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Spritual Supermarket

Spritual Supermarket

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Published by V.P.Jain

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Published by: V.P.Jain on Apr 23, 2007
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11/19/2012

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The Spiritual SupermarketV.P.JainBefore NowWho says SEZ is a new idea. As no-holds-barred free enclaves (see the picturesabove) Delhi has witnessed proliferation of shrines on public land for decades.Globalisation as the new mantra has given birth to a new faith: money as the universalmeasure manifesting in the ‘GNP syndrome’ lures them to acquire ‘riches’ at all cost.The belief in the power of the gods, through their capacity to grant boons or to withholdall desirable things, drives them to propitiate gods in every possible form. Rituals are born of man’s adoration for that unseen power underlying the mystery of creation. Eachreligion prescribes its own set of such practices to please gods. Patterned as they are intothe traditional cultures, some ritual systems grow to such proportions that their realsignificance is lost. Sankara decried the obsession with rituals: in sharp contrast to ritualsas a practice for detachment and renunciation and spiritual enlightenment, it hasdegenerated into a means for furthering crass materialism. In a society based on the premise of competitive struggle for existence, the religious fervor increases directly in proportion to the quest for material possessions, which creates a readymade market for such an enterprise. More the obsession to acquire wealth, more the need to invoke gods,
 
even by inventing new ones and in diversified forms of worship, (to upstage others) for their blessings. Even thieves and robbers worship Gods and perform elaborate rituals to please their special deities for success in their venture. Such a belief system has sanctifiedsprouting of a variety of places of worship in very nook and corner of the city. Accordingto a conservative estimate, there are lac of places of worship in Delhi, which beatsVaranasi clean.Master plan or no master plan, they usurp land everywhere. Earlier they erectedthese structures in public parks in residential colonies, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The current fancy is for sites in close proximity to marketing complexes so as tofind a niche in the commercial space. To be in tune with the globalization culture these joints also compete with each other and adopt all kinds of marketing strategies to attract a bigger share of devotees. Not surprisingly, it is a new service industry and they are quitehappy to trade off peaceful ambience (a pre-requisite for offering prayers) for a chaoticspace in and around the shopping centers which is considered a more promisingcommercial location. They encroach on pavements which blocks footpaths, the sufferer  being the poor pedestrians who are forced to walk on the roads along with the traffic withall the risk it entails. These structures even spill on to the roads and, as road blocks,disrupts normal flow of vehicles, often causing traffic jams. And, of course, will find a place in guinea book for blaring auditory hell in almost every neighborhood. The ordealstarts early in the morning, usually at five in the morning and goes up-to even midnighton days considered more ‘auspicious’. In a significant judgment the Supreme Court hasruled: “undisputedly, no religion prescribes that prayers should be performed bydisturbing the peace of others, nor does it preach that that they should be through sound producing instruments in the name of religion in a civilized society.”They enjoy all that SEZ stands for: free land acquisition and infrastructuralsupport. No tax and get all amenities, e.g. boarding, lodging, water and electricity free. Inthis era of globalization and liberalization business management is the buzz word: exploitevery situation to your best advantage, no matter how much people abhor it. Religion has become the most rewarding business enterprise today that ensures maximum profit for minimum cost and entails no risk. The economy of the ‘spiritual supermarket’ isflourishing in metropolitan cities as the new breed of ‘entrepreneursexploit thereligious sentiments of the forlorn and gullible people whose only hope, in a disorientedworld, is some sort of a miracle. In a World turned upside down, afflicted as we are of the‘midas syndrome’(kon banega crorpati culture), where the success rate is abysmally low,the majority, being dejected and the depressed become sitting ducks for the prowling‘priests’. And in this era of neo-capitalism, where the consumerist culture thrives onmarketing, they prosper by packaging myths as faith and assiduously projecting several belief systems (e.g. rituals) as means to material prosparity, or by playing gimmicks likelord Ganesha drinking milk, the pundits laughing all the way to stashing cash in the banks. We have private twenty four hours TV channels brainwashing people to do thenecessary ground work.It is an irony, that even after decades of winning independence, and in this age of science, we continue to be mired in all kinds of superstitions. We have learnt nothingfrom scientific marvels. Man has been to the Moon and all preparations have been madeto land on Mars. But we continue to worship planets as Gods by performing elaboraterituals. The planet Earth which has given us life and sustains it is no longer an object of 
 
such a reverence, even though in the
 Atharava Veda
, an entire hymn, the Prithvi Sukta,has been devoted to praise of Mother Earth. Earth was seen as the abode of a family of all beings, epitomized as
Vasudhaiva Kutumbukam.
Moreover, one of the main postulatesof the Bhagavadgita is that the Supreme Being resides in all beings (
vasudeva sarvam
)and is the ultimate source and cause of the universal common good (
 sarva bhuta hita
).Hindu Dharma requires that a common good (such as the protection of the environment,welfare of the poor and the needy, or the well-being of other living beings) takes precedent over private good (including individual material and personal well-being). It isan obligation that human beings owe, not only to each other, but also to all nature and theentire cosmos. The Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana confirms this basic postulate: a gooddevotee is the one who sees in all creation the presence of God: he reveres the sky and theclouds, trees and animals, mountains, sprigs and rivers as the living expression of thecosmic order from which he derives his own being. Such veneration, respect andacceptance of God in nature ordains (Dharma) human beings to maintain and protect thenatural harmonious relationship in all human beings and nature (sustenance). HenceDharma encompasses social order by encouraging education, the arts and charitableservices.In this spirit, the ‘temples’
 
emerged as social institutions and performed manywelfare functions (many still do), the most important being as the catalysts of distributionof the ‘riches’. Of course the affluent could distribute wealth directly but it wasdemeaning to accept it as alms. It was, therefore, routed through the temples and given tothe needy as
 prasadam
as obeisance to God
.
The Sikh Gurdwaras are a living example of the places of worship to fulfill the obligation of feeding the hungry, a task which isconsidered divinely ordained. In the past, the temples maintained schools and refuges for sick men and animals. Temple was, thus, a corporate body which often played asignificant part in the life of the ordinary citizens, and were usually located outside thecity. With globalsation as the new creed, the social function of redistribution has been, byand large, abandoned and the offerings by the devotees (fruit, milk, sweets etc.) anddonations, both in cash and kind, is collected as fee (for getting favours from gods) solelyfor the benefit of the purohits and the organizers, like any business establishment. Pujari,as the self appointed PA to God, accepts offerings in the same manner as a babu receives bribes to fix all the adversities faced by the devotees. God is perceived more as a‘godfather’ than as a godhead: all the sins we commit can be taken care of and we can purify ourselves by performing prescribed rituals as a computer disk can be reformattedto cleanse itself of the bugs.And we have a very unique concept of secularism: it does not mean a scientificrationalist outlook but a license to all religious outfits to propagate their myths as their creed. No wonder we have witnessed the most sinister tales of blending religion with politics, catapulting fundamentalist forces to power. Religion comes very handy to playthe role of the mythical character of ‘Shikhandi’ in Mahabharata, under whose cover onemay indulge in dirty politics, organize business network and even perpetrate communalviolence without any fear of reprisal. In-spite of the constant refrain from variousauthorities, the MCD, the DDA and even the Hon’ble Supreme Court not to tolerateencroachment on public land, they defy the demolition squad with impunity. Nobodydare raise one’s voice for the fear of treading the sensitive path to be denounced as a

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