“Religion is the Opium of the masses”. Indeed, as people go about their daily rituals of religious offerings and a cycle of fasts and satsangs, they tend to induce themselves into a trance, almost like opium, as Karl Marx would have us believe. But is it true? Indeed seems true, because a person induced deeply into orthodoxy seems to be using it to handle his stress and troubles much like the stress-reducing drugs like Morphine or LSD.
In the hustle and bustle of modern life when man is seemingly running in a ratrace, on a lonely road, with no parking spots in between, he is sure to feel the stress one day or the other. And in the middle of the road rushing by, some day the stress takes a toll and his mind and his body just refuse to move with his dreams and aspirations. This disconnect and gap between the actual situation and perceived dream creates a stress and the person starts looking at the horizon, looking for a supporting hand to fulfil the gap.
It is in such situations that he looks for the hand of God to lead him forward. And God is such a remote concept, and nobody seems to have met him. God is manifested in so many religions, sects, traditions that a person looking for God gets cacophony of sounds guiding him through the morass. And here comes a person imitating God, almost God like, might be a good actor, or might be God himself, God knows! But he arrives in the middle of the road to pick this person and lead him to God. He indeed manifests himself as a messenger from God and in some cases God himself. What does this person do. He takes his hand and moves after this person.
This person, the Godman, the Baba, or the Sadhvi seems too good to be true. The person is moved towards a beautiful parking spot in the middle of his road, where he meets other people full of joy, praying to a common God in harmony, bereft of stress and supporting each other. It is here that this person takes a rest from the rat-race, comes out of the stress and much like George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, loses his identity, but in this case to God, and becomes the Baba’s chelaa.
And this happens with so many people. Some people move on back to the road with the Baba’s teachings in heart, and some stay back there forever, giving up the race altogether. There are so many such self styled babas and gurus today that it is difficult to objectively analyse them with one eye, and it would not be justified to brush them with one stroke. But it would be fair to say that people turn to these Godmen in times of stress, and while some people come out as better persons, some Godmen only tend to fleece their disciples to generate wealth and fame for themselves.
A fair analysis of the practices of the Babas or the Godmen would reveal that not only do they seem a necessary stress reliever from the daily humdum of life, most of them atleast try to preach the right thing to people. They cause us to reflect for a moment on our faults, and move us closer to the path of righteousness. And even if the religion acts as a an Opium, one might safely assume that it is still better than Opium itself, or the huge plethora of drugs being prescribed freely as anti-depressents these days. You cant take it away from Babas like Baba Ramdev, who have brought lakhs of people back to Yoga, to the Art of Living Joyfully etc.
The problem arises, when the ego of the self styled gurus become larger than their teachings. Well, every medicine has a side effect. We have to live with it. We only take the best from them and ignore their idiosyncrasies.