Guru-Shishya Tradition of India Vs. the Fake Baba Phenomenon

Amidst the debate and criticism of the ‘Baba’ phenomenon (referring to pseudo gurus), the concept that got tarnished is the Vedic Guru-Shishya tradition of India. In the present times, the situations are igniting widespread examination of the Babas and their instrumentality. Being infuriated by the shocking revelations unfolding from the fictitious cover of spirituality and religion, almost everybody has jumped in to hold opinions on the subject of faith, belief, and the mode of access to God. The whistle-blowers are on their way to paint every institution and religious leader with the same brush. The westernised intelligentsia has been fast to coin words such as ‘self-styled Godmen’ and ‘Dera Heads’.

It’s true and appreciated that through advanced communication means, falsity and ill deeds throbbing in the garb of fake babas are getting exposed. However, by generalising it for the entire fraternity of Spiritual Gurus and going to the extent of questioning as to why a person needs any mediator between him and God at all, is alarming. The intelligentsia is hell bent on proving that either devotees do not have brains or they don’t use it while following the Babas, as in their view all Gurus are fake. However, by mocking and ruling out the very need of Guru and one’s attempt towards seeking refuge of the Guru, a serious damage is being done to the “Guru-Shishya Parampara” – the age old Guru-disciple tradition of ‘Bharat.’

India is a land of seers and saints like Adiguru Shankaracharya, Maharishi Aurobindo, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Yogananda Paramhansa, Swami Ram Tirtha, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Gautama Buddha, Mahavira Swami, and alike. Open any Hindu scripture and it starts with salutations to the revered Gurus. All sacred texts of wisdom, which are in fact the repositories of supremely advanced life sciences, hail and hold the sages in high esteem.

In this purview, can we actually bury the tradition of enlightened Gurus and their disciples just because many fake Babas have cropped up to exploit the tradition? Or, do we have the complete basis to label that ‘Brahmveta Satgurus’ (Spiritual Masters established in Brahman, the Supreme) were only an occurrence in the past? However, the majority of saints named above belong to the current era. For instance, Maharishi Aurobindo has been named as the lead crusader in the struggle for India’s independence.

Here is an excerpt from the foreword written by the former Chief Justice of India, Shri Ranganath Mishra on May 13, 1991 for the book ‘The Guru Tradition’ by Adiguru Dakshinamurthi – “Guru according to Hindu way of thinking is an incarnation of God in human form for the Shishya (disciple). God is universal; the Guru is personal in relationship. Education in the true sense enlightens the person undergoing the process. The inner eye does not open and learning does not get transformed into knowledge until the blessings of the Guru are showered.”

Such is the belief and practice of the Guru-tradition of India. No parallels can be drawn between fake Babas and genuine preceptors or the ‘Brahmveta Satgurus’. Therefore, it is important to understand that, as per the Hindu philosophy, who is a true Guru and why do we need one.

According to the Hindu philosophy, a true Guru is a seer, i.e. the one who has the direct perception of the Soul or pure Consciousness and can open the Third Eye of the seeker and show him/her as well the divine Lord within. This definition is well-recorded and emphasised repeatedly in all authentic scriptures worldwide. A few references are cited as follows –

Akhand  mandalaakaaram,  vyaaptamyena  charaacharam

Tatpadam darshitamyena, tasmaishri guravenamaha

(The Guru Gita)

Meaning, I offer my salutations to the Guru who enables me to “perceive” (darshitam) the hidden yet predominant God element in the cosmos.

Gharmeinghar dekhaayi de, so Satgurpurakhsujaan

(Sri Guru Granth Sahib)

– Hail the one as the true Spiritual Guru, who “shows” the Supreme Lord within the human garb.

The Bible also highlights the need and role of the Guru. It says–

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. (John 10:9)

First seek the counsel of the Lord. (1 Kings 22:5)

And, when an aspirant seeks refuge of such a counsel, then–

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

Highlighting “perception or realisation” as the underlying basis of spirituality, Swami Vivekananda has unequivocally stated, “If there is a God we must see Him; if there is a soul we must perceive it; otherwise it is better not to believe. It is better to be an outspoken atheist than a hypocrite.”

It is for this direct perception of the spirit within the human body, i.e. the realisation of the Soul, that one needs a Guru. As a corollary, it goes to say that the one who does not give this direct perception or entangles an aspirant in plethora of theories or outward performances and rituals is not a true Guru. Swami Vivekananda also exposed fake Gurus of his time, while carrying out his search for a genuine one. The basis of those exposes was the core question of the Vedanta philosophy – ‘Can you show me God?’ Verily, it is categorically this experience of the element of divinity, i.e. the Soul within the frame of one’s body that makes a true Guru stand higher and distinct from the fake and fraud ones.

Therefore, while we expose the fake religious leaders and their unlawful activities, we also need to sensitise masses and make them aware of the true and genuine ones. As we uphold the tenets of unbiased analysts and expose the frauds done in the name of religion, we must also inform people as to what the true religion is.

Subsequently, if we lack the understanding of true spirituality or religion, then we must refrain from generalising on these subjects. Those who are taking upon the duty to tell the reality of the fake babas must also go into the detail of the Guru-Shishya tradition and tell people that true and genuine Gurus also exist and how one must differentiate between the two. If we neglect this balance and paint every saint as a fake one, we would do a serious disservice to the spiritual identity and glory of India, which is known for its spiritual Gurus, the mystics, and the enlightened masters.

*Sadhvi Dr. Nidhi Bharti holds a Ph.D. in Operational Research from

Delhi University and she is associated with Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan.

(This article is carried in the print edition of November-December 2017 issue of India Foundation Journal.)

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