You can spot them in any upmarket crowd sporting Dockers and a pair of Levis. You can chat with them about politics and the economic condition of the country. They are the mind healers, the new age gurus who are ushering in the era of designer spirituality…
A far cry from the saffron clad, barefoot seers of yesteryear, these new age gurus are the modern face of an ageless tradition. Their spirituality is contemporary, their teachings fresh and their offer of relaxing the tired, stressed out soul irresistible. Open-minded, and worldly wise in money matters, you can talk to them about anything under the sun and they will open their arms for the person you really are.
Bharat Thakur, the modern age Yoga expert, has learnt the Quran by heart and calls Sanskrit his mother tongue. He is a flawless blend of a modern young man and the age-old guru who does not hesitate to use corporal penalty in educating his disciples.
When he teaches Yoga, it is for a fee, often a hefty one. However he often holds two-day Tapasya workshops free of cost for anyone interested in entering the realm of spirituality. According to him his classes are a perfect way to unwind after a stressful day at work for everyone at the end of two days experiences a state of "samadhi" or bliss.
Deepak Chopra is yet another New Age guru at the forefront of holistic healing. Rather than turn his back on his conventional training, he has extended his practice to bring together the best of ancient wisdom and modern science and in 1984, he helped introduce Ayurvedic medicine to the United States. Within a year he had established an Ayurvedic Health Centre of Stress Management at Massachusetts.
Chopra feels that uniting the ancient mind-body wisdom with the current anti-aging research can effectively prove that aging is largely preventable. According to him people don’t die of old age. They die of diseases that assail them as they get older and these ailments are avoidable. By changing the perception of aging and by being aware of the bodily processes one can change the way one ages.
Says he "I think it is very important to have passion, to have a dream and to have a purpose in life. Only through these can a timeless, ageless existence be achieved. Medicine in the future should be such that everyone would be his own healer."
Though the masses have yet to be strongly attracted to the spiritual drug, many a celebrity has already acquired a personal guru and is revelling in the newfound nirvana.
Sunita Menon was formerly an airhostess with Gulf Air. After lending a counseling ear to many a disgruntled colleague, she realized that she had the markings of a true seer. Today, she is the highest paid clairvoyant and tarot card reader in Mumbai and boasts of an impressive list of clients that includes the likes of Karan Johar, Ekta Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan and Kareena Kapoor.
The secret behind the ‘K’ factor that is currently plaguing Indian cinema, Menon is also responsible for giving her clients a propitious date to release their movies and for changing the spellings of their names for auspicious reasons. So Kareena Kapoor became Kariena and Ekta’s Kapoor’s "Krishna Cottage" will hit the screen only when the guru gives the green signal.
If soothsaying is not your cup of tea you could always swing to the Bhajan Beat. And Sahil Jagtiani would help you do just that.
A graduate in business management from King’s College, London, the 25-year-old Jagtiani is on a very unusual mission—to popularize Satsang music among the young. And if the sales of his first album Avataran are anything to go by, then he may soon be singing all the way to the bank.
" Satsang and bhajans have not seen much change. The music tends to be repetitive and a tad bit boring and the Sanskrit words almost impossible to understand. I’ve simplified the songs, made them easy to chant and composed music which is both contemporary and universal," says Jagtiani who is the producer, music director, songwriter, pianist, guitarist and lead vocalist of Avataran.
" For young people Satsang has come to mean difficult Sanskrit shlokas set to the music of dholaks, cymbals, conch shells and harmoniums. This at least was my experience when I attended a Satsang for the first time. I thought to myself that like me there must be many young people who do not comprehend the words and are not in sync with the music. That’s what motivated me to make religious songs more contemporary and enjoyable," says Jagtiani.
Path of Nirvana
Other Gurus too have taken upon themselves to help others walk the path of nirvana. When he was 29, Vikas Malkani, son of a wealthy businessman decided to shun external pleasures and explore the path of spiritualism. He found peace in his endeavour and took to educating people in the art of inner tranquility.
Today Malkani is the founder and spiritual director of Soulcentre, an institution, which gives a modern interpretation to principles of ancient wisdom. He teaches Awareness Meditation and feels that age-old knowledge is the sole path to enlightenment and is the medium in the transformation of individual consciousness. According to him," One must learn to harmonize the three levels of the being – physical, emotional and intellectual. This enlightenment will empower one to become healthy, wealthy and wise."
Most of the gurus today combine the importance of material wealth with physical and emotional contentment. They hold workshops that talk about achieving material abundance with spiritual principles to achieve success that is permanent, constant and satisfying.
Says film actress Nagma who took Art of Living lessons under Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, "It’s a wonderful way of meditation. I am so much more relaxed than I used to be."
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living theory who commands a fervent following feels that today’s fast-paced, stress-ridden lifestyle has left a lot of people emotionally malnutritioned. A society like this is the perfect ground for healers like him to thrive. Since spiritualism rejects nobody, it becomes a route to mental peace and emotional harmony.
And it is not the above-30-year age bracket that’s doing some soul shopping. Generation X too is a major buyer at the spiritual market. The trend points towards generation X rendering itself to spiritualism. Seers feel that the youth needs to dissolve the "I" and reach a stage of contentment – both mental and material. All they need is proper initiation. And these soul healers are the ones who will help them attain this stage of serenity.
Says Vidushi Sarin a 12th standard student of Delhi’s Loretto Convent who goes for Yoga and meditation classes every week to deal with exam stress," There are many courses and workshops that one can attend without being labelled a social weirdo in the peer group. I can also buy CD’s, wear Tantra T shirts which are the rage today and read books on the subject. Best of all, most of these forms of meditation can be practiced at home after a few months of taking classes."
Because of the stress on material comfort, youngsters are no longer afraid to come under the wings of these soul doctors. They don’t feel as if they have to give up their entire existence just to become a follower of a faith. They also come because these gurus are progressive.
Pop-music is incorporated into bhajans and yoga and meditation are "the in things to do". With satsangs that rock, karmic raves being organized and CD’s and eas
y to read and follow books becoming popular, contemporary spirituality is fast becoming an industry turning in millions every year.
With many of these gurus and their teachings making inroads into the west, business is booming. The gurus are earning but so are the disciples though not in money. They earn knowledge – of meditation, pranic healing, reiki, stress release through yoga and ayurveda and much more.
These new age spiritualists address individuals in keeping with today’s environment. Theirs is not to question whether one is a pauper or a millionaire (though it would do you good to have a few bucks to pay for the expensive classes). They simply question the personal faith of the disciples and focus on spiritualism rather than religion.
These gurus believe they are on the same path to nirvana like the rest of us but just a few steps ahead.