Despite their yoga and Ayurveda, most of the top-tier holy men lead an incredibly frenetic life in India.
In Netflix’s Wild Wild Country, a documentary on Osho, the Indian guru doesn’t do much work. His ashram and life are run by his secretary Ma Anand Sheela, while the ‘godman’ glides around peacefully, often in a drug-induced bliss.
But the suicide of Bhaiyyuji Maharaj shows that lives of ‘godmen’ can be anything but blissful. The Indore-based guru killed himself Tuesday and, according to media reports, left a short suicide note. “Somebody should be there to handle duties of family. I am leaving to(o) much stressed out, fed up,” he is said to have written in his note.
Despite their yoga and Ayurveda, most of the top-tier holy men lead an incredibly frenetic life in India. Far from floating stress-free through life, they need to have superhuman levels of creativity and tactical skills to successfully juggle their multi-million dollar empires, social activities and spiritual needs of millions of followers. And, they have to do all this without ever letting a crease appear on their saintly foreheads.
It is particularly hard being a baba in 2018 as many of them are accused and convicted of all sorts of nefarious activities, ranging from corruption to rape. With intense media and legal scrutiny, it is becoming harder for them to maintain a squeaky clean, ethereal image.
A guru, a father
The low-profile, 50-year-old Bhaiyyuji was a powerful spiritual leader, particularly in western and central India. He had a large following among movie stars and politicians across party lines, and was even invited to Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in 2014.
Given his influence, he was often asked to act as a peacemaker in disputes among top politicians, including the one between social activist Anna Hazare and the UPA government in 2011 during the former’s anti-corruption fast. After his death, the Congress has alleged that the ‘godman’ was under “a lot of mental pressure” to work for the Madhya Pradesh government.
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Bhaiyyuji, who was a model before he became a holy man, also worked on several social issues, ranging from farmers’ suicide to afforestation. Apart from being a holy man and political mediator, he was also a husband and a father.
In her book ‘Gurus: Stories of India’s leading Babas’, journalist Bhavdeep Kang says that the guru believed he could run his hectic life on two hours of sleep a day. “He begins the day at 4 am with prayer, meditation and a workout, which includes sword play and wrestling. At 7:30 am, he holds a yagya. Then, he is in meetings for the whole day,” she wrote.
This crushing weight of expectations on gurus is captured beautifully in the 1965 Bollywood classic Guide. Dev Anand’s character, who goes from being a tour guide to a spiritual guru in the film, is asked by his followers to fast to end the drought in their village. Unable to dispel their superstitious beliefs, he fasts and dies. Just before his death, there is a battle between his body and soul. While his worldly self desires to return to his ex-lover and mother, the soul is concerned about hurting the villagers and killing their faith.
“What will they think I am? A charlatan, a fraud,” the soul says. The body replies: “Do you believe it will rain? Are you also superstitious like these illiterates. Does an educated man like you think that there can be a connection between your hunger and the clouds?” The soul then drops the philosophical bomb: “The question isn’t if it will rain or not; or if I die or live. The real question is if there is a creator of this universe. If there isn’t anyone, then I don’t care if I live or die. There is no fun in living like a blind person in a blind world. And if there is indeed someone, then we need to see if he answers his helpless people or not.”
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