Preface: This post has NOT been made from a viewpoint of denigrating spiritual missions, but from a viewpoint of sharing some human issues that come into play in Indian spiritual missions/ashrams. It may serve to better prepare some persons to handle these challenges if they are involved with such spiritual missions, or intend to do so in future. This note is based on my experiences as well as my readings about Hindu, Christian and multi-faith (SarvaDharma) spiritual missions/ashrams in India. end-Preface.Spiritual missions involve people with a mix of spirituality and mission/service orientation. If one is focused on intense spiritual practices which take up most of one's time, then one may not so easily fit in a spiritual mission. A reclusive ashram/monastery which is largely detached from the world (or for some very dedicated person, even a cave, abandoned temple/place of worship or the jungle), would be a more appropriate place for such a person.
But if one is involved with a spiritual mission as part of a large spiritual organization then one has to deal with people and with the world. Now the people of spiritual organizations will typically have some spiritual inclination but if one presumes that most of such people would be angels, then one would be in for some sad disillusionment over time.
The reality is that people of large spiritual organizations do have many of the human flaws that all forms of organizations of humans have (commercial orgns/ govt. orgns/ non-spiritual NGOs etc.). However, most people in such spiritual organizations do try to keep their flaws under some check.
What I have said applies to both spiritual orgns involving part-time members (like lay members of a church but who are regular participants in church activities for lay members), as well as spiritual mission centres having full time (paid or honorary) members.
In the case of spiritual mission centres with full-time members I think these challenges are more acute. Now let me take the challenges, one by one, mainly in the context of spiritual mission centres with full-time members.
a) Jealousy: This is a major, major human weakness which finds full play even in spiritual orgns and spiritual mission centres. My considered view is that some jealousy is natural in almost everybody (including me). However, the more spiritually accomplished people can keep that jealousy under control. In some, however, the jealousy is uncontrollable. And yes, I am talking about spiritual orgns and spiritual mission centres. It is the uncontrollably jealous people who can be a very big danger to the groups they are in, as they can somehow rationalize their actions driven by envy as something else, and succeed in marginalizing or humiliating the persons that they are jealous of.
When I realized how powerful this negative emotion of uncontrollable jealousy is, even in spiritual mission centres, I was taken aback. I mean, I expected spiritual mission centres to be somewhat free of uncontrollable jealousy, as spiritual teachings always point it out as a big evil which has to be kept under control using one's spiritual practices (prayer, chanting etc.).
But what happens is that spiritual mission centres do not have many pressure-release outlets like entertainment and the like in the regular world. Further, one may be in the same group of people in the mission activity for years together or even decades together. So these things build up over time. Grudges for humiliation received is remembered for years & decades, and when the opportunity presents itself to take revenge for the humiliation received, many times, the opportunity is utilized to the fullest extent :-).
One may think that these things happen only in today's spiritual missions. And that in the ancient spiritual centres it was not so. But I think ancient spiritual centres too faced these issues. According to Hindu scripture, the anger that Sage Viswamithra had against Sage Vasishta was born of uncontrollable jealousy that Vasishta was recognized as a greater Sage than him. So Viswamithra even plotted to kill Vasishta! For more see http://www.srichinmoylibrary.com/eit-21.
Here is an account of how Shirdi Sai Baba in his younger days with a Guru/Murshid, was hit by a brick by jealous disciples of the Guru/Murshid. From http://www.saibaba.org/newsletter2-35.html:
Baba had a brick in his possession that He cherished as a life-long companion. Abdul used to take care of cleaning of the Masjid. Once while cleaning the floors, the brick that Baba treasured fell down and broke into pieces. Sainath was very sad at this event and lamented at the loss of one of His very few material possessions. King of the Yogis and the great soul that rejected everything material, Saibaba was dejected over what seemed to be a priceless piece of mud. How could that be?
The brick was the one that Sai Baba’s fellow students threw at Him having (been) consumed with jealousy of Sainath’s good standing with their Guru. Baba said that the Brick was dear to Him because it was perhaps the only physical reminiscen(ce) of His days with His Guru. While it reminded Baba of the protection Guru will always extend to his faithful disciple, the brick would also stand as a reminder to the jealousy of Sainath’s fellow students at His Guru’s abode. Pit(iable) should be the situation of those students who, blinded by jealousy, were unable to identify the True Brahman that was living and breathing amongst them. Jealousy, one of the evils that human mind harbors, is capable of blinding the intellect. Therefore, it should be a natural recourse for a spiritual aspirant to shun .. such an evil.
--- end extract from saibaba.org ---
Ravi: So when Shirdi Sai Baba was (playing the role of) a disciple of his Guru (Venkusa), Shirdi Sai Baba himself became the target of jealousy from other disciples, to the extent that the disciples threw a brick at Shirdi Sai Baba! That shows the power of jealousy even in spiritual setups among spiritual aspirants-disciples in the second half of the 19th century.
Would-be ashramites should be aware of this real factor of jealousy in ashram systems. Such knowledge will help them better handle or perhaps even circumvent problems that might have their root in the age-old evil of jealousy.
To be continued ...
[I thank saibaba.org and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extracts from their website on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]