These are words of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus. For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life characterized by the absence of pain and fear, and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. He taught that pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and bad, that death is the end of the body and the soul and should therefore not be feared. He also said that gods do not reward or punish humans, that the universe is infinite and eternal, and that events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space.
Not many of us in India think along these lines we are brought up in an environment where Gods and Godmen have had a special place. I still remember the numerous stories my grandmother used to tell me based on Mahabharata, Ramayana, and the Gita. All these stories had the same theme: “Triumph of good over evil.” Nobody told me what was good or evil, and I was never bothered to ask. I was told that Godmen represent God, so as I grew up with a respect for anyone in khavi (orange robes) or the sanyasi robes.
Soon that respect turned to anger when I started to feel that in the name of God the Godmen were cheating innocents.With time and experience my anger changed to amazement. I could not believe that a person could pose as God and so many people could believe it.
In fact, going by today’s scenario, the “Babas” would easily be among the richest people in the country. Recently, in the span of a week, four Babas were arrested from God’s own country, Kerala. “Swami Amrita Chaithanya” was arrested on charges of fraud and possession of pornographic CDs. The police carried out the raid on his 16-suite ashram after a Malayalam weekly established, in an expose, that Chaithanya and Santosh Madhavan were the same person, and wanted by Interpol.
Swami Himaval Bhadrananda, a college-dropout-turned-faith healer was booked by the Kochi police for using a beacon light on his car and trespassing into a local newspaper office and threatening journalists. Bhadrananda is out on bail now after he staged a suicide drama in jail to protest his innocence. The swami claims to have predicted the tsunami and Chikungunya outbreak.
In spite of hearing about so many allegations against these Babas, people go to them, worship them, and call out to them in the time of need. The sheer volume of devotees, and the donations made in their name makes one wonder what Maya is causing the thousands to throng to these Godmen. I call these Babas the “Little Gods.” The people have fallen for the gimmicks. The Little Gods use mechanisms such as mass prayers, grand poojas, pulling fruits, holy ash, and statues out of thin air, and predicting vague catastrophic events to get the crowd’s attention. The acts can be so convincing that many start to believe that the Little Gods are indeed divine. An increase in the number of followers increases the Babas’ popularity. The Babas respond with bigger and more-convincing acts, and thus the cycle repeats.
Some neighbors of mine are ardent devotees of a local Godwoman. Now this Godwoman has been in our locality for quite some time. She used to go on a frenzy and dance around the place yelling unintelligibly. Then came the pattern—she begun to get these “fits” on the third Tuesday of every month. I still remember as a child, my friends and I used to go there to see the fun. Today she has a mansion with a separate temple and hundreds of devotees who come to see the “divine happening.”When I spoke out against this, my parents and neighbors said, “Oh no! What’s happened to you nowadays? You never pray, and you speak against God…”
I am not against God. I am just against the Little Gods who call themselves manifestations and make a living out of it.
I am against people who can offer money, gifts, and food to the God men, but would not spare a thought, forget a penny, for the needy.
I am against the people who do all they want, and then pray and say God will forgive their sins.
I am against people who do nothing and blame everything on God.
I have always believed in God. God is life, energy, music, and the passion with which we associate ourselves. God is in us, guiding us in what to do and what not to. It’s up to us to accept the guidance and strive to make lives better, or just blindly follow others and hope our lives will become better.
I recollect a quote from a movie in which the protagonist tell his friend that God exists in all of us, and when all realize that, the world will be a better place to live in.
Dinesh Menon is a software engineer and a freelance blogger. He lives in Chennai, India.