Are enlightened people enlightened of the fact that they are enlightened? We’re not sure, but 72-year old Subhash Patri sure seems like it. On the website of a “movement” that this soil engineer and flautist from India’s Nizamabad district in Andhra Pradesh, has started, it says that he “became enlightened in the year 1979 .. after some serious experiments with meditation.” This is also the year that Patri of the benevolent eyes and flowy white beard, began his “experiments” around pyramids: structures that he believes are the most kickass receiver and transmitter of cosmic energy. After completing these, “Brahmarishi” Patriji as he is called by his devotees—in Hinduism, a ‘Brahmarshi’ is a member of the highest class of rishis aka seers/sages—began sharing his findings with the world.
What emerged then was first the Pyramid Spiritual Societies Movement (PMSS) in 1990, and then its political wing in 1999 in the form of the Pyramid Party of India. Even as we debate the newly-released manifestos of political parties BJP and Congress, the one by the Pyramid Party can be summed up in two words: vegetarianism and meditation. With an aim to transform “all the people of India into meditators, enlightened persons, vegetarians and peace-loving people,” they give tickets only to vegetarians. At a recent rally in Delhi, the party went even a step beyond, asking people to go vegan.
In a country where food and politics often become messily entangled, vegetarianism does not boil down to simply a personal choice. Though India has the largest population of vegetarians worldwide, it is a predominantly meat-eating nation. “Non-vegetarianism has grown so much that on a street here, you’ll find four chicken shops, but only two nursing homes. Were there so many meat shops when you were a child?” questions Madhavi Datharika, the national general secretary of the party. According to Datharika who runs a herbal pharmaceutical company in Telangana, even national problems like a faltering economy and an employment crisis can be tackled through spirituality. “It’s only just 300 richest people who control 74 percent of the country’s wealth. If they were spiritually healthy, they would have definitely contributed to change the situation of poor ones.”
The party had stood for election in 2014 as well, but won merely 58,575 votes across 106 constituencies, thereby losing its election deposit of Rs 25,000 almost everywhere. But Datharika believes they need to do this again for the sake of nation-building. “The system is so rotten that most political parties don’t invest in education and healthcare, but instead want to turn children into criminals who will work for them,” she says, adding that the only criteria her party considers while giving out tickets is the moral integrity of the candidate. What ‘moral’ means is of course open to interpretation, in this case, abstaining from meat. Bonus points for those meditating in a pyramid because that is “thrice more powerful”.
The Pyramid Party is not short on followers, and definitely not on the funds. The movement exhorts its followers to construct pyramids, which they call the “energy grid of cosmos”. Till date, they’ve erected more than a whopping 20,000 such structures, run around 10,000 meditation centres in India and boast of an army of 1,44,000 ‘meditation masters’ whose job descriptions include promoting Patriji’s ideas. With election season kicking off soon, you will find this army on the streets of Andhra Pradesh, recognisable from the bizarre pyramid-shaped paper caps perched on their heads.
In Karnataka’s Hosakote town lies the sprawling campus of Pyramid Valley International, a 28-acre ashram, which acts as the centre for meditation programmes, a laboratory “with scientific instruments and techniques to measure and illustrate spiritual science concepts”, and a place to conduct workshops by corporate bodies with similar objectives. Some of the issues they’ve researched on include past-life therapies, tarot reading, study of aura, and quantum energy.
Anand Prasad, 44, joined the movement as a volunteer 13 years ago. After campaigning and working for the movement in the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Chattisgarh, he became the All India Coordinator of the party. Prasad credits his faith in the powers of meditation as the reason he has never had to take his teenage son and seven-year-old daughter to a doctor. “They’ve never been sick as my family meditates regularly,” he tells VICE. “It’s only meditation which will uplift the health and education sectors of the society.” Another way that Prasad, a mechanical engineer, has contributed to the organisation is by constructing several pyramids. “The pyramid has to be constructed at exactly the right angles for meditation to be successful.”
While constructing the pyramids, the devotees have to keep in mind the guidelines of the organisation, set according to principles laid down by British mystic philosopher Paul Brunton. The structural design has four faces at a ‘golden angle of inclination’: 51° 51′ 51″. Due to this shape and angle, they claim the structure gets aligned perfectly to the earth’s magnetic field, thereby making it the best receiver and transmitter of cosmic energy.
Anil ‘Sagar’ Kumar, 32, a chemistry lecturer at a college in Telangana’s Karimnagar district, is the party’s general secretary in the state. He believes that only philosophers should govern as they are the only ones with atmagyan (soul wisdom). “Even Rama and Krishna were philosophers, and turned out to be great leaders,” he says. “There's a saying: Yada Raja, Sada Praja. It means how the subjects are is how the leader is.”
Sagar grew up facing a lot of economic hardship, with his family struggling to meet expenses for even food and education. As he grew older, he became aware of class inequalities as they exist in India. “Mukesh Ambani’s family will keep getting rich, while several poor will get poorer with time,” he says. The solution, according to him, lies in more spiritual people joining politics. “As a teacher, I know that first you should gain knowledge before giving knowledge to others. Only the ones who can change themselves can transform the society. How can the ignorant ones benefit others?”
The Pyramid Party of India doesn’t feel that in a country which is over 70 percent non-vegetarian, giving tickets only to vegetarians is somehow discriminatory to a large population consisting of diverse cultures and food habits. Datharvi insists that every doctor, science journal and research scholar roots for vegetarianism. “It’s good for your health and better for the planet. Through our movement, we want to create a healthy, spiritual India on the lines of Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of non-violence. How can being against violence be a bad thing?”
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