Paramahamsa Nithyananda: a Saint or a Sham?

6 min read

Recent events surrounding the video scandal involving the guru Paramahamsa Nithyananda invoked anger, frustration, and outright condemnation from various sectors of the population including some of his former and present devotees. Other devotees of his are calling this a conspiracy against their guru. Some are still in a state of shock.

One of my friends, who only knew Nithyananda through his YouTube videos, said to me, “Though I am not his devotee and never met him in person, his talks on YouTube deeply resonated with me. Those talks really helped me in the past couple of years. What happened is unbelievable! I’ve still come to terms with the fact that a person who can talk and make deep observations, is a charlatan of monumental proportions.

Note that I have never met Nithyananda and I never really resonated with his talks on YouTube which on couple of occasions I watched when my friend forwarded me the links. I have a few friends who took Nithyananda as their guru. My observations are based on what I learned by observing my friends.

What follows is a reply that I gave him. With his permission, I am reproducing that here with a few changes/additions.

People would not have reacted the way they reacted to the episode, if Nithyananda did not claim to be a celibate, a sanyasi, who has renounced all that is worldly. He called himself Paramahamsa; and initiated people into monk-hood insisting on celibacy. Many of my friends who work for a big software company in the Seattle have donated thousands of dollars to his ashram.

I think this is a case of suppressed desires. That is why Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita tells Arjuna not to run away from his desires, for any suppression or running away from, will only strengthen them. It is only a matter of time before they hunt down and take over the person completely. Krishna further says that we have to act until the desire burns itself out or transmutes. That is the way of karma yoga. One can also work on desires through intense meditation via various forms of Raja Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Siva Yoga, Kriya Yoga, etc. However, one cannot stop until the final dissolution happened.

I always had this odd feeling that Nithyananda might have had some spiritual experiences and some minor siddhis; but got caught up in the siddhis and did not go beyond that. That’s only my opinion and completely based on what happened. Ego may have found the backdoor, using his spiritual experiences, to take control. In my opinion he is no different from Tiger Woods, except that Tiger Woods did not demand obedience and celibacy from his fans.

This is one of the reasons why the greatest of saints in India were married at one time or the other. Even Lord Krishna who was and is still considered a great yogi and Jagadguru (World Teacher) was married. They knew the power of this primal urge and used it as a tool in their spiritual quest. That helped their wives also to rapidly advance on their spiritual paths. Don’t get me wrong there were also celibate yogis who were not involved in scandals like this, but they were quite few.

Tragedy is that there were families who sent their teenage children to India to study with him in his ashram. There were many more who put their whole lives in his hands. Imagine what is going through their families right now. So, be comforted that you did not loose your ability to discriminate and your personal power like these people have.

As you mentioned to me earlier, I don’t think we will ever know The Truth, but only know a personal truth which constantly changes as we evolve consciously. Many of the disciples in the forums are still saying that it is a big conspiracy against their guru. So, that is their personal truth and just that. We don’t need to pass a judgment. We know our personal truth and we are all evolving. You have been your own master as far as I gathered from our conversations–you have the ability to glean information from wherever it came from and make it your own. That’s all you need. It does not matter if it came from Nithyananda’s YouTube video, Ramtha, Ramana Maharshi, or a Hollywood/Bollywood movie or a cartoon. Even a stone, a tree or an animal can be our teacher. Nithyananda was just quoting from ancient Vedic scriptures in his videos; those scriptures themselves are not bad. If you resonated with those messages, then find the same scriptures from alternative sources. So, let your bad feelings go and make peace with the whole episode.

One can treat this whole episode as a teaching. Never to give away your personal power into the hands of another. In ancient times, teachers used to put the potential students through rigorous testing to know if the student is capable of critical thinking, self-reliance, emotional stability and self-motivation. If the teacher finds that student lacks any of these qualities, then he would give the seeker a technique or two, and send him away to practice for a while and then come back. The student is again tested. Once accepted by the teacher, student would be taught by the teacher only as long as necessary as not to cause any dependency—physical, emotional or otherwise—of the student on the teacher. The teacher would then tell the student to go to a far away place and practice until mastery is achieved. These teachers always encouraged their students to look within for answers and not depend on external sources like the teachers. These teachers never had more than a handful of students in their lifetimes because of their stringent requirements. This is what is lacking in present day gurus who value their own worth based on the number of dependent devotees they have.

It is said that a guru or teacher can take the student only as far as the guru has gone. This applies to all fields including spirituality. So, if any of Nithyananda students feel cheated, they don’t have to (even though have the right to). They can just thank him for helping them evolve as far as he has done, and move on to become their own masters. If somebody feels that they still need him, then it is fine. It is their wish; may be they still are in need of him as they are probably not yet ready to become their own masters. I hope this helps to put your mind at ease.

21 Responses

  1. kala bairava says:

    Excellent post.

    Just like to add that ‘Nithyananda’ is just like any other human. While he may be willing to perfect the art of ‘celebacy’ he needs to learn.

    He had not let anybody down by his act . It was an act between consenting adults. He did not force anyone into sex and if you see the video he was very composed. I belive that to be able to behave the way he did requrired some control.

    May be he was testing his art of celebacy by getting physically close to a woman.

    Anyway, what i am saying is that “sometimes some people stumble on the path to perfection”, but remember it is only a quest. not the end.

    Even if he had done what he is alleged to have done, which is an physical act of intercourse, it will just allow me to understand that Nityananada is one like us. and we can also become like him.

    I have heard him only one and am very inspired with the simplicity of his analysis.

    Be Bliss

  2. Raju says:

    A Very good observation. We need to forget the messenger and stick to the message. The message is more important than the messenger. This ugly episode will soon be forgotten. Ultimately what will remain is only The Truth,

  3. Hi kala bhairava,

    Thanks for your comment. You said that is an act between consulting adults. Consent can only happen between equals. If the lady in the video worshipped him as someone higher than her, then she didn’t consider herself to be equal to him. This means he was at a position of power over her. This meant there is no consent. However, I don’t know both of them, so I cannot say what was going in their minds. So, let me leave it at that.

    I don’t think that the oath of celibacy he took when he was bestowed the title of “Paramahamsa” on him, allows him to indulge in that act. But, of course, he has the right to give up celibacy publicly and shed those robes, if he wants to. There is nothing wrong with that. He can still teach yoga, and with more completeness, since sexual energy itself is Shakti, divine. As you said he is just another man like any of us and functions exactly the same way as any other human.

    Also, this article was not against him. This is about NOT giving up one’s personal power to another human being making the other god by denigrating the god within oneself.

    Thanks
    Desika

  4. Raju,

    You are absolutely right. This episode will soon be forgotten like many such episodes that have happened during the past century. I just hope that the lessons are learnt and start becoming our own masters.

    Thanks,
    Desika

  5. venkat says:

    At the outset, browsing your site gives wonderful bliss. I shall take sometime to read and enrich my knowledge. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with yearning student like me.

    I also had the same opinion as that you have expressed “that Nithyananda might have had some spiritual experiences and some minor siddhis; but got caught up in the siddhis and did not go beyond that.” You have rightly pointed out the stipulations imposed on student by Guru. Now there are so many gurus and so many students. It is for individuals to select the best suited to them.

  6. Mits says:

    All guru’s are charlatan’s why do you need to put some person on a pedestal and worship him as your God. You will never find your guru outside of yourself!

  7. Nagaraj says:

    Hi Desika,

    Well said: “This is about NOT giving up one’s personal power to another human being making the other god by denigrating the god within oneself.”

    I am 110% with you. I am also informed people that don’t give your choice to someone to avoid responsibility of life. One can say 100 things, however, its ones choice to do what is said. So, as far as I know, choice is with me, whether to accept someone as guru or master or teacher. I don’t need to blame someone for misfortune or fortune happened due their word. Its me who choose to follow that word. That’s my belief.

    Thank you for sharing wonderful thoughts here.

    Nagaraj

  8. Rama says:

    Mr.Desikan:
    The explanation you have given for two consenting adults is hilarious. Please watch the video the lady initiates and Nitthyanada is not rushing on to her. It is very clear that this person does not have lust in him for sure. I do agree with some points where we are all equal and our true guru lies within. But yet I strongly disagree that Nithyanada would have had some minor siddhis or he his a charlatan. He is actually very nice person. He kept saying dont keep me in a pedestal. He has never squandered money. Believe me i am not his devotee. My guru is inside me and I love Trailanga swami and Seshadri swami. But still it pains me to see that people are talking so low of this wonderful man. Please reserve all judgements. He has done no harm to anyone. Who says that the moment you wear orange robe no women should come near, who is telling that paramhansa means no women can come near.
    He has done nothing wrong. I met him once and I have seen his simplicity. I am a fairly very good looking women and I have seen his behavior towards me.
    You are yourself a person who meditates why pass judgement on a young lad who attained enlightenment at such a young age. Let us see his contribution to the world.
    Lets just take his teachings. You said people resonated with his teaching because he was just repeating shiva sutras and patanjali yoga sutra. But tell me how many of us can explain it in such a nice way. Let us appreciate that. When he spoke he understood the literal meaning of it. He is an asset. We need masters like him to show us the path. They are there to just show us the path. It is upto us to progress.
    You yourself seem to be a nice person , please refrain from judgement.
    Please give this this young lad who achieved so much in his 33 years another chance.

  9. Venkat,

    Thank you very much for the appreciation. The bliss you experienced is from within you, I don’t believe that it has anything to do with the website or its contents. 🙂

    You are right that each one selects his/her own guru.

    Desika

  10. Mits,

    Well, I would not say all gurus are charlatans. There have been, and still are some enlightened ones among us who don’t consider themselves as gurus, but still they do their part of teaching directly or indirectly. I agree that there are quite a few of them and are obscure from the public’s eye. They don’t perform charismatic acts to attract large following.

    Thanks,
    Desika

  11. Dear Rama,

    Thank you for stopping by and leaving a detailed comment.

    I don’t think that my explanation given for two consulting adults was in jest. It is a serious thing. If you don’t know the whole Bill Clinton fiasco and how he used office for sexual favors, you should read up. This situation is no different. He holds the office of power–that of the guru.

    Note first that this article stemmed from a little dialogue I had with a friend who was a bit confused. I am sure that there are many who are confused like him. You say he did not squander any money. Well, I could care less about it, since I did not pay a penny. Even if somebody paid some money for his workshops where he taught meditation techniques, that is fine. It is exchange of energy–money for teachings. I have no problems with that.

    You say he has committed nothing wrong. In my opinion he broke one cardinal rule of Hindu dharma (remember he talks about upholding and spreading Hindu dharma). According to the same Hindu dharma a disciple/devotee is like a child to the guru. A devotee/disciple takes a rebirth in the womb of the energy field of the guru. So, a guru’s relationship to a disciple is the same as that of a father to his son/daughter.

    You ask me, “just because Saffron robes are worn should one stay away from woman.” The meaning of “Saffron robes” is “complete renunciation from ALL worldly things” like money, women, alcohol, everything including the society they live in. That is the traditional meaning. That is why in Hindu dharma, “Sanyasa” stage of life comes only after one has completely fulfilled their obligations to the family and society and are ready to retire to the forest away from the society to live a life of solitude. When they do they wear Saffron robes.

    You say he did not ask anybody to put him on a pedestal. Why does he then sit on Golden throne while his disciples sit on the floor? This is just an observation on my part and a question to you, and not a judgement. Who knows whose idea it was to make him sit on a golden throne!

    I did not say people resonated with him only because he repeated scripture. All gurus of the tradition at one time or the other quoted scriptures. There is nothing wrong with that. My advice to my friend to find some other source was NOT because Nithyananda’s discourses were not good, but because my friend was internally conflicted and I was trying to give him alternatives to alleviate his confusion. In fact, my opinion is that Nithyananda is very good at those discourses.

    You say he did not hurt anybody. But, I have friends, where I live, who have been his devotees. They are badly hurt, confused and fearful of what the future may hold. They probably are responsible for their state, but any compassionate individual will see that it is not their fault completely when they were told to trust completely in the guru and not have any personal ego.

    Note that the whole focus of my article was not to denigrate or judge Nithyananda in anyway, but to drive to the point that one should not blindly subject oneself to spiritual slavery.

    You say you are not his devotee, but at the same time you are vehemently defending him when you didn’t need to.

    You said that I seem to be a nice person. Isn’t that a judgement in itself? 🙂

    You ask me to give this “33 year old young lad another chance.” Who am I to give that chance? I am not his follower/disciple/devotee. It is up to his devotees.

    As an aside, please note that he never addresses his disciples as such. He calls them “devotees.” There is a difference in my opinion. Please read the article: On Gurus and Disciples.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    To reiterate to you as I said in the article itself: This article was not about Nithyananda, but about not giving up your personal power to some other human being.

    Desika

  12. Nagaraj,

    Thanks for your comment. “Choice” is the keyword.

    Desika

  13. ketayun says:

    I am quite surprised to see how quickly some people come out of the woodwork to blame and criticise while also claiming to know nothing of him.

    My experience with Swamiji has been one of complete self-transformation because of his teachings alone. Besides his teachings given both free and at a cost, he runs medical and educational charities plus feeds many thousands free.

    The life-skills he advocates work and I am totally grateful. It is true that many have taught the same thing in different ways but Swamiji is the one who showed me the way from misery to joy. For me the so-called sex scandal is irrelavent because his message is the issue.

    He has my love, devotion and complete appreciation.

    Ketayun

  14. Ketayun,

    As you said it yourself, message is important. Then why are so worried about what I said or did not say about Nithyananda. Keep the message you received from him and move forward–with or without him is up to you. Good luck to you on your journey.

    -Desika

  15. ketayun says:

    I am not worried.. what I am sorry about is that these types of comments can turn off others from recieving the benefits of his teaching. Good luck to you too.

  16. Ketayun,

    If you had read the article thoroughly, the comments I made to my friend were to ease his confusion and were not against Nithyananda, but “for” the independent thinking on oneself. For example, you thought for yourself — as I gather from your comments — and you are sticking with what your truth is. If somebody is attracted to Nithyananda and his teachings — as you are — then they will go there no matter what I or anybody else says. Has this article affected you to change your truth? This blog contains my truths. And, I don’t expect anybody to embrace them. They are my truths, that’s all. If you resonate with them, then don’t just believe in what I say, but scrutinize for yourself and derive your own truths, or reject them altogether. I am quite fine with it.

    Desika

  17. Rushikesh says:

    Pranam,

    Ultimately it is where and how we want to look. If somebody has decided that he/she will look bad things only then better reside in sewage and watch all the waste matter all the time.

    Best way is to forgive; to whom? not to guru Nityananda but to yourself by giving up all the base thinking with which we are judging whether Nityananda did right or wrong. Give up all such thinking. Let the situation be as what it is; we do not need to add our judgement; if we do so we will only get hurt.

  18. Rushikesh,

    Thank you for your comment.

    In the same breath that you told me not to judge Nithyananda, you judged me to have “base thoughts.” Interesting!

    Thanks,
    Desika

  19. CLOSING COMMENTS ON THIS ARTICLE.

    I have said everything that I had to say in the article and the comment thread. I have nothing more to say. I don’t intend to spend anymore of my energy in repeating myself. If you want to know what the article is about read the article and the comments thoroughly with an open mind.

    One last time, this article is not about Nithyananda or any particular guru, but to encourage people not to loose their inner voice and knowing.

    Thanks,
    Desika

  20. I am opening the comments temporarily just to post this. One of the readers “Rama” who posted a comment earlier, sent me an email comment asking me to post it here. I am posting it here verbatim. I am also posting the reply I sent him.

    Thanks,
    Desika

    ——————
    Name: rama

    Email:

    Subject: Please post my comment

    Message: Namaste
    Not long time ago I had written about Nithyanada and had taken his side and asked people not to judge him. To me just the video act was not so wrong.I felt they were two adults and we must not comment. After seeing how he handled the entire situation I must tell you SHAME ON NITHYANDA. Atleast if he had come out and accepted his mistake I would have forgiven and still listened to him. But that bogus fellow is so manipulative and full of lies. One can read my earlier posts where I had asked Mr. Desikan to change his attitude. I admit I was wrong Why does he lie so much. He said he is going into spiritual seclusion and the very next day he was releasing videos.He said he was always available to the police but the police had to nab him as he was absconding. Liar. Mr.Desikan I personally apologize for not seeing your point earlier. Please go ahead and post my comment

    Rama
    ——————

    My reply:
    ——————
    Dear Rama,

    No problem at all. You don’t need to apologize to me. Glad that you listened to your heart then when you posted your earlier opinion, and now when you sent this email. I will post the email comment you sent me to the blog post later today.

    Love and Light,
    Desika
    ——————

  1. March 16, 2010

    […] I suggest all those interested in the topic of self mastery and Gurus read this article. Paramahamsa Nityananda: A Saint or a Sham […]