Two-three years back a local state politician pronounced, “Very soon people, not only in my state but also in Bharat, will put up my photos in their home temples and worship me in place of usual bhagwans.” Quite a pronouncement that was! Nobody objected that time and even today nobody reminds him of this. Not because his photos are not hanging in each home temple in place of bhagwans but because people of Bharat are wise enough to see through the difference between the real bhagwan and a concocted, masked, self-proclaimed bhagwan.
We all remember that not so long ago a few film stars and a few politician women were seen as ‘devis’ (?) in temples in some states. Some of them even hate the word devi and yet were seen relishing that type of publicity-none of them appealed to their followers to stop all that. Then few months back a local state politician was seen in a photo posing like Bhagwan Krishna wielding Sudarshan Chakra, women politicians were seen in posters in the form of Durga Devi. Someone was seen making huge idols of herself spending crores of rupees and on the other side criticising idol worship! We all recall many such events and examples.
If we think that this personality cult (vyakti puja) is only in politics, it is not so. It is in many fields with varied manifestations. In business and industry someone copies Wal-Mart model and calls himself a retail king. Some Bollywood film star plagiarizes Hollywood movie and starts calling him king. To make people believe so, even media stories are made, panel discussions and conferences are sponsored. When film stars do such things like “Who is the real king”, then we can say they do it for publicity of their film. Sometimes, we suddenly notice media stories all over about a government officer and his good work. We wonder, he was a Collector in our place, we never experienced all that great governance. That’s it! This is personality cult-stage managed skillfully by spin doctors (in simple words, by public relations people) for a person.
The point is that when it comes to individual accomplishments, there are three types of leaders. They are involved in (1) art (2) science, and (3) individual spiritual attainment. Leaders in fine arts like painting, music, dance and so on as well as scientific innovators can surely claim that the work seen as done by them is done by them individually. Yet, most of them are so humble that even for their great individual creative/scientific accomplishment, they give credit to many others-either to their team or to their parents or to their family or to their gurus. The third category of true spiritual attainment individuals generally do not announce anything. So there is no question of they creating any personality cult. If at all there are any religious gurus doing kathas etc, they do not pronounce themselves as bhagwan; their followers do so (barring some rare examples who later get exposed).
So, we leave aside those who truly individually excel in the arts, science or spiritual attainment like Rabindranath Tagore, Raja Ravi Verma, Munshi Premchand, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Hariprasad Chourasia, Pandit Ravishankar, Kanhaiyalal Munshi, Umashankar Joshi, Gangubai Hangal, Kanak Rele, Bhimsen Joshi, MS Subbulakshmi, SP Balasubra-maniam, Mangeshkar family, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, Pandit Birju Maharaj or Dr Homi Bhabha, Dr CV Raman (The list is not complete as Bharat has many such great people who truly have a right to rise up to the greatest worship level) and yet they themselves do not pronounce self as bhagwans! Such grand creative veterans do not call themselves creators of the world.
The danger is with politicians and businessman today who are more active socio-politically and socio-economically. They have wherewithal and systems at their fingertips using which they can project themselves larger than life. and here is the catch. In the beginning perhaps most politicians and businessmen start the same way. As a part of a party for a politician and as a part of an industry or a businesshouse for a businessman. Some get it ready from their parents (both in politics and business), some carve their way up on their own. In any ways any socio-political or socio-economical achievement which is accomplished with visible success and without hurting anyone is always commendable. There are forums to recognise such accomplishments. But in the process of growing big and bigger, some politicians and businessmen lose the reference and context of reality. Any politician being a part of a political party represents that party’s ideology. When he is not so known, people attend his public meetings following that party’s long-standing ideology. Later, they follow him as a leader because they feel he is speaking and doing what their hearts and souls wanted him to speak and do. They search reflections of their feelings and aspirations in his words and then in him as a leader. When they cheer for any political leader’s name, it is the expression of this reflection. Here’s not only the catch, but here’s the dilemma of a leader. Those who are mature enough to understand the difference between a leader and the bhagwan appreciate people’s love and respect and move forward to make their lives better on the lines of the feelings that they have been reflecting. Those who mistake these cheers as their individual accomplishment lose the foundation of reality and start thinking self as bhagwan.
This is pure narcissism. It makes a leader take his followers for granted and then take them for a ride. His ego finally takes its toll on his commitment to the ideology due to which people take him to the height. This virtual height is not given to him by people for his ego trip; it is for becoming more and more humble and do more for the people who keep so much hope from the leader in any field. The dangerous part is that such so-called pseudo-bhagwans start believing in their make-belief heaven so much that they try every dirty tricks to cut and curtail anybody else’s progress in their field-be it politics, socio-economic work or business. Ultimately, it not only hurts the leader but also damages the entire society as much time of the society is invested and wasted on such a leader by the time the society realises that he is no more a ‘people’s man’ but he treats himself as bigger than bhagwan. This also damages growth of the nation as such self-proclaimed bhagwans cannot look beyond themselves and therefore nation’s interest never remains their first priority.
They even justify their crazy ways, styles and pathetic pseudo-bhagwan behaviour saying, “Bharat always was ruled by kings. So people in Bharat need an individual to follow-not an ideology.” They conveniently forget that the same Bharat stood up for Hindutva in various parts of Bharat in fight against Islamic, British, Dutch and French invasions. Rajas were there, some rajas were even worshipped like bhagwans, but the moment they stopped doing their duty towards their praja, the same praja threw them out. It applies even to modern Bharat. People of Bharat always give their favourite people a long rope and wait for them to truly implement the ideology for which they choose their leaders. But when people of Bharat realise that their chosen leaders are trampling their interests in their own ego trip, they get hurt and things change-for good or for bad!
If he is a business leader treating himself as a bhagwan of that industry, then ask: Has he been consistently giving promised returns or giving excuses of losses even after the economic slump is over? Has he been a good employer who always cares for employees or simply advertises good human resource practices? There are many fields and the questions vary.
In any field, vyakti puja is dangerous to the nation because it destroys social fabric woven by trust and commitment. Being alert and not getting swayed by flashy publicity and glittering styles are the only ways to stay afloat steadily. Only then bhagwans will remain bhagwans and nobody will dare treat himself/herself as bhagwan. It is in the interest of the nation that all those who lead the society in any field realise that nobody is indispensable when it comes to organisations, ideologies and the nation.
(The writer is a renowned cancer surgeon and secretary general of VHP. He can be contacted at [email protected])