Sunday, September 28, 2008


In India, religion and politics are generally intertwined. This is 'what is', and is probably one of the strength, or weakness, of South Asian polity, depending on how you view it.

In my opinion religion’s only purpose is to help the individual achieve his long term spiritual goal. How? Religion, like all else in life, has its own primary education of rituals, which are further re-inforced by the secondary education in mythology. Eventually each one, depending on his/ her personal motivation, must go through the university education of philosophy, if the final goal of understanding the Unity of all Creation has to be understood, which is the essence of each religion. Practiced religions differ on rituals and mythology but are very similar when it comes to philosophy. Philosphy is the most important part of religion and helps each individual evolve as per his own understanding. Once you reach the summit and look down you will find any number of paths, both charted and uncharted, to reach the summit. All paths will finally reach the summit if you keep on climbing. Each individual has his own perception of his Creator, irrespective of his religion. Even in the same religion, we may follow the same rituals and may have been fed on the same mythology, we still would have our own perception of the Creator in our brain/ mind, which will be different from every one else. Rituals and mythology provide us humans the basis to develop the faith to go onto bigger things in the spiritual field. Rituals and mythology are taught/ learnt through pandits/ mullahs/ granthis/ priests. They would in all probability be inadequate guides to help one progress in the Doctorate of spiritualism. We need to understand this important difference - a primary or secondary school teacher cannot guide one at the Doctoral stage. Only some one who has ‘been there/ done that’ can show the way. The trudging has still got to be done by the individual. This is the spiritual realm and has nothing to do with politics and democracy.

Politics on the other hand has to do with our needs to live a purposeful and fulfilling life in the physical world. Human needs are common, irrespective of religion. We all need certain facilities, freedoms, laws that can fairly regulate our rights and responsibilities, and the like. Any good politician, irrespective of religion, should be able to provide us with all this in a democracy, as long as we can hold him accountable, as in the West. However, in South Asia vote banks are created on the basis of religion, caste etc. and this does not help anyone but the politician and his coterie. The only way out, I believe, is through separation of the physical world of politics from the spiritual world of religion. Education and strengthening of our democratic institutions is probably the only answer. We Indians, irrespective of caste or religion, need to understand this basic fact. Once this happens there will be no majority/ minority vote bank to woo and politicians would have no choice but to concentrate on providing good governance.

Friday, September 26, 2008


While replying to a comment on my last blog, I was suddenly reminded of an incident that took place in 1985, the year our son was born.
Our son was born on 18 May 85. That year, I was posted in Gorakhpur, but deployed in Leh since April. I had come to Delhi for his birth and went back to Leh on the next day. I finished my tour in June 85 and came to fetch my family - my wife, daughter - 5 years, and son - one month plus, and our dog - Tootsie, a Lhasa Apso. I came to Chandigarh, and bought my first car - the good old Ambassador. We had a lot of luggage and we had to travel from Chandigarh to Gorakhpur, via Delhi, where my in-laws lived. The summer was at its peak and car ACs were not so popular. So we decided to travel early mornings. Chandigarh to Delhi was a short trip and was thus no problem.
From Delhi my sister in law vounteered to come with us to help us with the settling in phase. We left Delhi in the early morning with our luggage loaded in the dicky and on the carrier on top of the car, and three adults, two children and one dog inside the car. The journey from Delhi to Kanpur was uneventful. A little after leaving Kanpur, we hit a pothole and the right leaf spring of our heavily laden car gave way. We somehow managed to reach Lucknow, sometime in the afternoon, and stopped at the first mechanic we found who could do the job. I told the gentleman that we had a one month old baby and wanted to reach Gorakhpur before dark. Chaitanya, our son was crying non stop, as we were having problems with his milk, water etc. and the heat, of course. The mechanic assured me that he would do his best and help us leave at the earliest. He immediately started his work and was straightening the leaf spring, when it came time for namaaz. All the neighbouring shops were promptly shut down and the people started leaving for namaaz.
A number of people, on seeing this gentleman still at work, would stop and tell him 'namaaz ka time ho gaya'. He would hear them, and still continued with his work.
Finally one gentleman stopped and said to him, 'kya paison ke liye namaaz bhi bhool gaya'.
He replied, 'yeh bhi to namaaz hi hai, inka chhota baccha roye ja raha hai aur inko Gorakhpur raat se pehle pahunchana hai'. This angered the other gentleman and he said something which upset the mechanic. He got up and left for namaaz. We were delayed for about half an hour, the time it took him to come back after namaaz. He apologised and completed the job at his earliest, to our satisfaction. On my asking him, he assured me that the car would not give me any trouble till Gorakhpur. I paid him and left after thanking him.
This illiterate mechanic had understood what most of us never seem to fathom. But look at the irony, even after having understood this final truth, he had to bow to lesser mortals for fear of being outcasted by his own friends. We finally need friends and relatives to survive in this world, unless you are willing to renounce all.
This incident has stayed with me ever since. Who was right? The mechanic who understood our predicament and who could empathise with us, and knew that Allah would also have wanted him to offer namaaz in this fashion on that day, at that time OR the other gentleman who was the custodian of everyone else's faith? God only knows!!!

Sunday, September 21, 2008


In the end all religions point to the same light. In between the light and us, sometimes there are too many rules.

- Paulo Coelho
How true!!!

Swami Vivekananda has said that ‘every religion comprises of three parts – mythology, rituals, and philosophy’. Religions vary in their mythology and rituals but very nearly propagate the same philosophy in different words, i.e. they all point towards the same light. I believe the problems of this world are due to the differing mythology and rituals that we imbibe from imperfect humans and then practice them considering them to be the end in themselves. These rituals and mythology are only meant to strengthen the desire to know, and also to create doubts, so that we can develop clarity and faith, with the final aim of understanding the philosophy. To reach there, we need to listen to the mythology, question it – find answers; perform rituals – to strengthen our resolve and will power to finally use these attributes to get to understand reality, and in doing so reach the destination of ‘the same light’.

Every thing that we do in life follows the same pattern. Take our education. Why do we study? Who enjoyed studies? Remember how your parents gave you stories of why education was very important. Why start with the alphabet? Is the aim of education the teaching of the alphabet? Why do we go through the ritual of going to school at a set time everyday? Rituals and mythology have a role to play but what must be remembered is that these are but a means to an end. Education is much larger than learning the alphabet. Similarly religion is beyond rituals and mythology. Please do not mistake the means for the end – which is ‘the same light’.

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother

- Khalil Gibran