My colleague, Ajay, visited a temple in Brampton, Ontario to meet an Indian saint. Ajay spent more than a few hours in temple, but found the saint totally disengaged, looking more like someone who did not sleep for a while. But there were scores of people bowing to this saint, donating money for a temple he claimed he was planning to build in India. Most of the people also did not hear about him before this day. The people who were donating their hard-earned dollars were unaware of this saint’s spiritual level, knowledge of scriptures, or any contributions whatsoever. So, what prompted them to donate?
One explanation is that people were in delusion because of associative coherence (a term introduced by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman). The saint’s saffron clothes, large beard, and other paraphernalia associated him with sainthood. Another explanation is the theory of loss aversion. As per this theory, when directly compared or weighted against each other, losses loom larger than gains. In this case, the perceived loss of the saint’s blessings, which could help in spiritual or material gains, was larger than the $10-20 donations in the saint’s kitty. There was no room here for any rational thinking or consideration that the saint may be a complete fraud.
The above example shows a possible reason for the rise of fake saints across the religions. People feeling as though they are drowning gain satisfaction even from one straw. Fake saints provide this straw. Then comes smart advertising campaigns using modern technology which help these saints to create multi-million dollar spiritual empires. Until some scandal brings them down, the show goes on.
The saint in the highest spiritual state reaches the pinnacle in the four qualities- love, awareness, detachment and interconnectedness- described in the video above, “Four Qualities of a Christ Conscious Master”.