Investigating quick fix spirituality.
It is an astonishing paradox of human life that with progress, sophistication, modernity and success comes depression, loneliness, alienation and insecurity. In the insane and direction-less pursuit of a mirage called “happiness,” the first casualty often is peace of mind.
Why? Because nothing in this world is free and the joys offered of consumerism and globalisation come with a sinister price-tag! Suddenly, the sexy, telephone-number pay-check doesn’t look so great because the tension and pressure that accompanies it is scary. Family life, social life, cultural life, intellectual life … everything is sold at the altar of moving up in life.
So, what’s next ? What is the solution ? Where is the salvation? Enter the marketers of Spiritualism.
Declares today’s hot young, controversial film maker (Dev D, Gulaal) Anurag Kashyup, “If you have a Sapnon Ka Saudagar, why can’t you have a guy hawking spirituality? The Con-game is the same, Boss!”
On a more serious note, Kashyup believes that in today’s troubled and recession-hit times, spirituality is in high demand and low supply. “Hence, the smart, shrewd marketer who has his ear to the ground and is able to think on his feet, can do wonders — for his desperate clients and laughing wallet.”
He cites the example of the ASTHA and a host of similar channels that enjoy a wide viewership across all stratas of society. He also points to the success of Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, Robin Sharma’s The Monk Who Sold His Ferari and Deepak Chopra.
Perizaad Zorabian, the gorgeous red-head scorching the Bollywood marque and modeling scene, (who is in limited edition mode after marriage and kid) takes a more serious view. She believes that every person has a spiritual side, “but unfortunately, due to the pressures of everyday life, sometimes, is forced to give it low priority. Interestingly, in times of real stress, it is this spirituality that gives them the inner strength and sustenance to cope.”
Although she lives an extremely busy life, Zorabian makes it a point to save some time each day for herself “to catch up with my spiritual self that is a source of both enrichment and empowerment.”
As for the spirituality-on-sale option, the actress believes that something as sacred and precious should not be treated as a product or service to be hawked for consumption: “I find it a very sick line of thinking!”
Sister Yogini of the Brahmakumaris, a spiritual movement like The Art of Living, The Oneness University, Isha Yoga, views it differently. She admits that many seekers come to the Brahmakumaris because they are freaked out by life’s pressures and desperately desire peace and happiness. “Our movement is not necessarily about renouncing the world, but offering peace and progress within the confines of daily life,” she says.
Adds Avanti Birla, high profile businesswoman, “Spirituality for me is as much about fulfilling my responsibilities at a personal level as it is about connecting with it in a societal way.” To Parmeshwar Godrej, Mumbai society’s celebrated diva and social activist, “The real path is about self-discovery.” While she agrees that a trendy, hybrid spirituality is being marketed, she believes that people are evolving all the time and their personal sense of spirituality doesn’t necessarily depend on instruction manuals.
Burly, bearded, iconoclast ad-man Prahlad Kakkar, doesn’t give a damn and is totally comfortable with the idea of marketing spirituality: “Yaar, we live in sexy, kalyug times where everyone knows the price of everything but the value of nothing! Spirituality, therefore, for the stressful, materialistic, gimmee-gimmee mobs, is something they can easily connect with only as a consumer.”
Kakkar believes that the simple, innocent days of basic goodness that was the DNA of our forefathers, have long disappeared and have been replaced by a turbulent and complex environment where basic values are frequently under siege. “Hence, a safety valve like spirituality works like Viagra and is a pre-sold, sellout item!” he says.
And now, the latest- Spiritual Cruises! Hot ticket icons like Baba Ramdev and Mridul Maharaj are doing their number on luxury liners heading overseas (South East Asia and Europe) with an army of devotees in attendance. Theaters on board that showcase raunchy entertainment, such as topless cabarets at night, morphing into sacred, incense and jock sticks Samadhan meets by day, complete with chants.
Hyderabad based software company promoter Govind Kabra, who specializes in organizing these trips, admits that their popularity has grown with time. From 1,500 a few years ago the number of cruisers has risen to a whopping 15,000. Although the major chunk are from India, there is a growing NRI presence from places like US, UK, Italy, Belgium, Indonesia, etc. Special and customized requirements (midnight night supper during katha, masala tea, vegetarian food, minus garlic, onion and ginger) are provided. These trips cost approximately $150-200 per night.
At the end of the day, I believe, it’s like selling coals to Newcastle! C’mon guys, we are, historically and traditionally, a spiritual nation with rituals and beliefs embedded in our psyche. Whether it’s the sandhya-deep accompanied by conch-shells at dusk or the vision of what life is about — karma, maya — spirituality remains an intrinsic part of our being. Unfortunately, pathetic West-apers that we have become, we seem to be enthusiastically buying into their hard-selling spirituality in the form of a fashion thing; a with-it and uber-cool solution to all worldly problems that blitzes our sense of peace and contentment.
It’s sold — and bought — as a quick-fix, a fevicol for the battered soul. But then, at the end of the day I guess it makes sense to remember that we live in an age of Vigyapan not Vigyan, brother….