Last week, my guest expressed his desire to visit a renowned spiritual centre located just outside my city. My guest was particularly keen to attend one of their special meditation sessions, about which his colleague had spoken very highly.
We had tried unsuccessfully to obtain information over the phone. However, my guest’s colleague had told him that the special meditation session was held at 9.00 am every day, and that the ticket had to be booked in person the previous day. Hence, my guest and I left my house at 7.00 am on Saturday, hoping to reach the spiritual centre by 8.00 am. Our plan was to book tickets for the special meditation session on Sunday. There was also a possibility of obtaining entry into the Saturday session if there were ‘no-shows’.
We reached the spiritual centre at 8.00 am and proceeded to the office. The volunteer handling the bookings for the special meditation sessions informed us that the sessions on that day and the next day had both been fully booked, and that there were 20 persons on the official waiting list for each session. He suggested that we look around the place and meet him again at 9.00 am to check if, “by your good luck”, there were some vacancies by that time.
When we checked at 9.00 am, we could not gain entry. The volunteer suggested that we could come back at 8.30 am the next day to try our luck once again. I requested him to ‘somehow arrange’ at least one ticket for my guest who lives over 1,000 kilometers away. He smiled and replied, “It depends entirely on the Almighty. I can do nothing. Just hope and pray for the best.” He confirmed that tickets could be booked only in person, and a person could book a ticket only for himself/herself.
While my guest and I were disappointed, we were both thrilled that the entire process was clean. There was not even a hint or whiff of any corruption!
That evening, as we were window-shopping in the local mall, I met my neighbour. He was thrilled about the fact that he had managed to get a ticket for the next day’s special meditation session at the same spiritual centre. He just couldn’t stop talking about it. When he said that he had obtained the ticket that afternoon, my curiosity was aroused. On asking a few questions, I understood that his ticket had been arranged by an acquaintance and that the volunteer handling the bookings at that time was not the volunteer we had met. My guest and I realised that there may be some corruption involved in the ticketing process.
We reached the spiritual centre at 8.00 am the next day. The volunteer whom we had met the previous day was handling the bookings for the special meditation sessions. He asked us to meet him at 9.00 am. This time, instead of walking around, we waited there and kept our eyes and ears open. We saw that there were definitely some irregularities going on. Quite a few persons without tickets and who were not on the waiting list were being allowed to attend the special meditation session. The body language and gestures exchanged between some of the volunteers and some of the non-ticket, non-waitlist attendees definitely indicated some ‘give-and-take’.
At 9.00 am, the volunteer announced to all those waiting that the session was full up. We waited till the others had left. Then, my friend told the volunteer about what we had heard and seen. Initially, the volunteer denied any possibility of any irregularity, but when we persisted, he admitted that “it could be possible that something irregular may have happened”. He gave me his mobile number and assured me that he would arrange tickets for the special meditation sessions in future over telephone for me and my family members. I didn’t bother to ask him how he could arrange tickets over phone when he had stated the previous day that tickets could be booked only in person. Obviously, he was offering me a sop to make me keep quiet about what we had observed!
Malpractice in religious / spiritual places is not a new phenomenon. However, I was disappointed because this particular spiritual centre is spoken about very highly even by people who are not its devotees. From whatever we could see and hear, the devotees, volunteers and visitors are almost all educated, English-speaking persons who, as a class, pride themselves on being above corruption.
I cannot help asking myself:
Are we born corrupt?
Or do we achieve corruption?
Or is corruption thrust on us?
What’s your take?