A Little Girl In A Dead Guru's Hell
File under: Book Reviews and Wackadoo Gurus
We’ve just finished reading All the Fishes Come Home to Roost, the memoir of a young girl yanked out of her home in America, only to be taken to a desert wasteland backwater in India and the ashram of a dead, wackadoo guru she never believed in. It’s full of funny and yet startlingly sad recollections and many examples of the ridiculous things people are willing to accept about their supposedly divine gurus—and the twisted justifications they come up with for those gurus’ twisted behavior:
Baba had thrown a plate across the dining room table because he demanded total, unquestioning, to-the-letter obedience, and a mandali [devotee] had given him a white plate instead of the blue one he’d asked for. Paribanu said that Baba’s willingness to discipline his mandali [devotees] proved how much he loved them.Either that or he was a raging asshole. Not incompatible with enlightenment, but not always the outpouring of pure love a hapless devotee wants to believe it is.
Obviously, the guy was drunk on his own power, as evidenced by this story:
“Baba asked us if we were ready to give him true obedience,” continued Nona. “Of course, we all said we were. He asked us if we’d give up our money, our jobs, even our lives for him. We all said we would. Then one by one, Baba asked us if we would be willing to kill our relatives or loved ones if he ordered us to.”When you hear the story of Baba’s “enlightenment,” you begin to understand just how much of a nutbag the guy was, as if believing he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and every other major religious figure weren’t evidence enough:
The holy man pitched a rock at the dazed boy’s forehead. Merwan [Baba] promptly declared that he had become enlightened... For some time after the first blow, Baba banged his head against the floor until his forehead bled and all his teeth were knocked loose.Rachel Manija Brown’s memoir is a great read for anyone interested in the psychosocial dynamics of divine gurudom and the complete abandonment of reason it often engenders. As sad as her life was in India, we thoroughly enjoyed reading about it, and the world is a slightly less insane place for her having shared it with us. We highly recommend All the Fishes Come Home to Roost and give it 4 out of 5 turbans.