Gauri Lankesh Murder: All You Wanted to Know About the Sanatan Sanstha


Gauri Lankesh Murder: All You Wanted to Know About the Sanatan Sanstha

Illustration: Namaah/ Arré

The Sanatan Sanstha, founded in 1999 by a hypnotherapist named Jayant Balaji Athavale, is an organisation that believes spirituality is a science, no matter what scientists say. Its stated aim is rekindling “dharma” in our society and protecting the righteous, while also, ensuring India remains a Hindu Rashtra, by ensuring everyone follows their brand of Hinduism.

And so it is no surprise that almost 20 years later the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad has put in a proposal to ban the organisation. In the last few years, members of the Sanatan Sanstha, and number of radical right-wing affiliate groups, have been linked to the murders of four rationalists and left-leaning thinkers – Gauri Lankesh, Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, and M M Kalburgi – and also of plotting a series of blasts across Maharashtra, apparently aimed at those who do not accept their brand of Hinduism.

The Indian Express unpacks the complex network that connects all these murders together. “Over the last year, while probing Lankesh’s murder, the Karnataka SIT found that the journalist was shot with guns used in the murders of Dabholkar in Pune on August 20, 2013, Leftist thinker Govind Pansare in Kolhapur on February 16, 2015, and Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi in Dharwad on August 30, 2015. The investigations in the Lankesh case have also led police to the doorsteps of people, who on the face of it, seem to belong to fringe groups such as the Shri Shivpratishthan Hindustan but are deeply associated with overground and underground activities of the Sanatan Sanstha and its affiliate, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti.”  

So what exactly is this brand of Hinduism we’re meant to follow? The Sanatan Sanstha’s website offers some clues.

But first, the terminology: The Sanstha says the Universe is made up of three particles, the sattva, raja, and tama, which together make the triguna. A sattvic person leads their life expecting no recognition or reward, the rajasik lives purely for their personal gain, and the tamasik has no problem with stepping on toes to get ahead.

"“Urinating in the standing posture causes urine droplets to fall on the feet and scatter on the floor as well,” the French scientist observed"

The reason for our existence, according to the Sanstha, is to avoid exposure to raja and tama waves and increase exposure to sattvic energy. It is unsure which waves they believe bullets contain, but the pursuit of good waves is so important, even wedding cards should be sattvic in nature.

On the home page, the group claims to “provide education in dharma and scientific technology for the benefit of Hindus”, but a few pages down all it lists are an array of random rules on how we should live, get married, or urinate.

Let’s start with the last one.

Have you been covering your head while urinating or defecating? According to the Sanstha, it is imperative to prevent direct physical contact with a dirty loo, because it has all those bad raja and tama waves, which is a no brainer really. But apparently, according to their Hinduism, this could be avoided by simply covering your head, so as to protect your totally not made up concept “brahma randhra” (opening in the spiritual energy system) to some extent.

In case you’re a bit of a racist/sceptic, the Sanstha also quotes an unnamed French scientist as having confirmed all these theories. The scientist also at one point hilariously espouses the “Hindu way of urinating and defecation” – crouching. According to them, standing while peeing increases your chances of coming into contact with the infamous raja-tama waves, and also presumably decreases your accuracy ten-fold.

“Urinating in the standing posture causes urine droplets to fall on the feet and scatter on the floor as well,” the French scientist observed. “The genitals should be washed after urinating. If not washed, subtle crystals of urine will form after drying of the urine and will be responsible for diseases.”  

Meanwhile there a few confusing rules on hair as well. It is bad for men to grow their hair, because of raja-tama of course, but it is also bad for an ascetic to cut his hair, because the writers of this book were having a bit of a boring day. The logic is that ascetics emit enough positive waves to form a “spherical sheath of radiant waves in the environment”, thus “denoting a reduction in body awareness”. And that is the reason why Arjun Rampal doesn’t do movies anymore.

Women, too, have a natural “protective sheath” around their body, thereby protecting them from negative energies, and also banning them from cutting their hair. According to the SS, the swiftly moving waves of kriya-shakti (energy of action) generated by the movement of long hair keeps the “shakti tattva vibrations in an awakened state”. Due to this awakened state, a woman with long hair looks “more humble” and “polite”.

Now, ironically, the Sanstha has noticed that a lot of people have been killing tiny insects and ants while they work, either while cooking, filling water, or sweeping. So, in their quest to protect the righteous, they’ve came up with this law: “If this violence occurs through you, then to eliminate the impressions of sin from our mind, atonement by performing vaishvadev (meditation before a fire) should be undertaken daily.” Unfortunately for them, their members are not likely to use this and get away with a few campfire nights.

The Sanstha website also has a few general rules to live a long life. “One who aspires to live long should not climb on the back of a cow or a bull, should not allow the smoke from a funeral pyre to touch his body, should not sit on the bank of a river (other than the Ganga) at dusk, should not allow the rays of the rising sun to touch his body and should not sleep during the day.” (Also, should not disagree with Sanatan Sanstha).

The guidelines go on to recommend that women should wear a “perfectly sattvic” nine-yard sari, and speak only with a sattvic tongue. Meanwhile, a religious marriage is always preferred because “it creates a glow on the faces of those being married” and reduces some of the infamous raja-tama waves that the Sanstha is so vociferously against.

We could go on but suffice it to say that the guidelines are a robust list of rules that will need the better part of your week just to read. Implementing them, of course, is the work of a lifetime. But then if you seek “swarg” it must be done.