I always get a little queasy when I read the biography of someone who cites their training, in Buddhism, Yoga, Chakra training, Advanced Third Eye Cleansing Technique or what have you, as being conducted by The Himalayan Masters. Now I know there is a book with Himalayan Masters in the title by Swami Rama but that’s not what I’m talking about. His is a collection of stories of meetings with remarkable people. I am talking about some “official” Himalayan Masters who seem to pop up now and then on somewhat New-Agey sites. They seem to grant some kind of empowerments or degrees or something to rather “differently-consciousnessed” individuals and they will, for a price, demonstrate their mystical powers and for an even greater price teach you how to invoke said powers.
It sounds very official, as if there is some kind of Official Himalayan Mastery Institute somewhere on a mountain top and devout pilgrims trek for days to reach this little piece of Shangri-La. There one would expect to find an array of mellow wisened old fellows ready to dispense the wisdom of the ages to all who wish to collect it.
Well, I’ve been wandering around the Himalayas for almost 9 years now and have yet to hear of the location of The Official Himalayan Masters or their Institute. No one I know between Sikkim and Siachen has any information about such individuals either.
It seems like the notion of Himalayan Masters has been taken from the title of Swami Rama’s book and spun into some imaginary group to give credence to whatever is being sold by unaffiliated people.
There are certainly “godmen” aplenty in India. Swamis, babas, priests, spiritualists, tantriks, saints, fakirs, masters, emanations of Bhagwan, adepts, yogis, saddhus, monks, gurus, teachers come in thousands of different varieties. Some are the real deal, some might be the real deal, some aspire to be the real deal, but general consensus amongst those surveyed (by me, unscientifically) is that the majority are either consciously fraudulent or rather deluded.
Here’s a great video about some of them in the Indian state of Kerela. If you love Amma maybe you’ll want to skip this, as she’s mentioned prominently. It is very interesting to draw parallels between this and numerous situations festering in the United States and Canada.
From the video:
“You can really understand why victims are so reluctant to come forward and say how godmen have exploited them, when you see the baying mob that surrounds the godmen.”
People in India though have been experienced in this for centuries. Many don’t speak about it. But much more often than in the West many do. Look up “fake guru” on YouTube and you’ll find plenty of submissions from the sub-continent including from media. People are willing to go to the media and the police about their experiences. At least the police are willing to take the complaint and sometimes follow up. Perhaps that is what is required more often in “Western” countries.
But we don’t have much of a religious press or a media particularly interested in this kind of thing. There are a few outstanding reporters on the religion beat such as Douglas Todd of the Vancouver Sun but they are rare. And news reporters generally don’t seem to think this is much by way of news, even when Christians are involved, as compared to Kim Kardashian’s latest fashion statement for example. So what are we going to do? (hint-blogs, websites, disclosure, transparency)
[Addition Aug. 10-the New York Post had this article today Eat Pray Zilch on these very topics. Let’s see a lot more in the media! ]
And maybe if the police were consulted a little more frequently, for there are quite likely legal issues such as fraud, theft, tax evasion, extortion, intimidation, and perhaps even racketeering involved in some instances, awareness could be raised. (Provided the above mentioned Kardashian doesn’t pick up a new boyfriend)
Whether in India or the United States many aspects of humanity are pretty similar. As to why people are willing to follow the “godmen”:
“They have everything, in plenty. Except peace of mind.”
I don’t know who the Official Himalayan Masters are. Perhaps they are a cricket team. Maybe they live in Sedona. Quite likely we’ll never really know.
Here’s a couple of chaps I do know who might be unofficial Himalayan masters. I’ve never asked them though. And I’m quite sure they’ve never attended an Official Himalayan Masters Institute or anything similar. They don’t give degrees or empowerments or trophies so most people aren’t too interested in what they are about. You can click on the photos to go to more information about them.
Here is definitely NOT a Himalayan Master of any sort, at Lacha-Lang-La Ladakh (the closest to Shang-Ri-La I could find-16 617 ft.) “La” means a pass in the mountains in Tibetan and in the local Ladkhi language. On the right is Bara-Lacha-La also over 16,000 ft.
It’s damn cold and windy on the way to the mountaintop. That’s about as much wisdom as I’ve got about attempting to visit Shangrila.