Of hustle and mendicancy in teaching spirituality


Teaching spiritual processes in urban India has become such a sad business. I have begun teaching my Yoga only in April this year and some interactions are surreal. There are too many people peddling wares purporting to be spiritual. Which is an issue but not as important as the fact that they are dependent upon those things to survive. This makes them desperate. The purchasers of such wares – they are rarely students – thus get an inordinate position of power. This is destroying the credibility of serious teachers as well as serious processes as the marketplace logic that prevails ensures a wheedling fawning mendicancy when it is not outright hustle. Those who think they are Seekers tend to act from that assumption. It is pretty obvious most of them have never met or engaged with a real Yogi, they would have got a sharp wake up call. It is even more obvious that this cringing marketing of supposedly valuable and life transforming processes is a disaster.

So pervasive has the hustle become that people engage from a place of profound suspicion and disdain. I do not market except by accident – all new students are word of mouth – but the significant majority of them come with this weird attitude – “I have money, now sell me, you sad case.” They have been educated to be so by the prevailing ethos. When I refuse to shrink or seek alms, or apologize for my prices, all of which seem to be the prevailing norm, they are astounded. Some of them are offended. The prevailing power dynamic is so askew that cancelling appointments more than once and expecting you to accommodate them seems to be the norm. When I refuse to tolerate such misbehavior there is incomprehension. What, no gratitude for the crumbs I deign to dole out at my convenience? The second cancellation is when I drop the person. This actually bewilders them. Such are the realities.

The other commonplace is the personal meeting. Everybody seems to want one. Quite other than the fact that it indicates you place no credibility in the friend who recommended me there are other issues. They expect to be wooed. They want to be called up and persuaded, pleaded with. When told ‘this is the date, place and time, turn up,” there is shock. After four books, as many ongoing blogs and over 100 teaching videos, what further credibility will a personal meeting confer? But the norm is to bow and scrape, to submit oneself to judgment and scrutiny.  So now I quote a stiff fee for the personal meeting and that is the end of that. This entitlement to the time and knowledge of others even before a single shekel has changed hands is very educative. Teachers have to insist on their dignity. It is not only for the famous.

People are not used to be being told “You are doing so many processes, why add one more?” Strange people abound; they have taken diksha from as many as five gurus. While they are disturbed, and need therapy not sadhana, what sort of vetting or questioning is being done on the part of these organizations that give away initiations en masse?  How are the basic rules of the Yogic traditions contravened with such insouciance? Since such a situation can be explained only by the prevalence of money grubbing, the caveat emptor mindset is not entirely wrong. What about the karma involved? Does anybody care? Is anybody aware?

Sarvam Shivamayam!!

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath, being a writer, a corporate trainer, a mythologist and a vibrant speaker.  He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five European languages} the first book on Tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He was the Editor of The Leadership Review, and on the advisory panel of Indiayogi.com, the first spiritual portal in the country. Currently he is the Director of Pro-Factor, a leadership and change facilitation corporate training outfit. He has been an arts critic and socio-cultural commentator for over two decades. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga. He founded the Arya Yoga Sangha and leads multiple meditation circles each week. The videos of his talks on various subjects can be found here http://www.youtube.com/user/TheAryayogi

His blogs can be accessed here





6 thoughts on “Of hustle and mendicancy in teaching spirituality

  1. Your posts are always a good read, Rohit, and thought provoking. This one on the age of spiritual consumerism. Anything appearing on the market is a prey to that; very few are aware that a genuine yogi has a lineage, or bother. Spiritual consumerism and the search for superstitious talismans and to blame the supplier is the same today as it was in the middle ages. Genuine work and its recognition – which means practice – is homeopathic, between the lines. So keep your prices up! Those that quibble them will cancel and drop out anyway if they were lower.

    • Jane I am glad they quibble it saves interaction! It si just the strange sort of pattern that a significant number of people exhibit. In India, i am in the sad position of having to educate people about the primacy of lineage and tradition. We never really quit the middle ages here, it flourishes, as most of my posts bewail!

  2. Very true, sadly. I have to say with much gratitude that I’m finding your posts and videos very helpful……I include myself in the “sane” category 🙂

  3. “Mankind thirsts to be deceived…” well if you are gonna be hustled, better it be for spiritual than carnal pursuits. Isn’t everything technically “maya” anyway? Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream. Eventually after a kajillion life times a person thirsts for REAL spiritual higher consciousness. “When you make one step toward God He makes a thousand steps toward you.” Everything happens for a reason! Eventually the swindler gets swindled and regrets swindling. The World is as it Is.

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