Manipulation through Guilt, Fear and Desire

By Desmond Yeoh SC

woman looking at sea while sitting on beach

Wikipedia has a long list of religious leaders convicted of violent and non-violent crimes. There has been so many scandals involving spiritual masters that we sometimes get disillusioned and question our spiritual goals. A scandal involving One’s own spiritual master may even cause One to give up on the spiritual path entirely. Therefore, the negative karma accumulated by a dishonest ‘master’ can be extremely heavy as he could discourage not only his own students from the spiritual path but also those who become aware of his crime.

There are many ways which an unscrupulous ‘master’ can manipulate others. One way is through guilt. He tells his followers that humanity is innately sinful and the only way to redeem themselves is to sacrifice for the religious organisation.

The other way is through fear. The followers are told that by joining and contributing to the community, they are protected from suffering. There has been news about dishonest masters telling some followers who consult them that there are evil spirits residing in their jewellery and that their jewellery must be given to the masters for disposal. In severe cases, the followers are sexually abused in order to remove the evil spirits from their bodies. Even though the claims by the dishonest masters appear suspicious, the followers choose to ignore their suspicions out of fear that the claims could be true.

The followers can also be manipulated through desires. The immoral master promises his followers that all their dreams will be fulfilled by following him or that following him guarantees access to some heavenly realm. This may not appear detrimental on the surface but it may cause his followers to give up any effort to improve themselves and become lazy as they have been ‘guaranteed’ success.

We really need to look deeply into what we seek from our spiritual Gurus. Those who expect their Gurus to solve their problems and grant them wishes are more likely to be exploited compared to those who seek to gain wisdom.

Real masters will teach their followers to walk the spiritual path themselves and not depend on others to carry them. They teach their followers not to blindly accept his teachings but to use their own reasoning to accept or reject those teachings. Their ultimate goal is for their disciples to become spiritually independent and become less and less dependent of their masters over time. One famous monk said that his goal is to eventually have no disciples!

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