What is sanctity, baba?

This is the question I asked a Sadhu at the holiest site in all of Hinduism: by the ghats by the Ganga river in Varanasi, India.

The question was prompted by witnessing the treatment of a man whom many, many people by the ghats , the previous weeks had called out loud, some of them, in fact many of them, to his face, words like: baba, guru, sadhu, swami. A man who when he passed by, some said a certain mantra.

These are labels not given lightly. Least of all by Hindu devotees, even less out loud to their face, even less so in a place like the holiest site of an entire faith.

– Even less than that, to a western civilian.

The treatment in mentioned, is calling this man these things to his face, asking him for money, food, blessings, and at the same time seemingly going out of their way to test his limits, by seemingly trying to insult him.

What does this say about the purity of a holy place, and about the devotees at this place, themselves?

– At a holiest of holies, where someone called not one, but several names given only to holy men, by people who venerate and some even worship them, who treat this man like a common schmuck nobody, while at the same time seeming to expect him to be and act like what they call him out loud… treating him as if he was exactly that common nobody schmuck right off the flight, if he didn’t. Treating him like the common schmuck nobody who had spent a week here, if he did.

What is sanctity? What is the meaning of Keeping something sacred? What does such a thing mean, when the holiest site of an entire world faith is the same place where a “holy man” unashamedly can get cheated, and begged from with demanding arrogance, and the same common devotee seems to be more interested in what he can give them, than teach them?

If this is the treatment a “holy man” gets at a holy place, it is through and through run and populated by criminals with no morals – considering the fact that the same devotees spend their days getting drunk and overcharging travellers as much as they can get away with and getting angry when getting called out for it… at the holiest of holies!

I took this to a sadhu, and asked: “What is sanctity, baba?”

He had seen me with the person in question, and by the tone of my voice, seemed to understand what I meant – his answer was a simple “ok. ok… ok” with a somewhat embarrassed look on his face.

It was glaringly obvious, this “sadhu” was a man dressed up as one to profit from tourists wanting to see one. At the holiest of holies.

Incredible India: Not that credible anymore.

– “These are some serious accusations, considering it’s an entire religion’s main sanctities you’re talking about… careful who you accuse of what when offended over things the locals don’t seem to find offensive” – the thought was, after a keyboard fit of outrage rooted in critical observation through one’s own eyes.

So a few hours and a long temper-control nap later, and the waking thought was: “if you don’t say something, who will?”

“What is wrong with people when this is acceptable behaviour at a place like this” the next one was. It’s as if a tulku was punched in the face by lay buddhists at Bodhgaya, and then challenged to prove his worth to a person in robes, who dressed up that way to make money – and at the same time defending the latter’s behaviour because our tulku didn’t fight back or accept the challenge…

The sheer level off outrageousness is nothing less then staggeringly outrageous.

How can a thing like this even happen, much less be deemed worthy by people who, in the word’s true sense, religiously believe, in the idea of holy men and women? And that, of all things, In the city of God, at a holy site, said to be built by the deity himself?

– Guys, pardon my language, but what the actual bleep? What is the meaning of the word ‘sanctity’? To keep something sacred, I mean? If this is it: Incredible India, just lost every shred of credibility as a spiritual hotspot.

I wish you a speedy recovery, because I know one at least one at times opinionated traveller, who will not return if you don’t have one!

India, you truly are incredible. Please become credible to the people who love you, as well.

Om shanti.

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