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When the sex scandal of Rajasekaran a.k.a. Swami Nithyananda erupted, Shri Rajiv Malhotra was in Delhi as part of a group to go to Kumbh Mela. He was also “finalizing a new book which deals specifically with Tamil Nadu religious politics, and in particular with the role of various nexuses based overseas“. So he decided to “jump into the eye of the storm of this scandal in order to investigate whether similar nexuses were at work in this case“. With that he reveals the tint of his investigating lens that perhaps colours his report.
He found that “the sensationalized media reports were too one-sided, and none of them had a single statement to report from the swami himself“. How could they report anything from the so-called ‘swami’ when he had gone into hiding ?
Also, “another interest of mine has been to extrapolate important lessons from this episode for other Hindu organizations, which I predict will face similar scandals as and when their weaknesses become understood by those opposed to them.” By ‘weakness’ does he mean the urge to teach ‘tantra’ to actress disciples ?
After a two week long investigation during which he has been, in his own words, “loyal to my pledge to give Swami Nithyananda’s organization the benefit of doubt and to report their side of the story“, he “personally recommended to Swami Nithyananda that the best course at this stage would be for him to resign completely from his organization“. Because- “the head of any organization must accept responsibility that “the buck stops here,” only such a move can salvage the organization and the reputation of dharma at large“. So far so good. The only question that remains is whether Rajasekaran’s ‘resignation’ (if it happens), will be similar to Shri Advani’s ‘resignation’ , wherein he ‘resigned’ the opposition leader position and went on to become the chief patron of sorts of BJP.
Shri Rajiv Malhotra then goes on to ask Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ‘provocative’ questions- “The first provocative question I asked Sri Sri concerned the nature of yogic powers: What is the relationship between siddhis and morality?”. BTW what is ‘provocative’ about that common sensical question, unless Malhotraji’s intention is to shore up his credentials as ‘investigative researcher’ ?
“Sri Sri seemed impressed by this question, and agreed with my overall position..“. !!!
Then Malhotra sets a pre-condition for his investigation- “the issue of his (Rajasekaran’s) morality must be pursued separately and independently from whether his siddhis are genuine“. As far as the scandal is concerned, it was about morality, not siddhis. Then what is the need to bring in this talk of siddhis unless it is a red-herring to divert attention from the uncomfortable but inescapable issue of morality ?
After going to Kumbh mela, naga sadhus and Tantra, he claims to “address the issue of Swami Nithyananda’s morality” with this ‘recap’-“My first point… has been that the morality issue about Swami Nithyananda does not impact the effectiveness of the meditation techniques he has taught very successfully.” That is like saying the issue of ethical sensitivity and morality, or lack of it, of ‘mf’ hussain does not impact the effectiveness of his painting strokes which he has peddled very successfully.
“My second point was that there is nothing inherent about sex that is rejected by Hinduism across the board..” Another red-herring to divert attention from morality ?
Next, about Rajasekaran, “for a small number of persons, he feels that the 6 sutras involving sexual Tantra need to be tested and perfected for modern times, before they can be safely taught more widely. This he considers like any R & D done in a lab for developing a product.” R & D is when something is being developed from scratch. Tantra have been practiced for millenniums in India. All he had to do was become a shishya of tantric guru.
Some nuggets of wisdom is thrown in, which may come handy later- “My ‘sense’ is that he did practice Tantra with a very small number of persons, and I ‘believe’ that he even entered into written legal contracts… “
Followed by speculations about Ranchita- “Based on third party reports from some persons who are in touch with her,… She took the sexual initiative with him on the occasion shown in the videotape (was it different on other occasions ?), at a time when he was not fully alert (true. he seemed to be engrossed in televison). But this activity did not proceed to intercourse. It was terminated.” So essentially Ranchita, in absentia, is the sacrificial goat, ‘She did it!’.
“So in the worst case, this was consensual sex between adults, and that too backed by a formal written contract between the parties.” Actually, it is in the best case that it is consensual sex. In the worst case it is very many other things; such as adultery(with a married woman), duplicitous behavior (showing the face of brahmachari to millions outside and going against that in private) etc. But there is another plant here, which is- “that too backed by a formal written contract between the parties“. What was earlier speculated by Mr Malhotra as “I believe that he even entered into written legal contracts” is now taken as proof enough.
At the end of these speculations Rajiv Malhotra has the good grace to admit that “my moral issue is about the lack of transparency before the public. …there could also be the alternative scenario, namely, that this was mere lust packaged as Tantric spirituality” Wonder why the investigative researcher did not then probe that scenario deeper. Does it have to do with the fact that his forthcoming book is all about how ‘hinduism’ is under attack from outside, and not how it is being hollowed out from within by ‘practitioners’, due to which he will turn a blind eye to the latter ?
About his first meeting with Rajasekaran-“I found him to be very sharp, a great listener, and in agreement that we must engage social issues rather than pursuing the “world negating” or “escapist” paths that are typical of many gurus today“. Point may be noted- if you are in agreement with Shri Malhotra, you may escape being termed ‘world negating’ or ‘escapist’.
On a weekend course in USA “Swami Nithyananda gave the attendees their own personal inner experience“. If it was “their own personal inner experience“, is it correct to say Rajasekaran gave it? Or if Rajasekaran gave it, then how would it be “their-own-personal-inner-experience” ? Or is it that Rajasekaran is considered here as ‘God’, capable of giving people “their own personal inner experience” ?
Some self-congratulatory nuggets- “It was a two-way street. While he taught me meditation, I brought to him my scholarship …” “I felt that he and I had a peer relationship, each side being an expert in his domain to teach the other.”
And perhaps the reason why he felt to rush to the aid of Rajasekaran. “No other guru in the world has invested so much time with me to try and learn these global issues so deeply.” and “my primary interest in Swami Nithyananda was as a vehicle to spread greater awareness of the kinds of issues that I was researching“. So it was truly a two-way street. Birds of a feather flock together ?
Explaining why he chose to focus on the criminal charges in his interview with Rajasekaran avoiding the more infamous issue of sex tapes- “ I was unable to discuss the sexual acts shown in the videotapes. I had to respect the policies of his people….” Fine, and what were those policies ? “Their policy on the sex tapes was that Swami Nithyananda would directly explain his acts.” Duh! Then why wasn’t the Reverend asked the relevant questions ?
“Tamil actress’ … sensitivities had to be respected. The sensitivities of the 140-strong ashramites had to be protected .” Nice to have ‘investigative researchers’ respecting sensitivities so much as to leave important questions unasked. By the way the said actress’s sensitivities were ‘respected’ by Rajivji a while back in this manner- “Based on third party reports… She took the sexual initiative with him on the occasion shown in the videotape, at a time when he was not fully alert.“
According to him criminal charges became the focus of his interviews instead of the sex tapes for two reasons-“The evidence was more clear-cut than the evidence on what exactly happened in the videotapes.” How much more “clear cut evidence” of an event can there be other than its video recording, Mr Investigative researcher ?
“Secondly, the consequences of criminality would be far more severe than mere moral fallibility.” Isn’t ‘criminality’ itself a consequence of ‘moral fall’ ?
“While immoral conduct is a big concern for the devotees, it is not enough grounds by itself for the state to confiscate the entire property that runs into very large sums of money.” Therefore is it “the entire property that runs into very large sums of money” that is more important than morality ?
“YouTube wrote to him that he was the most watched of all Indian spiritual leaders on the Internet and proposed a closer collaboration for their viewers.” Nowadays it is of course YouTube and Twitter that provide standards for legitimacy, not the integrity of the person.
Then follows some promotion of his forthcoming book “Since I had arrived at the scene while writing my book on the conspiracy in Tamil Nadu religious politics, it was natural to start with that as my emphasis for the investigation…“.
“For instance, one of his top devotees got a phone call from someone based in New York describing the media and police attack that was to come. His predictions turned out to be accurate.. He said that… He claimed that ….He mentioned that … A lawyer contacted them and claimed that … There were warnings given to individuals… One friendly man based in Pune …told the ashram a week in advance of the attack… Another publisher in Hyderabad … called three times to warn… There were constant threats received to harass the ashramites and scare them away…”
Essentially it was all a conspiracy. and sex was tantric.
Then some gems regarding varna- “The Brahmin job description focuses on spirituality and research…”. ‘Job description!’. Being a brahmana is a job. Not a pursuit, not a way of life, not about realization of brahma. Only a job. And he gets paid for it. And perhaps, there is pension too. That is the ‘modern’ thinking.
Then,- “Swami Nithyananda had persons with Brahmin qualities performing duties that demand Kshatriya and Vyshya skills.” How was this conclusion arrived at ? Surely not based on what followed the expose-” his organization was in utter chaos, reacting to each “hit” by the other side. Its leaders were running scared, driven by one rumor after another. Decisions were being made in desperation and panic. The group was cognitively disoriented and many of its members were psychologically breaking down.” That description seems to fit people caught with their pants down (figuratively speaking), not people focussed on spirituality and research, the job description of ‘Brahmins’.
Further- “The organization was too much of a one-man show with the leaders operating like children dependent on the swami for every decision.” That sounds more like how Sudra behave, not spiritual researcher ‘Brahmins’. So on what basis did Shri Malhotra conclude earlier that “Swami Nithyananda had persons with Brahmin qualities” in his ‘ashram’ ?
Then he touches the core issue- “This is classical cult-like behavior..it also can also get into the leader’s head and make him power hungry. Especially when the guru has siddhis, this power can easily become co-opted by his ego into a dangerous mixture… I noticed this in the form of the inner circle’s inability to make common sense judgments, and their misrepresenting the facts to their leader …the honest truth did not come out fast enough …I had a difficult time to get dependable information, and the stories kept changing not only over time but also between one person and another within the group. I could not tell if there was a cover up and if new lies were fabricated to cover prior lies..” Are these the same people who were earlier described as having ‘Brahmin’ qualities ?
He winds up thus-“being a global guru is very demanding today, given that one has to represent a very old tradition authentically and yet in a manner that appeals to modern people. This is why Hindu leaders need a crash course on matters that are well beyond the traditional education in their own sampradayas“. In short, do they need to enter into a ‘peer relationship’ with Mr Malhotra to live up to the “very demanding” job of representing a very old tradition authentically in a manner that appeals to ‘modern’ people ? Few points may be noted here- (1) Regarding the job profile of a guru- A guru today has to represent ‘a very old tradition authentically’. So if you are not representing ‘a very old tradition’ (old enough to meet Malhotraji’s standards), you probably do not make the cut. (2) ‘And yet in a manner that appeals to modern people’. There you go. Wanna be new age guru, make it appealing to ‘modern people’ (‘modern’ as in ‘worker bee for western conglomerates’). (3) The traditional education in their own sampradayas being what it is, Hindu leaders need a crash course on matters that are well beyond its boundary walls. A preliminary reading of ‘Invading the Sacred’ (purchased at full price, mind you) may help. Later, wait for Malhotraji’s new book release.
He reveals- “My overriding concern throughout this investigation has been to find a way to do damage control in order to protect the broader interests of dharma.” The broader interests of Dharma, it may be noted, depends on ‘damage control’ efforts.
Of course “This requires a pragmatic approach“, not dharmic approach. Thus the pragmatic approach is that “Swami Nithyananda should resign immediately and hand over all his organizations to senior spiritual masters“. Why because- “it would be a better outcome than the likely alternative of the government stepping in to take over the ashram“. Thus dharma is in ensuring that the ashram properties are not lost to government, which is what is material anyway.
He finishes with some rhetoric- “Hinduism has survived for many millennia and faced many kinds of crises, just like all the other major religions of the world.” Many millennia means at least two millenniums or more. Is there any record of anything called ‘hinduism’ being present at that time, that lends credibility to such a statement? Such as, does Ramayana or Mahabharata or the Vedas mention about ‘hinduism’ ? Further, is there any record that this so-called hinduism faced many kinds of crisisses, or is it Malhotraji’s conclusion on somebody’s say so ?
“just like all the other major religions of the world“. If he means it is like the cults of christianity and islam, that is reason enough to discard it.
“…they need to become modernized.” Modernized, as in ‘civlized’ ? Did the white man’s burden change hands to the NRI ?
“This is not the last such scandal Hindu groups are going to face in the near future“( Buy my forthcoming book to know more).
BTW, Shri Rajiv Malhotra’s various contributions towards rejuvenation of indic traditions is probably unparalleled in recent times, at least on the net. Nevertheless, if this article is any indicator, his west-influenced approach towards solutions may turn indic traditions into, like what he mentioned above in his article-“just like all the other major religions of the world”. Thing is, the so-called major religions of the world, particularly, christianity and islam, have a bloody history of subversion, cult-like behaviour, dogmatism, deception and zero contribution towards realization or empowering people (as different from mobs). The same is the case with capitalistic or communist tendencies, both of which survive on brainwashing people (yes, capitalism too, through advertisements. Moreover, it was capitalists like East India Company, Hudson Bay Company etc., that created imperialism and slavery).
So it is unavoidable that dharma be given the deserving consideration in all matters over the so-called ‘pragmatic’ or ‘modern’ approaches, which are essentially poor excuses for ‘adharma’. dharma is concerned with morality more than siddhi, with integrity, more than material property, and with the rot within as much as with the attack from outside.
Rushing to the defence of swamis is noble. However, it should be genuine swamis. Integrity should be the criteria. Fighting for indic traditions against external forces is noble. Strengthening it from within, removing rot within is also necessary, else only the outer shell will be left with hollow inside. Engaging foes is necessary, becoming like them inadvertantly is not.
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