Friday, March 19, 2010


Humanity, Spirituality, and Ritualism

The short story of Kiran: Twice born, twice abandoned, twice orphaned, twice abused, twice exalted, and twice dead, waiting posthumously after fifty years for his third exaltation and third funeral.

Any similarity in the names and events is accidental. This is an objective critique of a social phenomenon in India from a psychosocial perspective.

An eleven year old boy is chosen to become the spiritual head of a Brahmin community and is initiated into the Sanyasa-ashram at that tender age with the consent of his parents. The tradition required that he perform the ritual of his own funeral. Also, he is not to see his parents, especially his mother as she is a woman, and as an avowed lifetime celibate he is not to have any contact with any and all women. He is initiated by the spiritual head of the community into spiritual tradition by giving him diksha so he can attain his spiritual enlightenment to make him worthy of becoming a Guru. He is, from all external observations, seen to be delighted in being a child, enjoying play, tinkering with radio, and fascinated with transmitters, etc., though missing out on secular education in a traditional school providing socialization opportunities. Before the Internet it was a healthy way of coping with the extreme social isolation imposed upon a child. Home schooling (or in-ashrama schooling) is to give him all the education necessary for him to become a Guru, and a few years' stay in Varanasi will provide him the necessary education in Sanskrit and Hindu scriptures. Thus equipped, Kiran will have the respectable position as an authority on Dharma. In this position he is to be revered by all in the community even to the point of touching his feet and performing his paad-pooja, meaning worshipping his feet by washing them to attain the punya of worshipping the Guru. So far so good.

However, the child guru is not seen to be physically or psychologically maturing fast enough after the death of his Guru to look big enough like his Guru. It is decided by the medical consultant that he needs to be administered Human Growth Hormone injections to augment his growth. This hormone in known to cause what is called giantism. Kiran started showing signs of this syndrome by gaining enormous weight, height, and signs of virility with a hairy appearance. Along with this, other side effects of testosterone excess caused severe internal distress especially with the externally imposed celibacy standards and requirements. This led to conflicts with the puritan priests, who themselves were seen to be engaged in behaviors that were not appropriate for child-swami to be exposed to when he was to be kept in a less stimulating environment. His rebelliousness in not submitting to the ritualistic and other requirements imposed on him led to his falling out of grace. He was considered unfit to be the Guru and eventually had to leave the ashrama to fend for himself.

No widely publicized, written, or exlpicit public apology for abusing the child guru with medical malpractice was ever forthcoming, although as a result of the toxic Growth Hormone administration the Guru developed Juvenile Diabetes, and severe Secondary Hypertension, both leading to early death. He did not receive any assistance for medical care or a pension from the community for whom he had been chosen to be the spiritual head. He became an orphan when he was snatched away from his parents and then again when his beloved Guru himself died only a few years after he was initiated.

Being an avowed Sanyasin devoid of any skills for employment, lacking traditional schooling, not even receiving high school education, leave alone a bachelor’s degree, Kiran remained truthful to his chosen path as a Sanyasin. Abandoned by his parents, and now abandoned by his ashrama, abused by his caregivers, he decided to fend for himself. Before that, while he enjoyed the status of the Spiritual Head of the community as a young man in his twenties, he decided to visit the foreign land. His once removed Guru (meaning his Guru's Guru or spiritual grandfather) had excommunicated several prominent members of this community for crossing the ocean. A prominent judge refused to take prayashchitta meaning official publicly performed repentance by ingesting the cow dung and cow’s urine along with cow’s milk, yogurt and ghee.

Now the present spiritual head was rebellious enough to disregard this injunction against crossing the oceans. He was in an exalted position though a controversial Guru. In his foreign travel he requested an old friend of his to have a private psychiatric interview but in his position of "house arrest" or surveillance, being watched for 24 hours by the priests and others in authority, a pediatrician and a retired judge, members of the executive committee of the ashrama, traveling with him, insisted on being present during the interview. Kiran expressed his misery as to how he was suffering emotional pain and the ill-effects of the toxic doses of Human Growth Hormones administered by a Dr. Kini. This information was not to be publicized. No one is to be responsible for this abuse. The writing was on the wall that as a result of this malpractice the Swami’s life-span was markedly shortened and he knew that quite well too. He was prepared to die early in the God forsaken place near the foot of a mountain where the Buddhist monks lived many centuries ago but he now had a different mission than that entrusted to him when he was the official Guru supporting all the ritualistic habits of his community. He was no longer the ritualistic Guru bound by the traditions. He was more of a humanitarian with other goals than performing rituals day after day and spending community resources for such purpose but wanted hospitals for poor people and rest homes for the elderly. He was humbled by the attitudes of the community and never once claimed to be a spiritual head of any community in his isolated abode.

The community was living in its imaginary spiritual bliss of the Guru and not paying attention to the humanity of their Guru. Neither his, nor his mother’s, feelings or suffering were or are publicly acknowledged by any of the community leaders. Kiran continued to draw a small following and lived in a small hutment in a remote place away from civilization in the middle of rice paddies. No one bothered to see that he had enough food or medications to survive and there he died of the ill effects of abuse inflicted upon him in the Chitra-nagar ashrama where he was administered the toxic hormones during his pubertal and early adolescent years. The rice paddies would get flooded during the monsoon. The local farmers, the Marathas, and the farm hands became his followers. The donations started flowing in after his death. This is his second death and his second funeral was quite pompous with public burial into a “Samadhi”. After his death he again became exalted in a small segment of the parent community probably because of unexpressed unconscious guilt of the community and other factors. Thus, as a born Brahmin who had undergone the Upanayana ceremony, he was twice born, to be twice abused, twice abandoned,twice orphaned, twice exalted, and twice dead. The saga continues without regard to man’s inhumanity to another human being because it is occurring and it has occurred under the intoxicating shroud of spiritualism and ritualism with no regard to the humanity of Kiran or his mother. Such spiritualism and ritualism can be quite blinding.

Social responsibility and civic sense is utterly lacking in his community which is still living in the spiritual bliss totally oblivious to the social injustice perpetrated on Kiran and his family. The property and donations created by the positive transference to Kiran is not enough to sustain the temple and the rest home that was built in the locale of his Samadhi. The feud around who is in control of the property and money has distracted people from the human aspects of this story. No apologies to Kiran and his parents for the abuse have come forth to this day from the community. Human memory is short lived. Besides, how can empty words lacking true and sincere regrets heal the repeated wounds inflicted over fifty years? Revictimizing the victim repeatedly is the pattern in this saga.

Humanity, Spirituality and Ritualism all have to be balanced without attaining dominance over the other in a good Dharma. The people who cared for Kiran when he was abandoned by his community are now not to touch his Samadhi, though they fed him by walking through the flooded waters when no one from his community came to see the plight of their abandoned Guru then. They are all either shoodras or dalits and if they ever enter his Samadhi they cause bhrashtakara and desecrate the holy place. They are now to be prohibited from entering his samadhi when his community took full control of it, but had nothing to do with him when he was living, and when he was cared for by the people who are now not to come anywhere near him. Even his mother is not to enter the premises by a legal order sought for from the Charity commissioner for other reasons than ritualistic. Where is the sense of justice or a sense of social responsibility, where is the social decorum or humanity, leave alone a regard for the sacrifice of the mother and the respect for her feelings of loss and love for her departed son?

Kiran is now waiting in his spirit to see if his community will ever be in touch with the reality of humanness of their abandoned Guru and respect the other humans he loved and whom he considered as equal; will the community exalt him once more as a more spiritually advanced Guru, who himself became excommunicated by his own choice, probably to pay for the social injustice committed by his spiritual grandfather by ousting the Judge out of the community for taking a voyage to England for his legal education at Oxford? Will the community follow his example of humanitarian ways? Or, will the community perform his third funeral by abandoning everything he stood for as a humanitarian by degenerating into base discriminatory brahmanistic ritualism that totally ignores humanity, leave alone spirituality?

1 comment:

  1. Whoever heard of a legal ban on a mother prohibiting her from visiting her own son's grave
    in any country, any religion, any culture, for any reason in the history of the human race?