Which way to go.....Cult following or spiritual shopping?

Written by Susheela Hegde on 02 October 2017

Which way to go? Cult following or spiritual shopping?

(Seeker’s dilemma with New Age Spirituality)

Spirituality, in this age and time, has become a border-less marketplace. It is awash with a mind-boggling variety of schools of thoughts and teaching methods. While some modern gurus claim to offer the most ancient teachings and techniques in their “original” forms, others hold out innovative tools that have been supposedly derived from the best of the practices followed in many ancient civilizations. And we often come across fusion philosophies that seek to explain Eastern mysticism with Western rationalism, basically seeking acceptance in both the worlds.

In a world where marketing principles rule the roost, the spiritual marketplace too is flooded with attractively packaged paths and learning methods. In this globalisation era, Indian spiritual gurus from all hues and creeds aim at making their brands as global as possible. No wonder many brands boast Himalayan roots (read Indian) and at least some following in many countries.

If spiritual gurus, as well as their teachings and techniques are exploding in terms of numbers and diversity, so are the communities of seekers. People from all walks of life are increasingly lapping up “spiritual wisdom” from all and sundry. Whether to fix up their sagging career, or to sex up their failing relationships, whether to quickly move up the social ladder, or even to remain “young” forever, people seem to be taking refuge in spirituality as the last resort.

Truly speaking, spirituality is like drug to many of us. After tasting the first blood with some method we go on to dabble with many more products, seeking more and more highs, as we progress. The question is do we really make any progress along the way or is it just like digging shallow pits all over and not finding water anywhere? Is it not more of spirituality exploration than self exploration?

Although all paths supposedly lead to the destination, the truth is all travellers do not reach there. In fact, majority seekers abandon the journey midway, or find themselves running here and there trying to pick whatever catches their attention. For many, spiritual journeys are not simple and linear. They are, in fact, riddled with all sorts of mind-numbing complexities.

Taking up a spiritual path is like entering a tunnel not knowing when and how the journey ends. Unlike in the traditional spiritual paths that operate within the framework of religiosity, practitioners of new age spirituality do not hesitate to change course, often, many times. If traditional religious practices reek of rigidity and dogmatic fervour, one can say modern spirituality tends to breed cult following or spiritual shopping.

In order to curtail the tendency of shopping, many modern methods come with intriguing built-in tactics, injecting ample doses of fear factors to retain the loyalty of their followers. However, spiritual shopping is a common phenomenon.

Few consider spiritual shoppers as serious seekers. The question is why does a seeker flit from one guru to another, system to system, and path to path? Is there a way to hit the right path in the beginning itself?

A sane advice says one should examine several teachings before settling on one, and then stick to it till the end. However, many people may not hit the spiritual road consciously, and they may bump into one path or the other as a reactionary step in response to certain factors in their life. They can only discover their compatibility or lack of it with the path as they proceed. Sometimes, it so happens that a method that looks most suitable today turns obsolete tomorrow.

One may also ask is shopping really injurious to the seeker’s spiritual health? Are these wandering souls just a fickle-minded or impatient lot? Isn’t it possible to progress through the shopping? Can’t shopping be an enriching experience, helping the shopper develop the wisdom to separate wheat from the chaff?

The positive side of spiritual shopping is instead of getting holed up in a single path, going on an open-minded exploration can help us objectively look at each path, and imbibe only those principles that take us forward. It can even be a way to avoid being sucked into a cult, a costly price for being loyal to one path.