Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Betrayer Within

Have you read Reading Lolita in Tehran? I have just begun reading it. I am stuck on something. 

On the very first page, I find the words "that in the final analysis we are our own betrayers, playing Judas to our own Christ."

If and when you have sometime, can you please write something on it?

I received this email from a blogger friend yesterday.  My impulsive response was to say ‘No’ because I know the statement in the quote is true and, worse, I know that I have a Judas within me.  On a second thought, I decided to honour the trust placed in me by a good friend.

When I began my contemplation on the topic, the first thing that came to my mind was a story that appears in the opening pages of Richard Bach’s novel, Illusions.  There are some aquatic creatures that spend their entire life sticking to the bottom of the river.  They just cling.  Life is nothing but that clinging for them.  One day they spot a creature just like them floating on the water and moving on.  They think it’s a miracle.  They ask that creature to deliver them too.  The floating creature tells them that deliverance is their choice.  Leave the clinging and you are delivered.  But nobody was bold enough to leave the clinging.  And so they clung on.  And they made an epic about a Messiah who came along once upon a time to deliver them. 

My memory may have added personal tinges to the story.  But the message is that the Judas is within us just as much as the Christ is.  We are our own liberators.  We are our own enslavers.  It is a choice we make.  It is our choice to cling.  To cling to traditions, customs, culture, religion.  To cling to prejudices, envy, greed.  To cling to possessions or positions or whatever.   The clinging is the betrayer within us.

But aren’t we helpless sometimes?  Aren’t we forced by circumstances to cling?  The Judas within me is mostly a creation of external forces.  Is it? 

The external forces are often beyond my control.  I can only choose my responses to them.  My responses determine whether I’m following the Christ in me or the Judas. 

As Oscar Wilde said, we are all in the muck, but some of us see the stars.  Some of us choose to see the stars.  Seeing the stars and following them is the deliverance when the Judas encourages us to wallow in the muck. 

I need to make a personal clarification.  My writings often criticise certain people related to religion directly or indirectly.  It is not the work of any Judas.  I am fully conscious of what I’m doing.  I am following certain stars knowing well that I am also in the ineluctable muck.  I am not a fan of popular positive thinking which is actually the fast food of those who are fortunate enough to encounter fairly benign external forces.  I have struggled with extremely malicious external forces for the best part of my life.  So there is a cynic in me who is the real Judas.  But I also know well that the Christ is within me too. 

I have used the religious symbols only because of the mail which triggered this post.  I would rather use the word ‘betrayer’ for Judas and ‘redeemer’ for Christ.  Both the betrayer and the redeemer are within us.  Life is constant struggle between those two for many people like me. 


  1. First of all, thank you so much Sir for writing this post. The quick response even after you said that it would be difficult to write, is sincerely appreciated. The richness you bring to your posts by references to texts and socio-religious forces is something that not just enriches the argument, it also helps the readers to think. The betrayer and the redeemer is within us. But how many of us are able to see the stars. You aptly quoted Wilde on this. When we 'choose' to see the stars, is it a choice that has been given shape by a mix of external and internal forces? When we become 'betrayers', do most of us ever realize what we are doing?

    1. Choice has to be a conscious process, isn't it? Otherwise it wouldn't a choice. But many people are fortunate to be able to see the stars without having to make that choice. The stars are given to them by circumstances of birth, opportunities, people who help, etc. So the external factors do play a vital role.

      When it comes to the betrayer within, I think most of us don't realise what's happening to them. They are falling victims to their circumstances mostly out of helplessness and ignorance. We have a lot of ancient sages including the Buddha who thought that vice was a product of ignorance. People who don't see beyond what their inner betrayer shows commit crimes.

  2. I cent per cent agree with you word by word. Great post.

  3. Basically we have to let things go to attain peace. We have to make the right choices as external factors are beyond our control.

  4. Read and contemplate. That's what all Matheikal's posts do! This one reminded me of a family chat one day when one of the next generation said, "Aunty, sab mein Ram hai; aur Ravaan bhi". Translated, that reads, "Everyone has Ram in them; and Ravan as well."

    1. Thanks for the compliment, Lata. Contemplation is what my life has become :)


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