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India India's New Age Charlatans

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by Admin Singh, May 9, 2011.

  1. Admin Singh

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    India's New Age Charlatans
    by SHEELA REDDY

    It was the last 'miracle' by the man who flew in the face of reason and defied the sceptics for seven decades. As 85-year-old Sri Sathya Sai Baba's emaciated body was lowered into his grave in a spectacle worthy of a rock star on Wednesday, April 27, 2011, hundreds of thousands of his devotees - including politicians, judges, bureaucrats, military officials, sports stars, scientists, professionals - stood patiently in line for a last glimpse of the man they believed was God.

    Their faith in his divinity had withstood everything - from charges of homosexuality, a cover-up of murders in the ashram, exposes of his magic tricks, not to speak of the fabulous wealth controlled by his trust.

    He was, as Katharina Kakar puts it, "India's Godman of the Twentieth Century."

    An anthropologist who taught comparative religion in Germany before she married Indian psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar and settled down in Goa, Katharina is one of a long series of scholars who were so fascinated with this "godman"'s charisma that she visited his ashram in Puttaparthi for a closer look. This was in 1995, when, according to her, Sai Baba was already "past his peak", but his aura was unmistakable. And indescribable:

    "He knew how to play with the psychology of the devotees - the way he made the crowd wait in suspense, and then made a grand entrance, collecting from the frantic devotees the letters of prayers addressed to him." Then suddenly he would stop and talk to someone, looking deep into their eyes, creating a certain mesmerising moment. "You can't train or learn this-either you have it or you don't," she explains. And Sai Baba certainly had it: the quality of a rock star.

    By the 1990s, according to Katharina, he had so assiduously cultivated high-profile devotees as well as tapped into a rising middle class's yearning for a short-cut to spirituality that his organisation had grown into a vast spiritual empire, with centres in over 130 countries. He had turned from a mere miracle-performing 'godman' into a carefully managed spectacle. His birthdays, for example, were celebrated in a large stadium built in the ashram which could accommodate over 50,000 devotees, and became big shows designed to strike awe and reverence: "big miracles, music, spectacle."

    Khushwant Singh, a well-known godman-buster throughout his long journalistic career, knows only too well how adept the godman was at cultivating high-profile devotees. There was his friend, the late jurist famed for his sharp mind and scepticism, Nani Palkhivala. In the last two years of his life, Palkhivala kept a portrait of Sai Baba on his desk. When Khushwant grilled him about it, the jurist who struck fear in the court refused to respond.

    It was a pattern Khushwant began noticing among the dozens of his friends and acquaintances who eventually succumbed to Sai Baba's spell. "It was like a crutch. If you tried to talk to them about it, they got angry."

    Khushwant was baffled: why did otherwise sensible and modern men and women turn into devotees of 'godmen' like Sai Baba? He eventually got a chance to find out. He received a letter from Sai Baba's manager, asking him if he would like a private meeting with the 'godman'.

    "Yes," he replied promptly. But when it came closer to the appointed day, another letter arrived, saying brusquely: "Sai Baba feels you are not yet ready to receive him."

    It's this ingenious blend of active pursuit and playing hard to get that probably won Sai Baba his impressively long list of high-profile devotees, ranging from presidents, prime ministers and central ministers to top bureaucrats, scientists and other professionals.

    They undoubtedly came in useful when Sai Baba was battling the charges against him by several former bhakts, feels Katharina. "These were serious charges, some of them probably with a grain of truth. But he had good contacts and there was possibly a cover-up," she explains. "And the charges never stuck, because the devotees didn't want to believe them and glossed over them."

    Like Dr Prabhakar Korada, a psychiatrist and professor in Mediciti Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad. Dr Korada, who started off like the bulk of Sai Baba's professional and modern-day devotees as a sceptic, dismisses the various charges against Sai Baba as "organised anti-propaganda". The journey of the psychiatrist from sceptic to believer is typical of the miracle that Sai Baba performed on countless souls over the coming decades: the doctor was going through a severe emotional and professional crisis in his life, when Sai Baba appeared in his dreams. "Even in my dream, I questioned him about his magic," recounts the doctor. Sai Baba responded by placing a foot on his chest, "as if to feel my heartbeat".

    After a couple of years of these recurrent dreams, Dr Korada landed up in Puttaparthi. He became impressed with the 'godman' and the social work he was doing in and around the village. There was a mysterious transformation and Korada's life suddenly improved for the better. Now his family keeps a picture of Sai Baba in the puja room and worships the 'godman'.

    This is why Sai Baba was so successful, believes Katharina - he was not only the pioneer of the 'godman'-as-social worker prototype - the first one to build schools, colleges, hospitals, orphanages, even a public water works. But, better, he was able to persuade hundreds of thousands of people that he was close to their hearts even when he was miles away - that he could manifest himself in their dreams. "A sort of God at the end of a telephone line, who can solve all your problems, worldly and emotional."

    He wasn't like the meditative, reclusive godmen before him, like Ramana Maharishi, who withdrew from people. "Sai Baba needed the crowds to believe he was god, just as much as the crowds needed him to be god, so that they could convince themselves that anything was possible."

    The only other 'godman' who came close to him in popularity was perhaps Osho Rajneesh. "But Rajneesh was someone who loved to shock. He was too provocative, too sexual to appeal to the Indian middle class," feels Katharina.

    Like Rajneesh, the 'godmen' who came before Sai Baba were mostly the export-quality type - catering to the spiritual needs of an increasingly alienated, rebellious post-war generation looking for alternative routes to spirituality. Sai Baba, on the other hand, was an indigenous creation who had somehow touched the nerve of a new India and continued to keep his finger on the religious pulse.

    By the 1990s, as philosophy and religion scholar Meera Nanda writes in her seminal work, The God Market, a rising and affluent middle class's craving for an alternative spirituality more in sync with their new lifestyle had resulted in a highly competitive 'godman' market, each fishing for followers in the same pool: upwardly mobile Indians, Indians living outside India, and "Western seekers" - "the Indian middle classes who have acquired the lifestyle of their Western counterparts and who share their taste in new age-ish spirituality".

    Having arrived on the scene before the deluge of 'godmen', Sai Baba naturally had an edge over his competitors. But Nanda lists three kinds of 'godmen' who came in his trail: the "miracle-makers" who follow Sai Baba's style of producing objects from thin air; the Veda-expounding type; and the meditation/ yoga/ alternative medicine variety.

    To Nanda, Mata Amritanandamayi or Amma, as her millions of devotees call her, is a good example of the reason-defying miracle-worker type of guru. Devotees may flock to her for her trademark kiss and embrace, but it's the miracles that cement their faith - the appearances in dreams, the belief that they owe all their breaks, big and small, to her. Like Sai Baba's flock, Amma's devotees too begin by being sceptical non-believers who are nevertheless in search of someone who will fill their spiritual void.

    Like Sai Baba's organisation, Amma's is a vast, multinational corporation, managed with an impressive hierarchy of volunteers - including "mantra monitors" and "post-mantra instructors" - and spectacular ritual ceremonies conducted on a raised stage, complete with TV cameras on cranes.

    The second type of 'godman', appealing mostly to the business and professional class who want more philosophy and less magic, is usually a pious and learned man, "well-versed in the scriptures, yet at ease in the modern boardroom," says Nanda. The sort who turns the Bhagvad Gita into a modern plan for living and equates this-worldly success with spirituality.

    But it is the meditation/ yoga type of 'godman' that has really taken the country by storm. Like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, whose Art of Living - a mish-mash of breathing exercises and "rock satsangs" where hundreds congregate after work to sing and dance to devotional songs - is fused with a fuzzy are-you-happy type of spirituality.

    "This type of 'godman' is meeting a need in modern-day society," concedes Jyotirmoy Sharma, another scholar who's looked closely at the rising trend in 'godmen', pointing out that the majority of Ravi Shankar's devotees work in the IT industry. "When you have to sit 12 hours in front of a machine, you need something to anchor you. It's a form of therapy."

    Earlier, Sharma says, you had gurus who showed you the path to enlightenment. "Now you have godmen who say don't bother your head about the larger questions, just trust in me, and everything will be okay."

    Is it an Indian thing then, this infantile craving for a 'godman' or 'godwoman' to shoulder our cosmic burden, to whom we so readily surrender our modern, scientific selves like hapless children, touchingly dependent on his or her approval for every move we make in our life?

    There's, of course, the long Hindu tradition we have imbibed, where the line between gods and men has always been blurred, which one could argue gives us an inherited susceptibility to 'godmen'.

    Or there are scholars like Peter Brent, who argues in his Godmen of India: "In the West, we are free to work for the approval of those we love and respect. But for Indians, particularly those of the middle classes, there are only two directions they can go to prove that they can love and be loved. One is towards homosexuality, the other towards the 'godmen' - the two not being mutually exclusive." Really!

    Nanda's argument seems more convincing. 'Godmen' are proliferating because there has been no strong counter-movement against it. Leaders like Nehru, Ambedkar and M.N. Roy did try to infuse what they called "a scientific temperament", but there was really no strong movement to support their well-intentioned move, according to Nanda. Even the rationalists never moved beyond exposing the "godmen"'s "miracles".

    Then there's our educational system: their plan for secularising Indians was to ignore the spiritual needs of the new generation. In contrast, the mainstream Christian churches in the West shed most of their dogmas and rituals in order to meet the religious needs of a modernised, industrialised community. Nanda, who studied in India, getting a doctorate from IIT before settling in the US, should know what she's talking about: "We were dealing with mind-boggling ideas like molecular biology, but with no relation to our own culture and consciousness." No wonder, she says, you now have a generation of the scientifically trained who speak in a strange language of "pseudo-scientism" - seeking to validate the avatars of Vishnu as a precursor of Darwin, or astrophysicists who do pujas during an eclipse.

    Nanda comes up with another reason why the affluent middle classes worship their 'godmen': they rid us of our guilt complex! Indians have always been schizophrenic about wealth - while they love to make money, they admire men or women who have renounced wealth.

    "Godmen," Nanda says, "take away the edge of guilt about being rich by teaching the newly affluent how to balance material prosperity with spiritual pursuits."

    But the deluge of 'godmen' these days could be a dangerous trend. Despite their claims of being eclectic, most 'godmen' and 'godwomen' lean dangerously towards the Hindu right, dropping their secular credentials at crucial times like during the Ayodhya dispute. Sai Baba, incidentally, was the only leading godman who refused to buckle under pressure from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to issue a statement favouring the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. But if the Hindu rituals and chants at his funeral are a foreboding of the future, it won't be long before he too is roped in as the Great Hindu Hope of the New Century.

    [Courtesy: Outlook]
    http://www.sikhchic.com/current_events/indias_new_age_charlatans
     

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  3. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    though I don't support baba's but the double standard of Sikhchic always surprise me on one hand they always say that Guru's respected all Religion yet these people are publishing article
    by using offensive word like charlatan.imagine What follower of amma or ravi shankar will think about us when he/she will read these type of words.imagine if these people would have been living in earlier centuries and have started their own Religions then Just to show the world,how much secular we are we would have been embracing their followers.

    No one knows the character of earlier prophets.Infact many historians really doubt that was muhammed even a spiritual person? But forget about questioning no one can even write a single word against him O/W our liberal brigade will make mince meat of that person by calling him right wing fanatic etc

    It is better for sites like sikhchic not to publish any article which is offensive to followers of any baba unless there is direct evidence against his/her involvement in any wrong doing. we don't need more enemies at present
     
  4. Gyani Jarnail Singh

    Gyani Jarnail Singh Malaysia
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    emphasis MINE. JS.

    Imho..there are even "harsher" so called Sikh sites out there who even bash other Sikhs....while calling themsleves holy ... Sangat Sikhs or Aware Sikhs..and Panthic etc..and they almost always very SELECTIVE about the "truths" the expose... Comparably SikhChic is very moderate..

    2. imho do we really "need such friends"..should we bend over backwards to accomodate these friends...i think not...not to say i am saying..go confrotn them..or like that..BUT ignoring them/sweeping them under the Daree is also not my thinking...

    3. I see the image of Guru nanak ji...among the teeming millions at Hardwaar...was HE "making friends"...or thinking..Shall I or shall i NOT ?? Guru Jis conduct as it is reflected in the History/Gurbani...ashows He didnt IGNORE..He diodnt CONFRONT..but he certianly did present the SIKH/Gurmatt point of view....at Hardwaar..at Mecca... in the Sultanpur Mosque...to the janeau holding Pandit ( THANKS BUT NO THANKS Pandit Ji keep your thread )...meeting the Siddhs the Yogi Big honchos..etc etc...

    4. Read Gurbani..a Charlatan is called a CHARLATAN..no mincing words....OOJal Keha Chillkanna..OH Sajjan you look Magnificent in your shining white Robe and Puggh..BUT your HEART is Coal JET BLack inside !!

    Just my private thoughts..made public...no offense to any intended..
     
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  5. spnadmin

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    The original source of the article is not SikhChic at all. In fact this is an edited version of the original which initially appeared in Outlook India magazine. The original title: God on a Phone Line. http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?271618

    So the idea that these are frauds, and the events explaining why, are coming from an Indian news source. Who should know? There is also a list of Cool Guru --- notables.

    Facts on the ground: these are charlatans. Synonyms: charlatan

    quack, sham, fraud, fake, impostor, hoaxer, cheat, deceiver, double-dealer, swindler, fraudster, mountebank; informal phony, shark, con man, con artist, scam artist, flimflammer, bunco artist, snake oil salesman; dated confidence man/woman.
     
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  6. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    ON the sikh sect division the less said the better it is

    We are no Guru Nanak .Also Gurbani has many words against non believers I don't see them people using them.Also Where is the favourate logic of people which is used many times " Who are we to Judge" If people are finding peace in company of some baba's then who are we to Judge .I don't have problem if someone uses Bad language for sathya sai because of allegations against him.but there are hardly any allegations against amma,ravi shankar or swami Ramdev.If people like their company then "who are we to judge"
     
  7. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    I know the article is from Indian source ,but Sikh chick is not a forum like SPN where anybody can go and copy paste from another site .Only what the site admins approve and think that the article is in line with their thinking are published
     
  8. Mai Harinder Kaur

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    Is that Ravi Shankar the sitarist? :mundaviolin: OK, that's a violin, not a sitar, but the sitar isn't really that Sikh and I haven't made a sitar playing smiley yet.

    Is this the same Ravi Shankar?

    Nora Jones' absent and uninterested daddy?

    Oh, George Harrison! Heaven help us all!
     
  9. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    No he is english speaking baba whose course of art of living is quite popular .He is called sri sri ravi shankar
     
  10. Mai Harinder Kaur

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    Thank you for clearing that up.

    Anybody calling himself sri sri, though, would seem to have an ego problem whoever he is.

    Kind of like people who call themselves Gursikhs.
     
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  11. Gyani Jarnail Singh

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    ....About we NOT being "Guru nanak Ji".hmmmmmmmmmmmmm..and who are we to judge..hmmmmmmm...points rasied by kds ji....

    I disagree....GURU NANAK JI made absolutley SURE we ARE HIM....right up till Waho Waho Gobind Singh AApeh GUR-CHELA....and the GURU "PANTH".....Guur nanak ji disregarded all traditional methods like Blood ties, relations, friendships, etc etc to bestow the HIGHEST HONOUR upon a SEWAK...a SIKH. Meaning He chose a SIKH...and called HIM "AANGad"..my LIMB (of my body).........

    And all those hundreds of thousands of AANGads happily followed the Sharp path of Gurmukhta and sat in boiling cauldrons, wrapped in burning cotton, pulled and torn apart on gear wheels, sawn in two from head to toe..cut joint by joint...blown in fornt of cannons, hnaged..skinned alive, etc etc....becasue a "SIKH" is the Main Force in this WAY OF LIFE....especially NOW..when the GURU is no more in a HUMAN FORM..BUT the "SIKH...the AANGad still is in Human Form".

    GURBANI clearly DIRECTS US to ....AVOID...STAY AWAY FROM....sakats, unbeleivers (not in the Islamic sense )..all those who will subvert YOU and lead you away from the Path towards which GURBANI leads. Gurbani is NOT.."guess what I am saying...Read my LIPS.." type of double speak/read between the lines sort of instruction....GURBANI is as clear as the clearest CRYSTAL GLASS !! WE are to JUDGE and JUDGE WISELY. ....not rush in where angels fear to tread..ha ha...( meaning a SIKH is no FOOL and never should be ..even on April Fools day !!)

    Gurbani has already said...What can the POORA SATGUR do..when the SHORTCOMING is in the "SIKH"....so its we who are...weak..in body..and in mind..and in spirit...and we who are full of Short-comings..and we begin to "see" those around us..and then begin to wonder out aloud...who am i to "judge"..I am no Guru nanak..better i keep quiet and shut up...or the MAJORITY COMMUNITY..may get angry with ME !!! There are Thousands of such SIKHS..who in the Mulsim majority areas are trying very ahrd to appease the Muslims...those in Hindu majority areas are trying so hard to melt-in..blend in..and be More Hinduer than the average Hindu...so that "peace" ?? will result...those in Christian majority areas trying so hard to find "proof" that the trinity is the Same thing as Waheguru...and that Jesus saves "Sikhs" just as well as He saves Christians..this is the REASON why so many "SIKHS" seek conversion..an alternative..another way...and fall to temptations..allures..free gifts..money..jobs..wives...when up to the 1800's NOT A SINGLE SIKH ever even blinked an eyelid at the suggestion of walking away form His GURU...why ?? Becasue each SIKH then was GURU NANAK...and its not possible for Guru nanak to abandon His WAY and chose another !!..NOW..most "SIKHS" are charlatans...thats why they love charlatans..and babas and sakats...is it not said..BIRDS of a FEATHER FLY TOGETHER...GURSIKHS and Guru nanaks are rare as Birds milk...BUT they do EXIST.:blueturban::redturban::happysingh::eek:rangesingh:japposatnamwaheguru::whatzpointsing::whatzpointsing::whatzpointsing:
     
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  12. kds1980

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    My point is not appeasing them .My point is if anybody criticises mohammed or islam some Sikhs go as far as even asking for his excommunication(the case of Gurmail singh) because they believe Guru respected all religions.Now if these baba's which are not even based in Punjab or any other sikh area ,have shops of spirituality then why should we attack them.

    Please tell me respect for religions was only for those religions which were prior to sikhism ?Are we free to attack any sant ,baba which exists in this age but we should not utter a single word against muhammed ,jeseus,Ram etc as this is against the secular principles of sikhism
     
  13. Harry Haller

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    May I humbly ask what would happen to a non sikh if he sat with his feet pointed at the Sri Guru Granth sahib, Guru Nanak did this only to show that god is everywhere, but as he was a Guru, he was able to show in a manner that only a Guru can show.

    I feel inclined to see Kds point of view in that we are not Gurus, we are still learning. I am not saying we should give any blessing to these people, however if there is to be anyone to take these people to task it surely should be the almighty
     
  14. Gyani Jarnail Singh

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    I would say...NOTHING would happen to a Non-Sikh or Sikh IF the SIKHS are "real sikhs"...........BUT..there are mostly Sikhs who THINK EXACTLY like the MUSLIMS who met Guru nanak Ji in Mecca..then that "Non-Sikh" or even a SIKH..will get the exact same treatment Guru nanak ji RECEIVED !!
    REAL SIKHS are those who have LEARNT the LESSON Guru ji taught us all in MECCA....but sadly almost 99% of Sikhs today havent learn anything from that...so theres your answer !! The SGGS is here among US...TEACHING US..but we refuse to open our eyes...our ears..our MINDS.....The Muslims just moved Guru nanak ji..the "Sikhs" you face may CUT YOUR HEAD OFF with their Kirpans.....or at best just manhandle you slap you around and warn you never to do that again.The SGGS means NOTHING to these types...( that is what SGGS teaches)....all they see is what the Muslims saw in Mecca ** I am NOT JOKING.

    I ma NOT putting forward MY VIEW..its GURBANI thats declares and affirms that Bhai Lehnna Ji an ordinary SEWAK became ANGADD..the LIMB of the GURU..and THOUSANDS of Angadds passed through SIKH HISTORY....the line is so long and stretches so far they all look like MICROBES..BUT in reality they are HUGE MEN and cast GUGE SHADOWS ON the Pages of Sikh and Punjab Indian History !!

    GURBANI and SGGS already very clearly declares that we are to FOLLOW ONLY the "TRUE WORD"..Khasam ki bani..HIS WORD. Gurbani REJECTS all beds, kitabs korans....(for a SIKH). I am sure Kds reads the Dohra..Sagal duar ko chhadd ke ....in his Daily rehrass. There is no reason to say anything about the prophets of yesterday...BUT these CHARLATANS (article author is NOT a Sikh by the way)...have NO Books/Granths/Vedas...which espouse their religious philsophy..they are BODY BASED (DEH DHAREES) so of necessity they are judged on their BODILY ACTIONS...cheap magic tricks, etc etc...Even those that have managed to put together a few hotch potch writings never base their discussions on them..they PROJECT their DEH...the BODY...what Granth has sai baba left behind ?? That we can take excerpts from and discuss ?? thats is my point.
     
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  15. Harry Haller

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    Gyaniji,

    I love your passion for sikhi, I have ready many of your posts, and I truly believe you are like a loudspeaker connected to the almighty.I have no problem with denouncing these people, in fact, any sane sikhi person reading about these people would probably smile inwardly and mutter under his breath 'another nutter'. I personally could not bring myself to worship someone with that hairstyle, out of sheer inability not to laugh during prayer (see you have me at it now) but I still think kds is correct that we should report such items in a respectful and informative way and allow the gurus sangat to make own minds up, any enlightened sikh is going to see a charlatan for what it is, there is no need to use these words in describing the obviouswinkingmunda
     
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  16. Gyani Jarnail Singh

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    Harry haller Ji..
    OK..point taken Jios...icecreamkaur
     
  17. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Gyani ji

    I don't understand this point.People like Ali Sina of FFI believe that true face of islam should be exposed and in order to do this prophet should be attacked.He and some other anti islamic scholars have truely made their points on the basis of research one.Just because these baba's and alive and don't have any book ,does it mean they are free to attack.

    Sathya sai baba is dead so does it mean after 10 years we should not say anything about him even if allegations against him are proved because he is no more .
     
  18. Gyani Jarnail Singh

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    Sathya Sai baba was actually riding on the coat-tails ( or chola poocchh) of the earlier SAI BABA Sirdi.....and now that he is DEAD..the NEW DEHDHAREE "SAI BABA" will be the one to criticise and expose...

    Look at the Nanaksarees...Nand singh, isher singh..atar singh are all DEAD and GONE...BUT those Babas still ALIVE are doing all the bad things..and parasitically living off the History of the dead ones.....so i see no point in flogging a DEAD HORSE (or sant )..its the ALIVE ONES that cause the evil....and need to be EXPOSED...

    The OLDER religions have their religious TEXTS which can be debated//analysied..NOT sot eh DEHDHAREES..their main pull is the BODY....and its charanpahuls, dhoby-ghat..sewa (whatever from doing foot job...ankle job.. to blowing jobs..massaging their legs, thighs, feeding them the best substances etc etc....while their own families go without...) all the MATHA TEKING is reserved for the BODY !! Hence deh dharee !!
    The Human Body is full of EVIL....thoughts..deeds..karams...lust..kaam..krodh..and ALL these Charlatans have these faults ...
     
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