Sunday, March 7, 2010

Swami Nithyananda Proves Gore Vidal Was Wrong

"Never pass up a chance to have sex or appear on television."
Gore Vidal

By now everyone has heard all about the "sex scandal" involving Swami Nithyananda. Lost in all the commotion is the simple fact that Nithyananda has done nothing wrong. He does not advocate celibacy, nor does he claim to practice it. The activity that was captured on hidden camera was obviously consensual and all parties were adults.

The real story is that obviously elements of the Indian media went to great lengths to set up this Swami, who appears to me to have more in common with Western New Agers like Eckhart Tolle than with the genuine, ancient, traditional teachings of the Sanatana Dharma (although it is hard for me to picture Trolle rolling around in bed with a beautiful Indian actress -- although on the other hand that might actually improve my estimation of him!). The Indian media has gone on a Hindu-bashing feeding frenzy since the first airing of these sex tapes (which show a lot of kissing and rolling around, but not, well, sex.)

My own view is that Nithyananda has done nothing that is either criminal or immoral or even offensive. His "teachings", such as they are, should stand on their own. It is even possible that this Swami's teachings have served some useful purpose in a world where most people lack any spiritual direction whatsoever. Perhaps what he has to offer is better than nothing.

Many people today want a celebrity guru to follow. They want a large organization to be part of. They want a spirituality that is validated in the wider culture (preferably on television). These folks end up following the James Arthur Rays, and the Eckhart Tolles, and the Swami Nithayanandas.

Not all teachers who become well-known automatically become corrupt. And some teachers become corrupt without ever being well-known! But just because a person has sex is, in no way, a sign of corruption, or a sign of much of anything.

Personally I think the whole idea of celibacy is for the most part a very bad idea. I find nothing of merit in it, nor do I feel any admiration for those who espouse and practice it.