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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Celibacy and Sex Scandals

Sunday, March 21, 2010 at 9:20am

Sadly much of the abuse of vulnerable women and children comes from the very ones they trust; close relatives. Oddly the betrayal of trust comes from a few men of God, whom we trust. Shamefully, just a few religious men, like a few terrorists give a bad name to all of us men a majority of us are simply good people.

My comments are in reference to the article by Ram Punyani appended below, whom I have come to appreciate for over a decade for his rationality and thoughtfulness.

The purpose of all religions was to inculcate the values of Justness in humans, so all of us can live a secure life. Traditionally a few men have assumed the guardianship of the religion through their ill-knowledge of exploitation of the vulnerable. I want to make a point here; although Ram Punyani points out that the idea of celibacy has moorings in Hinduism, Buddhism and Catholicism with good intent.

According to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as you go to higher levels, body becomes insignificant and interest in sex is reduced to nothing, whereas Bhagvan Rajneesh Osho” argues that sex could be transcended only through experience.” Respectfully I ask both the men to consider following the middle path, instead of the obsession to deny oneself the God given pleasures or make it a focus of their life. What good will it serve? How does the society benefit from it?

Good Karma ought to be your actions that contribute towards creating a secure and peaceful society at large, which will ultimately bring the benefit to you when you are weak and vulnerable. The wisdom of religion, every religion incorporates that idea that your good is sustainable if the overall society’s construct is good. It is not the religion that commits adultery or abuses, it isthe men, not all, but a handful of them.

You and I need to take the responsibility to create safety and peace in our immediate vicinity again for our own good and for the good of others.

Freedom is the number one item on my list, as it may be a different one in your case. We need to develop a culture of freedom, freedom to speak without fear, a sense of security of oneself must be imbued in to both men and women. The women's movement has put a dent in the future of families, but not enough. This act of freedom can be exercised in the following ways (or more):

1. Question the Religious men, particularly those who flaunt religiosity. My father taught me a big lesson, if someone walks up to you and say that I will take care of it, the chances are he or she will. But if that person says, I am a good Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslims or a Buddhist… watch out. Good people don’t need to flaunt religion or hide under the mask of religion to have you trust them.

2. In every little way focus on raising the families or friends families on the values of fairness and justness without compromising the need to be assertive.

3. Question everything, including your own belief or what one dishes out to you. Not all want to mess with it, but if you do, do it wholeheartedly. Do not fear in respectfully questioning any one including the Imam, Rabbi, Pundit, Pastor, Shaman or the clergy.

Shamefully a few men, like a few terrorists give a bad name to all of us men. In discussion groups such as this one, don’t let the fear of bullies let you back down in discussions, they know that women don’t want to mess with the ugly ones and get their way. If you cannot stop it, why should you expect others to? Bullies do that to men as well.

Speak up, be yourselves

Mike Ghouse

Here is another good piece by Ram Punyani, whom I have been reading for nearly a decade.

Swamis, Celibacy and Sex Scandals

Ram Puniyani

Many a sex scandals related to Holy men have come to surface during last few weeks (March 2010). Its not that these are the first one’s to have been brought to social attention, such incidents have been coming to social notice time and over again. The present ones’ about Swami Nityanand and Ichhchadhari Baba (Bhimanand) have highlighted the same in a very intense fashion as these scandals are very blatant.

One recalls in recent history many such cases have startled the media and society, the allegation of a foreign writer about Satya Sai Baba, then allegations against Gurmeet Ram Rahim, Santosh Madhavan, happenings of the Kamkoti Peetham Shakarachrya are quite well known. From other religious traditions, one recalls the recent book by Sister Jesme (Story of a Nun) and the news that the Roman Catholic Church has sacked a priest accused of pedophilia as large number of complaints were coming forth in Germany from people who were abused as children. At another level the RSS pracharak (RSS pracharaks are to remain bachelors for political reasons) Sanjay Joshi had also to give up his political responsibility when a CD related to his sexual exploits came to surface.

In all these cases the underlying mechanisms are different. In Catholic establishment, to remain unmarried is the norm and many cases have come to light, which have shamed the establishment. The Hindu God-men are all ‘stand alone’ systems, not an organized Church. While comparing these may not be easy, what is common in these is that the organizations where members remain celibate to discharge their religiously or politically ordained duties, many of them do get tainted by the fall out of such acts.

What is different about the case of these God-men in particular is a deliberate misuse of their ‘spiritual attainments’ to indulge in carnal pleasures, under the guise of spirituality, to the extent of running sex rackets in association with those in power. Here is the case of gross abuse of faith to the extent of deliberately setting up a situation to exploit the women devotees. The methods used by the swamis are diverse. This should come under a serious crime not only at legal but also at social level to ensure that such gross abuse of faith is brought under serious scanner.

As such the concept of celibacy in many a religious orders had a spiritual base in the noble idea of renunciations and transcending of the physical pleasures to attain the higher spiritual platform. The religious Gurus have been of different types as for as celibacy is concerned. In early India there were renouncers as well as those who led a family life. Patanjali stated “swa-ang jugupsa, parai asansargah’, meaning that with increasing spiritual insights, with mind achieving higher truth, apathy for physical body comes in. This is what is supposed to have made celibacy the path to sanyas. Celibacy, Brahmcharya has been highly respectable in sections of society.

After 8th century celibacy was taken to exalted levels into Hindu tradition by Shankara, while he was leading the battle of Hinduism against Buddhism. To attack Buddhism he adopted various concepts from Buddhism itself, e.g. the concept of renunciation of material wants, celibacy included. Today the idea of celibacy is prevalent mainly in Buddhism, sects of Hinduism and amongst Catholic priests. These three have base in religious traditions. For much different reasons, mainly political one’s, organization like RSS has also brought this in for its propagators.

Patanjali’s argument is repeated by modern God-man, Sri Sri Ravishaker. According to him as you go to higher levels, body becomes insignificant and interest in sex is reduced to nothing. There have been dissenting note from within the stable of God-men itself. The major such voice was that of Osho, Bhagwan Rajneesh. He argued that sex could be transcended only through experience; this was what he preached and penned down in his book, Sambhog se Samadhi (From Sex to Superconciousness).

These semi philosophical outpourings apart, the biological compulsions have always accompanied the celibates and the scandals have kept popping out from such institutions and individuals, telling us that these sexual escapades are a rule than an exception. It may be in the form of child abuse, same sex relationships to downright cunning methods indulged by God-men to trap the women on the pretext of their ‘spiritual’ pursuits. Different philosophical sounding arguments are dished out to the unsuspecting laity.

From last few decades these incidents are coming more to the surface as the phenomenon of God-men has mushroomed all around. This phenomenon is an accompaniment of the existential anxieties of the globalized world, the razor edge competitive era, where cut throat competition at work place, heightened consumerism and moving upward in the scale of financial earning is the only index of one’s success. The need for emotional succor is leading to the rise of the industry of God-men.

The God-men, belong to many categories, each having his-her own entrepreneurial skills. God-men put out their brand of spirituality, which apparently gives solace to the aggrieved middle and lower middle classes in particular amongst others. God-men have set up institutions which cater to vastly expanding market. Meera Nanda in her book, the ‘God Market’ argues that there is an increased religiosity, collusion with the corporate World and the state. In India in particular, a subtle Hindusization is going on as such and this has been aided by the private sector. There is an active promotion of religious tourism. Higher education has been handed over to private sector, some of whom use religious trusts to run these institutions to impart ‘value education’. State has been generous in giving away land at highly subsidized rates to the Gurus and God-men.

One can also see the rise of religious Right here and in different countries during this period. RSS is having a field day in culturally Hinduizing the social space, and God-men are the major players in the game. One can say that these swamis of the ilk of Nityanad and Ichchhadhari are just the visible part of a larger phenomenon. These two cases also show the range of activities, from the spiritual fa├žade to downright sex racket.

The broader picture of the phenomenon is much more disturbing. Last three decades have been one of the most tragic periods of human history for different reasons. It is this period when the global political and social phenomenon has adopted the language of the religion. This language has created multiple problems. On one hand, one major religious community has been demonized, and on the other there is a big set back to the rational thinking and progressive values. When the language of religion is used with great aplomb, the reason is forced on the back-foot and the suppression of human rights takes the garb of religion. Since religion is accompanied by faith, which in turn can create hysteria, the latter ensures that blind religiosity and blind faith rule the roost. The beneficiaries of these arrangements are the entrenched social, economic powers.

Globally, US took on Russian forces by promoting the conservative versions of Islam, used the religious language to train Al Qaeda, and laced its ambitions for oil in the language of religion. Here in India those who were opposed to social transformation of caste and gender, used Ram Temple type issues, created mass hysteria around identity issues and have tried to push back the process of social transformation. The increased social presence of God-men is an accompaniment of this process. They have duel function. On one hand they aid in creating conservative values, refurbished caste and gender norms from Manusmiriti are propagated, and on the other they exploit this situation for their material enhancement, sexual exploitation included. Interestingly the God men who talk of renunciation and going to higher levels themselves are the biggest beneficiaries of material riches. Society has to learn the lessons from the sprawling wealth and sexual exploitation done by section of God-men and to understand as to what is really taking place in the garb of holy clothes is a mere misuse of faith for crass purposes. Nityanand and Icchadhari Baba is a sort of barometer of the phenomenon which has gripped our society.


Issues in Secular Politics
II March 2010


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