The Latest Corporate Avatars


Dr. Anil Mishra
Faculty Member-Marketing Management, AW
Dr. Kalyana Chakravarthi
Senior Faculty-Soft Skills, English Lab, AW


The main focus of this article is on the survival and marketing strategies of so-called 'spiritual gurus' who have entered the corporate world in India and the rest of the world recently. These individuals have not only imparted spirituality but also contributed to our economy through their various strategies in their own way. Here an attempt is made to expose and analyze their roles in our society with a view to make the readers aware of the other side of the spirituality which is highly marketable nowadays. We would like to explain these new 'avatars' in detail.


Our comments are not against any specific person, but exception always exists. Our views on any subject here are on the basis of rationality, truth, logic, freedom and social responsibility. If one glorifies a single concept such as religion, spirituality, yoga, meditation, personality development etc, we can understand his/her possessiveness towards his/her one of these things.

Anyway, our aim is not to hurt your sentiments.

In the last century, several Indian spiritual gurus and god men amassed unprecedented followings in India as well as abroad. Some of these gurus are NRIs and have also been unveiling secret doctrines and practices. They are charismatic, great orators, motivators and organization builders; they are the glamour boys and girls of contemporary world. In Indian spiritual gurus many a restless soul finds, an anchor, an adviser and a savior who dissolve their queries and lead them to the path to self-discovery and salvation.

In India, if one wants to make it big with nothing but a lip service and that too with very little or no monetary investment, we have two businesses to suggest either becoming a religious guru, priest or imam or joining politics.

By doing this you will make more than doctors, lawyers or industrialists. You will find these two kinds of people in imported AC cars. The best part of this is, you might be already a follower or disciple of anyone of them.

Mankind has witnessed the birth, proliferation and death of countless religions, belief systems, and philosophies.

Though the generating impulse for each of these systems is undoubtedly related to numerous particular cultural and psychological factors, there runs through virtually all of them the common idea that man is not, in his naturally given human state, whole or complete. The parallel to this belief is the idea that man must undergo some process of completion, some discipline of self-definition. Such a process is usually regarded by its exponents as the basic purpose of man's existence, for through it man is seen to acquire or develop what is essential and universal, and not merely accidental and local, within the range of human potentiality. By this process, he defines what he truly is by becoming what he most truly can be. The process is often described as `salvation', of being lifted above the condition of unregeneration4 to the plane of a superior reality.  - Outlook

The traditional systems and religions beliefs have now become social practices. These practices are unable to match with the fast changing life styles, work culture and society.

Many spiritual Gurus in the name of religion, spirituality, yoga and meditation indulge in commercialization.

* Kanchi Sankaracharya (now facing the trial in a murder case), Swami Premananda (now serving double life term), Sri Ravi Shankar (conducting expensive and elite training programs worldwide), Mata Amritanandamayi (involved in educational business and politics), Ganapathi Sachchidananda Swamiji, Meher Baba, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (owner of many educational institutions, publications and a TV channel), Sathya Sai Baba (owner of educational institutes, hospitals, helicopter etc), Asha Ram Bapu (produces and markets herbal products), Sri Ramdev baba (conducts regular Yoga camps ,charges heavily, produces herbal products and markets Ayurvedic medicines and facing a court case) Sukhabodhananda (gives discourses to corporate world), Osho (a rich and controversial Guru who was deported from America ) etc. The list is endless.

You might get confused with this list of spiritual Gurus but this is the list of top businessmen or marketers (Corporate Avatars) of India.

Even spirituality these days has become a commodity that comes with a price. For instance, if a corporate company organizes religious or spiritual lecture (discourse) as a part of their training programme by inviting a famous Guru and hundreds of participants, multiple benefits are gained such as brand building, advertising, revenue, corporate social responsibility, popularity etc.

It is very difficult to understand the mentality of Indian people. When their Gurus ask them to donate by free hand they are ready to spend thousands and millions of rupees but when any poor person directly asks them for 10 rupees they refuse.

Generally Indians do not find time even for themselves but in order to listen to these Gurus they spend hours and hours in hot sunlight.

How these spiritual Gurus are having that much convincing power? How they are able to sell same old spiritual stories again and again in the market? How their followers get that much time to spend? Whether their marketing strategies or spirituality of the followers make them survive in the society, there are so many questions which are still to get answer?

Let's try to find some unsaid facts about these Gurus.

Hospitals, Schools, colleges, Ashrams, FMCG5 Products (tea leaves, salt, incense stick,) hotels, meditation centers, medicines, herbal products and numberless products are marketed by these Gurus. It is difficult to understand what they are going to do with the amount of money made by different organizations running by these spiritual Gurus? Is this money earned by these institutions accounted anywhere? Is there any auditing on these earnings? Huge structures are built up at some ashrams spending a few cores !! Can't the money be put to better use? It is a well devised tactics of many religious organizations to undertake some service activities to evade taxes and public scrutiny. Though the amount of wealth plundered far exceeds the money spent on so called service activities. These activities indeed have been the hallmark of many modern Gurus and form the latest Corporate Avatars.

"Guru is like God", say the Indian scriptures. Indeed, the Guru in Vedic tradition is looked upon as the one no less than a God. Guru is a honorific designation of a preceptor as defined and explained in the scriptures and ancient literary works including the epics. If a Guru is like God, then why God needs money? Why does God force people to pray for him? Why are they highly involved in earning bulk profits through different means? Aren't Gurus more real than Gods?

Basically, the Guru is a spiritual teacher leading the disciples on the path of 'god-realization'. In essence, the Guru is considered a respected person with saintly qualities who enlightens the mind of his disciples, an educator from whom one receives the initiatory mantra, and the one who instructs in rituals and religious ceremonies.

Does the definition of Babas change according to times? Babas of today are Kalyug's product. So don't expect them to be modest, living in jungles with long beard and a 'kamandal' in hand. Instead its Mercedes, A.Cs, best of food and clothing etc. that make them likeable beside a power to gather a huge crowd which a lay man like you and me cannot. We have seen huge gatherings from all sectors advocating their supernatural powers and publicizing. The sad part is out of the crowd a large no. is from literate class. Can't think of others.

Most of the Babas use to Deliver their lectures in Urban Areas. Why? When 65% of Indian Population is residing in small villages it means they need more focuses. But still this segment is overlooked by Babas. One of the reason may be that rural people, they do not have that much paying capacity as compare to urban ones or it may be possible that what so ever is deliver by these is already known to villagers or those persons are having shortage of time as compare to urban peoples.

Now most of the spiritual leaders turn to be political leaders. They had joined different parties. And now they use to speak for those parties other then their original subjects. In present days Babas and Gurus have nothing to do with social upliftment or any long term progressive reforms in the society. Their primary goal is to indoctrinate as many followers as possible and make as much money as possible. Can you figure out any religious organization which is poor? Intact the present day Gurus pose a greater danger to communal harmony of the country than ever before. You know how? - Sri Sri Ravishanker lately defending Modi on US Visa denial. – RSS is taking over on financial matters of Mata Amrinandamayi. - BJP disrupting parliament on Shankaracharya¿s arrest. The list is endless... To see through all these just requires common sense and not hyper-rationalism as you have suggested.

We just can't blame Babas alone for this. If the common man does not entertain such sadhus, babas .etc such Baba could be easily be driven from the society. But many respected and famous personalities entertain then, what can we do?

I have seen many people leaving there jobs , profession and joining such institutions. Come on now ther's limit!!! But one thing is for sure if somebody is jobless this is indeed a good profession. I think your yearly earnings would be more than what a milliners earns. True-believer syndrome may account for the popularity of the so-called spiritual-magicians; but it has never made us understand why people believe in the psychic or supernatural abilities of such characters despite the overwhelming evidence that they are frauds and make their living by bilking people of great sums of cash. Since by definition those suffering from true-believer syndrome are irrationally committed to their beliefs there is no point in arguing with them. Evidence and logical argument mean nothing to them. Such people are by definition deluded in the psychiatric sense of the term: they believe what is false and are incapable of being persuaded by evidence and argument that their notions are in error.

'A lie will always be a lie even if 4 billion people believe it to be true; a truth will always be a truth even if nobody believes it to be true'.8

All Modern Marketing Strategies are applied by these Gurus. Market segmentation, Market targeting, positioning, and Green marketing etc.

Before entering any market they have to think for Marketing Mix part i.e. Product Mix (What they want to convey their target audience), Price Mix (How much they are going to charge for this), Place Mix (where they have to establish their ashrams, where they have to deliver their lecture), Promotion mix (which advertisement media and Publicity channel they have to use and which public relation approach.

If there is any explanation for true-believer syndrome, it must be in terms of the satisfaction of emotional needs. I feel that today's Babas are just like Rakshasas of the epics. But these people are masked and can't be recognized easily. The reason people (even literate) visit them is that they want immediate solution to all their problems. Naturally speed is the norm of the present time. We have seen unmasking of most of the present Babas like Saibaba, Benni Hinn, Amma Amrutanandamayi, and sankaracharya of kanchi matt. These things shake the faith of people in god. I am better off being an atheist rather than getting cheated in name of God. But why some people have such a strong emotional need to believe in immortality racial or moral superiority or even that the latest fad in management must be pursued with evangelical zeal is perhaps unanswerable. It may have to do with insecurity.

For the Truth and Message of God to reach the mass one need to use modern communication media like TV or Satellite. And it costs some money but its worth more people get to know the Love of God at one goes. Let's say you have found a new technology product (eg: Intel Processor). Just because it's the world No.1 technology it doesn't spread. It doesn't move of its own. The company has to spend Billions to tell the world about its good features. Similarly in early days people walked across continents sailed across seas to spread the Good News. And now it's the modern mass media is doing its job.

Kabir9 said: "If all the land were turned into paper and all the seas turned into ink, and all the forests into pens to write with, they would still not suffice to describe the greatness of the Guru." Here're some select sites on Hindu Gurus and Saints.

But in modern Era these words of Kabir got no meaning. When commercialization spread over every where how spirituality keep away from this.

But befooling others in the name of religion, spirituality or cast system is not fair. If someone blindly believes you then this is your responsibility not to play with his emotions or feeling but you have to respect his feelings.

Otherwise that day is not far away when bank has to start new offering i.e. "donation loan", if any body wants to donate something to his Guru then they can ask for loan.


I would like to thank all the individuals who directly or indirectly inspired me to write this article including spiritual and non-spiritual Gurus.


Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a spiritual Guru and founder of the Art of Living movement, believes in spreading the knowledge of living a healthier life through spirituality and techniques of breathing and meditation.

The Power of Satsanga or Holy Company - By Swami Sivananda
Swami Sivananda explains the power of 'Satsanga' or pious company in very simple terms. Learn how holy company transforms a human being, how to benefit from Satsanga.

Tagore on God: A Dozen Quotes
A dozen quotable quotes on God & religion by Rabindranath Tagore - the well-known Hindu poet and Nobel laureate - taken from his various works...

GOD IS... 10 Quotes by Sri Ramakrishna
10 famous quotations from Sri Ramakrishna's writings that tell you about God and how to find him...

Who's A Guru?
From your Guide. An article on the meaning, role, evolution, contribution and legends of Gurus in Hinduism.

The Spiritual Genius of Vivekananda
A tribute to one of India's most admired spiritual leaders on his 137th birth anniversary, from your About Guide.

Speeches of Vivekananda
Swami Vivekanda's Chicago Speeches in the World Parliament of Religions, 1893.

Amma: India's Hugging Saint Mother
Known globally as India's "hugging saint mother", Ms "Amritanandamayi", which literally means "Mother of Absolute Bliss", was born to a low caste Hindu family in a poor fishing village in Parayakadavu, Kollam, in the southern Indian coastal state of Kerala.

Top 5 Books on India's Saint Mothers
Among the most respected Holy Mothers of India are Sri Sarada Devi, Anandamayi Ma, the Mother of Auroville, and Mata Amritanandamayi, popularly know as Amma. Here's a selection of books that bring out the greatness of character and spiritual wisdom of these woman Gurus revered the world over.

Ganapathi Sachchidananda Swamiji
He is the pontiff of Avadhoota Datta Peetham at Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Ashrama in Mysore, India. He is renowned for his healing and meditation music and considered a divine guide who cultivates the ancient Vedic traditions.

Gregorian Bivolaru
About this Romanian tantric master yoga Guru who lives in Bucharest. He heads twelve 'ashrams' plus centres of research, teaching and healing according to the yogic principles.

Haidakhandi Baba
Website dedicated to Babaji who lived in the foothills of the Himalayas, at the remote village of Haidakhan, from 1970 to 1984.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Widely regarded as the foremost Guru in the field of consciousness, meditation, ayurveda and other Vedic knowledge, Mahesh Yogi is the mind behind such establishments as the Maharishi Vedic University, and the Maharishi University of Management.

Meher Baba
Website of Meher Baba, the "Avatar of the Age". Full of links and useful religious resources.

Shraddha Saburi
Site on the Shirdi Sai, contains a photo gallery, Shirdi books in Telegu, and Shirdi links.

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi
One of India's saint mothers, and the founder of Sahaja Yoga.

Swami Maheshwarananda
A disciple and successor of Paramhans Swami Madhavanandaji, this Guru lives and works in Europe. He has developed a comprehensive system of yoga called "Yoga in Daily Life".

Swami Nikhileshwaraand
About the saint, who introduced himself as Paramhans Swami Nikhileshwaraanand to become "the most revered of masters of the divine land of Siddhashram and bring in a spiritual transformation in social circles".

Swami Pratyagbodhananda
A disciple of Swami Dayananda Saraswati. The swami follows the traditional methods


3. The orators of spirituality, yoga, meditation etc.
4. death
* information regarding these gurus is given at the end of the article
5. FMCG stand for fast moving consumer goods which we consumes on daily bases
8. Unknown author

Dr. Anil Mishra
Faculty Member-Marketing Management, AW
Dr. Kalyana Chakravarthi
Senior Faculty-Soft Skills, English Lab, AW

Source: E-mail May 11, 2006


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