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" HT Home / Blogs Home > Cutting The Edge / religion / Sex, gurus and
conscience keepers"

“I have decided to live a life of spiritual seclusion,” Swami
Paramahamsa Nithyananda said in a March 31 video statement, in
response to his being caught with his dhoti up in a video relayed all
over the world on Youtube. “A board of trustees consisting from
sadhakas of the Dhyanapeetam who are non-controversial, will
henceforth manage the Dhyanapeetam.”

While I have absolutely no clue on what the expression “spiritual
seclusion” means — is there anything anywhere that’s not spiritual? —
that is not the issue here.

What I find amusing is the way Nithyananda’s sexuality is being
perceived. In the space of one month, the video (which violates his
privacy, I must add) has turned many of his followers against him. Not
very different from the way fans and followers have left former Andhra
Pradesh Governor N.D. Tiwari following his “bedroom stories” and golf
star Tiger Woods’ affairs.

Nithyananda’s crime: to have engaged in consensual sex. Last I read
the law, that didn’t amount to breaking any.

There could be more than a sexual transgression here. On April 1,
Douglas McKellor filed a case against Nithyananda in the US, for
fraud, cheating disciples and duping them (exactly how is unclear). If
those are the allegations, Nithyananda needs to be tried. Sexual
crimes are rampant across the world. Pope Benedict XVI is dragging his
feet on the worst possible sexual crime — organised child abuse by
paedophile-preachers — currently under the societal scanner, in
Ireland and Germany.

But if Nithyananda is “fond of pretty girls“, as McKellor further
alleged, I don’t know a single court anywhere across the would that
would admit the case. That allegation would also put him somewhere
closer to Father Alberto CutiĆ©’s amorous romp with an “attractive
woman”. Both Cutie’s and Nithyananda’s fault has been a breach of
celibacy that society seeks from them.

India, however, is a country that worships the greatest yogi of them
all. A yogi who is the inspiration behind arguably the world’s
greatest scripture, the Bhagwad Gita. A god born in a man’s body, an
avatar who lived like a man. Legend says he had 16,108 wives,
including Rukmini, Satyabhama and Jambavati. He also fathered children
— all of 80 according to one estimate.

As most Indians would know, I am referring to Sri Krishna.

And though Krishna was not a guru in the traditional sense of the word
but a ruler and a warrior, gurus having sex, too, is not a sin in
India. Else, Krishna’s guru Sandipani wouldn’t have had sons who
Krishna rescued from Prabhasa. Nor would Vasistha, the guru of
Krishna’s preceding avatar Sri Ram, have married Arundhati and had

Then there is the issue of out-of-marriage relationships.
Unfortunately for the self-styled conscience keepers of our society,
these too have been accepted — Ram’s other guru, Vishwamitra had a
daughter Shakuntala from a relationship with Menaka, an apsara in the
Gods’ court. They did not marry. Ram’s father Dasharatha had three
wives and according to Valimiki’s Ramayana, more than 350 concubines.

In the Mahabharata, Vidura, the most respected of all Kauravas, was
the son of a maid, born out-of-wedlock but accorded the status of a
minister to his half-brother Dritarashtra.

So, sex per se, is an accepted Indian norm. Out-of-wedlock sex is an
acceptable norm too. And even gurus and gods having sex is ok. (The
burden, if any, has fallen on women — Kunti, for instance, for having
borne the misguided hero Karna in a pre-marital relationship with the
Sun god.)

What, then, is the Nithyananda furore all about? Cutting the Edge is
not interested in his criminal activities at all. If he has broken any
law (cheating, for instance, to get sexual favours), the law and a
jail term await him. But if all he’s done is had consensual sex with a
woman (or many women, as is alleged), then the issue becomes one of
morality. As a public person, Nithyananda should have known better, I

Irrespective, this moral expectation has no place whatsoever in the
pursuit of god. A moral man is not necessarily a spiritually awakened
soul. And the reason is simply because morality is a function of
society and man’s laws, while the laws of spirituality are beyond any
man-made grid.

While being disillusioned with him, Nithyananda’s followers need to
distinguish between the two. If as his disciple you are uncomfortable
with his sexuality, cease following him and find another guru. A
reminder, though: your ultimate guru resides within you and an
external guru can, at best, be a medium to get there.

Don’t allow self-styled conscience keepers to divert your attention
from the seat of your inner quest — the reason why you go to gurus.
Understand that the Nithyananda controversy is mere titillation. Join
in, engage and enjoy that distraction in kitty parties and morning
walks, if you wish.

But remember, the key to spiritual growth — if that is indeed what you
came to Nityananda in the first place — lies within