Hungry Baba and the New Normal

Om Swami

We all have weaknesses. Let me tell you mine. At least one of them. Here:

I don’t offer explanations. I can’t. The explanation bone is missing in my body.

When someone questions my decisions or my intention, instead of justifying my actions, I simply withdraw and let time reveal the truth. If our thinking aligns, you’ll come back, if it doesn’t, you’ll move on. Either way, it’s a win-win. I feel if I have to explain, they are not ready for me. I am more than happy for them to seek their happiness elsewhere rather than struggling to fathom my thought process.

But, that’s not a good enough explanation now, is it? For, at times, to save a relationship or to allay the fears and concerns of those around you, you have to give an explanation. They expect it. Maybe, you owe it to them. The past week has been adventurous. We had been working on my new blog for over a year. I changed development teams, designers, payment gateways and service providers to get the website to a stage where I could look at it and say, yes, this looks beautiful. My blog is important to me because it is my personal playground. I went for la crème de la crème in every single aspect because I wanted to welcome you to a beautiful home, that’s warm, clutter-free and inviting. It represents how I keep things in my brain, it’s my inner world on a screen.

As totally expected, however, many readers are not happy with the change. Somehow, a lot of people in the world have a weird relationship with money and a fantastical, if not skewed, view of what makes something or someone spiritual. Apparently, if there’s any money changing hands then you are a commercial tyrant, a bean-counter, someone out there to loot people. Of those who wrote in, some hurled very unique kind of profanities that amused me (not my support team though, who were deeply hurt).

To publicize obscenities or expletives is a little too garish for my taste, so here’s an ultra-small sample of some clean criticism (verbatim and sic)

  1. Why don’t you just go back in the corporate and mint money? For six years I read your articles for free and now just one day you start asking for money!!!! Why?
  2. I knew this day was coming. You hv become like other babas. What’s next? A scandal? A selfie wid Modi?
  3. Why are you Commercializing this thing? If Swamiji’s articles were free up-till now, why need to pay now? In what direction are you going? Please make the articles free.
  4. I am disappointed in Om Swami because using artha he has limited the access to Gyana which has never boded well. I used to enjoy reading articles but since everything even an article is limited now, you may be becoming materialistic. If Om was a true Swami he would have licenced this under Commons because he is trying to energise society and would have made every thing accessible. This is the start of becoming a Cult. I am very sad today by your actions.
  5. Sad to see you restricting browsing your website content to members only… It looks more like market savy, money hungry baba’s portal now. I am interested but not inclined to buy membership. Can u give me free membership??
  6. What’s wrong with you? Have you gone mad? This is not normal…this is not the conduct of a saint. Where are you blowing all your money?

Why this Kolaveri Di?

First of all, I didn’t know that a scandal was followed by a selfie with Modi. I hadn’t the foggiest idea that hungry babas’ portals had a certain look and feel. They didn’t teach me those things in my MBA. My 20 years of e-business strategy experience had been sans that insight. I didn’t realize that true Swamis licensed their work under Commons.

Of course, there were many who were happy that I finally made this move. Some said paying for membership made them feel they could reciprocate and show me how much they loved me and valued my writings. Others even chose not to use their gift code. All up some 700 people, across all forms of memberships, have joined the new blog. From 12,000+ subscribed readers, we now have a loving community of 700+ members. We need a minimum of 600 members to pay for the costs associated with maintaining this blog and we have already hit that mark.

I love how the number of readers has gone down to six percent of the original subscribers; I couldn’t be happier to tell you the truth. Why?

In the last five years, the number one complaint I have heard from people is that the ashram or my following is growing at a fast pace, or that they liked the earlier times much better, or that I’m not the same anymore (maybe true) or that the ashram is not the same anymore (also true) and what not. Most of us have this tendency: to search our future in our past, to align our aspirations with our memories. A sign of ignorance. I am not a fan of crowds myself. Those who know me know that I spend most part of the year in solitude. I can’t reverse the transformation the Himalayas bestowed upon me. I am ekanta-priya, ekaki.

So there you go. Now, with this move, I’ve raised the barrier to entry. In one stroke, we have filtered out all those who have a different approach to life and a different understanding of spirituality to mine. I can’t help them anyway if our thinking varies so vastly. Now, we’ll get a certain quality of people who value what I write. I have held from the outset that I am not cut out for everyone and not every seeker will agree with me. I am surprised when my critics think that the blog could have remained free. Quality costs. I mean, don’t you enjoy fine things? The footage you see behind every post, well, it’s US$60 a pop. (By the end of December, every single one of the 400+ posts will have a unique video). Extravagant and unnecessary, some might contend. I say it enhances the experience of the blog. If you are a student or can’t afford to pay but wish to read, write to us and be nice. You’ll be surprised at what all is possible when you ask something nicely.

And nothing could be further from the truth that I decided this on a whim. In Jan 2016, I wrote (here) that as I enter the next decade of my time on this planet, I intend to spend a bit more time on writing. Will I? I’m not sure, but with the new blog, the quality of my interaction with those who wish to hear what I have to say will certainly go up. And, quality is one thing I’ve never compromised on.

As far as I’m concerned, money is an enabler to getting things done, and if it’s needed to shape this blog the way I envisage, well then, I am not going to do a fundraising campaign. Instead, if you see value in Swami’s works then let’s build it together contributing what we can. To make this world a better place is as much your job as it is mine or anyone else’s. It’s not just me but each one of us has borrowed our present from our future generations and it’s our collective responsibility to build a society that cares about each other, the one that knows how to express their disagreements in a civil manner than hurling abuses, a world which is a bit more tolerant. And if that requires resources, including money, I don’t see a problem with that. Money has never been so important in my life that it becomes the chief criterion of differentiating a commercial act from a spiritual one. Swami becomes Om because he suggests that you part with a cup of coffee a month to continue reading this blog? That cracks me up.

And, for those of you who have joined me, let’s rejoice and celebrate because everything’s going to get better as you and I connect and interact more. Plus, we’ll be surrounded by more like-minded people. You have trusted me and the one thing I value above everything else is trust. So much so, I never ask for a second chance when it comes to protecting your trust, and by the same definition, I don’t give a second chance. Trust me once and it’s forever. Break it once and it’s probably gone forever.

Your love inspires me to give you everything that I have. This blog is not just my playground, it’s ours. Watch the future unfold and beautiful things happen, right here.

The journey to awakening is done alone. Until then, walk with me, if you will.

Peace.
Om Swami

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