In God we should trust, but not so much in godmen it would seem going by recent events. The latest godman to appear to have feet of clay is the controversial Asaram Bapu who has been served a summons for the alleged rape of a minor girl.
We have had several godmen and godwomen whose behaviour has been less than transparent even as they preached lofty values to their followers. The choice of belief is purely an individual one. But today, many godmen assume that the enormous power they have over their flock gives them the right to flout the law of the land.
Time and again, many of them have not been able to explain how they suddenly acquired possession of vast amounts of cash, which then gets used for decidedly non-spiritual ends.
The charges of molesting gullible followers have been made against many of them, including Sathya Sai Baba. These were never proved against the godman from Puttaparthi, but what did tarnish his image was the vast quantities of wealth that were sought to be transported out of his ashram after his death.
Many godmen seek donations on the promise that it would be used for socially useful purposes, which ends up in their own coffers.
Yet, they are powerful enough to ward off attempts to bring them to book. Shadowy reports of murders in ashrams like Asaram Bapu’s have been brushed under the carpet, usually on the grounds that this is a conspiracy by those who are jealous of the godman’s following.
Many followers who come for solace to these godmen would be better served by professionally-trained psychoanalysts. But that seems to attract stigma while the godman’s role is attached with a spiritual air.
If the godmen are truly the disciples of a higher being with only the welfare of their followers at heart, they should make their workings more transparent. Their ashrams should not be like fortresses where even the law is not allowed to enter with ease.
At a time when revulsion about crimes against women is increasing, no one, but no one, should be allowed to get away by claiming spiritual immunity. And no one should get away by unleashing their followers to intimidate the law.
Godmen may float above the fray but they must remember they are not above the law.