An article about the arrest in India of the guru Asaram Bapu–worshipped as the “godman”–for sexually assaulting a 16 year old girl includes some background information which suggests that what has happened in America with Christianity is happening in India with Hinduism.
In the past two decades, spiritual life in the country has undergone a transformation as Indians embrace hectic urban lifestyles and move away from their cultural roots of village-based worship .
The result is that many have sought solace by flocking to the ashrams of gurus who offer spiritual truisms, chanting routines, yoga lessons and herbal cures — or by watching them on TV, where they appear on shows like the ones that televangelists have in the United States.
These modern-day mega-gurus are nothing like the wandering saints of ancient Hindu religious texts, who meditated and lived on alms, renouncing all worldly possessions.
Today’s gurus have built hundreds of ashrams across the globe and run flourishing businesses in everything from herbal medicine to meditation and yoga workshops. They travel in luxury cars, glide past airport security and are guarded by gun-toting police officers and bouncers. Some have criminal pasts.
“There is a mushrooming of these gurus who offer black-and-white spirituality without much depth to people who want short cuts in their fast-paced, urban lives,” said Katharina Poggendorf-Kakar, an anthropologist and scholar of comparative religion in Goa, India, who has studied controversial gurus.