In India, a man named Paramahamsa Nithyananda alias Nithyananda (born on January 1, 1978) is a self-proclaimed Hindu godman, who is the founder of a trust named Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam, which has temples, missionaries, and ashrams for his disciples in several countries. He is a fugitive since 2019 as he has been accused of rapes and child abuse in Indian courts. According to media reports, Nithyananda has bought an island near Ecuador and declared it as a Hindu nation. The information about the nation was disseminated through a website – kailaasa[dot]org. The website says that the self-styled fugitive godman has declared the island a ‘Hindu sovereign nation’ and has established a cabinet along with a prime minister for his so-called nation “Kailaasa”. It has also called for donations for “Kailaasa” and the ones donating will be provided with an opportunity to gain citizenship of the “greatest Hindu nation”.
According to cyber experts, the website was created on October 21, 2018, and registered in Panama with its IP located in Dallas – a state in the US. The website reads: “Kailaasa is a nation without borders created by dispossessed Hindus from around the world who lost the right to practice Hinduism authentically in their own countries.”
According to the website, the ‘Hindu nation’ has a flag called ‘Rishabha Dhvaja’, which features Nithyananda along with Nandi – the vehicle of Shiva. The ‘country’ claims to have a ‘Dharmic Economy’ [religious economy] and a Reserve Bank, where cryptocurrency will be accepted. The website also says that it has its own passport and flag, and it has also applied to the United Nations for recognition as an independent nation.
In December 2019, the embassy of Ecuador said that it “categorically denies the statement wherever published that Nithyananda was given asylum by Ecuador or has been helped by the Government of Ecuador in purchasing any land or island in South America” but has confirmed Nithyananda had reached Ecuador after he left India, then left soon after his request for international personal protection (refuge) was denied.
Nithyananda’s speeches have gathered widespread mixed reception in the Indian press, having broadcast a range of pseudoscientific claims, including that he delayed the sunrise for 40 minutes, that he could cause cattle to speak in Tamil and Sanskrit, and that he could disprove the correctness of the mass-energy equivalence formula E = mc2
He has claimed to have discovered over 400 esoteric powers expressible by humans and alleges having initiated his disciples into 60 such powers including kundalini and third-eye awakening. He has since asserted he would open the third eye, for anyone, free of charge by 2021. He also claimed that a person would be able to see through smog and walls. Disciples of Nithyananda claim that he gave initiations through ‘third eye’ to a class of 82 blind children, thus curing them of blindness. Rationalist professor and activist Narendra Nayak had challenged Nithyananda to prove his initiation of the third eye and subsequent benefits thereof.
Nithyananda has also claimed he and his followers were able to perform paranormal phenomena like extrasensory perception, materialization, body scanning, remote viewing, and the ability to find lost objects.
In the eyes of his disciples, Nithyananda is ‘His Divine Holiness Swami Nithyananda’, while others see him as a nut case and make fun of his bizarre preaching. His ‘comic’ video, in which he speaks of how he delayed the rising of the sun and his plans to develop a vocal chord for cows and other animals has been a rage and deemed stress busters by many.
The godman had earlier fled Tamil Nadu following charges of rape. He was eventually arrested from Himachal Pradesh in 2010 and taken back to face trial. Video clips of the Swami in compromising position with a Tamil actress surfaced on regional TV channels but the actress herself did not lodge any complaint and Nithyananda was soon back in public, telling his followers that he planned to replace all forms of energy with ‘conscience energy’ and enhancing the lifespan of human beings to 200 years.
In 2015, a woman devotee died inside the ashram leading to another controversy. Another woman, the mother of a young man who had tried to kill himself in the ashram in 2008 also gave a statement to the Karnataka CID.
A report in Newsminute maintained that Nithyananda has ashrams in almost every district of Tamil Nadu and in Bidadi, and he now owns properties in Telangana, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, and Puducherry.
“His operations in the United States also have spread to many cities in the past few years with ashrams set up in Ohio, San Jose, Seattle, Phoenix, and a few other places. Nithyananda has been popular amongst a section of young people in America and over the years, many of them have been given administrative positions in the dhyanapeetham,” said the report.
But none of this explains where the absconding Swami has parked himself. It is also not clear whether the Government of India does not take him seriously at all and treats him as a joke or whether it takes him a little too seriously.
What is clear is that a conman or not, the godman has no dearth of resources and has powerful friends protecting him.
Copying his predecessor?
Nithyananda’s idea of establishing a ‘Hindu state’ might have come to his mind from the plan of another godman named Bhagwan Rajneesh – who was deported from the US in 1985 after his attempt of establishing a city in Oregon was foiled.
In 1981, the Rajneesh movement’s efforts refocused on activities in the United States and Rajneesh relocated to a facility known as Rajneeshpuram in Wasco County, Oregon. Almost immediately the movement ran into conflict with county residents and the state government, and a succession of legal battles concerning the ashram’s construction and continued development curtailed its success. In 1985, in the wake of a series of serious crimes by his followers, including a mass food poisoning attack with salmonella bacteria and an aborted assassination plot to murder US Attorney Charles H. Turner, Rajneesh alleged that his personal secretary Ma Anand Sheela and her close supporters had been responsible. He was later deported from the United States in accordance with an Alford plea bargain
Rajneesh (born Chandra Mohan Jain, 11 December 1931 – 19 January 1990), also known as Acharya Rajneesh, Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh, and later as Osho, was an Indian godman, mystic, and founder of the Rajneesh movement.
During his lifetime, he was viewed as a controversial new religious movement leader and mystic. In the 1960s, he traveled throughout India as a public speaker and was a vocal critic of socialism, arguing that India was not ready for socialism and that socialism, communism, and anarchism could evolve only when capitalism had reached its maturity. Rajneesh also criticized Mahatma Gandhi and the orthodoxy of mainstream religions. Rajneesh emphasized the importance of meditation, mindfulness, love, celebration, courage, creativity, and humor – qualities that he viewed as being suppressed by adherence to static belief systems, religious tradition, and socialization. In advocating a more open attitude to human sexuality he caused controversy in India during the late 1960s and became known as “the sex guru”.
After his deportation, 21 countries denied him entry. He ultimately returned to India and revived the Pune ashram, where he died in 1990. Rajneesh’s ashram, now known as OSHO International Meditation Resort, and all associated intellectual property, is managed by the registered Osho International Foundation (formerly Rajneesh International Foundation).
Personally, I don’t have any prejudice about Rajneesh or Osho. Instead, I was moved by one of his many quotes, where he said: “Any religion which considers life meaningless and full of misery and teaches the hatred of life, is not a true religion. Religion is an art that shows how to enjoy life.”
Absolutely! I think, any religion that only talks about enduring pains and agonies in this worldly life for an unending reward, in the life-after – is totally unacceptable to me. Moreover, any religion that only talks about serious punishment for the “sinners” in the “next life” or any religion that teaches the culture of hatred and gives provocation to its followers to kill people of other faiths for gaining a “free pass” in heaven, which is filled with luxuries and sexual arrangements are nothing but a religion of perversion.
While about Nithyananda, I will certainly brand him as a criminal instead of a godman, I most definitely cannot give ditto to the allegations against Bhagwan Rajneesh as being a sex guru or a conman. He must have been a victim of social and political elites, media, and a few of his greedy comrades.
Let me make one point clear. The Hindi word bhagwan does not stand for God. Instead, its meaning is blessed one – used in Indian traditions as a term of respect for a human being in whom the divine is no longer hidden but apparent.
The story of Baba Ram Rahim
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan (born 15 August 1967) is the head of the Indian social group Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) since 1990. He is also a convicted rapist and was convicted of being involved in the murder of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati. Until today, this godman is in prison.
The Indian Express had placed Ram Rahim 96th in their list of the 100 most powerful Indians of 2015. He has released several music albums and films, which typically revolve around himself and his teachings. He is usually credited in his films as actor, director, writer, songwriter, as well as various other roles, in one instance being credited in thirty departments. His films were negatively received by critics, with many considering them propaganda and criticizing their poor quality. But, according to cine-circle in India, all of these films had made huge profits.
On 25 August 2017, Ram Rahim was convicted of rape by a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court. His conviction led to widespread violence from members of the DSS and simultaneous clashes with the police, which left several dead and injured. On 28 August 2017, Ram Rahim was sentenced to 20 years in prison. In January 2019, he and three others were convicted of the murder of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati and sentenced to life imprisonment. He is also facing prosecution for other murders and ordering forced castrations.
According to the editor of the Indian newspaper – The Eastern Herald, the number of godmen in India would be over one hundred, while the majority of them are conman. In his opinion, despite many controversies, Bhagwan Rajneesh or Osho Rajneesh will be remembered and even admired by the future generation for his depth of knowledge. I asked him – why Osho was living such a luxurious life with over 90 Rolls Royce in his possession – the editor said, Osho was the guru of the rich people and he had said this. Moreover, Osho was not obsessed with Rolls Royce. Rather those have been gifts from his admirers and followers.
Whatever the reason may be, I personally don’t expect any godman having the fleet of dozens of Rolls Royce – and living a filthy posh life when the majority of the people of his own country (India) were suffering from acute poverty. But who am I to say that? None of his followers have ever objected to these things. Instead, they have upheld their affection, respect, and attraction for Osho.
Before concluding, I would like to say a few words about Osho. According to him, every human being is a Buddha with the capacity for enlightenment, capable of unconditional love and of responding rather than reacting to life, although the ego usually prevents this, identifying with social conditioning and creating false needs and conflicts and an illusory sense of identity that is nothing but a barrier of dreams. Otherwise, man’s innate being can flower in a move from the periphery to the center.
Osho viewed the mind first and foremost as a mechanism for survival, replicating behavioral strategies that have proven successful in the past. But the mind’s appeal to the past, he said, deprives human beings of the ability to live authentically in the present, causing them to repress genuine emotions and to shut themselves off from joyful experiences that arise naturally when embracing the present moment: “The mind has no inherent capacity for joy. … It only thinks about joy.” The result is that people poison themselves with all manner of neuroses, jealousies, and insecurities. He argued that psychological repression, often advocated by religious leaders, makes suppressed feelings re-emerge in another guise, and that sexual repression resulted in societies obsessed with sex. Instead of suppressing, people should trust and accept themselves unconditionally. This should not merely be understood intellectually, as the mind could only assimilate it as one more piece of information: instead, meditation was needed.
People may call him a sex guru or a conman. I was rather amazed by seeing the depth of his assertions on various aspects of human life. From those Indian godmen, Osho certainly stands as an exception.