A Shudder Hindu stood on one leg for ten years with full conviction that by enduring pain and suffering he would come back as a prince in his next life. The self-immolation of the monks of Vietnam, burning alive, was a horrified political weapon to be used. The self- immolation has been demonstrated with pride by the Christians in Mexico putting themselves on cross and nailing down their hands and legs to the wooden planks. The self- immolation is also practiced by Hindus, Christian monks, Buddhists and some Muslims. The sati tradition in Hindu culture was revered when a “devoted” wife jumped in the burning fire on her husband’s cremating ceremony. The monks are known to lash themselves till they bled profusely, sometimes to their death. What we call a man or woman deciding to commit a suicide in the name of Mighty God; and end up killing himself and other innocent people in the passage to heaven. The idea is to wish an audience with his Maker to let Him know that he disposed of the gift of life in the hope to have an eternity full of bliss. That is the power of faith used poorly. “They marched away enduring a belief/ Whose logic bought them, somewhere else to grief” The Shields of Achilles by Auden.
It is the unshakable and unidirectional system of believing in a faith that has to do with the afterlife. The idea of a better and blissful life in this present world and then life in eternity entices people to do and believe in things, hurtful to self and other, are bewildering and unintelligible. As long as a faith supports all things very human, happiness, courage, loyalty and all those virtues that make this life worth living for; and gets us closer to a moral life, it is praiseworthy. But the danger is in locating and dwelling upon the substitute for life, and all its blessings, by the disproportionate and extreme sense of piety for the salvation of soul. The only thing we know about soul is that we assume and believe that it exists; same goes for God. We read and believe in the spiritual books of our fathers; and there is nothing wrong with it. We take pride what we have become and rightfully so. Can we be comfortable happy by allowing the same right to others? It must be left to the heart of a man to feel good about his God and his rituals. What part of our soul makes us to carry that disdain for any other faith? Our soul has nothing to do with demons of our animus towards other faith. It is the political will of our religious leaders and religious nuts who must take pleasure in the pettiness of their shallow arguments with a hint of authentic concern for protecting God and His will. Does God with ultimate wisdom and power require the protection of a mortal soul?
The state should never be part of any religious activity and argument. We see that the Pakistani political scoundrels take refuge and hide their shortcomings to provoke the religious sensitivities of illiterate masses and a great numbers of educated people also. The greatest Ottoman Emperor, Mahmut 11, declared: “I can only differentiate the Muslims of my subjects at mosque, Christians at church and Jewish at synagogue- Apart from that they are my sons and daughters”. That is why our true hero; Mr. Jinnah told the people that “the state has nothing to do with the business of the state- You are free, free to go to your temples, free to go to your mosques, or any place of worship in this state of Pakistan”. If we followed what the founder asked of us, we would be a different nation. It is now too late to complain. We should have complained when Objective Resolution was presented to a new nation. We should have screamed when Bhutto brought the religious bigotry into the state’s affairs and his chosen military general finished the job of making the state religious sensitive. The result was that from the poor to lower to middle class to the bourgeoisies, the country slipped into religious mind set and took hold of the national psyche; it was all right to bash any other religious sect than their own. It became fashionable to attack other faiths- Even the progressives fell into Bhutto’s phony liberal trap. The national character is not built in a flash; it has to do with the culture and laws put in place through legislation (or by dictators in case of Pakistan) and the interpretation of those laws.
The religious ideas are as old as history of man. The perceptive dimension of human mind led them to the notion of animism, search for the soul and truth. Even the ancient people could not cope up with the thought that such an intelligent being could just disintegrate into the dust and no more. From the time the written Hammurabi Codes to the mention of Zeus wisdom, spiritual and moral foundation of humanity had to be formalized. That formalization gave an edge to the cultures that disciplined them to live in a harmonized society; was it Hammurabi Codes or Moses bringing the Ten Commandments from the Sinai Mountain. The Axial age defining the relations of human conducts to divine underlying principles brought in some of pure human understanding of evil and good. Ten Commandments gave the people laws and obligations to be good. All the great religious books that the people get their inspiration to be good and moral ought to be loved and appreciated. A moral life and laws were prescribed so that the people could differentiate between wrong and right. Those laws and rules were made not to create hatred among people believing in different wordings of the similar codes, but to understand the universality of what is good and virtuous. “What which is good for all and for anyone, for all whosoever- that is good for me –What I hold good for self, I should for all”- Zoroaster.
Not only that a philosophical basis exists in believing in God, somehow, it is part of our genetic set up to believe in a Superior Being. We find the existence of God in the cultures as old as we know it. Twelve thousand years old tale of Troy tells us the presence of powerful Gods. Abraham was the first prophet whose followers dominated the world and accepted his recognition of One God. The Mayans, the Egyptians, ancient Indian and Persian people, established their own Gods and Goddesses. The ancient looked at the fire, thunder and rain as the signs of God indicating something very profound; that should be respected and not trivialized in any way on the basis of any faith. It is nasty and intellectually puerile to only see the righteousness of our faith and falsity in others. There is a new age of change coming to this world. With the rising tide of extremism and religiosity, the next axial age would bring a new paradigm for human soul, free of religious brittleness and rigidity, but only the pure principles of goodness.