Dana Sawyer's comments on an article I forwarded to him, which can be found
at http://in.rediff.com/news/2006/jan/09franc.htm :

------ Forwarded Message
From: Dana Sawyer <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Date: Mon, 16 Jan 2006 10:25:03 -0500
To: Rick Archer <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Subject: Re: In defence of Hindu gurus


Thanks for the article.  I read it with interest.  As an argument in
support of gurus it seems to me that it's a glaring failure.  Of course
he's right that the communists oppose dogmatic religion and social
hierarchy whereas most gurus are in support traditional Hinduism,
including the caste system.   But he is also correct that most Indians are
villagers who know very little about Communism.

He suggests that the real damage these communists do is in influencing the
"English speaking media" to "come down hard on gurus" but, in India, the
scandals of the various gurus have done that on their own.  (Furthermore,
if most Indians are rural and not reading the English media then maybe he
simply shouldn't pay so much attention to English newspapers because
there's no threat anyway.)  Of course, he's correct that the communists
oppose the fabulous wealth owned by gurus but he doesn't really address
why they shouldn't - in fact, he criticizes the West for capitalizing on
Hinduism.  Presumably he believes that only Hindus should be allowed such
decadent practices.

Regarding his solution, that there should be a supreme spiritual council
with Ravi Shankar at its top, one can only imagine that devotees of Ravi
Shankar love the idea!  I'm not really sure how he believes that creating
more hierarchy and putting more power into fewer hands is going to placate
the communists or convince the general public that gurus do not have too
much power.  It should be interesting to watch.  I did note that most
comments on his article, from respondents in India, were critical of his
viewpoint.  Once can only assume that the communists are out to get him!

A couple of reflections:

First, it is certainly true that gurus are part of traditional Hinduism,
as is the caste system, but guruism as it manifests today is much
different than it was traditionally.  Prior to the 20th century we've
never seen gurus who could wield the power of a Ravi Shankar or Sai Baba.
The role of guru as teacher or guru as acarya occured within a specific
matrix of checks and balances on their power.  Not only were pandits
looking at their teachings for possible contradictions with sacred canon,
but kings also were careful about who they supported and who they
tolerated.  Today, without those checks on power in place, guruism can and
has transcended its traditional boundries.  Buttressed by modern
transportation and communication, gurus can reach a much larger audience
then ever before and simultaneously transcend any local structures of
checks and balance that may still exist.  In many ways the situation is
analogous to what is happening with Christianity in our own country.
Where once the minister was a local figure, counciling his townspeople and
kept from megalomania by a bureaucracy, now he is a media star who seeks
to create a "Post-denominational Protestantism" that grants him total
autonomy.  Today the local church is waxing as the regional multiplex
arena-church is on the rise.  Similarly, where the guru was once a local
figure catering to speicific families and castes, he has become a rich
media figure with a transnational flock - far from the prying eyes of
those traditional institutions that once moderated his power.

Second, the author of the article says that a lack of overarching
structure and institutional unity has always been Hinduism's weakness.
Certainly this is a strange comment, out of sync with the general
appraisal.  For example, looking at history, it was the fact that Hinduism
has no head to cut off or monolithic bureaucracy to attack that saved it
from the Muslim onslaughts of the 11th through 13th centuries.  Buddhism
was exterminated precisely because it was unified.
Even relative to his own beloved practice of guruism, one must wonder what
the author would think of hierarchy if Ravi Shankar decided to use his
institutional authority to undermine the author's own guru.

anyway, a couple of off-the-cuff comments,


------------------------ Yahoo! Groups Sponsor --------------------~--> 
Join modern day disciples reach the disfigured and poor with hope and healing

To subscribe, send a message to:

Or go to: 
and click 'Join This Group!' 
Yahoo! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:

Reply via email to