India is the birthplace of the highest number of religious cults in the world.
At least one person you know is involved in a religious cult. You may yourself be a victim of a cult, without knowing it.
Why do so many religious cults flourish in India? Because of you.
Most Indians have a very poor knowledge of our own culture, if at all. We prefer to obtain our cultural education from grannies’ tales, TV and Amar Chitra Katha -and from self-appointed Gurus and godmen.
The wrong values are dinned into our heads. We are told to blindly obey our elders. Skepticism is crushed out of a growing child’s brain. Free thought is blasphemised. The spirit of enquiry is demonised.
Religion and “spirituality” (whatever that means) are simply shoved down our throats. Unreasoning adherence to idiotic rituals, esoteric prayers chanted in an abstruse language by an incoherent pot-bellied priest – this is “religion” for us.
I spent two years learning classical Sanskrit, and after passing four exams in the language, I gained a cursory understanding of our ancient culture. It will take me a decade before I can claim any kind of proficiency in Sanskrit, but even now, with my rudimentary knowledge, I am deeply impressed by the profundity of India.
Skepticism and religious debate were encouraged in India. There were several schools of thought, not all of which regarded the Vedas as sacrosanct. In fact, the Charvaka school was blatantly anti-Vedic, atheistic and materialistic. Yet, all schools flourished side-by-side. Each school was expected to study and understand other schools.
That was the India of the past. Broad-minded, skeptical, tolerant in behavior, free in thought. And there’s India of the present. Violently intolerant and cultist. The colonialists are long gone, but we are still enslaved – by the Gurus of modern India.
These are the cardinal signs of cultism:
1) One person above all: Cults grow around one powerful individual. That one leader is known by different names – Guru, Baba, Father, Amma, Maseeha, Avatar, and the like.
That individual need not even be alive. The most dangerous cults in India are built around self-styled godmen who are long dead.
The Guru is all. No criticism is allowed. Dissent is ruthlessly erased. What the Guru utters is alone the truth. His word is the law. The Constitution of India and the law of the land do not exist in his domain.
2) Secretive rituals and practices: Cultists greet each other in a special way, they are “initiated” into allegedly yogic practices that are unknown to the outside world, they are made to sign non-disclosure agreements. They are told they are an elite group that has access to “spiritual” treasures unavailable to lesser mortals.
3) Guilt and fear: These are the primary instruments of control. You are made to feel guilty about your personal habits, your behavior, your appearance, your wealth, your career or lack of it, your sexual orientation.
You are blamed for your bad “karma”, for the sins you committed in a previous life, for the alleged sins you keep committing in the present life, and so on. And in a literal sense, the fear of god is put into you.
The Guru alone can show you the path to your salvation. Surrender yourself to Him or Her, and you will be saved.
And by the way, the path to your salvation doesn’t come free of cost, and you will be relieved of all your wealth, thank you very much.
4) Aggressive recruiting methods: Cultists (especially your relatives who are cultists) will barge into your house, emotionally blackmail you, harass you, scare you, turn your loved ones against you, and do anything they can to rope you in.
5) Brain-washing: Repetitive chanting, bhajans, group meditation, vigorous and rhythmic breathing techniques – these are powerful brain-washing methods used since ancient times. Usually, psychotropic drugs are also used, and usually without your knowledge.
6) Unrelenting demands for money and your free labor, in the name of “nishkama” karma.
When Krishna talks about “nishkama” karma in the Gita, what He means is that you perform your duty, whatever that duty is, with all your heart, and dissociate yourself from the outcome of that duty. He means that while you do need to act with a certain objective, you understand that there are factors out of your control that may defeat that objective. And so, do your work sincerely without unduly worrying about failure or success.
By “nishkama karma” Krishna certainly does not mean that you donate free labor and your hard-earned money to an unscrupulous rogue who evades taxes and goes around in a Mercedes, while you roast your ass in the sun doing unpaid charitable work for him.
7) Us and Them: You are constantly told that the world outside is your mortal enemy. The outside world is jealous of your Guru and all the alleged good he’s done. Your duty is to protect your Guru, by giving him all your money and by recruiting more and more ignorant devotees for his use.
8) Vague platitudes: Ask the Guru an uncomfortable question, and either you will be forcefully shut down, or he will answer with a benign smile and vague cliches. For good measure, he will throw in some high-sounding Sanskrit phrases, and a joke or two that will make everyone chuckle, but won’t answer your question. Confused and intimidated, you smile bravely and shut the eff up.
9) Foul-mouthed bodyguards. Only the chosen ones (and politicians) are allowed direct access to the Guru. He lives in a secluded mansion, travels in a motorcade, surrounded by an aura of “spirituality”, and pan-chewing watchmen armed with walkie-talkies and guard dogs. All of which are paid for by your “nikshama” karma.
10) Showmanship: This is the defining characteristic of all great cult leaders. They know how to put on a grand show. Massive group events, huge venues, lavish stages, caparisoned elephants, dazzling celebrities, high-profile politicians, they know all the tricks in the book. PT Barnum would have been ashamed of himself.
Does all this sound horribly familiar to you? Then you, my friend, have been Culted. Cut your losses and run.
If you really want to do charity, donate money to a reputed academic institute or to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. You will get substantial tax benefits as well.
If you want to help someone, then first see if that someone actually deserves your help. If he does, then just help him, and forget about receiving any gratitude.
Do your official work, however humble it be, with sincerity and devotion. Teach your kids to think for themselves, to question, to wonder, to seek their own answers – without the help of a self-styled Guru.
Read about our country’s glorious culture, even if you have to read an English translation. Use your own brains. And do not hesitate to rudely shut down any cultists, even if they are your own family.
Feel free to be an atheist, or not. Feel free to accept the Vedas, or not. Just be a good human being, do your job sincerely, be nice to your fellow man and to the rest of the planet, respect the law, and do not abuse Mother Nature.
That, my friend, is nishkama karma. And you don’t need an effing Guru to teach you that.
Cheers … Srini.