Thursday, April 27, 2017


Genuine religion is an endless quest to renew oneself every day, every moment.  It is a quest to understand reality more and more, the reality out there as well as the reality within ourselves.  Understanding leads to compassion.

The problem with fundamentalism of any sort is that it eliminates quest altogether.  Fundamentalism imposes truths on people.  Look at any country which has sought to build up religion-based governments and you will see how it has used propaganda effectively.  Truths are fabricated and imposed on people using various tricks and means.

Generally people don’t like to think.  They don’t want to think. They would rather have truths handed over to them on a platter.  Fundamentalism succeeds easily because of this.  Combine it with hatred of other people and the recipe is perfect.  Lies and hatred. Perfect combination for the masses hungry for readymade answers.

Spiritual truths can never be readymade.  They have to be discovered by ourselves.  Because spirituality is the harmony between the self and the universe.  Only the self can discover it.  Religions can assist in the process.  Gurus and other enlightened people can assist.  However, ultimately it is the result of a personal quest. 

Fundamentalism is the negation of all personal quests.  Fundamentalism is a straitjacket given to the believer in order to prevent him from making any quest whatever.  A people confined within straitjackets are the most pliable devotees (bhakts).  They are the ideal warriors armed with readymade truths and readymade hatred.

Release them from the straitjackets if they are to find their own truths.  Let the quest begin.  Let there be more questions than answers.  The stars waiting to be discovered.  The quest leads us to the stars.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Counterproductive Life

Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich was of the opinion that most of us lived a life of counterproductivity.  That is, we defeat ourselves. 

Happiness is one of the most sought after goals in life.  We do a lot of things in order to achieve happiness.  We take up a profession assuming that the job and the salary will bring us happiness.  But soon we find ourselves competing with somebody or the other in order to achieve a higher position in the workplace because we assume that the position is the key to our happiness.  Then we need a house that suits the professional position.  We need a car, the best possible.  Our children should study in the best school in the city.  The fulfilment of every desire leads to more desires.  Desire is unhappiness.  The fulfilment of one desire brings in more desires.  More unhappiness, in other words.  Counterproductive life, Illich called it.  The Buddha had said much the same thing in slightly different words long ago.

The secret to happiness is obviously cutting down our desires.  Learning to live with as less as possible is the prominent key to happiness.  When the whole world is rushing at a breakneck speed towards more and more illusions driven by desires, it may be difficult to stand aside and learn to be content with less and less.  Yet that standing aside is the real key to happiness.

Illich illustrates it with an example.  You buy a car assuming that you are going to gain a lot of time by being able to travel faster at your own convenience.  The truth is that you spend a lot of time getting your car fuelled, waiting at traffic signals and traffic jams, keeping your vehicle in good condition, recuperating in a hospital after a crash, and so on.  Illich made a calculation and found out that the “real speed” of a car in America of 1970s was 3.7 miles per hour.  But people lived under the illusion that they were getting on much faster on the highway to happiness. 

Illusions.  They drive most of our lives.  When we finally learn that most of the things we did or acquired made little qualitative difference in our lives, we are too old to do anything about it. 

When I think of the current craze in India to bring about a religious rashtra, I am reminded of Illich’s counterproductivity theory.  Let us assume that we do succeed in bringing about that dream-rashtra.  Is it going to be a utopia?  Has any nation ever been happier for being theocratic or homogeneous in any way?  The most bizarre truth is that the present desh bhakts are doing exactly what they condemned in the theocratic nations earlier!

Once we achieve the dream-rashtra, we will soon find ourselves disillusioned.  We will start dividing ourselves into many other groups: linguistic, for example.  Such divisions are inevitable as long as people are driven by desires to be one up on the other.  Today we want to be one up on Muslims or Christians or whatever.  Tomorrow we will want to be one up on Tamils or Mizos or whatever.  

It is better to start reading history with a genuine desire to know what revolutions achieved so far.  Nothing except meaningless and heartless sacrifices of human lives.  No revolution has made the world a better place.  It is better to usher in the revolution in the heart.  As Ivan Illich said, “Carry a candle in the dark, be a candle in the dark, know that you’re a flame in the dark.”

Monday, April 24, 2017

Romeo and anti-Romeo

Juliet knew it was Romeo.  Who else would enter the balcony of her bedroom on the first floor at this time of the night?  Moreover, there was love in that rap on the window.  It was like the resonance of the guitar string when pulled by a master player.  Her heart throbbed like guitar strings as she went to open the window.

“Romeo, my love!” Juliet cried.  “How did you manage to come here?  There are anti-Romeo squads everywhere.”

“I defy the stars for your sake, Juliet. I defy the squads for my love.”

“Why is our fate thus, Romeo?  Why are they all against our love?  Even your father and my father, they’re like Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi.”

“Oh no, darling! Don’t insult your father by comparing him to Rahul.  It’s more apt to compare them to Modi and Advani.  Anyway, let’s leave politics aside; it’s so unromantic.”

Juliet opened the balcony door and they sat down together listening to the romance of the Ganga’s music as it flowed down a few yards away to join the holy confluence of Prayag.  Prayagasya Praveshshu Papam Nashwati Tatkshanam. Prayag washes away all your sins. 

“Why is love a sin?” Juliet woke up from her thoughts.  She was sitting with her head leaned against Romeo’s shoulder.

Romeo kissed her hair that smelled of shampoo.  “What is sin but the breaking of some rule made by man?”

When some powerful person wants to exert his power over more and more people he makes some rules.  Obedience to the rules you make is the greatest sign of your power.  The more rules you make and the more people you get to obey them, the more power you have.

“But why does anyone want so much power?” Juliet wondered.

“Poverty of the heart, darling,” explained Romeo.  “Love and power are mutual antitheses.  Love gives and shares and cares.  Power grabs, commands and subjugates.  Those who have no heart for loving have to fill the void within by grabbing.”

Their discussion was ruptured by the noise that rose from the road a few yards away.  There were cries and shouts.  Anger and agony.  Somebody’s anger; somebody else’s agony.  Maybe some anti-Romeo squad beating up some youngsters in love.  Maybe gau rakshaks thrashing some cow transporters. 

The Ganga flowed on.  Its rhythm didn’t change.  How much sin can it wash away so nonchalantly?

Juliet tightened her grip on Romeo.  Her face was buried in his chest.  He drew her closer to him.  Closer.  They merged into each other like the Ganga and the Yamuna did at Prayag.  Their love longed to wash away the hatred that roamed the streets assuming various political avatars.  

PS. Written for Indispire Edition 166: #AntiRomeoSquads