Gurubuster Works It Out On The Stage
File under: Amma All-Over-The-Planet, Gurubusting and The Siddhi of PR
Sujit Saraf appears to be a kindred soul to any reasonable gurubuster:
Concurrently with Amma’s tour, I inaugurated my annual hand-wringing ceremony, asking myself as I do once every year: What am I to do about all these gurus? After all, one does not even have to be an atheist to recognize imposture, but merely possess a scientific temper, one that tries to explain physical and natural phenomena on the basis of generally accepted scientific principles and, in the absence of such an explanation, refuses to believe in them. Should I grin and bear it while Sathya Sai Baba produces gold chains from his sleeves? Do I make no comment on the Art of Living courses, Ammachi’s hugs, or the hundred other babas and matas who will touch you with their feet, hands, tongues, tongs, poles, prods and tridents? Perhaps I had best keep quiet, for everyone knows that our gurus count prime ministers and presidents among their followers. We have heard of physics professors dutifully following Sai Baba to the airport in October 2007, when he was about to manifest himself on the moon. We know of CEOs who skip board meetings when the “call” comes from Ammachi. And we know, of course, that so many powerful people cannot be fooled at the same time, even less than they can be induced to part with their money without getting good value in return...In this case, write a play. Mataji will be staged by Saraf's theater company, Naatak, in July and August around the San Francisco Bay Area. It's the story of a certain nice, round Indian lady who dispenses hugs, named Mataji. We see the gal behind the glory, the fog of self-induced hagiography lifted to reveal the ordinary going-ons of human interaction in a close-knit, authoritarian-led group.
Now, I know the question has risen in many minds, and the usual answer is: Why do anything at all? The gods who walk among us, offering ashes, bananas and hugs, are harmless snake-oil salesmen. If, while peddling a useless product, they untruthfully extol its virtues, they are merely practicing the art of marketing. Which businessman would not? And any liberal will tell you that people are free to worship whom they want in a free society: Ammachi or armadillos. Besides, you never have to hear of the hullabaloo in Castro Valley if you don’t want to, so the foolishness around you does not exist unless you look for it. Sure, our godmen induce a collect retreat into infantilism, and discourage the notion that self-fulfillment can be achieved without surrendering your intelligence and common sense to a fallible human being, but they do not plan to fly planes into buildings. So let them enthrall those who would be enthralled, and let us thank God (if we are not atheists) that we are not the suckers in line.
Thus ends, usually, my annual hand-wringing ceremony, but this happy conclusion is becoming harder to reach with each passing year. My days of blissful isolation — when I could pretend that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was the guy who tugs at sitar strings — have ended with the Internet. And mailing lists. And spam. And desktop publishing. And Facebook. And the “Aasthaa Channel” on television. The empires of our godmen have grown and are growing yet larger, harnessing the Internet to such effect that it has become impossible to escape their benevolence, bestowed on you through posters and postings wherever you are, whatever you may be doing. An innocent lunch at Bhavika’s in Sunnyvale is now an Amma experience: she beams at you from a dozen posters, hugging, force-feeding bliss. Now what is a person of scientific temper to do?
This is nothing less than a grand-slam home run for clarity for the folks of the Bay Area. We've got our eye on Sujit now, and hope to see more of his contributions to a much-needed critical understanding of gurudom inside Hinduism-based spiritual culture in the West.