viernes, 1 de septiembre de 2017

Spirituality gone awry in India: what is Dera Sacha Sauda, and who is its jailed leader? | MercatorNet | September 1, 2017 |

Spirituality gone awry in India: what is Dera Sacha Sauda, and who is its jailed leader?

MercatorNet | September 1, 2017 | 

Spirituality gone awry in India: what is Dera Sacha Sauda, and who is its jailed leader?

Failure of the spiritual free market.
Swati Parashar | Sep 1 2017 | comment 

The world watched with horror this week as the rape conviction and sentencing to 20 years’ jail of “godman” Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh led to massive protests in northern parts of India.
The protests by Ram Rahim’s followers resulted in the deaths of at least 38 people in Haryana, where the court held its proceedings. Many more were injured, and widescale damage to public property has been reported.
This defence of a rapist spiritual guru is quite unexpected in a country that’s been home to intense gender activism and public outrage on the issue of violence against women in recent years.
So, who is this “godman”? And what is Dera Sacha Sauda, the religious cult he heads in northern India, which has drawn into its fold thousands of followers ready to sacrifice their lives for their guru?
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the ‘guru of bling’
Ram Rahim is known as a “baba” or “guru of bling”. Referred to as pitaji or revered father, he has lived in a sprawling compound, enjoying highest-level security provided by the government to very high profile people.
Ram Rahim has had an extraordinary life filled with many idiosyncrasies. He is definitely not the average guru: he rode expensive motorbikes with his gang of followers; produced, directed and acted in his own movies; and performed in his own rock concerts wearing bizarre costumes. He also has an honorary doctorate from the University of World Records, London.
Unlike his contemporary gurus who are seen as spiritual guiding lights, Ram Rahim is treated as an avatar of the almighty himself. He considers himself as the “Messenger of God”, and not just a person of higher consciousness who shows other people the righteous path.
The film he made and acted in, Messenger of God, was released in 2015. In the past, he also dressed up as a Hindu god and a Sikh guru, angering the followers of both religions.
His following includes many women who believe in his miraculous powers and all-embracing godly spirit.
The rape of two female followers was not the only accusation against Ram Rahim. He has been charged with murder and the castration of at least 400 men to “bring them closer to God”.
What is Dera Sacha Sauda?
Ram Rahim is the congregation leader of Dera Sacha Sauda (meaning “abode of fair deal”), a religious cult established in 1948. Its main centre is situated in the city of Sirsa in the state of Haryana, northern India.
The cult has 50 ashrams across India and branches in countries such as the US, Canada, UAE, Australia and the UK.
Its website declares it is a confluence of all religions advocating a complete ban on the consumption of meat, egg or gelatin in food and intoxicants such as alcohol, drugs and tobacco, and “no adultery or illicit sex”.
The group has had two leaders before Ram Rahim, each of whom chose their own successors, declared as their self-avatars.
With Ram Rahim jailed and no anointed heir, combined with the hefty fines imposed on Dera Sacha Sauda for the destruction of public property and arson, the cult’s future looks bleak.
The free market of spirituality
This episode has several important questions, mostly related to the crisis of spirituality and modernity in India today.
Religious and cult gurus in India are celebrities who have a tremendous impact on spiritual matters and on the lives of their followers. Their close association with politicians allows them access to political power and wealth. They can belong to any religion or sect.
The liberalisation of the 1990s in particular made spirituality a market enterprise: the gurus’ services could be purchased, and gurus indulged in profit-making activities.
That supposedly religious gurus could be involved in fraud, political manipulation, and sexual assault is not new in India. And yet the baba business flourishes.
For the poor, spiritual pathways and cult membership empowers them as they look for hope and miracles to survive the onslaught of neoliberalism. These spiritual pathways promise equality to the millions who feel discriminated, oppressed and marginalised.
The middle classes, however, can experience an existential crisis – and belonging to a religious or spiritual cult gives them purpose and meaning in life. The gurus have instant answers to all their problems.
The rich and powerful are also part of these cults, and they hobnob with the gurus. They have a lot to gain by following those who society follows – not just to tackle their insecurities but to cultivate a network of supporters who will always remain loyal to them.
The gurus can sway elections, generate funding for welfare projects, and provide hundreds of volunteers at a short notice.
The crisis of spirituality and the everyday dependence on miracles is only part of the problem. India’s political economy remains conducive for spiritual gurus to thrive and cultivate their loyal fan followings.
The recent episode has exposed the authorities’ vulnerabilities in dealing with unruly spiritual-seekers who have no qualms in defending their rapist gurus. After all, the guru is God – and God does no wrong.
The ConversationThe fates of other gurus with court cases against them, like Asaram Bapu, will be something to watch out for in the near future. Meanwhile, the unholy nexus between politicians and spiritual gurus will have to be broken to end the illegal wealth and patronage that gurus enjoy. This week’s tragic events will hopefully be a catalyst for this to happen.
Swati Parashar is Senior Lecturer in the School of Global Studies at the University of Gothenburg.This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


September 1, 2017

As our lives become increasingly intertwined with technology, it's probably a good idea to keep monitoring who is the master and who is the slave. Smartphones, drugs, machines, the internet, and so on open us up to new experiences, but they also create dependence and allow us to live in isolation. This is the theme of three of today's articles.

Marcus Roberts observes that in Japan, more and more people are seeking to live alone, with the most minimal human contact. And clever Japanese engineers are finding ways to accommodate this bizarre trend. And everywhere smartphones are invading family life and social life so that we spend long hours in a self-imposed cone of silence. "How will we Millennials be able to write great works of literature, philosophy, science, and theology when we’ve been conditioned to do everything with one mere flick of the finger?" asks Daniel Ross Goodman.

And finally, in our lead article Karl D. Stephan brings to bear his characteristic blend of wisdom and tech know-how on the development of driverless cars. They promise greater safety and convenience, but will these offset the impending loss of many jobs? 

Michael Cook
When cars have no drivers, the drivers may have no jobs
By Karl D. Stephan
But are they the road to the future?
Read the full article
Education minister should do his homework
By Andrew Mullins
Politicians can't ignore the impact that same-sex marriage will have on kids' education
Read the full article
The iPhone and us: this banal, bookless age
By Daniel Ross Goodman
Our future stars are perishing in a vacuous audiovisual wasteland.
Read the full article
Should Catholics throw in the towel over gay marriage?
By Michael Cook
Some prominent figures in Australia say it's all too hard
Read the full article
Waiting women
By Andrea Mrozek
If a woman has to wait for an abortion, there is an outcry. Think how that affects women waiting for a child.
Read the full article
Twenty years after Diana’s death, the state of Britain and its monarchy
By Laura Perrins
The public mourning for the 'People's Princess' manifested the collapse of traditional institutions.
Read the full article
The benefits of being an only child
By Marcus Roberts
But are we missing some obvious downsides?
Read the full article
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