Many years ago, country-rock band Dr Hook sang a song poking fun at the fame of the Beatles. The fictional band in the song wants to get itself on the cover of Rolling Stone—“Wanna buy five copies for my mother!’, before going on to declare its spiritual authenticity, mandatory in the sixties: "We got a lot of teenage blue-eyed groupies/ Who do anything we say/ We got a genuine Indian guru/ Who’s teaching us the better way."
The Indian guru is one of the smartest and enduring products this society has ever produced. Think of it as a constantly auto-updating version of an iPhone.
The guru, once he or she is established, will be perched on top of the pyramid that is Indian society. You will have untrammelled power and wealth. Your talent for mass hypnotism will give you the legitimacy to break traditional inhibitions and taboos and allow you to open the doors of sexual perception. People are game. You just have to show them the way.
Like with any business, it takes hard work. Some gurus sink without a trace. But with talent and marketing, you will rise. Your popularity will spread. Human beings are creatures with a herd mentality. Facebook gives us good insight into this. If a post has five hundred likes, it will get another five hundred sheep likes. People swarm like bees to where all the other bees are. This principle works even better in the guru world.
Gurus are the smartest people in India because as a guru you transcend all professions. Ordinary people will form your flock, the foot soldiers that will lay down their lives and cause mayhem when you are sent to jail. But you’re not top of the cone because of them.
When you’re Guru Number One, the "people who matter" will fall at your feet. This includes cricketers, film stars, politicians cutting across party lines, industrialists, businessmen, high-profile ad men, media magnates and assorted celebrities. The guru knows what’s happening in each of their lives.
The guru is remarkable in that he comes from the outside, follows no conventional occupation, nor is he the upholder of conventional religion. He is the ultimate outsider who rises to the summit using cold calculated rational capitalist means. There is a paradox here. While the guru relies on irrational followers, he himself is far from irrational. Like a politician, he exploits the public for private gain.
Indian guru-dom is an equal opportunity employer. Men, women, white folk, all are welcome to try their hand at it. When you are spiritually successful, you are allowed the trappings of materialism. Women gurus carry expensive handbags, travel in luxury cars, go shopping for designer clothes. Male gurus collect sport bikes, release cringe-pop videos and star in movies.
No one really dresses like a guru anymore. The Indian guru doesn’t feel the need to keep up the pretence of simplicity. He is bigger than Justin Beiber and flaunts it. You are a celebrity and your followers love your opulence. They will shower you with all the black money that they have. These are the new gurus of bling for the post – capitalist times we live in.
Most Indian middle class families have a guru. It’s part of the furniture, like a pet in an American family. Gurus arrange marriages, convince you to part with land and donate it to them, and, if you live in a commune, will have you make soap and leather slippers and allow you a Charlie Chaplin film on Sunday mornings (while guruji himself has an orgy).
Indian society is not culturally based on the concept of the individual. The family unit is the individual. If you want to express your individuality, you do it through the family. Indian families express their individuality through their choice of guru. "They follow x, but we follow y." The guru gives each Indian family unit a distinct identity. Since this is a purely commercial venture, gurus too have to be on their toes. I’ve known members of my family get disillusioned with one and move to another.
While Europe isn’t big on gurus, America is. Whether it is scientology or David Koresh in Waco, Texas, whose Branch Davidians met a fiery end, the allure of cults is alive in America. The human instinct for blind belief also has secular manifestations: ritualistic heavy metal concerts or boy bands with swooning hysterical crying fans have a ring of religious surrender about them.
At the heart of all cultish belief is a belief in something beyond God. God is not sufficient. You need a flesh and blood human god who is the perfect embodiment of man on earth. Human beings are lazy, superstitious creatures. Faith in a guru absolves you of responsibility in figuring out your own life-path.
To a quasi-thinking scheming mind, it gives the illusion that by being a follower one is in touch with a higher agency not accessible to everyone, not least because this exclusive access will also help one reap material rewards in the here and now, in whatever one’s chosen profession might be.
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