Sunday, September 23, 2007

Demigod Worship

Today is one of those rare days when the demigods are merciful to the impious New Yorkers. They give them sun, clear skies and air that is not too hot, too humid or too cold. Today the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, arrives in New York. Seeing the weather, he may think that Allah is on America's side after all.

Walking down Central Park West on my usual shopping trip, i noticed lots of people taking photos of the Dakota Building that i wrote about in a blog one week ago. I also noticed a vendor selling photos of John Lennon nearby. On my way back, i passed the same intersection and even more people were taking pictures. I knew why, but just for confirmation, i asked a Japanese tourist aiming a digital camera at the building. "Why are you taking photographs here?" I asked in a friendly way. "Dakota here....John Lennon here," came the reply.

It made me think how the natural tendency for human beings is to worship demigods. In the absence of the real deal (Lord Siva, Durga Ma, Kali, Saraswati, Hanuman, Ganesh, Karitkeya), people worship other human beings, who by their fame, become like demigods. If they are dead, all the more convenient to worship them. That's why on the corner of 72nd St. and Central Park West, everyone was snapping pictures of a building that John Lennon lived in 30 years ago.

In spiritual and religious movements also, in the absence of the real deal (self realized devotees and uttama adhikari gurus) the followers feel a need to worship "demigods." In the case of Iskcon, it's the unqualified rubber stamped gurus. Like celebrities on tour to promote their latest film, or corporate execs, they fly from one continent to another. On the Sun the other day, someone published an email sent by one of these gurus to a friend. He was saying how he was going to be one day in Helsinki, one day in Estonia, one day in Latvia, then come back to the US for a week, then go to Fiji, India, then back to Europe. This guru said he was "in bliss." In other words, he had finally achieved celebrity status, and was now a demigod in Iskcon.

This kind of behavior simply gives nutrition to the ritviks who claim there is only one guru for the next 10,000 years. But even the Catholic Church, which practices a kind of ritvik philosophy, has its demigods-- the Saints, Popes and Cardinals. And the Protestants? I guess they've got evangelical preachers and movie stars. All perverted demigod worship, in my opinion.

So the Hindus, with their hodge podge puja of demigods that we thought was 'backward' when we were young, turn out to be more sane than everyone else after all. At least their demigods are real.

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