Attention – Due To Allegations of Plagiarism, This Article Is Highly Suspect 

The influence that god men can and do exert on society became apparent through two separate incidents over the last week through the newspapers and television channels which  have been reporting about them first and the more constructive report was in the Indian Express where the famous Ram Katha preacher , Morari Bapu was reported as having got involved in the saving of the whale shark , an endangered species that comes to the Saurashtra coast for breeding. Invoking the imagery of a daughter coming home to her parents for confinement, he was able to persuade the poor fishermen of the coast, many of whom are his followers to desist from hunting these sharks.

 

 Moving beyond preaching from sheltered stages and mandaps, Morari Bapu walked to a stretch of the coast where a whale shark had got trapped in a fisherman’s net and set it free with a blessing. That one gesture conveyed to the fishermen that the preacher’s concern and involvement to safeguard the whales was serious and newspaper reports indicate that levels of hunting of these whales has decreased dramatically. Although some sceptics claim that the phenomenon of Morari Bapu’s charisma is temporary and that the lure of money will ultimately prevail, the fact that even some progress is achieved is an indicator of how much can be achieved when people with a following, particularly a spiritual following choose to walk their talk.

 

The other god man in the news was Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He didn’t get accolades of course for his remarks on Telengana and his opinion that those who talk in terms of the division of the country are actually committing a sin. His remarks led to a huge agitation and even violence. The TRS president , K Chandrasekhara Rao  commenting on the Sai Baba’s remarks suggested that the Baba stick to singing Bhajans and other dharmic activities. Apparently that statement indicates that in the political mind there is a big disconnect between the teachings and thoughts shared in discourses and the course of action that naturally follows as a consequence.

 

The situation of god men and their spheres of influence has never been adequately defined and perhaps never will be ? Should they merely preach abstract religious discourses but scrupulously avoid any references to real life situations and societal contexts where the moral and ethical principles can be applied practically. That seems to be the thought of the TRS president , who feels that the Sai Baba’s job is to run schools, hospitals and sing religious songs but carefully avoid making any comment that can be interpreted as political , even though of course there is no politics without a social milieu where issues emerge and ripen. Apart from the Sai Baba , there was also the recent instance of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar , who claimed to have provided a formula for solving the vexed Ayodhya dispute though in saying that both the Hindu and Muslim religious leaders should sit together and resolve the dispute through negotiations, he has not said any thing new that has been said before.

 

Although the temptation and the environment will always be there for religious figures to speak out on issues of a political nature and what they will say will often have repercussions given their mass following, there is a definite need to connect abstract  religious teaching to hard social reality. But in this , I would admire the grit and purpose of Sant Morari Bapu , who has chosen to advocate for a largely unheeded cause and made a difference than join the ranks of those who speak on emotive and media highlighted issues without making any visible difference to the situation. God men in India can make a difference – but if only we could ask that they would choose issues glossed over and passed over to make their difference.

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