Business of Religious Programs with a Preaching Guru – 13 Mar 11

The thought of change was on my mind but not yet in a clear form as to what would actually change. We had started the preparations for my nine-day program in Rajasthan in the same way as we had done in the time before the cave. Purnendu had been to the venue to see where we would be accommodated, how the stage would look like, had talked to the organizers about everything, had made arrangements for coming and going and had also arranged for musicians. He had informed the same group of musicians with whom I had been travelling in the time before the cave, too and they agreed to come together from different places in India to play at my lectures in those nine days.

You have to know that such a lecture as I was used to give was also always a very musical program. We always started and ended with mantra chanting. The lectures were based on Hindu scriptures like the Ram Charit Manas, also called Ramayana, the Bhagavat Gita, the Bhagavat Maha Puran and others. In the two to three hours of the lecture, there were again and again short breaks in which the musicians played and a singer sang phrases or verses of the scriptures, mantras or leads bhajans.

The lead singer had been travelling all around India with me ever since we met in 1986. All my musicians had a good knowledge of Indian classical music and the singer had, in my company, learned many bhajans written by my grandfather which were already popular in the Indian public. Together we have created many compositions for different mantras and verses. As the oldest and most experienced member, he was also the director of my whole orchestra.

There was a Tabla player, making rhythm with his Tabla, an Indian drum and a flute player for bamboo flutes. Then we had two players of stringed instruments, one Sitar player and the player of Sarangi, a kind of advanced Indian violin with many strings. Finally a player of several instruments travelled with us who could play the cymbals, vibrating bells and a few other supporting instruments, whatever was needed, and who also was the backing singer, supporting the main singer with his voice.

Additionally to the musicians we also hired a cook and his assistant to come along and cook for the group. These were the preparations taken from our side and I want to give you a detailed picture of how such a big and well organized program actually took place, so I will describe you what the organizers did for making it a success.

Usually this kind of big program is not organized by a single organizer unless he is rich and can afford the big expenses that are necessary. In most cases, also in this case, there is a committee of several religious people who organize the program together. They fix a date with the invited guru’s management and are told how much the guru will charge for his whole program, including the salary for musicians, cooks and whoever else the guru wants to bring. As soon as they have the dates fixed, they start advertising and go from door to door to tell people about the program and ask them for a donation to support their organizing efforts. I already had given program in that area before, so my name was known there and I had many disciples in the surrounding areas who were happy to give money to the organizers so that the town could invite me. This is how it usually works. The organizers collect money already beforehand, so that they can arrange everything that is needed. People are ready to give because they want to see their guru again, want to hear the lecture and believe it is good for their spiritual development and their Karma to make this possible.

The organizers arrange then everything that is necessary from the tents to the accommodation for the guru, from food that is often given for free to the microphone system and the electricity backup.

If it is a big program where thousands of people come, there are often also high officials and politicians present at the program. Politicians come to those events because they want to show how religious they are so that religious people give them their vote in the next election. With this kind of VIPS, the organizers of course have to take care of security and there will be police present, too.

In the whole town you will find banners, hoardings and flyers with the picture of the guru printed on them, the dates and an open invitation to join. Depending on how big the organizers are, they also make advertising in the surrounding towns and villages.

They even organize buses to pick people up from those villages. They advertise there at what time that bus will come to pick them up and when it will drop them back off in the village. Those buses are completely free for everyone and there are no entrance fees or tickets. Anybody can come, free of cost, but of course people give donations of both, small and big amounts.

Actually this all is a very big business, just like every other. The organizers have a plan what they want to achieve, they collect the funds through sponsors, sometimes invest also some of their money and start the set-up. They get their revenue during the nine days that the program is going on by asking people for donations. Some give five Rupees, some give fifty thousand, but everybody normally gives something according to their capacity. After the program they pay the performers, the guru and his group and whatever is left, is their profit. If there were not enough funds collected, they can be in loss but mostly they make a good profit even after paying the artists, the tent, the salary to all employees, the food, the accommodation, the buses and everything. And it is right, they have done months of efforts, so this is simply what they earn for their work. The more people come, the higher their profit and it was normal in my programs to see 20000 and more people.

It is a business that makes everybody happy. I, the guru, get my money and can pay my musicians and cooks which makes them happy. The organizers pay all the people who have worked for them and they are happy. The organizers themselves got money from thousands of people and are happy as well as those thousands of people who had a great program, gave a donation to support religious efforts and had their guru in their town.

As a guru, like I was one in that time, you are like a rock star, just that there are no entrance fees for your concerts.

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