I had speculated in my earlier post on Param Pujya Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji (hereafter known as P2S2RSg) that he has been preparing the ground to make a leap from the spiritual domain to the political. Sample these news items of the past 2 weeks and his pronouncement on the news about DMK pulling out of the UPA government. With this my speculation moves ever so slowly and surely towards an explanation of the reality of P2S2RSg’s plans for a larger role in public life. It is likely that the Volunteer for a Better India (VfaBI) platform will be used to mobilize people that are loyal to him when it comes to the vote during the upcoming general elections. For all I know, I might be dead wrong about this because a lay person can only understand very little of the give and take of electoral politics.
But this post is not about P2S2RSg’s political avatar but about my perception of P2S2RSg in his spiritual avatar so that I keep the promise I had made in my first blog post on P2S2RSg.
Ask yourself what you would regard as some of the defining characteristics of a spiritual guru. To my mind, a spiritual guru is expected to have a clear understanding of the spiritual precepts (s)he is teaching/propagating/interpreting and should be articulate in expressing herself/himself since it is important to the followers in their pursuit to understand & follow the spiritual path. Also, I would think that a spiritual guru is one who is above petty ego hassles because (s)he has already attained that enlightened state of egolessness or is close to that or at the very least has a deep understanding of egoism & its pitfalls.
My opinion about P2S2RSg’s “spiritual guruness” began to form when I saw a few YouTube videos involving P2S2RSg’s inter-religious dialogue with Zakir Naik on the topic of Concept of God in Hinduism & Islam in the light of sacred scriptures. Those videos and P2S2RSg’s responses to that event much later on in front of two different audiences made up my mind about P2S2RSg “spiritual guruness”.
In this inter-religious dialogue between the two, Zakir Naik goes first and while discussing the types of sacred scriptures in Hinduism says this:
“In Hinduism, the sacred scriptures have been divided into 2 parts. The Shrutis and the Smritis. Shruti, in Sanskrit means that which is perceived, that which is understood, that which is revealed and the Shrutis are considered to be the word of God and they are more sacred than the Smritis.”
“Next type of the Hindu scriptures, we have are the Smritis. The word Smriti means to hear. It means to remember. It means memory.”
Now, I am not a Vedic scholar or know anything about the Hindu scriptures but even I can figure out that Zakir Naik has at best a partial understanding of what he is talking about in relation to Shruti & Smriti. The first part of his understanding about Shruti in that it refers to “that which is perceived, that which is understood” is wrong. Shruti means hearing or listening. Likewise for the first part of his understanding of Smriti which he thinks “means to hear”; here again he is wrong since he is obviously confusing Shruti with Smriti.
Zakir Naik then discusses the concept of God in Islam as well as Hindusim which is the subject of the dialogue. He then starts discussing P2S2RSg’s book titled Hinduism & Islam: The Common Thread where P2S2RSg, among other instances, attempts to draw similarity of Islamic worship of symbols/images/idols in the form of the black stone in Kaaba to Vedic form of idol/image/symbol worship. Zakir Naik disputes this assertion by P2S2RSg and then goes on to refute P2S2RSg’s claim in his book that Muslims copied the prevalent Vedic practice of washing hands and legs before offering prayers.
P2S2RSg, speaking in response to Zakir Naik’s opening speech, is clearly thrown off balance by the above mentioned line of argument, which he sees as flaw finding of his book then says this in his defense!!
“I know there are some mistakes in that book. I would have told him before also; this book was printed in an emergency, in urgency, when there were riots in Gujarat. I wanted this book to immediately go. I did not go to big scholars because I do not know much about Quran. I myself am not a big scholar but the intention he caught behind that is to bring people together. So that the Hindus respects the Muslims and the Muslims feel a sense of brotherhood and belongingness to Hindus. So, I am happy that though with the mistakes, which he has already pardoned me, he has accepted the intention behind it. You know, intention is what we need to see.”
After a Question & Answer session with the audience where Zakir Naik picks up some more faults with P2S2RSg’s book, they proceed to final responses where Zakir Naik brings up some more mistakes in the book. At this point, P2S2RSg is seen pleading with Zakir Naik & everyone else in the audience to drop discussions on the book because he himself knows that there are many mistakes in that book which is the reason why he stopped with a single edition of the book. The video is worth watching to see the embarassed explanation as well the frustration on P2S2RSg’s face; curiously from the time I downloaded that video yesterday from YouTube, it is no longer available!
But the story doesn’t end here with the inter religious dialogue event that showed P2S2RSg in a poor light as a spiritual guru who exhibits an aversion to engage in a debate when questioned about his own book. In these two videos, set in the backdrop of the aforementioned event (one is in English in front of a largely disinterested foreigner audience and the other is in Hindi in front of his fawning AoL followers), P2S2RSg launches into a personal attack against Zakir Naik calling him a fool and a useless person who parrots indices and glossaries. He also says that Zakir Naik’s level of intelligence is lower and he did not want to debate him as only people with small minds and intellect indulge in arguments and debate; obviously P2S2RSg hasn’t heard of Adi Shankaracharya who went around India debating every intellectual on philosophical and spiritual matters! One can see the contempt on P2S2RSg’s face when he talks about Zakir Naik in a vain manner; something that is quite unbecoming of a spiritual guru. P2S2RSg also says that he accepted mistakes in the book because he did not want any fight or riots happening there! Seems like a convenient excuse for someone who was totally unprepared for the events and just could not come back with a response clearly exposing a lack of presence of mind (or shall I say Self since he is a spiritual guru?!) as well as a lack of mastery over the subject on which he himself has written a book. These two videos clearly show the kind of ego hassles he has and his strong need to defend his actions thus pointing to an egoistic personality. The conclusion can be drawn about the “spiritual guruness” of P2S2RSg in light of the two defining characteristics I had laid down earlier.