Truth Behind Allegations Against Isha — III

Why brainwashing allegations stick?

To many people brainwash is a scary term. For others, it is a loose, condescending and derogatory insult to throw at an opponent to whom they are losing an argument. It basically means that the person is incapable of sensible thought or action and stupid enough to be under the influence of somebody else or something. Therefore, it is their prerogative to save you from being taken advantage of. Since there can be no proof to brainwashing, we are supposed to take the allegation at face value and violently deal with whoever is being blamed.

On the other hand, brainwashing can be very real. As humans, we are always prone to be brainwashed, abused and exploited by others. On a personal level, I think each one of us knows of someone or the other in our extended families or acquaintances, who we secretly believe to have been brainwashed by someone. The usual suspects are the wives who “completely” brain-wash their husbands or mothers who brainwash their sons. Every permutation and combination of human relationships is fair game for this. And let us not forget the young lovers who inadvertently cross the red lines of class, caste, and religion. In these cases, it is not just the parents, but whole communities come together to hack them in broad daylight. Sadly, there has been no time in history when someone or the other has been accused of brainwashing and dealt with violently.

Brain-washing forms the basis for many things we learn right from our childhood. We are brainwashed to brush our teeth, eat healthily, dress appropriately and a whole gamut of things. The consensus seems to be that when the effects are desirable and positive, we are Ok with it but when they are negative and intentions questionable we are not. But who is to decipher and decide that the effects are negative and the intentions malicious? So in a way brainwashing is both Ok and not Ok, depending upon a variety of factors and how it is argued out.

When the domain is as less-charted as spirituality, this becomes really murky. This is the reason why organisations like Isha are like sitting ducks for these allegations. What one person feels is education, motivation, inspiration and life-changing guidance can be projected as abusive, exploitative and a threat to the society by just giving a spin to the facts. What is support and sustenance for one person can easily be projected as toxic and oppressive. And if you manage to repeat something enough number of times in the media, the allegations will definitely colour, taint and linger in the minds of the public for a long time. Truth be damned.

How to deal with brainwashing?

So how does one protect one’s children from brainwashing? Incidentally, brainwashing can happen not just because of any particular person. The household, community, the society and culture we grew up in — all contribute deeply to this. So do genetic and karmic factors. Incidentally, sage Patanjali, considered as the father of Yogic Sciences, summarises yoga in one sentence as “Chitta Vrutti Nirodha” — the end of all modifications of the mind. In other words, yoga is the ultimate anti brain-wash intervention. But we are dealing with professors who think kidneys can be collected like marbles, so let us not even go there.

Protecting your children from brainwash does not mean killing someone or annihilating something. Parents need to bring their children up in such a way that children are reasonably rooted within themselves. This, Dr. Kamaraj, requires one to be a little more humble about one’s petty contribution to the birth of one’s children. You need to realise that you don’t own them. Right from day one, you need to recognise and respect that your children are on the way to becoming entities by themselves. This means that you need to help them see life for what it is and become a light unto themselves.

This also means that with every little action, you train them to become a little more discerning and not blind followers of anything. This will not happen if all you do is to make them obedient to yourself. (Importantly, at the age of 34, if they do not do your bidding, don’t freak out!). You also need to bring them up to be courageous — courageous to the extent that someday if they realise that they have been taken for a ride, you can be certain that they will do whatever is necessary irrespective of the consequences.

However, a discerning intellect and a courageous heart can be dangerous and even counter-productive for parents. Moreover, since children learn more by example than through sermons, you may need to walk the talk yourself. Also, since your children live so closely with you, they may practice their discernment on you, question you and call out your hypocrisies much before they confront the world. You may have to be on your toes all the time. Courage could also bring empowerment. They might not tremble every time you growl or even clear your throat. They may start taking initiatives on their own. They may not keep waiting for their papa to do his white-knight-on-the-horse rescue act all their lives. They may even be repulsed by the idea. They might act on their own.

You may not be their life-long hero, they may find and emulate their own heroes. Worse still, they may even become one, as nature intended each one of us to be. Obviously, all this is too much to take for too many parents, irrespective of what age we live in. Some parents will always tend to raise their children as incomplete beings, and spend their lives in paranoia about their children. Some will expect the children to take orders all their lives.

In the meantime, some people will always blame organisations like Isha to cover-up their own frustrations with their children. So we are not going to see the last of such incidents, anytime soon.

Next post

Time and again when these allegations come up and die down, one thing people always ask me is, “All that is fine but is Isha a genuine organisation?” They want some inside dope on this. I answer this in my next post.

Part IV: Is Isha worth the hype?