I have been reading many versions of our epics for some time.
There is one thing which I noticed about the spiritual Gurus.
Many of the revered ones were not so revere-able in their prime.
Valmiki- the author of Ramayana was a hunter turned robber, an outlaw forced to rob to enable him to feed his family. When his family refused to be a party to the punishment of his sins, he decided enough was enough and became a hermit spending the rest of his days in austerities. He was revived by Narada who removed the Valmik- the ant hills from his body and therefore Ratnakar came to be known as Valmiki.
Vishwamitra- The first Sage- Brahmarishi Vishwamitra was a king known for his short temper and lust to possess stuff like the Kamdhenu cow for which he resorted to great violence. Ultimately he went the austere penance route to be able to become more powerful than Vashishtha muni whose cow he wanted to possess. During his penance the Menaka incidence happened!
Durvasa- the sage born out of Shiva's anger was impossible to live with. One one hand, he was deeply feared for his curses and on the other hand famous for his wonderful boons- Kunti who served him and took care of his unreasonable needs was granted the famous boons.
Shukracharya- A totally grey character. Very well learned, he had the knowledge of Sanjeevani mantra - that which revives the dead. He is known to suffer from jealousy with his brother, deep rooted misplaced anger against Vishnu and going over to the dark side- the side of the asuras.
Narad- The wise immortal sage was known as the perpetual strife maker, travelling freely between the 3 worlds. He was the one who persuaded the sons of Daksha to not propogate, and thereby angered, Daksha cursed him to be a wanderer.
There may be more, but these are some of the most famous ones.
That was about Then- and a then that was very very long time ago.
But what about Now?
The difference is that the notoreity happens after becoming a guru.
Without taking names, we do know of the recent and not so recent scandals that the spiritual guides are linked with. Some of them cannot travel abroad because of cases going against them. They are supposed to live a life of so called austerity but more often than not, their comforts are well taken care of. Sections of homes reserved for the spiritual guides every time they visit their home or devotion that takes the form of reserving a chair or some furniture permanently for the Baba and decking it up with silk angavastra. In fact the sons were greatly amused that the chair wore a sari and if at all it was a baba where was the head.
Giant pictures of the spiritual guide adorn the walls of the entire home and even puja ghar. Bhakts massage the guru's feet and take care of all his comfort.
Totally opposite of the hands-off approach that was the embodiment of spiritual gurus in the ancient times.
Yes but one thing is still common- the gurus as master persuaders- we marketing/ sales people should obtain lessons from them.
While they do have the power of knowledge and people believe in the because that is what they have made up their mind to do but there is also this skill of persuading and influencing.
Watch a Baba Ramdev session- you will be compelled to do the pranayam that he encourages you to do. A true sales man!