Taiwan actress Yi Nengjing reportedly took down a post she wrote favouring an Indian spiritual course on Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo, after she found herself in the middle of a crossfire.
According to Chinese government-run Global Times, Yi Nengjing, also known as Annie Yi, had written a post on Monday, 14 January, promoting lessons of Amma and Bhagavan – creators of the Oneness University.
Heated debates ensued, with China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) and China Anti-Cult Association (CACA) reportedly issuing a public warning about such ‘spiritual schools’, asserting that they can be involved in sexual assault scandals.
The CACA, according to Global Times, "referred to a case of a so-called Indian religious master named Singh who was reportedly arrested for imprisoning and raping nearly 200 female believers in December 2017." The case is ostensibly in reference to self-styled ‘godman’ Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh who was convicted of raping two female followers – not 200 – and accused of sexually assaulting others.
The Supreme People's Court of China says that those who deify leaders under the name of religion give rise to superstitions in order to cheat and control others, causing harm to society.
The Course of Oneness University
A Beijing-based Chinese anti-cult expert had been keeping track of the Oneness University's course in China since 2010 and he reportedly informed Global Times that the university used to advocate the "2012 philosophy" to control its believers.
The university, however, has since changed its web address and no longer includes such content on its new website, the report says.
According to the university's website, Oneness University was created in 1996 for a singular purpose:
“To set man totally and unconditionally free, bringing about the Golden Age of Enlightenment.”
The university charges $1,599 (Rs 1,12,576.97) for a three-day course, said Global Times, citing other reports.
The FAQ page of the university website states that religion neither has anything to do with enlightenment, nor with spirituality. It further claims that enlightenment is a "neurobiological phenomenon" and "once enlightened, your guiding light will come from within yourself, and you will reconnect with the essence within whatever religion or spiritual tradition you belong to or don’t belong to".
The Bollywood Connection
Interestingly, it is not only the Taiwanese actor who thinks highly of the controversial spiritual school.
Bollywood actors including Hritik Roshan and Shilpa Shetty are ardent followers of the university.
Hritik Roshan, according to this Mid-day report from 2015, has said that ever since following the university's philosophy, he has been much calmer and happier in life. Actress Shilpa Shelly also frequently visits Chennai for the guidance of Oneness University founder Kalki Bhagavan.
Manisha Koirala, in an interview with Telegraph India, reportedly said:
“I was at Oneness University where one of the teachings was that the external world is a reflection of our inner world. I figured that there are follies that I need to forgive in myself and once you start being aware of your own mistakes and the realisation comes, you automatically start forgiving others for the same mistakes.”Manisha Koirala
(With inputs from Global Times, Mid-day and Telegraph India.)