A Sadhu (Godman)
Don’t let these frauds dupe you, remedy or worse
India has always had seers and sadhus of every kind, spiritual leaders with legions of devoted followers and enough advice to fill a Bible, or Bhagavad Gita. No doubt, there are sincere human beings among them. Yet we’ve also had swamis who have raped, murdered, assaulted, burgled and engaged in paedophilia and many other crimes. With the advent of the tourist season in Goa, along with visitors come the self-styled ‘godmen’, often targeting unsuspecting foreigners, who in hopes of obtaining spiritual nirvana instead end up getting hoodwinked in the worst way. Be wary of men in white and saffron, and all those whose charisma and gift-of-gab may seem a bit too polished. Let’s hear some real-life stories from Goa, in hopes that their experiences will prevent similar misfortune from these false purveyors of fortune. Names have been changed to protect privacy.
Alisa and Eva, university students from the U.S., came on their first visit to Goa. A week into their holiday, they met up with a middle-aged man, with shoulder length hair, clad in saffron clothes, at a shack. He introduced himself as Gopal, a Yoga guru, and asked if they were interested. Though they had no plans to learn yoga, they saw it as an opportunity they shouldn’t miss and agreed.
For three days, Gopal came to their room at a private guest house at 6 am and put them through breathing exercises. On the fourth day, he suggested they go to the beach and do yoga in the rays of the rising sun. ‘Breath deep, close your eyes, soak in the rays, abandon every thought, and experience the moment,’ he told them and left saying he had to attend to other students.
They went for lunch, and when they opened their satchel, they found their wallets with all their money missing. Fortunately, their passports and cash were in a locked suitcase.
Returning to their room, they explained what happened to the lady who ran the guesthouse. ‘That man came to ask for the keys, said you wanted your suntan lotion,’ she told them.
That night at around 10:30, there was a knock on their door. Eva opened it and found two well-dressed guys, who asked if they could come in.
‘Who are you?’
‘Gopal sent us to spend the night with you.’
Eva asked them to get out, but they tried to force their way in, saying they’d paid him a thousand bucks each for a good time. She pushed past them, and ran down the passage shouting for help. The owner of the guest house and others gathered about, and the men reluctantly left. Needless to say, the girls were looking for seats on the first flight back.
An elderly British couple who had holidayed in Goa for five years were walking on the beach when they were approached from the opposition direction by young man clad in a white sarong, a long scarf over his shoulder, vermillion smeared on his forehead, who they figured was a ‘swamy’. He smiled, wished them, and asked if they were Ian and Celina Buckley from the UK.
They were surprised a stranger knew their names. ‘I am guru Ramashree and Satya Sai Baba has sent me to take you to his ashram in Bangalore.’
They’d heard of this Baba, and were intrigued and asked how he knew them. “Baba had a vision; you are blessed to be singled out to meet him,” he said.
They said they’d think it over. Meet you tomorrow, Ramashree said. Ian was not keen, but Celina felt it would be an experience, and they should go.
The next day Ramashree came to their hotel, was very happy they’d agreed, said he’d arrange tickets for two days later, on the overnight train to Bangalore, travelling with them. For the next two days, Ramashree spent a lot of time with them, regaling them with narrations of miracles Baba performed.
After dinner on the train, Ramashree took out a packet with pastries, which they ate heartily, and, looking forward to a new experience, they slept soundly.
They both felt kind of kind of groggy when they woke up. Ramashree was not in his berth. They arrived in Bangalore, still no Ramashree. Then they found their suitcases were missing. They inquired with other passengers, who had no clue. Ian discovered his wallet missing, and Celina opened her handbag and found her wallet was gone, too. Their passports were still there, but their return airline tickets were in the suitcase. Getting off the train, traumatized, they went to the station master’s office and lodged a complaint. After two hours of deliberation, they were asked to report to the British Council.
They were given money to tide them over as they had to buy clothes and essentials. It took two days to arrange money from friends in Goa, and then they returned home, vowing never to come to India again.