Stay away from women and telly, sadhus told

Rajkot, February 23: With the sex-on-CDs creating quite a controversy, trustees of the Radharaman Swaminaryan temple in Junagadh (Vadtal sect) now want to keep the sadhus on the straight and narrow.

The new code of conduct announced on Monday bars contact and conversation with women, ownership of private property and all luxury items including the telly.

At a meeting on Monday attended by all nine members of the Radharaman Trust of Junagadh Swaminarayan temple, including chairman Devnandan Das, new rules were framed barring sadhus from owning private property and making any kind of investment. It was also decided that all luxury items should be removed from the rooms/houses of sadhus, their bank balances monitored and all violations of guidelines would invite punishment.

However, the board has not yet decided what to do about sadhus who already own property worth several lakhs and have heavily invested in the stock market, real estate and gold market.

It was also decided to expel Bhaktiswarup, who featured in the CDs, after a nod from Vadtal sect’s highest priest Acharya Rakesh Prasad. Bhaktiswarup was arrested by the Ahmedabad Crime Branch last week.

As the new code of conduct was enforced, cable connections were cut and electronic equipment like television sets and CD players were removed from the rooms of sadhus in Junagadh temple. ‘‘Amidst protests from a section of sadhus, the code of conduct was implemented from Monday. This code will be effective for several Swaminarayan temples located in the five districts of Saurashtra — Junagadh, Rajkot, Porbandar, Amreli and Jamnagar,’’ said Purshottam Thumar, vice-chairman of Radharaman Trust.

Thumar said some board members, including himself, had received threatening calls from a section of sadhus for framing the code of conduct. ‘‘Many sadhus have privately registered their protests. Some board members have also received threatening calls in this regard. We will represent the matter to Vadtal Trust,’’ said another trustee.

The new rules not only bar sadhus from talking to women but also restrict their movements in the civilian area of the temple complex. The sadhus can no longer travel alone and they have been proscribed from entering the devotees’ rooms. The new rules also make in mandatory for the sadhus to be present at various prayers during the day and ban direct or indirect conversation with women. A log of their movement in and out of the temple complex will be maintained and sadhus have been banned from attending marriages, keeping two-wheelers or travelling in four-wheelers without a driver.

However, the most difficult rule to implement will be the one that bans sadhus from owning property and making investments in share market, real estate and gold market. A person associated with Junagadh temple requesting anonymity said, ‘‘Many sadhus have property worth lakhs in their name; others are regular at share market.’’

Thumar confirmed that many sadhus have been making money through some side business or other. ‘‘There are many such sadhus. We have been preparing a list to submit to the Vadtal trust.’’ However, Thumar said it’s still not clear how to prevent them from doing business and what to do with property they already own. ‘‘We will take guidance from the Vadtal Trust in this regard,’’ he added.

Though many sadhus have privately registered their protest against the new restrictions, head of Junagadh Swaminarayan temple, Devnandam Swami, has called the step necessary to maintain discipline.

‘‘We have just implemented rules formed by Swaminarayan Bhagwan itself. A sadhu must live like a sadhu and not a sansari,’’ he said.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Express News Service, India
Feb. 23, 2005

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday February 23, 2005.
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