Thursday, March 18, 2010


“It was my first time on the road as a volunteer with the Vamans. Through the day, both husband and wife gave tireless discourses on the healing power of meditation to growing throngs of both the merely interested and the deeply devoted. We wrapped up Pune and reached Nagpur. Crowds lingered, speaking to the Vamans about surprisingly intimate personal, professional, medical and financial problems. The Vamans gave them a patient hearing, off erring solutions and support.

Later, after dinner, I was turning in for the night when I heard a knock at the door. It was a fellow volunteer… ‘Vamanji has called us for a meeting…’ she said. We reached the Vamans’ room and the volunteer who’d come to call me didn’t bother to knock and instead just pushed the door open. And… and… I didn’t know what to do… the two of them were… aah… I… I just turned away in shame….”

Patricia Ganguly lowered her eyes as she drew irregular shapes with her finger on the drops of water I’d split on the table. Patricia was upset. She’d called us, her oldest friends who’d stuck with her since school, because she was disturbed. Just months ago, Patricia was singing paeans in praise of the Vamans, who’d apparently devoted the remainder of their middle-aged lives to public service, helping those in emotional and physical need through meditation and spiritual healing. She’d heard of astounding miracles and claimed to have benefited from the practices the Vamans had suggested for her. And yes, one had to admit that Patricia did seem calmer than she had in the past. Some others amongst us had also been drawn to the Vamans and their mystical charms. Someone had a strained relationship with his parents while another had been battling arthritis and they all followed Patricia to the Vamans.

While the spell lasted, it was beautiful. My friends found hope and happiness in Vaman’s words, and those were good words mind you, that spurred my friends to try and become better people. They are all nice people, these friends of mine but the pace of our lives has a way of sucking us in and making it impossible to look at life beyond the horizon of our lives. But the Vamans inspired them to teach children with special needs or give away money they would’ve spent on toiletries and tees on blankets for the homeless instead. Undoubtedly, they’d changed, and for the better. I too wanted to visit the Vamans as soon as possible.

And yet, just a week after I’d asked a delighted Patricia to take me along the next time she went for the weekly discourse, here we were, holding our heads in our hands and asking each other ‘How could I be such a fool?’

And it’s a pertinent question. Though unquestionably smart, my friends had turned over the reins of their lives, their resources and their selves into the hands of the Vamans. And I might well have followed. What great miracle begat such faith? Sitting around that table that day we realised that we all had yawning gaps in our lives. Needs – emotional, physical, physiological and financial – that craved fulfillment. And at such times, the seductions of miracles and hope are irresistible. Unless we learn to recognise these yearnings within, take responsibility and solve them on our own, we’ll always be looking for someone to take over the reins of our life.

When I wrote last week’s story about Vamans and their ‘sexual experiments’, a friend who I’ve bullied into reading my stories asked if the Vamans were an alias for the infamous Nithyananda who too had claimed that he was ‘experimenting’ when caught canoodling on camera with a starlet. For the record, though names are changed to protect identities, I’m not talking about Nithyananda here. Nor do I think that there’s anything wrong with two adults indulging in consensual sex. However, the reports I read failed to state whether or not there was a contradiction between Nithyananda’s teachings and practices, for only then is there reason for his critics to feel outraged, for his followers to feel betrayed. As for the Vamans, based on Patricia’s and other accounts and after some independent research, I’ve come to the conclusion that they weren’t all bad to begin with. Their ‘sexual experiments’ weren’t necessarily depraved acts but basic Tantric, Taoist and Wiccan (remember Jacques Sauniere, ‘The Da Vinci Code’?) rituals which Osho for instance has been candid and honest about while the Vamans and Nithyanandas haven’t had the courage to own up to them. What is also true is that in Tantra there’s a fine line between a collaborative practice and an exploitative practice and it is difficult to tell one from the other, even for those involved in the practice.

So here are my learnings from our experience…
Ask why you ‘need’ a ‘guru’
Look upon even the best of gurus as ‘experts’ or instructors – people of skill and learning who can teach us about an aspect, and only an aspect, of our lives. Anything more is asking too much of any (wo)man and bound to result in disappointment.

Question your teachers for how else will you learn. Anyone who, like the Vamans, discourages questions or doubts, or is surrounded by contradictions is definitely no guru.

And last but not the least, oft en a good book and an honest mirror make the best teachers…Keep the faith!



  1. It should be an eye opener for all who are ready to hand over their lives to people just beacuse they feel they can be liberated of their woes....Nice way of bringing it out...