Why it was easy for Chitra Ramkrishna to make a godman

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In her book, journalist Bhavdeep Kang follows the rise and fall of nine famous gurus Gurus: Tales of India’s Leading Babas. The chapter, entitled Shaman-Shyster Chandraswami, is about the godman who enjoyed two decades of global fame before his crimes caught up with him, influencing international leaders such as Margaret Thatcher and the Sultan of Brunei, among others. Kang writes how his unmasking irrevocably hurt the gurus’ image.

“The word ‘Godman’ would forever take on a dubious meaning as newspapers around the world lifted the veil on his depraved world of sex, guns, drugs, money and abuse of power,” says Kang. “For a generation he became a symbol of the dark side of spiritism.”

Many more horrifying tales of godmen have come to light in the years since Chandraswamy. In the last ten years we have seen three biggies, Nithyananda, Asaram Bapu and Gurmeet Ram Rahim, collapse and burn.

“The greatest outrage of such ‘gurus’ has invariably been over their alleged sex crimes,” writes Urmi Chanda-Vaz. “It is invariably the vow of sexual abstinence that seems to give the Hindu ascetic an unbeatable ‘moral edge.’ So when charges of sexual assault and depravity come to light, it becomes the worst breach of trust.”

In a nation with a history of reverence for flawed or false spirituality, it was easy for NSE’s Chitra Ramkrishna to cover her tracks: she didn’t even need a flesh-and-blood guru to carry out her plan, just a spiritual shadow with an E -Mail address.

“If she had a mortal mentor, she would have had to give him a name,” says Pathak-Narain. “Instead, they were able to invent this formless Baba who supposedly wandered the Himalayas and whose spiritual tutoring allowed them to ignore rules and regulations.” How’s that for India’s out-of-the-box thinking corporate leaders?

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