Faith, Reason, Gurus, Godmen! India needs more torch of reason not Gurus and Godmen


James kottoorJesus said:‘Seek and you shall find’.  Maharshi Dayanand instead said; “doubt, debate and, if need be,  dissent”.  Simultaneously we are warned: “We all live in hope and die in despair.” Which one do we heed and act upon?

Left alone and individually we may feel lost but in company we feel confident, as in a united venture. This is the most beautiful and attractive thing I found in the combined writeup of Swami Agnivesh and Valson Thampu. The lesson for us is: ‘United we stand, divided we fall’ or ‘We all have to hang together or hang separately’ in a world that is so complex and complementary, at the same time. It is in giving that we receive and in sharing that we enrich each other and grow.

Topics like, “Heresy, democracy, faith, reason, Gurudom, Godmen” are hard shelled like the coconut to crack and get nourished. So we don’t  deal with any here.

All treasure hunters

The fact is we are all like treasure hunters let lose in the limitless space – material, spiritual, rational, intellectual, scientific, psychological, of things unseen and beyond comprehension. And each one of us have  to try to discover the treasure  during the limited time (our life span) and with our limited capacity or know-how, our physical strength and spiritual or intellectual light.

“Truth is one and wise men call it differently.” But  even  wise men differ in the  reach of their search light. One may have a search light as powerful as the Sun, another of the reflected light of the moon, others  like that of the stars and others so small like that of the fire fly, all of them so unequal in their capacity to  make one see far, fast and precisely.

In such a motley crowd where do you or I stand? That has driven me to the conclusion: “The only thing I know for certain is that I do not know and that applies to things in this world and in the next. Therefore I have to look with docility to other brighter lights here below, to get better informed and enlightened.”


It is here that we come to the basic principle of our need for interdependence, our basic deep-rooted urge to live as ‘Vasudaiva Kudumbakam’ and not independently, each one of us as an island of affluence in a sea of misery, in spite of the fact, there is enough and more here below for each one’s  need, not greed of course.

The principle is not how much each one of us is able or should contribute to the common good. The rule should be, each one contribute according to his/her capacities and receive according to his/her need, not greed. Those who are made to stand and wait doing nothing for no fault of their own, also serve, provided they are service minded.

Answer to questions

With these principles in mind how will we answer the tough questions raised in the headline? How will we deal with people who are led by blind faith in faith; in a religious book said to contain all answers;  in a Guru, Godmen, a social reformer, political dictator? Stupid things like flying planes into sky-high buildings were done by faith based initiatives!

So too international movements of people (migration) are blocked by walls of selfishness, greed, lack of fellow feeling, not realizing that poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere, sickness anywhere is a threat to health everywhere, war anywhere is a threat to peace everywhere in today’s close knit internet world.

Threat to Democracy

Democracy is all about the greatest good of the greatest number of people. Threat to democracy or heresy is when people join together as fighting factions based on caste, class, creed, community, country to corner the lion’s share of the common good for themselves. This is the culture of greed growing fast in India and the world over. This can be fought and defeated only by culture of love and care for those in greater need living around us.

The choice before us is: To join hands with possible peace and prosperity initiatives within our reach or work against impending avoidable shipwreck and suffering. Thus alone we may help democracy function better. james kottoor, editor ccv (from Chicago).


Please read below the article in the Statesman

by Swami Agnivesh and Valson Thampu


Heresy and Democracy

The Statesman,| May 24, 2018


The world has progressed through heresy, not piety. Piety, in most cases, involves no more than blind faith. Blind faith breeds intolerance and inhumanity. Literally, blind faith is faith that makes people blind. The profiteers of religion and politics find it irresistible to take advantage of it.


Consider this significant anomaly of our times. Modernity is characterized by its contumacy towards authority. All embodiments and foci of authority ~ especially religion and tradition ~ were questioned and marginalized in the western context. But blind faith in authority remains endemic among us.

The duty of the individual to seek and find his own spiritual path, and not follow the beaten tracks of .time-worn religiosity, was deemed basic to spirituality universally. Lord Buddha insisted that his path was not mandatory for anyone.

The individual has to find the path for himself. Jesus Christ, likewise, said: “Seek, and you shall find”. To Him, seeking and finding the spiritual path, and not following the ways of the religious establishment by herd-instinct, was the dynamic core of a person’s spiritual destiny. Maharshi Dayanand urged his followers to doubt, debate and, if need be, to dissent”.

Swami Vivekananda went to the extent of maintaining that, in the event of the scriptural texts running counter to the basics of humanity, they ought to be critiqued and, if need be, discounted. Responsible skepticism had been a distinct and sacred strand in Indian spirituality.

That changed with the advent of gurudom. The foremost casualty of gurudom was the duty to think for oneself. The guru knew all. He was the authoritative, and, ultimate source of wisdom. The shishya had only to lap up whatever fell from the guru’s mouth and not think for himself. Through gurudom blind faith suppressed the spirit of seeking in individuals. Modern education in India was erected on the hidden foundations of gurudom.

The one thing that we have never allowed to grow in academia is the culture of free thinking. In most schools, children are punished for applying their minds and deviating from prescribed answers. It is by a benign stroke of destiny that a rare student escapes its intellectually deadening effect and retains sparks of originality and innovation.

Ask: why is it that Indian students who go to universities overseas excel? Why do some of them prove geniuses? And why others, perhaps equally talented, embedded in our intellectually dull and dogmatic environment, stagnate and shrivel over time?

The collateral victim of our conditioning in blind faith in authority is democracy.If ever Indian democracy ~ still in its infancy ~ crashes into fascism, we would have to thank our readiness to surrender our reason and responsibility to some else’s keeping for it.

So long as the present tendency of reposing blind faith in leaders ~ especially those who flaunt political authority decked with religious frills ~ continues, our exercises in franchise cannot be ‘free and fair’. Truth is fundamental to making free choices, as it is to freedom itself. Choices made misled by someone are neither free nor fair.

Enemies of human freedom use falsehood to decoy the people into acting against their own best judgments. Truth, as Gandhiji insisted, is the liberator. He confronted the might of the Raj with the power of truth and shook it to its very foundations.

If a people are hooked on untruth ~ through a gamut of ploys like partisan media fanfare, false propaganda, mendacious rhetoric, willful misrepresentation of facts, the paralysis of objective thinking with the nerve-gas of communal polarization, etc ~ how can anyone be said to exercise his or her choice?

Individuals can exercise their will only if they know the truth of the situation and have an environment conducive to dispassionate, objective thinking. Any infusion of prejudice into it makes objective thinking and ‘free’ choice of people’s representatives impossible.

Consider a comparable situation to see this issue in perspective. Performance-enhancing drugs are banned in athletics, as they give an unfair advantage to those who use them. Benefiting from the use of such substances upsets ‘the level playing field’ in competition.

Unleashing false and malicious propaganda in campaigns, communally vitiating the ambience of polls, mounting personal attacks against political rivals on charges they have no chance to defend themselves against ~ in effect, condemning them without trials ~ are all worse than the use of performance-enhancing drugs in athletics, where such abuses are tested and unfair results annulled. In elections, the results stand.

What makes the problem alarmingly dangerous is the blind faith we repose in leaders. Even highly educated people are no exception to this. We tend to glorify, even deify, those who enjoy state authority primed with the gift of the gab. We are mesmerized by mega mobilization and hypnotized by hypes.We have an irrational reverence for offices. A Prime Minister, never mind who, commands our trust and veneration by virtue of holding that exalted office.

For that reason, its incumbents are expected to maintain a high order of rectitude, truthfulness, magnanimity and dignity. The mystique of the office disarms the people from distrusting what they are told and makes them vulnerable to manipulation. This is less of a problem in western societies where authorities are not venerated.

From the perspective of hypnotizing the masses with authority, nothing is more potent than a religio-political hybrid. A Prime Minister, who is cast in the mould of a demi-god ~ as in the hysterical chant NaMo, NaMo, NaMo ~ has the potential to induce in the masses a willing suspension of disbelief. He can make his audiences peck from his hands.

We eulogize this as the “Modi magic”. It rarely occurs to us to wonder if magic conduces to the health of a democracy. The magical mindset mocks the very essence of democracy. And that should be a cause for worry.


On our part, we could serve our democracy better by cultivating the spirit of heresy, of thinking for ourselves, in lieu of blind faith in fake saviours. We can do no better, even for religion.

The writers are an inter-religious team committed to social justice and God-centred harmony of all faiths. They can be reached at and


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