Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sleazy Sadhus Part II

As a consequence of the latest scandal regarding Rajendra Sharma, formerly known as Bhagwat Acharya and now being portrayed in the media as “Porn Swami,” general damage seems to be being inflicted on all who are connected to religious activities, worship or preaching.

Videos Sharma took with his wife of sexual activities with backdrops of Vrindavan’s scenery and mythological themes from Krishna’s life have now made the media tour of all of India, with the most lurid and sensationalistic coverage since last March and April, when Tamil Swami Nithyananda was filmed in flagrante delicto with an actress.
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The Indian media has learned the lesson of tabloid journalism enthusiastically, and the obvious lesson is that it sells. Even here on this humble and fledgling website, where we are trying to serve Vrindavan Dham, its residents and lovers from around the world, we have seen a spike in hits and visits since we published articles on the subject.

But it is not those articles that are making the rounds: the videos themselves are attracting huge interest as pages and pages of Google responses to the search for “Bhagwat Acharya video” attest.

Meanwhile, the media music produces the dance of indignant outrage from everyone who finds religion a convenient lightning rod for accumulated anger and resentments.

Blogs, internet chatrooms, social networks, and so on, are full of such commentary: The Amar Ujala today has the headline: “Lessons must be learned from the Porn Swami affair” and goes on to cherry pick some of the “best” comments from one such website.

Most of the comments stated that in this technological age, blind faith in sadhus and sants is no longer possible: they are not God. If society wants to maintain faith in its religious leaders, then it must takes steps to punish those who abuse that faith. One commenter went so far as to suggest hanging for such corrupt religious leaders. “They are a leprosy on the body of society,” he said.

One reader wrote that when the country’s political leaders line up to visit the most powerful gurus and acharyas, then common people naturally follow their example. But such religious leaders are really only thinking of their own interests. They have no interest in improving the lot of the common man. “We follow them blindly, but that is a mistake. We should not accept the importance or transcendent perfection of anyone other than God. Or, better yet, that we should learn to have faith in ourselves. When that happens, then ordinary people will be immune to delusion.”

Many others noted that this is nothing new, but the periodic repetition of such stories should keep us on our guard, aware that there are rascals in the garb of saints who are just out to hoodwink us.

Of course, the principal backdrop to all this is the hypocritical and confused state of the debate on sexuality in India. What exactly is Rajendra Sharma's offense? Is it the fact that he had sex with his wife at all, or was it the prurient interest he took in filming his own sexual acts "for his and his wife's own private consumption"? Or was it that he dared associate his own sexual acts with those of Krishna and the gopis that so shocks everyone?

Or was it that he had an [as yet unestablished] intention to market the tapes? And, if so, then clearly there is a feeling that the "market" is out there. What market is that? The very same one that is consuming those videos for free right now. It is one in which sexuality and the gods, especially Krishna, are explicitly or implicitly associated in a single, direct relationship.

Let us not be naive. Bhagavata speakers, bhajan singers, and even certain sannyasis, at least a certain sector among them, are treated like rock stars. They are young, handsome, dressed "like dancing actors"; they combine religious performance with sex appeal.

But what is not dealt with directly, or denied vehemently, is the openly sexual nature of Krishna himself and what the implications of that divine sexuality are or what it was meant to be. Until we at least get some dynamic and clear leadership on this matter, we will only have continued shocked reactions and cofusion, much noise but little introspective soul searching and honesty.

1 comment:

Steve Bohlert said...

Good points Jagadananda. Radhe.