Faith, a word so important to human history and society, it is virtually sacrosanct. People claim their lives are incomplete without faith, and those who seek power over others weaponise and leverage the faith of devout believers for their own personal, political or financial gain.
The constant tension between believers and rationalists came to the fore once again in recent weeks. Sparked this time, by the controversy at The National Stock Exchange.
Chitra Ramakrishna, the CEO of NSE, put her trust in a Himalayan ‘sage’ who was supposedly “mentoring and guiding” her through the tedious process of running the country’s largest stock exchange. She exchanged inside information with this ‘sage’ until the news leaked, and another ‘baba’ scam came to the limelight. According to SEBI as reported by India Today, The Queen of Bourses, shared the exchange’s board agenda, financial projections, and business plans. This entire situation can possibly land her in jail as the Delhi High Court refused her anticipatory bail application.
This is not the first time faith in spiritual leaders has cost people much more than they anticipated. Asaram Bapu, Ram Rahim, Rampal, Narayan Sai, and many more… have manipulated, harassed, and assaulted people in the name of Faith. But why does Faith have such a stronghold on us? Why does it shroud our reason, logic, and rationality? The American Psychological Association believes that Faith, or religion, in particular, is a byproduct of our tendency to find order among chaos, to look for discipline in our lives. Chitra Ramakrishna, like most people in the world, sought to Faith and was allegedly tricked by Anand Subramaniam. A woman who ran the largest stock exchange could not have been naive or senile, yet her Faith got the better of her. Faith, therefore, has this power of blinding rationality, which has been proved, time and time again. Her faith in this so-called sage, led her to make executive level appointment decisions as per his commands.
The ever-growing cases of people being defrauded in the name of Faith, superstitions being upheld (sometimes at the cost of somebody’s well being), and the rising hostility in the name of Faith, calls for a discussion on rationality. How can we strike a balance between logic and belief, wit and virtue? We need to understand the complexities of Faith, to what extent it is healthy and where it becomes a sin. People need somebody to believe in, somebody to hold accountable, somebody to complain, and somebody to hope from. Faith, in general, and spiritual leaders, in particular, play on these emotional needs. To top it all, the dynamic of pain/pleasure is always at play. Society conditions us to think that following religious duties leads to positive reinforcement while giving up religion makes us sinners. To escape this loop and avoid falling into a pit hole, we need self-awareness.
Self-awareness, in this context, means being alert when common sense stops making sense. The Art of Living says alertness and faith are complementary. We need to bring this complement to the table. Faith may be helpful, but blind faith can be dangerous. There is nothing wrong with seeking help by having faith in people and religious institutions. However, one needs to be cognisant of what they are sharing, and how authentic is the advice they are receiving. Leaning on somebody is not wrong, it makes us human and as humans, we are bound to make mistakes. We need a self-check measure, before following the advice of such leaders. We also need to keep a check on the authenticity of such leaders and sages in the era of cyber-crime. Chitra Ramakrishna was scammed over email, an electronic tool. Most religious and spiritual sites have a web address, email address, and web payment portals. This substantially increases the chances of getting involved and robbed in a quest for spirituality.
But is it spirituality that we all are after? Or is it the perks that the popular notion of spirituality offers? In this hustle world, everybody is after success in all its forms. After all, who does not like a high paycheck, a beautiful home, a healthy relationship, and mental peace. My logic gives me a red flag at this stage itself, I cannot have everything, one or the other thing has to be sacrificed. The spiritual leaders, often, promise all these with the additional bonus of spiritual peace. The realization of these promises, however, is less certain and more unrealistic. Human nature, however, falls for these pretenses and a veil of spirituality is cast over our minds which bars rationality from seeping into consciousness.
This does not imply that we must give up our entire faith on spiritual leaders and spirituality, but we must be smart enough to not get veiled. We need to use the same logic of rationality i.e., rational decision making that we follow before enrolling in schools, colleges, or universities. The same double-checks we do before going to a hospital or for a regular check-up. Moreover, when somebody advises a particular institute we do not blindly enrol ourselves or our near ones in it. We analyse our own situation and background, the same way we analyse an institute. If we begin applying the same logic in following spirituality, we will follow a safer path. Moreover, if we understand that we have to work for whatever we need, then we will fulfil the dual goals of spiritual peace and safety.
Lakshya Sharma is a first year undergraduate student at Ashoka University. He is an economics and media studies student. Apart from his academic interests, he has keen interest in writing and fashion.
Picture Credits: Daily Pioneer
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