Suresh was watching Bajrangi Bhaijaan when I dropped in.
“It is easy to peddle hatred,” a TV reporter in the movie was saying, “love gets few takers.” But the movie ended in the victory of love over hatred with the Pakistani Muslims and the Indian Hindus gathering on either side of the international border clamouring for love.
“Why does a meek creature like the cow instigate so much aggression among people?” I asked when the movie was over.
“Why the cow, even an inanimate thing like a piece of cloth cut in a particular geometrical shape can instigate aggression the moment religion becomes fanaticism,” said Suresh. “And religion becomes fanaticism only when the character of the person is domineering and aggressive.”
Suresh went on to explain that the submissive person who is religious surrenders himself to whatever virtues his religion teaches him such as compassion or selflessness. The surrender can go to extremes depending on the degree of the believer’s religiosity. “Our Meera who imagined herself as the bride of Krishna is an example,” concluded Suresh.
I was reminded of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque who cried to Jesus, “Hold back, O my God, those torrents which overwhelm me, or else enlarge my capacity for their reception.” Jesus appeared to her in the form of a heart surrounded with rays. The wound it received from a mocking soldier while Jesus was on the cross was visible too. There was a crown of thorns around the heart and a cross above it. Jesus took Margaret’s heart, put it inside his own and then returned it to her saying, “You are now my slave.” Margaret was Christianity’s Meera.
“Such people who are pathologically religious,” said Suresh, “tend to concentrate on some small fraction of the entity perceived as supernatural. Krishna as a lover or Jesus as a heart, for example.”
“Or Krishna as a cowherd,” I added. “And the cow becomes holy.”
“Indeed.” He fell into thought for a moment. “The solution would be to enlarge the perception. Widen it from the heart or the cow or any part to the whole.”
“Then Krishna would cease to be a mere cowherd with a flute that played romantic melodies for Gopikas and transmute into the divine entity who told Arjuna that only those whose hearts are attached to small things have need for renunciation.”
“Precisely,” agreed Suresh. “If the Buddhists had understood the Buddha’s middle way, there would have been no idols of the Buddha squatting like a fossil.”
“Do you think people are not intelligent enough to understand the depth and width of the teachings of Jesus or Krishna or Buddha and hence they narrow it down to the heart or the cow or the squat?”
“William James would agree with you,” Suresh smiled. “But there are also people who don’t want to understand. Because genuine understanding of religion will strip it of its political potential.”
The Prime Minister appeared on the TV screen with his characteristic body language of outstretched arms. He called Lalu Prasad Yadav a “tantric” and his party “Rashtriya Jadu-Tona Dal.” He accused the Bade bhai (Lalu) and Chhote Bhai (Nitish) of dividing Bihar into Bihari versus Bahari.
“Lalu is a real lover of the cow,” said Suresh. “He has an air-conditioned cowshed for his gau matas. Yet...” He grinned at me and did not complete the sentence.