The burgeoning growth industry of self-improvement within the United States continues to include exotic spiritual mentors. And India has been a fount for a litany of purported “gurus,” “swamis,” “yogis” and other would-be “god-men” that have enthralled Americans.
But in India such supposedly “spiritual” types are increasingly seen as simply tricksters or confidence men. And the police in Bombay are busting them, reports Reuters.
One Indian official who has exposed more than a few explained, “[Our] campaign is meant to be an eye-opener. We want to put a complete stop to those posing as god-men.”
But in the United States the First Amendment precludes putting a “complete stop” to any “religious” endeavor. So many of the “god-men” of India have immigrated to a more open market. After all, why work Bombay when you can come to America and make the big bucks?
Since the sixties a virtual wave of Indian gurus has washed upon the shores of North America. And seemingly gullible Americans have proven over and over again that they are willing to buy the wares of these “god-men” and a few “god-women” too.
The list of such spiritual entrepreneurs keeps growing.
There was Swami Satchidananda (now deceased), Guru Sri Chinmoy (still carrying on in Queens New York), Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (perhaps the richest guru on earth), Guru Maharaji (a boy wonder), Swami Prabhupada (deceased founder of “Krishna Consciousness”), Sai Baba, Swami Muktananda (deceased founder of Siddha), Yogi Bhajan of 3HO, Swami Rama and let’s not forget the notorious Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh who was deported before he died.
A new female “guru” is breaking into the American market named “Chalanda Sai Ma.” She is apparently a former pupil of Sai Baba and others, but is now touring solo.
Of course the United States appears to have plenty of homegrown flim flam, which includes an assortment of psychics, faith healers, mediums and even snake handlers. And American authorities are often far less vigilant than their Indian counterparts, when it comes to protecting the public.
Still, despite easily accessible homegrown holy men, there seems to be something about flowing saffron robes, mantras and exotic India that exicites the imagination of many within the US spiritual marketplace. Many “god-men” seem to know how to tap into that market, or that is, turn on the tap to cash in.
The historic success of Indian gurus in the US seems to have inspired a growing list of American wannabes that have taken on Indian names and titles.
Frank Jones from Brooklyn is now “god-man Adi Da,” Fred Lenz was called “Zen Master Rama,” a former New York housewife Joyce Green calls herself “Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati,” Mike Shoemaker became “Swami Chetananada” and Donald Waters became “Swami Kriyananda,” just to name a few.
Some of the “god-men” have turned out to have feet of clay. There have been several scandals and a few lawsuits regarding sexual misconduct and other allegations.
The old consumer adage “buyer beware” seems to be equally appropriate advice within the spiritual marketplace.
One Indian activist intent upon exposing “god-men” as simply con-men said, “It’s easy money — without any investment. As long as fear exists among people such god-men will thrive.”