Swami Nithyananda & Other Babas, Can You Please Leave the Science to the Scientists?

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Swami Nithyananda & Other Babas, Can You Please Leave the Science to the Scientists?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Afew centuries ago, if your profession was “scientist”, you’d be subject to unspeakable torture. The authorities would have your name on a list that they’d reserve for heretics, murderers, and gay people. You’d be sent to a camp where a thousand spiritual godmen would attempt to exorcise the science devil out of your system.

These days, however, it’s generally accepted that science is a pretty decent thing. It’s given us iPhones – which are cool to take pics of food – and toasters, to make said food. In the last thousand years or so, spiritual advisors haven’t been able to match science’s contribution to mankind. What are a couple of Osho documentaries and cool cathedrals when compared to science’s BMWs and waffle-irons?

So as the babas wisen, it’s no surprise that they’ve adopted both science and the internet to remain relevant. Social media, the official home of conspiracy theorists and the gullible, was to become their home as well. All you need today is a Skype account and a working credit card, and you’re in the presence of the “living reincarnation of the super-consciousness,” which is the self-proclaimed title of internet baba Swami Nithyananda, and not what four 16-year-old stoners decided to call their prog-rock band.

Now while all this garbage masquerading as spirituality is great fodder for meme pages, it gets a little dangerous when it starts pretending to dumbsplain science.

With the help of cricket bat analogies, mother cow anecdotes, and fake quote generators, a number of psycho-babbling spiritual leaders like Swami Nithyananda have invaded our timelines. We have Deepak Chopra for the ABCD crowd, Sadhguru for the upper-class aunties, Swami Nithyananda for the wholly clueless, Gaur Gopal Das, the dad-joke generator, and a thousand others who haven’t even managed to make it to 2,000 YouTube subscribers just yet.

It’s never been a better time to be a baba, considering that even godmen from 5,000 years ago are finding their way into our textbooks. The All India Council of Technical Education recently decided that engineers in this country don’t have a hard enough time, and has asked them to familiarise themselves with the works of Rishi Agastya and Rishi Kanad, so more technical students are made aware of ancient Indian philosophy.

The book also claims the first of these babas had invented an electro-voltaic cell, and that he had first carried out the electrolysis of water (this change.org petition by scientist Aniket Sule disagrees). Meanwhile what Rishi Agastya is known for, is turning one man into a snake, and another into an elephant with two well-timed curses. That’s probably relevant when you’re trying to create engineers that take normal roads and turn them into roller coasters, or officers who don’t use cloud computing because “what happens when it rains, duh.

Now unfortunately, we live in a country where thousands of people don’t know the difference between fact and word soup. And because they don’t know better, they clap along to “facts” like, “make your mind like a monkey’s kidney and you will see reality.” And they end up going home thinking, “Science couldn’t cure my herpes, maybe this monkey kidney thing is the answer.”

Swami Nithyananda recently gained fame for proposing that he could counter Einstein’s famous e=mc2 theory with a string of scientific-sounding words posed as questions. Here’s his theory: “What is mc2? The difference between intensity and continuity. What is energy? What is matter? Matter is continuity, energy is intensity. What do you call matter? Anything continue. What do you call energy? Anything intense.”

If Einstein were still alive I’m sure he might have checked to see if Nithyananda had suffered a stroke, but since this is India we’re talking about, obviously he commands an army of followers spread out over at least six Facebook pages. The “enlightened young scholar” has gone on to promise that soon cows will talk to us in Sanskrit and Tamil, a theory made famous by scientist “Dr Doolittle”. He also went on to release a video called “Onness Capsule”, where he claps in different angles, presumably as his official entry to Nach Baliye.

Now while all this garbage masquerading as spirituality is great fodder for meme pages, it gets a little dangerous when it starts pretending to dumbsplain science. So what if Sadhguru rides bikes, hangs with Gordon Ramsay, and speaks well, he also invented something called “Quantum Yoga”, in which instead of atoms, you are the one who does a split, or something equally vague. In this country, we’re used to learning the news from WhatsApp, and getting our sex education from Bollywood, but can we please just leave the science to the scientists?

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