Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Men and Godmen

G Ramakrishna

India, like many other countries, has produced luminaries of great repute. They have blazed the path of their successors. The illumination that they have provided has been a beacon of light for many a pathfinder. 

Every age has its own 'prophets' who, through their identification with the struggling people and consciousness for a change, have worked along the path of emancipation of the people. They have professed that there is no shortcut to salvation either of the individual or of the people as a whole. The rigours and the challenges must be faced before one realizes the pleasing and glorious objective.

The arduousness of the path and the dreamy quality of the mind might, however, occasionally make one averse to facing the challenges vigorously and boldly. This may lead to different forms of escapism and romanticism. Subjectivism and susceptibility to hallucinations also flow from this. Illusory notions of godmen are one of the manifestations of this irrational outlook.

Wittingly or otherwise, both the alleged godmen and their votaries bring fine grist to the huge mill of the exploitative machinery and perpetuate the evils of the class system. The tragic aspect of it all is that they persuade others to believe that any disgusting phenomenon could be sold as wholesome provide that the garb of spiritualism is used to mask the ugliness of the said phenomenon. The monopoly press and their proprietors are only too gleeful when they find some stuff which answers to this need.

The above observation is relevant in the context of the recent publication of a series of articles by the agents and spokesmen of an alleged godman in our country. It is interesting to note that India has the unique distinction of being infested with the maximum number of these godmen. Not to be accused of discrimination on the basis of sex, we have a good sprinkling of godwomen also. Whether these godmen and godwomen are also good men and women is beside the point, for they have declared in no uncertain terms that any such analysis of their personalities is only foolhardy, and only the arrogant attempt it.

After the Bangalore University initiated a programme of investigating the alleged miracles performed by some godmen who, incidentally, abound in the State of Karnataka, there has been a wild fire raging on behalf of one of hem, namely Sai Baba. The Brindavan, where the Baba lives while in Bangalore, is the abode where congregations of demonstrative and dubious natures take place. It is blessed with the presence of the divine Baba and those who like to bask in the sunshine of the Baba’s presence. Quite harmless as far as that. But the tall claims and the stunting of the sharp weapon of the people’s struggles that are planned and executed there from make us apprehensive.

The coterie which gathers around the Baba consists of heavily paid scientists of the country, who learn their science at the fee of the Baba, ignoring the fundamentals they might have learnt earlier (and also oblivious of the fact that they are being paid out of the public exchequer), top executives of the administration, a few public servants called Ministers, retired and serving educationists, and the mentors of all these, namely, the enterprising industrialists, monopolists, landlords, stooges who serve the imperialist machinations, and the immediate henchmen of all these. That is the real danger of the godman called Baba, although the devotees of the Baba may not recognize this ramification.

Nor do the innocent investigators of the alleged miracles of the Baba seem to recognize this. The manner in which the superstructure is being fortified for making the base of the most heinous variety of exploitation in our country stable at least for the time being is several times forgotten by even some well-meaning critics of the Baba and his ism which is ardently publicized by such stalwarts like Dr. V.K.Gokak, former Vice-Chancellor of the Bangalore University.

Dr. Gokak is an oxford product, eminent professor of English, Ex-director of the Central Institute of English, reputed literary critic and also a poet, exponent of Aurobindo, admirer of Coleridge, and ever so many other things. But he is now best describved as the disciple of the Baba. All his scholarship is utilized to ‘justify the way of the Baba to man’.

His second in this role is Dr. S.Bhagavantam, formerly connected with India’s Defence in an important capacity. A few other incumbents of the Indian Institute of Science holding very responsible positions are close to the Baba brotherhood.

Baba has devotees from the most unexpected quarters like, to wit, the editor of a Bombay weekly, R.K.Karania who has declared that salvation for the world is possible only through the good offices of the Baba. This editor is in the distinguished company of the “reputed” parliamentarian, industrialist and keyman of the Express group of newspapers, namely Sri Ramnath Goenka, who himself wrote a letter in the Indian Express pointing out the glory of the Baba and followed it up with a series of “scholarly” and “original” articles by Dr. Gokak, Dr. Bhagavantham and a host of other. A neat certificate from Goenka must be enough to accept the credibility of the Baba!

The Bangalore University launches a campaign and immediately the Goenka-KK Birla press launches a counter-campaign. Draw your own conclusions, and if you cannot explain the role of the Bombay weekly, Blitiz, (not of the Jain group, though) it is your headache. The Indian Express came out with a series of four articles by Gokak, and then Bhagavantham wrote on the scientific explorations into the lore of the Baba. And now Gokak has come out with a book on the Baba already reviewed with enthusiasm in the Baba press.

This hyper-activity is rather intriguing and, thus, it may be interesting to analyze the thesis presented so copiously by Gokak in what he might rightly consider to be his masterpiece. His breath-taking discoveries about the Baba, his analysis of spiritualism, his thoroughgoing master of the sciences and the social sciences whose total embodiment the Baba is, the immaculate ethics that Baba stand for and that Gokak understands, and other details are all worthy of the greatest attention if not also of the least acceptance.

It is rather strange that all these crusades should have become necessary for the Baba – a godman – simply because some man called the bluff abut the god! He needed the Gokaks, the Bhagavanthams and the Goenkas to defend himself. How could the Bombay editor Karanjia remain on the sidelines when so many worthies were battling for saving the honour of god alimighty?

Gokak avers that this godman called Sai Baba is an irresolvable enigma for any sincere analyzer. His countenance displays unfathomable expression climaxed by the aura created by the hair on his head. What Gokak seems to forge to tell us is what there might be or not be in the head of the Baba. But that need not be doubted at all because the Baba himself reads the letters addressed to him., no matter what language it is written in. Why the Baba should read them instead of simply divining the whole thing which would be so much more simple, we do not quite know.

The Baba also replies to the letters himself; provided presumably, that they are not about his alleged miracles as the letter of the Bangalore University which went unreplied, was. The present author’s letter about the affairs of the Sai Baba college remained unreplied, too. But that was theree fyears ago when the college had it whims unregulated. The problem must have been solved in the meeting the Baba reportedly hold to discuss matters relating to the college and hospital that the Baba runs.

It is a mild surprise that the godman cannot communicate his decisions or will in the best interests of the institutions without holding committee meetings in the afternoon like mundane mortals. It is unfortunate that some meetings of this kind should have proved abortive considering the way the institutions are run in some respects.

Gokak also give us a glimpse of the daily routine of the Baba. The itinerary reads like that of a philanthropic playback singer of the film world, which the Baba would have been if the illusions of godhood had been dispensed with.

The mission of life that the Baba has set for himself is “to uphold Dharma and the law, restore India to her former glory of spirit, and bring the world back to the message of Sprit” as Gokak puts it. The first part of it was also the life’s mission of the venerable M.S.Golwalkar who has left others to accomplish the task unfinished by him, and among them the total revolutionary Sri Jayaprakash Narayan.

Developing aversion towards the present because it involves hardship, to overcome which one has to fight collectively, is one avenue of escapism; it also serves the purpose of rationalizing the present as irredeemable, in which case the best compromise is acceptance of the situation as it presents itself. This is the philosophy which has chained the people of this country through the ages and the Baba and his cronies are the contemporary instruments of this ignoble philosophy which is given a fine coloring to hide its wretchedness. From this to the romanticisation of poverty and its causes is not a long road.

Further, the glib talk of the restoration of the glory of the past may sound nauseating to all students of history because of its being contrary to the laws of development of society, its civilization and culture. But Gokak and his likes need not bestow any attention to all these things, intoxicated with the godman consciousness as they are. And, thus, he resorts to the poetic flights of fancy when he declares with a flourish that in the Baba “one can find the healing touch of the Christ and the heart-easing speech of the Buddha”. We have no right to accuse Gokak of being a realist anyway.

The learned Dr. Gokak proceeds to point out that “the uniqueness of Baba lies in the fact that he did not have to practice any penance or achieve any Siddhi or realization in this life. He was born with them”. Like the Baba, possibly the disciples of the Baba are also born disciples!

How can they then acquire any new trait? Siddhis are hindrance to the development in the path of the achievement of Kaivalys (liberation) according to the author of the Yoga Sutras, whether the Siddhis are inborn or acquired. The right spiritual mould is also blunted with the manifestation of the Siddhis and if they are employed.

The Baba must have been fascinated by the Siddhis overmuch in order to sacrifice the higher spiritual path! If you claim that he is also the highest spiritual giant in spite of, or because of, the Siddhis, then it must be said that the Baba is caught in a bundle of contradictions in the traditional view.

All the same, the Baba is reputed as having performed the most astounding medical feats which are inexplicable in the background of the medical knowledge that we possess. Some skeptics might say that it is incredible more than being inexplicable.

In this connection, one could refer to the evidence tendered by a certain lad in the Bombay weekly which is giving publicity to the Baba. The lady “proved” that the Baba is divine in content by saying that her husband, a devotee of the Baba, was saved from getting killed in an accident by the will of the Baba. The said gentleman was to have traveled by some bus which later met with an accident. Lo and behold, the will of the Baba had intervened and the man had not traveled by that bus at all. Thus the man was saved. The lady visited the spot of the accident and found that the driver and other in the bus had been very badly injured.

The crucial question to prove the divinity of the Baba is not whether X was saved or not; the question is, why was the accident itself not averted? What a monstrous partiality of the godman if the saves his acquaintance and abandons the other one, a worker!

Such accidents take place only now; god did not ordain that such accidents should take place even now, say, in our villages which have yet to witness that change towards mechanization. God did not allow anyone to be killed in such accidents before the machine was invented by man. Man thus seems to be the ordainer of himself. And yet the Baba must be credited with the saving of some life. The incident really proves nothing about the Baba.

Added to that, the products of the alleged miracles of the Baba doled out as gifts to the coteries of his are not unknown or novel products. He gives, to wit, the Swiss Watches. The interesting part of it is that the disciples of the lower classes invariably get only ash; those of the higher classes may get gold rings, wrist watches, and images for worship. There is unfortunately no instances of the Baba having presented a meal as a miracle-products gift to anyone.

Dr. Gokak asserts that these gifts are made by the Baba only for drawing the disciples to the world of Spirit. What did Sri Ramakrishna present as gifts to draw other to the path of the spirit?

In this connection, we may refer to a rather reveling story. Adjacent to the Baba’s hermitage in Bangalore is a factory which makes ice-cream. The Baba gets his supply of ice cream from here. The erstwhile President of the Employees’ Union who dies in a tragic accident in May 1976, Comrade Gopi, once made a hold suggestion: “Why does the Baba take the ice-cream made by us, the workers? Let him come here and we shall give him all the raw materials used in the making of the ice-cream Let him then make his own cream. If he cannot make it with all the raw materials, what are the chances of his making without them? If he cannot make even ice cream with his much talked about miracles, are not the worker more skilful and useful?” The Baba, let us hope, will some day accept the challenge which is only a suggestion.

But Dr. Gokak is not given to this kind of a rational outlook. For him the colorful sentences of his are the last word. It seems to be forgotten that big imposing sentences by themselves do no not become convincing, in spite of Dr. Gokak. Hence his statement that “he (the Baba) can sport and prattle away like an innocent child and at the same time, be a more shrewd judge of men and events than any statesman or diplomat” remain unsubstantiated and unsubstantiable.

Gokak adds that the Baba is self-effacing and thus advised an American to wait for ten years before writing the biography of the Baba lest haste make for unpleasantness later on. It is surprising that the Baba did not tender the same advice to the Bombay editor or to Gokak. The latter has come out with a biography of the Baba with top speed after the controversy about the godman assumed a sizable proportion. Presumably, it was thought desirable to do so in order to somother “the vicious attack” on the godman!

The self-effacing Baba rose to the level of any ordinary being only the other day when he openly declared in a meeting in Lalbagh, Bangalore, that the moon does not blush if the dogs bark at it. He was referring to his moonness to justify his pride, and he is self-effacing, according to Gokak.

This world must, however, suffer the godman for a long time yet to come. Because he has decided to live on till the age of 96. He will be decaled to be 96 on the day of his death, we may guess. In any case, it means that his commitment to play the role of the saviour during the twentieth century is irreversible.

We no longer need be haunted with thoughts of the annihilation of the world consequent to a nuclear holocaust, because the world, we are assured, will be there for the Baba to save it. Even détente is unnecessary concept considering that the Baba is there to save us. Baba believes in planning also as may be deduced from the fact that he has plans to take birth in a village in the Manya district of Karnataka after his death at 96. Whether this plan will end up the way the plans of the “socialist republic of India” have is anybody’s guess.

The painful thing for us is that the godman should also think only in terms of the small world of Karnataka for taking birth in order to save humanity. What an ugly limit to the manifold scope of the godman! Why not go to America to take birth because most of the person whom the Baba is now “saving” come from that land? Or is it that it is predestine that he must “save” them by being in Karnataka?

“Saving” means “serving the interests”, if there is any confusion in anybody. We are indeed flattered here in Karnataka. Every saviour comes to us first. Dom Moraes is presently here to serve us. We are assured of the continued presence of the Baba. Only those Krishna-cultists have gone to West Bengal first. The Bangla border must have attracted them; but later they may also go over here.

Baba is an incarnation, Gokak tells us. What might that be now? Gokak explained it avidly and vividly to an American newspaperman in 1974. Poor mortals like us cannot understand such intricate matters even if we know some English. The wonder of wonders that Gokak sreports reltes to the dropping of ash from photograph of the Baba in America also. Why is there so much marveling about the ash? Is ash such a rare commodity to marvel at in this world? You can collect a sack of it from any railway station in this country on any day of your choice!

Not so the alchemy providing the Baba’s cure for the incurable diseases. He cures such diseases with dynamism of love. If in Charles Bradlaugh’s tradition, we are to tell the godman: “I can’t believe; strike me dead if you dare”, the dynamically loving Baba in his mercy will only quip like the Christ: “Forgive them, my Lord; they know not what they say”. What a refreshing thing to know. And yet the Baba became furious and called names only recently when it was put to him that his claims might have to be investigated before being accepted.

The tenor of Dr. Gokak’s thesis being now familiar to us, we may run through his second and subsequent articles on the Baba with greater ease. To listen to the singing of the Bab is “to experience the process of a social revolution in progress before our eyes and in our very ears”. “The divine ashes the Baba gives is an austere symbol of what he wishes to suggest”.

To some, however, he suggests through gold! The meaning obviously is that some will go to dust and other will wallow in the ill-gotten wealth. A millionaire was once presented with a gold ring to admonish him. “To those who have, more shall be given”. “Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Love and Power are abstractions and one does not know where to find them”, say Gokak. One may hope that they may not be found in the Baba also.

But the ingenuity of the Baba is simply maddening. He “created for a biologist, an image of the missing link”. Whose prototype was that? Such mischievous questions cannot be encouraged. Baba “uses water as petrol and transforms particles of sand into a beautiful golden image”. There are those amongst us who use petrol as water and they are the nearest disciples of the Baba. With Baba to assist us, there is no longer any sense in going in for Indo-Soviet collaboration to improve our oil potential through further explorations. Instead, we must sign an Indo-Sai pact and do away with the rigs because the Baba believes only in ragas.

Baba has made a tree in his orchard the receptacle of fruits of all kinds. The merchants of Bangalore being fools, they still write to Kashmir and obtain them to sell here. Baba  is an economist par excellence and he know the solution for solving the problems of our economy. Only he will not do it as some of us do not allow him to do it the way he choses.

Let us quote Gokak at some length as it unmasks the Baba and his masquerading disciples once and for all: “Baba has spelt out his own version of the social sciences. His version is not the socialism of under-payment. It is rather an economics based on love – putting the rich on his guard and making him realize, in his bones, that he is the trustee, and not the owner of his wealth. A trusteeship based on love is the foundation on which the science of economics should be reared”. The cat is out of the nasty bag now. All Babaism ultimately is to justify the way of capitalism to the suffering of oppressed people!

The oppressed also want to make the exploiters realize in their bones that exploitation will not be tolerated and will be done away with. One-third of the world has already made its erstwhile exploiters realize this concretely. Even the Gandhian economists have more or less stopped talking about the trusteeship theory. Baba is certainly not the first to come up with the profound theory of trusteeship, His beguiling trick will not work as those of other have failed in the past.

The oppressing classes have always advised the oppressed to abjure the class war and Gokak is now playing that role on behalf of the Baba in the name of spiritualism, godhood of the man called Baba, and other such deceptive stratagems. Nobody will be taken in by these clever but disgusting tricks. Status quoism is more prevalent in the Baba than in any other brand of politicians. And that is the gist of Babaism.

The spokesman of the Baba, namely Dr. Gokak, must be thanked profusely for frankly admitting what lies behind all the intriguing designs of the Baba. Saying that the Baba is the best medicine-man, sociologist, psychologist, philosopher and what have you, will be so much of nonsense when we know that all these and other disciplines have evolved through the ages and will continue in the centuries to come.

Knowledge at any given state of history is incomplete and imperfect and that is why there is the quest to expand the vista of knowledge and thereby acquire greater freedom for mankind. This is what stimulates man to ever new adventures in the sphere of knowledge. If there are a few questions or even thousand of them for which we do no know the answers today, we need not jump to the conclusion that the answers will never be fund. Past history is an indication of the way future history will shape itself.

The earthquake in China has proved beyond any doubt that in a planned society relief measure are better designed than in an unplanned society. The future society will be increasingly of that fashion. Knowledge will be the strongest weapon in the hands of man to civilize himself and rise to a higher level. That is what no Baba will or can accomplish. That is what man collectively achieves.

Dr. Gokak obviously does not want this to be recognized. For him the wisdom of the Baba is the beginning and the end. Hypothesis is never the substitute for correct knowledge. The stalwarts who take the Baba as their ultimate guide have taken the hypothesis for the ultimate truth and that is precisely where they are wrong and also dishonest to the precepts of Science. A few barren articles in the Goenka press or even in a Bombay weekly by men however reputed they be, will not make any difference to this incontrovertible phenomenon.

The cloak of spiritualism for swindling the gullible masses has been stained with blood in the past and it is too late in the day for the Baba and Gokaks to use it again. Man’s destiny is more glamorous and inviting and he shall not stop short of reaching that enchanting and just state.


This essay, first published three decades back (Main Stream, October 23, 1976), though outdated in certain respects, continues to be relevant in India today, when all sorts of godmen and godwomen have a field day swindling the gullible people.  This essay was later reproduced (page 162 – 174) in “Living Marx” published by Ma-Le Prakashana, Bangalore.

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