‘Do you think your leg is a part of yourself?’ The Judge asked the convict.
‘Yes.’ The convict was confident.
‘What about the bacteria in your intestines...?’ The convict’s eyes bulged. He seemed to know nothing about bacteria, and that too in his stomach.
‘There won’t be no digestion of what you eat without them bacteria in your gut,’ the Judge explained condescendingly before proceeding to the next question with his usual solemnity. ‘What about the stream from which you take your drinking water? Is the stream a part of yourself?’
The convict blinked.
‘Is your cow a part of you? Is the land on which your cow grazes a part of you? Are you a part of the landscape and all that it holds, a part of Nature, a part of the universe, one with the streams and rocks, trees and grass, buffaloes and grasshoppers? What makes you think a cow is more a part of the universe than a Muslim?’
The convict’s eyes, which were lifeless until then, glared at the last word uttered by the Judge. The glare struck the Judge as fiendish.
‘Read out to this unfortunate creature the extract from the Gospel according to Saint Albert Einstein.’ The Judge ordered.
The clerk opened a book ceremoniously and read:
A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
When the clerk had finished reading that, the Judge said, ‘Now read to him from the sacred scriptures of the religion he regards as his own.’
‘A reading from the Brihadaranyka Upanishad,’ said the clerk opening the Upanishad. ‘Brahma va idam agra asit...’
The convict glared baffled. Sanskrit is as good as Latin or Greek to him, thought the Judge. ‘Translate it into his language,’ he ordered.
‘Brahman was indeed this in the beginning. It knew itself only as “I am Brahman.” Therefore it became all. Whoever among the gods became awakened to this, he indeed became that. It is the same in the case of the sages and the ordinary men. This is so even now. Whoever knows “I am Brahman” becomes this all. Even the gods cannot prevent any man’s becoming the Brahman. So whoever worships a divinity other than the Brahman in himself, he is ignorant. He is like an animal to the gods.
The convict showed no sign of comprehension. The Judge was watching him carefully. He pronounced the verdict.
‘Since the accused claims to have committed the murder for the sake of his religion, and since his foul deed is a heinous blemish on his religion which upholds the sanctity of all that exists, and since religion without proper understanding is the most menacing threat that looms over humanity, this court finds it necessary that the accused be subjected to a rigorous training. Let him begin with some elementary lessons. Let him begin by reading Mark Boyle’s latest book, Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi....’
The prisoner sat down on the mat in his cell and read:
I am the land, I am the salmon, I am the holly tree, I am the swallow, I am the earthworm, I am the pigeon, I am the hen, I am the fox, I am the ramson, I am the bluebell. When the robin eats the worm and shits onto the soil from which I eat, it is not violence, but Life giving life onto itself....
Note: The last paragraph is quoted from Mark Boyle’s book mentioned in the post. Albert Einstein’s words are also borrowed from Boyle. The opening questions about the leg, the bacteria and all the rest being a part of the self are also adapted from the same book. I have not read Boyle’s book yet. I read the extract here.