Understanding the 'Bhakt'

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Renu Mehta
Sep 5 , 2018 9 min read 449 Views Likes 5 Comments
Understanding the 'Bhakt'

Understanding the ‘Bhakt’

As the elections approach and polarisation deepens I am forced to confront and attempt to understand the creature I often tend to dismiss as the ‘bhakt’. His blind faith and unthinking acceptance of the leader he deifies as the one who can make no mistake is beyond reason. The bhakt does not need facts. Facts and figures are details that he finds nauseating. He thinks of them as the quirky fetish  of the intelligentsia, most of whom he dismisses as irritants and roadblocks in the path of his beloved leader.

What really helped me understand the phenomenon called the bhakt was the work of the social psychologist Erich Fromm. In his essay titled ‘The Authoritarian Personality’, Fromm makes a distinction between rational authority and irrational authority. According to Fromm,while rational authority is based on logical parameters such as the authority of a teacher over his student on account of superior knowledge,irrational authority is based  on the emotional submission of one person to another person.

The submissive character here subconsciously aims to become part of something much much larger than himself. This individual is convinced that his leader is perfect, powerful and supreme. In aligning himself and submitting completely to this figure of authority he feels empowered, becoming  part of ‘something great’. He fears freedom, escaping into idolatory.

What urgently needs to be addressed here is the angst of living in a world where man finds himself dwarfed by his environment to the extent that he loses faith in himself. What needs to be reinstated is his self  belief that he can be an effective participant in society. How can the individual be made to feel effective? Modiji and the machinery that supports him has an answer to that question. You can be effective by being a web activist, pejoratively referred to as slacktivists, these individuals are masters of forwarding content generated by the Propaganda wing of the ruling party. They stop at nothing. The more blatant the lie the faster is their hand on the forward or share button…  A Guatemalan mob beating up a woman becomes a Marwari woman being beaten up by Muslim men, the murder of an Awami League leader in Bangladesh is passed off as a Hindu man being killed by muslims in Bihar with the message” share this video so much that it reaches Narendra Modi, if you are a true Hindu then forward it.”

Forcing myself to be dispassionate and non-judgemental in my attempt to understand  the Bhakt, I am forced to confront a much larger question, if we wish to free man from an irrational allegiance, this ‘freedom from’ must include the creative element ‘freedom to’. Freeing ourselves of irrational authority will lead to a vacuum, a feeling of helplessness.  The real question that begs answer is how can we use freedom to employ ‘the total integrated personality’ {Fromm} in creative acts? Would love to hear  opinions on that.


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