A few years ago, during a visit to the States, a friend took me to hear the Dalai Lama speak in Los Angeles.  After walking through a carnival, Disneyland-like arcade, we arrived at the Universal City Amphitheater, where we had to abandon our mineral water bottles in case they contained explosives.  Inside there were long lines of people buying cappuccinos and snacks because they knew that the Dalai Lama might go on for at least an hour.  Inside I sat next to a middle age woman who ate popcorn throughout HH’s discourse and whispered comments to me about his deep wisdom.

The Dalai Lama was superb.  He warmed up the audience with a few well-told jokes (I’m pirating those, I said to myself), and then with everyone having a good time, he gave a brilliant talk on compassion.

I think the tickets cost a lot but I didn’t ask because I was a guest, and my hostess was comped.  HH put on a great show, he was funny, profound, inquisitive, and little naughty – this was high quality entertainment.  Thank  Goddess there is a human being like him around for the betterment of the world and all who make some sort of contact with him.  But, excuse me, this IS show biz.  We are in a new age and it seems that without show biz there is no biz.  I have no problem with that, especially if it’s in good taste.

Deepak Chopra (who I know and have great respect for) and others have found ways to extract withdrawals from the storehouse of India’s Intellectual Capital, and create properties of value, for their own personal wealth, for the profit of the media multinationals who distribute the properties, and to the public who are entertained and informed by them.

We are no longer dealing with Knowledge traditions.  We have lots of information, some good, some not, yet our systems of processing all that information seem so arbitrary.  I said to a young Latvian disciple recently, “You have lots of interesting software, but you’re missing an operating system.”  How, then, is Authority established?  These days, the electronic screen (TV + internet) is the main source of knowledge for most people.  We learn what knowledge should look like, what teachers and leaders should be like, and TV has prepared us to go out there and find our knowledge, our teachers and leaders.

If you would have gone around in the 60’s saying one day yoga would be mainstream, they would have locked you up.  I was away in India living in caves when all this new age thing started taking shape and then exploding.  And these somewhat obscure alternatives we loved playing with in the 60’s suddenly was big business.  Authority arose with the dynamic of audience building.

Authority is no longer established through the meticulous maintenance of a tradition of knowledge, but by establishing a kind of media presence and a name that translates into an audience’s mind as a brand.  It represents a set of ideas and feelings.  There is the advertising, the buying in to, and the consumption.

Whether we’re talking about a spiritual leader, your yoga teacher, or your lover.  If you like it you buy more, if you don’t, you change brands.  This is the age in which we live, and this age has its own wonders and challenges and potentials.  But this has very little to do with the traditions of Knowledge and Yoga.

And indeed this is not only happening in New York; this is happening at the very core of the most ancient still surviving traditions of Knowledge that I am aware of in India.  I’m seeing it in my face.  Authority is being rapidly established through money, which is having an increasing connection with media presence.


About the Author

Baba Rampuri, author of "Autobiography of a Sadhu, a Journey into Mystic India," and frequent commentator on Oral Tradition, Sacred Speech, and Consciousness, is an American expatriate,  the first foreigner to be initiated into India's largest and most ancient order of yogis, the Naga Sannyasis of Juna Akhara.  He has lived in India since 1970, where he practices and teaches the oral tradition of the Sanatan Dharma, conducts sacred ceremony and rites, and hosts workshops and retreats.

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    I suggest , in modern age West Authorities are not interested in Knowledge ( vidya meaning ). Who becomes a disciplined customer if he can ” see ” ?

  2. Thank you for these comments, Baba, as they are important especially these days. If one goes to a guru, a friend will ask “were there a lot of people there? What time does he/she come on ZEE TV (or Astha TV, etc.). Only the gurus drawing the largest crowds and having the most elaborate TV shows seem to elicit a response of “oh, I want to meet that guru also!” Having met some of these people in the beginning of their ‘careers’ as gurus, and having found them so sincere, filled with Light, Love and Blessings, and having watched some of them descend into this media circus, I know it’s true. In at least two cases I can think of, these previously Pure Saints, became addicted to Name, Fame, Money, and other things. They actually seemed to lose their way! I could be wrong, but it appears that the Light around them becomes less as they buy into the system. It appears that as they concentrate on building buying credibility through TV and advertising, they fall from a great height into just more world.

  3. The new age movement which mushroomed inn the 80s in the U.S. was able to trivialize and commercialize many belief systems including eastern philosophies, paganism, and tragically native American religions who have seen so much of their cultures distorted, used, and destroyed over the centuries and it isn’t over yet for them! The question must be addressed as to what is behind the success of the commercialism of spirituality, why westerners who seem to be legitimately starved for it have gone about doing it in such a superficial way – following the herds as always, the consumer trends, creating phenomena such as “rock star” – celebrity yoga teachers, and not thinking about what is really going on, what it is they are contributing to, what it is they are creating. The internet perhaps more so than television can be a useful research tool to educate oneself…if one is able to filter,select and carefully sift through the mounds of information available…We the consumers are responsible for these trends and therefore need to be responsible for the choices we make in order to become more conscious of what and how we go about living our lives…thank you Baba for the reminder….time to wake up once again here….


    Isnt the real problem that our culture has gone so commercial that the only way we define ourselves is from the things we buy?
    We buy identity and seek to be thought of and looked on in some particular way from the things we buy. People that are seekers and look for yoga define themselves by the things they buy too. It has to be organic and eco and so on. More so they define themselves by what they dont buy. And that is just the same.
    I know who I am. I dont tell people that I practice. What i practice is becoming a better person nothing more nothing less. I try to learn from as many as i can But i dont go to the yoga-centers in the metropol i live in because i dont want to limit my identity to the ones they “sell”.
    For the same reason I went out camping in nature with freinds when hh was here in copenhagen last year..
    Enough about me, my point is just we are so caught up in consumerism that most people only define themselves from what we consume or dont consume.

    I just finished your book Babaji, loved it. It was a great inspiration and i try to make my life an extaordinary fairytale just like yours is portraid in your book.
    Thank you.

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