Editorial

Hinduism is facing a crisis today

by Vaidehi Sachin

Visiting a newly opened Ashram in rural Maharashtra near Pune, the reporter meets its young and well educated Sadhvi. Coming down harshly on Sadhvi, particularly of Govind Brahmachari the owner of ashram, she denounces tomb worship and says” In Hinduism we believe there is no power but God. I was invited here to take diksha as Sadhvi and pursue my spiritual learning. But I became victim of circumstances and landed in mess and sextrap by sadhu. Today the great heritage of Indian Sadhvi and Sadhus and saffron cult is in question mark. Their integrity is under suspension.
Their involvement in terror, economic offences, sex scandals, murders, crime is on rise. Millions of Hindu pilgrims witness to an unusual sight: scores of saffron-clad swamis exhorting people. People attend believing they can wash away their sins by being a follower of one of these so called spiritual leaders. They think they will be purified and the path to salvation will be cleared. Hindus have been made to believe this nonsense by the so-called swamis, sadhus and other religious leaders. This kind of blind faith is at the root of the degeneration, the rot, which has set into Hindu society today. The story of this Sadhvi Sandeepa Rajput after accepting dikshaw now she is named as Hemanand Brahmachari, when she called us to narrate her saga we where not only surprised but confused too. Her body language, her intentions and the story she narrated to us was no were matching. She has choice to go back to her home town in UP and can also go legal about her senior Sadhu. Sadhvi can even seek help but her only interest lies in possessing Sadhu's inheritance. She is interested in his property and wealth; it's kind of a casting couth. The social norms of everyday life are inverted and for a short period of the year, position and power are almost miraculously transferred to the insignificant and powerless.
About her going back to parents Sadhvi said “I don't like it; things can get very complicated because I am already tagged with this Sadhu. It is difficult to lead a happy domestic life and have admirers. In this job it is important to have a good reputation one scandal can destroy you. So I am living here by force.” Saffron is lured in perversion and scandals. Being spiritual guru is nothing but a commercial gain. Hinduism can take pride in the fact that, though there has been so much perversion and distortion, there is always room for reform. We have a history of powerful reform movements in this country. But unfortunately, such movements last for a period and then peter out. The problem is that nobody really cares; they don't beat you up but at the same time they don't take much notice of you either. Also, the way the international media glamorized the Saffron Sadhus and Sadhvi's in recent past, made the situation awkward for us Indians. All this was very sickening and I felt we needed to challenge it. Indian society needs to change; it needs to inculcate the values of doubt and dissent. There must be debate and society should question the authority of religious leaders. Nowhere in the world would you find the kind of abominable caste system that still persists in India, and the indignities that are heaped on humanity. Yet such issues are very cleverly skirted by organizations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Congress). The VHP even tried to hijack and politicise these issues by raising the issue of the Ayodhya temple there. There are already more than 100 Ram temples at Ayodhya. Of these, 15 are 'birthplace temples' of Ram, marking the site where he was supposed to have been born. And if you go to any of these the priest will tell you that his temple is more authentic than the others. And yet the VHP and others are clamoring for a 16th temple at a site that used to be a mosque. Actually these Sadhus are very obscurant; they have no role whatsoever. A large number of these naked naga sadhus are criminals on the run; they join these sects to protect themselves from the law. If you visit their camps, you'll find pitchers full of alcohol and lots of narcotics. It's all a part of their religious rituals. The naga sadhus are discrediting the great spiritual traditions of this country. They should be totally disowned by the so-called mainstream religious leaders. They should be told to change their ways and not go about naked. Because of all this Hinduism is facing a crisis today.
The basic crisis is one of social injustice that emanates from the caste system, from gender inequality and so on. The majorities of those who go to these Sadhus's with the idea of personal salvation or get rid of the poverty. It's time Hindu society woke up to the fact that personal salvation is not possible unless there is social salvation. Even 50 years after independence, the caste system, child marriages, dowry deaths and other ills still persist? Why in spite of so much religion, and huge gatherings in the name of religion, has India come to such a pass? Despite India being a signatory to the Convention on Human Rights, as many as 25,000 brides are brutally killed each year because of disputes over dowries. Dalits are still being treated worse than animals, and about one million children are married off at a very young age. And then there are the occasional sati (bride-burning) incidents. It's all very painful. I hold religious leaders squarely responsible for perpetuating this discriminatory, iniquitous, unjust social order. After the transition of Hinduism from Vedism or Brahmanism to Puranism and Tantraism, Sanyasa came to be regarded as Kalivarjya. Though Shankaracharya broke this prohibition by his example, Sanyasin never became popular in Hinduism again. The modern Sadhus belong to different sects, following Jnaanamaarga or Bhaktimaarga, and they cannot be properly called Sanyasins. The Vedic Rishis, in their immense wisdom, probed into the meaning and purpose of human existence and proclaimed theDharma, Artha, Kaama and Mokshaand declared that every individual should pass through the four Aashramas or stages of life Brahmacharya, Gaarhasthya, Vaanaprastha and Sannyaasa to reach the ultimate goal of Self-realization. Even today, Sannyas is given only to one who has already passed through the Grihastha stage and begotten a male progeny to continue the Gotra lineage. Vedic Rishis were very clear in their understanding about the sanctity and significance of the Sannyasa Ashram. It is not, as it is seen today, a pleasure house or holiday home into which anybody without any requisite qualification, maturity of mind and strong spiritual urge could rush in and enjoy the comforts and luxuries that it offers freely along with the hallow of a holy man around one's head.
How can one who is (merely) known with an appellation (of an ascetic) be said to have renounced. It is amply clear from the above revelations that Sannyasa is a stage to be reached through a gradual process of evolution in which man sheds off all his vasanasego and ego centric desiresthrough self-less and dedicated action and realizing the ephemeral nature of the world, enters into intense religious sadhana and finally realizes his oneness with the Ultimate Reality. How far this criterion is fulfilled by those who have, in the modern period, entered into different orders of Sannyasa and Ashrams of various types existing inside the country and abroad is a study which needs necessarily to be made at present. There have also been cases of popular and famous Swamis falling in love and marrying their women private secretaries or devotees. All this is because of the violation of the Vedic injunctions and throwing open the doors of Sannyasa Ashram to all and sundryto unqualified, immature, and perverted aspirants who are lured by the wealth and comforts of the Ashrams, Mutts and Missions and also by the undeserved honour, reverence, prestige and influence that they could gain by donning the ochre robe. Perhaps, we may dismiss these as incidents happening in every society. Recently the Roman Catholic Church was also shaken by the revelation of the large scale sexual aberration of the priests and bishops in many parts of the world. We are concerned here about the future of the Hindu way of life which is meant to elevate man from the animal existence to a divine life.
Therefore, we have a duty and right to set right the glaring drawbacks in the religious and spiritual institutions of the Hindus. We cannot easily conceal or explain away the other abhorring manifestations seen now-a-days in many of the religious and spiritual institutions within the country and abroad like infighting, especially between the relatives and devotees of popular spiritual leaders and heads of religious institutions, brazen commercial attitude in the matter of extending services, special patronage to the rich and the powerful and utter disregard of the poor and weaker sections of the devotees, open outburst of mutual recrimination among the so called Sadhus and Mahatmas.