Why do gurus play favorites? How come the rich and famous get so much attention in the ashram?
I was reminded of ashram politics when the ex-monk emailed me. We both had lived in the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) Monastic Order.
My ex-monk friend’s email mentioned the injustices and wrongs that he saw in the ashram; he blamed them all on bad leadership of the SRF President, the reverend Sri Daya Mata. The devotees considered her to be a perfected soul, an infallible channel of their deceased but ever-living guru, Paramahansa Yogananda. Ma was the guru’s representative on earth.
Daya Ma, this former-monk speculated, was determined to make as much money as possible so she could spread her guru’s teachings to as many people as possible. Follow the money and follow the guru-Yogananda. Ma, the ex-monk wrote, “knew how to hit [up] the millionaires for dough”. While the average-Joe monk, who had neither fame nor fortune, seldom got attention from the reverend holy mother, Ma.
The irony is that I entered the ashram believing spiritual leaders, revered holy persons, would be different–that they would not be indifferent. My starry-eyed ideals and naiveté was shattered. Why should I not think that the ashram was different and that it was not full of politics?
In her irreverent book Karma Cola: Marketing the Mystic East,1 Indian-native Gita Mehta wrote:
“I left the ashram because it’s so corrupt. The guru never stops playing favorites.
I thought this ashram was going to show me the way. No more politics. Only philosophy and salvation. I should get so lucky. There’s more politics in one Indian ashram than in the whole Western Hemisphere!
It’s rather sick really. The people who are rich get closer to the guru than those who are poor.
In the end I stopped caring about guru contact. I just got tired of having to do all the dirty jobs, while the rich powerful guys sat around being holy.
Disenchantment in the cloisters.
Is it justified?
Can the gurus be dismissed as con men, manipulating their way to great fortunes? Or is the plot in fact thicker than cash?
1 Karma Cola: Marketing the Mystic East by Gita Mehta. Vintage Books. Paperback. 1994.