate the sufferings of their followers.

But those who have renounced the world and embraced asceticism are expected to be completely detached from wealth and worldly affairs.

Reports of some seers travelling by choppers, air-conditioned cars and loaded with gold and precious stones speak otherwise.

A recently leaked videotape showing Swami Nithyananda frolicking with a woman created a furore in south India. The policemen who went searching for Nithyananda found the footage was just the tip of an iceberg.

Another self-styled preacher, Swami Bhimanand, was caught running a prostitution racket at a plush location in New Delhi.

Many argue that faith is a matter of individual choice and it should be left entirely for people to decide.

This debate is timely as even faith in the West looks battered by shocking revelations of child abuse.

Does the fault lie with people who in a moment of crisis, make gods and goddesses of living men and women?

Many believe that men like Nithyananda, with an unimaginable following, are used as vote banks by politicians.

And that they are businessmen who run shops where ignorance and the desperation of gullible people are traded for wealth, power and crimes as heinous as sodomy and rape.

Where does the buck stop, particularly in a country where abject poverty and superstition transforms it into a breeding ground for such gurus?


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what most people forget is that these preachers and gurus use Ramayan,Gita and other holy scriptures as reference in thier doscourses but they forget teachings of holy scriptures and start following these so called gurus often at their own peril.

Posted by duasudhir | Report as abusive

Seems more like a combination of WEALTH and SUPERSTITION is the breeding ground, especially when you see succesful politicians, businessmen and even film actors bowing and scraping before these colourful characters. Preity Zinta felt the need to visit the tantric Chandraswami who raised a stink in the 90s, a newspaper reporterd. Why the heck?

Posted by VipulTripathi | Report as abusive

Nithyananda, in my opinion, has been one of the best exponents of the most poignant teachings of Hinduism, for a world audience. He has hundreds of YouTube videos on topics ranging from the Shiva Sutras, to the Yoga Sutras, to how advanced states of consciousness relate to normal day-to-day consciousness, and so on. Nithyananda’s videos promote Hinduism positively and clearly, in ways which may well cause non-Hindus to appreciate Vedic wisdom, when they otherwise might not have known of it at all. His videos also describe the ways anyone can reach fulfilled consciousness (enlightenment) more easily; not a small thing in today’s troubled world. And, ironically, Nithyananda not only committed not crime, he had a crime committed against him: a disgruntled disciple placed a hidden camera in his bedroom, to secretly video his activities. Police have not charged Nithyananda with any crime (a suit was filed by an offended person, but was quickly dropped by the court). He may or may not have violated monastic vows by having sex, but how many people really care about that? For the most part, only the most conservative people take issue with this. Nithyananda had temples and millions of followers worldwide, and now, it’s all gone, because an unethical person invaded his privacy. Some gurus may be true criminals; others, such as Nithyananda, are good teachers, brought down by small-minded detractors. Just some food for thought, possibly. Peace to all.

Posted by LiveAware | Report as abusive

In my view, both Nityanada and Media are using public for their own benefit. Let’s not be fools in believing neither of them. While nityananda is using public for his personal gains, media is publicizing it for increasing it’s viewership ratings.

Posted by chakravarthy | Report as abusive

@rohan Dua

Did the above swami cheat you ? Did you pay swami money and he absconded with your money? Did he publicly came out with a underwear and a model next to him in a swim suit (Like Bollywood actors and actresses)?

If you are a responsible journalist then first question all those who are publicly exposing their bare essentials and giving lip to lip kisses thereby spoiling the cultural fabric of India. Then you can write about swami’s.

Posted by chakravarthy | Report as abusive

I think there is a double standard here. This controversy started because the Swami was video taped with a woman which is an invasion of his privacy. But what he did is not a crime. At best it is a breach of trust.

What about what is going on in the Church in India? There are individuals who are facing serious criminal charges in the west still continuing to “serve” in India. When will arrest them and send them back to face trials?


Posted by IndiaFirstHand | Report as abusive

I believe that we (Indians) still are too prejudiced in our views on certain topics. We do say that the God-man is a cheat, but who made him the God-man?
Also if we look at one of our heritages – Khajuraho, we are the people who could see God in procreation and sex. So I am a bit confused here, if its us who are appreciating and spattering reputations of Swamis, we shd rather try and see the God within. Possibly that will provide us with the peace and make the world a better place too!

Posted by anishrb | Report as abusive

It is indeed very unfortunate that in the name of religion the so called sanyasis are abusing, laundering money and running rackets. It is a very materialistic world and a lot of people are in search of peace and happiness and looking for a guru to help them in their quest. The so called holy men are taking advantage of the situation.
There are very few real gurus or sanyasis in this world and people will be skeptical of them because of all the frauds.

Posted by pebbly | Report as abusive

Have you noticed in that Video Tape- the Actress was intentionally behaving this sex appeal and that was her intention also. This Case it seems, Nityananda is some what trappedd by the Actress. Anyhow as an Indian, we are ashamed of this incident. But You are trying to accuse him only. At the same time I couldnt find any case reported by your reporters from hundreds of similar incidents and rapesfrom churches & their hostals. Many murder cases were held in part of Prayers & Healing in their particular prayer Halls. Why you are keen on some cases and other cases get neglected? That should be come out and to be avoided in future.

Posted by RajeshRoshan | Report as abusive

This particular issue has its own Pros and cons. We have been inculcated the values, wherein we always respect and pay obedience to saffron clad people, and there are people who actually have enriched our lives with their blissful knowledge and work for the betterment for the people. Great personalities like Swami Vivekananda, not only preached but also made the Hindus proud by enlightening our culture and cultivating Yog in the form of Meditation. His recognition prevailed not only in India, but western countries also learned about Hinduism not only as a religion but as a culture. Even now, there are gurus, who help people for living their life on a spiritual path, with the teaching on perceiving life in a bigger manner. With this people are less stressed, and in a way we are able to control lot of Law and order issues, as sometime, it is easy to convince people to differentiate b/w good and bad in the form religious and nonreligious respectively. But when the same kinds of men depict them as GOD to people and spread superstitious things, they act as proxy for politicians for vote banks and do all illegal things in the shield of people’s belief; they not only diffuse ignorance, but also spoil the great essence of Hindu culture and its values.

Posted by Nishu_Enjay | Report as abusive