The existence of Godmen in history (and in recent times, Godwomen) has been almost parallel with the existence of God. You visit a temple, you’ll find a self-proclaimed seer; you visit a religious fair and there is a variety of holy men to choose from for your share of “divine blessings”. A majority of us feel this is an essential part of practicing religion. Here’s why I beg to differ-
#1 You don’t need a “broker” on the path of spirituality-
Though most religions prescribe that you need a guru, a mentor, a blessed one to guide you on the path of spirituality, I feel spirituality should be the one path that an individual should tread alone- no matter how many times he/she fails or stumbles on the way. Spirituality or religion (and they should not be used interchangeably) should be a deeply personal experience without any meddling by some “broker” who promises immediate enlightenment (even the great Budhha needed years to achieve enlightenment and even He followed the method of trial and error).
#2 Don’t fall for their offer of personal salvation-
Every religion believes there is a path to salvation that each individual should aspire for. Hinduism calls it Moksha, Buddhism calls it Nirvana and so on. But, at the same time, each religion also lays emphasis on individual action- good or bad and clearly specifies that only these can either assist or hinder your progress towards salvation. So, the next time some self-styled Godman tells you that he has an “express plan” for your personal salvation- don’t believe him. If you are an atheist, fine; if you are not, focus on your actions rather than the lofty promises of your Godman.
#3 How can multi-crore rupee empires help you spiritually?
I know it is very easy to criticize Godmen on the basis of the wealth they’ve accumulated. But, my argument is slightly different. I agree that wealthy religious institutions engage in charity at various levels and that needs to be commended; but how does that benefit you on your personal spiritual journey? Your favourite Godman/Godwoman may have built the most humongous place of worship, may have spent a lot of money on publicity, but you still stand where you were in terms of spiritual experiences or for e.g. the lessening of desires.
#4 Godmen cannot rid you of your fear of the future-
The primary reason that we veer towards Godmen/Godwomen is simple- we don’t know what the future holds for us and we fear that. We somehow comfort ourselves by believing that these Godmen will save us from any calamity that the unseen future might have in store for us. Well, if and when fate has some bad news for us, these Godmen will not be able to come to our rescue. Simply put, we are solely responsible for what we have done and what we will face in the future. If it gives you mental comfort to cling onto these Godmen because of your fear of the future, go ahead. But, the sooner you emerge from the imaginary world, the better.
Shashi Shekhar Misra