Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Being a FAKE God's pauper is being a hypocrite, one of the worst fates for a spiritual aspirant

Terry Reis Kennedy's recent Facebook post, https://www.facebook.com/terry.reiskennedy/posts/10211857173083552, states that Shri B.N. Narasimhamurthy said, in a (public) meeting, on November 29th 2016, "I have to tell you, I have not earned any money in my life other than what Swami gave me physically all the time. I lived like a prince though I'm a pauper. But I'm a God's Pauper!"

Given below are some comments of mine on that post:

To use words like God's pauper but not be transparent about the funds received by trusts where he is supposed to be the main man, is not demonstrating financial integrity, in my considered view. Let Shri B.N. Narasimhamurthy provide financial details of his trusts (like what Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust does) to the public, audited by a chartered accountant (so the CA can be held responsible for the financial details published), and clearly state how much money has been spent for his and Madhusudan Rao Naidu's upkeep and travels. If he does all that and we find that he is living like a Tyagajeevi (renunciant who leads a life of self-sacrifice typically for the well being of others) with ceiling on desires, then we can refer to him as God's pauper. Otherwise Narasimhamurthy is mocking real Tyagajeevis and real "God's paupers" not only in Hindu mutts (monasteries) in India and elsewhere, but also in monasteries of other religions in India and elsewhere in the world.

I am NOT a Tyagajeevi but I have seen and read about many real Tyagajeevis in the 20th century and now in the 21st century, in India and elsewhere in the world. I respect REAL Tyagajeevis and ***DETEST*** FAKE Tyagjeevis who make a big show claiming to be God's paupers when they are splurging donors money (money not earned by the Tyagajeevis through honest work in society).
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Well, I prefer not to get deeper into this matter beyond the top-level view that I expressed in my comments. Money matters have been very sensitive in Parthi and I am sure would be very sensitive in MDH too. So I prefer to steer clear of in-depth money matters, especially in public conversations.
--- end my comments on Terry Reis Kennedy Facebook post---

Ravi: I would like to add some more info. about the term, "God's pauper". When I shifted to Puttaparthi in Oct. 2002 I served for a month or two perhaps (free service) in Radio Sai. At that time one young student-staff (brother and nice guy, Prakash Bharatkar, who continues to serve in Radio Sai even today, I believe) had passed on to me a zerox copy of a book about Saint Francis of Assisi. If I recall correctly it had the title, "God's pauper". The book made a strong impression on me as it gave an inspiring account of Saint Francis of Assisi who was a missionary of Christ who embraced poverty and whose mission stood in stark contrast to the opulence of the Roman Catholic Church establishment of those times, as described in the book.

I mean, I got fired up with missionary zeal then (temporarily). But, to be honest, that zeal did not last beyond a year or two I guess, as I got to know both Prasanthi Nilayam ashram system and the outside ashram Puttaparthi town environment better, and as I realized that I was not really interested in being a missionary who embraces poverty like the Saint Francis of Assisi described in that book. Neither did I have the robust physical body and health (I do have some health issues that limit me) that such heroic missionaries like the Saint Francis described in the book, had. However, I did hugely respect those people in Prasanthi Nilayam system as well as in outside ashram Puttaparthi town who led such dedicated and simple/poor missionary of Sathya Sai type lives. This included Shri B.N. Narasimhamurthy (BNNM) who I did not get acquainted with but who was known to be a very dedicated missionary of Sathya Sai, was widely respected and revered, and who did not have any taint of money craze associated with him.

Perhaps the above reference by BNNM to the term God's pauper is related to the book I mentioned above.

I tried to dig up some more info. about the book from the Internet a little while ago, today. From https://www.amazon.com/Gods-Pauper-Novel-Nikos-Kazantzakis/dp/0571204937, "God's Pauper is an imaginative retelling of the life of St Francis. Kazantzakis' writings are an anguished expression of the eternal struggle between the spirit and flesh, and he uses the story of St Francis to draw us into the Maelstrom. The story is dramatically unfolded to us by the Saint's constant companion, Frate Leone, who takes us through agonies of physical and spiritual humiliation. We accompany the Saint before the Pope to establish his Brotherhood; to Damietta and the Saracen armies; and in solitary vigils on Mount Alvernia. The minutest and the mightiest elements of nature form the backcloth to the drama of events. Hate, compassion, jealousy and fear are among the principal ingredients in the drama, fused together with infinite subtlety."

Hmm. So it was not a true story!!! That's quite a disappointment as I had thought then that it may be at least a largely true story. But such is life! [Amazon India lists the book at Rs. 424/- for paperback version, http://www.amazon.in/Gods-Pauper-Nikos-Kazantzakis/dp/0571204937. I think I will order it and read it again this time knowing that it is an "imaginative retelling".]

Anyway, over the past few years as I got into my role of writer on spirituality & religion, I have read up about Saint Francis of Assisi from other sources like wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_of_Assisi, and do know that he is widely revered in the Christian community. Pope Francis took his name as Pope Francis due to his admiration of Saint Francis of Assisi!!! That itself tells us how big a man the real Saint Francis of Assisi is, in the eyes of some sections of the Christian community today. Here's an extract from my blogpost, Twelve paragraphs from Pope Francis' encyclical on urgent need to address pollution and climate change, http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2015/06/twelve-paragraphs-from-pope-francis.html, which quotes Pope Francis from his encylical as follows:

Saint Francis of Assisi

10. I do not want to write this Encyclical without turning to that attractive and compelling figure, whose name I took as my guide and inspiration when I was elected Bishop of Rome. I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and he is also much loved by non-Christians. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.

--- end Pope Francis quote extract from my blogpost ---

Ravi: I do think the real Saint Francis of Assisi is a great inspiration for those who want to lead lives of being missionaries of Sathya Sai who embrace a life of celibacy and simplicity. But I do hope such persons do not get misguided by ***FAKE*** God's paupers who go about in fancy cars and jet around in chartered flights, and then try to claim that they lead lives of simplicity!!! Being a hypocrite, in my considered opinion, is one of the worst fates that can befall a spiritual aspirant, whether it is a renunciant, celibate missionary or family person or bachelor/spinster but NOT renunciant, spiritual aspirant.
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I checked out the relevant video for the exact words of Shri B.N. Narasimhamurthy (BNNM) and context. Around 1:32:45 in the video, Thursday Satsang : 29th December 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHyvqku54Cg, we have the relevant words of Shri B.N. Narasimhamurthy (note that there is a sync issue between the audio & video):

[The context is May 2009 Kodaikanal trip with physical form Swami where BNNM and boys had gone shopping. Swami had given money to the boys to make purchases. On their return after the purchasing outing, Swami asked them about their purchases. Then Swami asked about BNNM's purchases and was told that BNNM sat in the car and did not buy anything.]

Shri B.N. Narasimhamurthy says: Then Swami said, "Paapam, ataniki nenu emi dabbu ivvaledu. Atandaggara dabbu ledu anduke atanu diga ledu." Swami said, see I did not give him any money - he doesn't have money. That is why he didn't purchase - paapam. And Swami felt very bad. And he came down. Straight (he) came to me, and said, Narasimhamurthy, I forgot. I forgot to give you anything and I could see that Swami was feeling very concerned that he didn't give me anything. And then said I will give you money for your clothes. "Chokkalku dabbu .." Chokkal means shirts. For your shirts, I will give money. (Of course), Swami has given everything. And at this point of time I want to tell you, I have not earned any money in my life other than what Swami gave me physically all (that).. physically. I lived like a prince. He made me live like a prince. Though I am a pauper. But I am a God's pauper therefore I don't have any problem. [Applause]

[Narasimhamurthy then says that Swami did not pay him money in Kodaikanal. Later they flew back to Prasanthi Nilayam. A few days later Narasimhamurthy got ready to leave to Brindavan. Swami called him into Swami's residence (through boys who were serving Swami) and Swami told him that Swami forgot to give him money for "Chokka" shirts. Then Swami gave BNNM a packet. BNNM says he took the packet and put it in his pocket. After going back to Brindavan BNNM opened the packet and found the money to be two lakh Rupees. BNNM says, "I thought (if) I have to make clothes for 2 Lakh rupees and wear, how many lives I will have to be born again. How many births I have to take?" BNNM wrote a letter to Swami on those lines. Swami read the letter and sent word through then Central Trust secretary, "Narasimhamurthy picchi vaadu. Mad fellow. I gave 2 Lakhs and said for clothes. It is not for clothes. He can use it for anything."]

Ravi: The additional context and specific words used by BNNM does not really change my view as expressed in this post. Prior to Mahasamadhi, BNNM could claim to be somebody solely reliant for his money needs on Bhagavan directly giving him money. Further, he could claim to have led a fairly simple life. I mean, him saying that he lived (or Swami made him live) like a prince is hyperbole if the word 'prince' is taken literally! But that's a minor matter.

However, now in the years after Mahasamadhi, with huge amount of money being donated to new trusts where BNNM is the main man, BNNM clearly has lost the moral right to claim to be somebody who lives only on what Bhagavan provides him. He may spin some story/have some delusion about all of this being directed by so called subtle body of Bhagavan who is directing him to travel in fancy cars, fly business class all over the world and even charter a plane (like Bhagavan would in physical form, for some trips including perhaps the Kodaikanal 2009 trip mentioned by BNNM). Fine. So long as people believe his story/delusion and keep donating his trusts big money, I think what he is doing may be within Indian law, and so nobody can stop him. But to do all this and then say that he is God's pauper is too rich for me to take!!! I mean, there has to be some limit for hypocrisy.

I wonder what one of India's leading Tyagajeevi and Mathadhipathi (monastic head) of the 20th century, Kanchi periyavar, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandrashekarendra_Saraswati, would have said of BNNM claiming to be God's pauper NOW. It surely would not have been a positive view. Some extracts from the wiki page of this very illustrious Tyagajeevi and learned Hindu scholar and monastic head of 20th century India:

Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Mahaswamiji (20 May 1894 – 8 January 1994), or the Sage of Kanchi, was the 68th Jagadguru of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham. He is usually referred to as Paramacharya, Mahaswami or Maha Periyavar. He is widely considered as one of the greatest Indian sages of recent times. He was renowned for his saintly life, strict adherence to the sanyasa (asceticism) and unparalleled knowledge in a wide array of subjects. His foremost vision was the protection of Vedas, tradition, and dharma.
...
The term Jagadguru aptly suited him. He had devotees from all walks of life. From the downtrodden to the affluent, from Hindus to Muslims, from Asians to Europeans, there were many who found solace from this man who lived in a small thatched hut in Kanchipuram. He was known throughout the world as a great jnani, in whose presence everyone found great peace and tranquil.
...
K. M. Munshi, founder of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan wrote about the Mahaswami :

He is one of the most remarkable men I've ever seen, a tapasvin who reminds us of the ancient ascetics referred to in our ancient literature, giving validity to the concept of our ancient ideal of austerity, rising superior to the demands of flesh. A profoundly learned man , he combines within himself sastraic scholarship with a discerning understanding of modern life and its problems.
...
He was the head of the Mutt for eighty-seven years. During this period the Kanchi Kamakoti peetham acquired new strength as an institution that propagated Adi Sankara's teachings. The devotion, intensity,and fervour with which the Paramacharya practised what Adi Sankara taught is considered to be unparalleled. Throughout his life, the focus of his concern and activities was rejuvenating Veda adhyayana, the Dharma Sasthras, and the age-old tradition, which had suffered decline. "Veda rakshanam" was his very life breath and he referred to it in most of his talks.

Remaining active throughout his life, the sage of Kanchi twice undertook pilgrimages on foot from Rameshwaram in the far south of the Indian peninsula to Benares in the North.
...
His strict adherence to the tenets of sanyasa ashrama made him shine as a great saint. He travelled widely by foot and rarely by palanquin, this way he toured entire India once and south India several times.

In spite of being the pontiff of an important spiritual institution of India, he rejected the royal paraphernalia usually associated with such high offices. Living at places like dilapidated temples, cowsheds, and thatched huts, even in the remotest of villages, he (strove) to spread dharma amongst the people. Taking one meal a day, sleeping in makeshift rooms, withered palanquins and cowsheds, he advocated simplicity and shunned extravagance.Wherever he went, the common folk and the elite thronged to receive him with honours.Vinoba Bhave said :

Even to the most obscure village of our land , he has gone and stayed and met and conversed with the people from the humblest to the highest in the society.His stay in every village has been a source of inspiration, illumination,instruction to the people.He is a walking encyclopedia of variegated knowledge. Every man, woman and child has received his blessings and enjoyed the delight of words falling from his lips. The person struck with sorrow has received consolation and courage from his sympathetic looks and words. In fact, wherever he went he has spread joy, comfort, knowledge, spirituality.
...
The Dalai lama visited the nonagenarian sage and found great peace in the latter's presence. He later told the press :
"He is the only real ascetic of the 20th century."

People from all background marvelled at his Spartan lifestyle and minimal needs:frugal diet, little food and long hours of meditation and prayers; they imparted a continual quality of grace and serenity to him.Professor Milton singer remarked:
"Before I went to India I had read and heard much about the great "Soul Force" of its saints and holy men, but I had assumed that it was something of the ancient past. And it was not until I met the Shankaracharya that I realised that it is still a part of the living force of Hinduism even today."
...
He preached about the importance of following the Dharmic path, including the benefits of Hindu rituals and the virtues of life. His various discourses are available in a volume of books called 'Deivathin Kural' (Voice of God) which have been compiled by R. Ganapathi, a devotee of Chandrasekharendra Saraswati, and published by Vaanathi Publications. These books are available both in Tamil and English. These are available in all branches of the Kanchi math.

He treated all religions equally and with respect.When some extremist organisations were planning to stage black flag protests against the Pope's visit to India, he persuaded them to cancel such programmes. He was of the view that just as different rivers which travel in opposite directions merge in the same ocean, different religions even though seemingly opposed to each other, lead humanity towards eternal bliss.
--- end extracts from wiki of Kanchi Periyavar---

Ravi: Let the reader decide whether BNNM in his lifestyle after he started his new trusts after Mahasamadhi, can compare in any way to the Tyagajeevam led by Kanchi Periyavar, one of India's greatest Tyagajeevis of the 20th century. And whether BNNM has any moral right to call himself God's pauper NOW.

[I thank amazon.com and wikipedia and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extracts (short extract from amazon.com) from their websites on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

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