What in the Name of God is Wrong with India's Faith?


May 9, INDIA (CNN-IBN) — Experts discuss if India's Godmen take country's faith for a ride.

"The point is not whether God is on your side (He is), but whether you are on His.” - Abraham Lincoln.

This famous quote by former American president Abraham Lincoln perhaps rings true in an era where religion has truly become the opium of masses.

In this age of “instant karma, quick nirvana”, it’s perhaps natural that some individuals or organisations become the repositories of a country’s collective faith. Spiritual gurus, babas, Godmen - they are known by many names and have become forces to reckon with when it comes to faith, specially in India where the lines between superstition and religion have blurred significantly.

But the faith has been maligned and many who claim to be Godmen, promising to rid lives of evil in the name of God have been proven close to evil themselves.

A CNN-IBN-Cobra Post investigation exposes the ugly side of some the most popular Godmen - Pilot Baba, a former Indian Air Force officer, Vedanti Maharaj, former BJP MP and Guruvayur Surya Namboodiri, who claims to be an astrologer - shattering the myth that surrounds Godmen of modern times.

Following are four news story videos about bogus 'Godmen' in the headlines:

Video One

Video Two

Video Three

Video Four

There have been mixed reactions to the expose. While many have labeled the channel as “anti-religious”, the government has promised action against those found guilty.

However, the larger question remains if these religious gurus abusing the faith of their followers?

This was the topic of discussion on CNN-IBN special show In the Name of God conducted by Bhupendra Chaubey. In the panel to discuss the issue threadbare were Head of Gambhira Mutt in Vrindavan Acharya Srivatsa Goswami; Peethadishwar of Sumeru Math in Varanasi Narendra Nath Saraswati and former Income Tax commissioner Vishwa Bandhu Gupta.

Blame game or a cause for shame?

Call it a reflection on the deep-set rot within the religious fraternity or a spiritual defiance, Narendra Nath was unwilling to accept the findings of the expose, and chose to blame the media instead. “As far as saints are concerned, their duty is devotion to God. But there are some elements that have brought bad name to us. While these saints are to blame for compromising on their piousness, media is equally to blame. The media has crossed its lakshman rekha (all limits),” he said.

But isn’t seeing images of religious heads engaging in such illegal activities as money laundering a cause for shame? After all, this expose had more to do with corruption than religion. “This is wrong, but trapping them (the Godmen) like this is also wrong. What they did was wrong but media is encouraging them and that’s worse,” Narendra insisted..

Interestingly, CNN-IBN received hundreds of calls and messages from viewers who chose to label the channel “anti-religious”.

But is questioning a religious leader, who has been caught on camera accepting illegal money, equivalent to being anti-religious?

Srivatsa Goswami admitted that anything that goes against the law of the land is totally punishable. “Unfortunately I haven’t seen your programme. But based on what I have just seen and on what you are talking with others, I will say that any act which in a violation of the laws of the land is not acceptable even if it is done by a religious person,” he opined.

However, Goswami also cautioned the media and cited the example of Mahatma Gandhi. “What I would say is that there is a spiritual dimension to the sting operation which is very important. Mahatma Gandhi - who was grounded in religion and was equally political - said one cannot justify the means because of the ends that one would achieve,” he said.


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