Religion / spirituality as a paid service

The other day I was reading the news of Sri (x 2) Ravi Shankar’s satsang in Alappuzha in Kerala, where he was asked by the journalists his opinion on selling/marketing spirituality (Ravi Shankar was accused of commercializing spirituality by a Communist leader in Kerala). He said that he was indeed selling/marketing spirituality, yoga and ‘Indian culture’. I was astonished that he admitted this openly. But in the very next sentence (as reported by Mathrubhumi daily) he said that the profit he gets from this business is ‘smiles’ from the people and not money. That was a huge let down. I mean, why are the spiritual gurus, religious heads etc hesitant to admit that they are providing a service which we have to pay them? We all know that is the reality but why wouldn’t they admit it and why the word ‘money’ is so evil to them when they have no qualms in receiving it in loads?

Let me tell you about another incident. This is from the last weekend, on January 5th on my second brother’s 16th death anniversary. I had paid for some spiritual services for that day about a month ago in our parish for which I got the receipt (as per the rule I should show the receipt before the service is done or I would be denied the service, even in a possible case of misplacing the receipt). When I got there with my entire family (all of us would get together every year on that date for the service and thereafter for breakfast and lunch in my house) I’d found out that the second morning mass was canceled for that day. The cancellation was announced a week ago on a Sunday, but I did not go to the church that Sunday. But my booking was done about three weeks ago and nobody in the parish office notified me on this. So there were three services for which I had paid and I was ready to let go off two as a compromise. But the parish vicar denied me these services. He said I could choose one of the three services which he would decide, but I wasn’t ready to accept it. I told him that I was ready to let go the other two but one must take place because the entire family had come for this day and this special service and it cannot be postponed.

I also told the priest that I had paid for these services, which got him furious. Furious to a level that he even threatened that “I will show you” for which I responded “let’s see”. I don’t understand this. Why get furious for mentioning money? Especially when there is a practice that the priests would do the special services only upon presenting the original payment receipts? If they are so ashamed of the mention of money, or if money is so evil, then why demand the pay?

There are a couple of things that people who practice religion can and should do about this. First, remove the ‘holy’ or ‘divine’ element when you demand these services, as long as you are paying for it. Respond to the priests just as they respond to you; you wouldn’t find ‘holiness’ in the way that most of them, like our parish priest, speaks. Then demand the service as you would in case of any other paid services in this world. And, I am not sure if it already is and if not, bring the spiritual/religious services under the consumer court. A first step to deal with this this kind of issues is for the spiritual/religious heads to admit that they indeed make money (and not just smiles) out of special spiritual/religious services, and then the believers/consumers should see it as yet another paid consumer service (with a ‘divine’ element if you’d like, of course).

Rajan Zed on a promotional spree

It looks like Rajan Zed, the Hindu leader from Nevada is on a self-promotional spree. Rajan Zed has been in news quite often these days. First It was when he had been invited to read prayers to the US Senate. The news got widespread international attention when the prayers were disrupted with shouting of some fundamentalist Christians in the senate gallery. Since then Mr. Zed has been trying to be in the news consistently and project himself as the leader of Hinduism in America. But this has not been warmly welcomed by other Hindu leaders in the USA.

Leaders of three Seattle-area temples said they knew of Zed from news accounts or not at all.

“I don’t know how he advertises himself or how he gets access to these things,” said Shyam Oberoi, secretary of the board of trustees of the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center in Bothell.

Swami Bhaskarananda of the Vedanta Society of Western Washington in Seattle said Zed sounds like “someone ambitious” whose appearance might be “politically motivated — he wants to be known.” [Via]

Zed again came to news when he demanded that a special screening of The Love Guru (a comedy by Mike Myers) be allowed to the members of Hindu community before it was released in June (the movie had full promotional support of the new-age spiritual guru Deepak Chopra). As a result, the Hindu American Foundation was granted a pre-secreening of the film prior to the release.

It looks like Rajan Zed (or it could be his P.R.O or a fan) is doing a lot of self-promotional work these days. I got two emails, which was sent to an email group that I am part of, that seemingly came from Rajan Zed. He sent two articles which titled “Hindus urge European Union to formally apologize to its Roma population for centuries of abuse” and “Hindu statesman Zed inaugurated & blessed a Christian church in Nevada” and both of them had a “For favour of publication” note in the beginning. Then I got another email which was meant for me (because it is about music), which titled “Famous American band releases groundbreaking album on ancient Vedas and presents to Hindu statesman Zed” and for my convenience he had also attached a photo of the event. All three of these articles had mentioned Rajan Zed’s name in almost every paragraph with decorations such as “Acclaimed Hindu and Indo-American statesman Rajan Zed” or “Zed, who is the president of Universal Society of Hinduism” etc.

From what it looks like, there is a self-proclaimed pope-in-the-making for Hindus in America. Watch out for more publicity stunts from Mr. Rajan Zed in the coming days.

Details of the picture above (As given by Mr. Zed in his email):
Andrea (left) and Sara Forman (right), lead singers of Shanti Shanti rock band, presenting the first copy of their new album “Veda” to acclaimed Hindu leader Rajan Zed (center) in Nevada (USA).
Picture by: Roger Bowen Weld


OshoI haven’t read much of Osho literature or heard any tapes even though plenty of them were available in the market. It was my late friend Biju who first told me that I should listen to Osho tapes because it had some brilliant ideas. The only other literature that he asked me to read was of Mahatma Gandhi. He used to say “the world thought that Gandhi was a serious person, but he was so funny yet explained every thing in simple and beautiful words“.

From what I had learned bout Osho, he seemed to be as cunning (if not more) as the people whom he accused of. I still think the same about him. However, after watching a couple of You Tube videos, I thought, no matter how eccentric this man might sound, no matter how crazy some of his ideas were, he did leave some brilliant thoughts behind. From one of the videos I watched (“Absolutely Free to be Funny“):

I love disturbing people. Because only by disturbing them, I can make them think. They have stopped thinking for centuries. Nobody has been there to disturb them.

A man who remains consistent through his whole life, must be an idiot. A growing person has to contradict himself many times. Because who knows what tomorrow brings in? Tomorrow may cancel this day completely.

(Image courtesy: