Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The incurable secular monkey!
I confess that I am secular. Some of my friends who swear by Hindutva gave me the honorific ‘secular monkey’ just as I christened them ‘Saffron monkeys’. I don’t know which happened first. It all had the character of the chides and liberties without which no friendship is complete but the underlying principles are serious indeed. Now, I must explain what I mean by being secular. When I say I am secular, I certainly do not mean that I am denying the existence of a higher purpose or a perfect cosmic harmony which though hidden from the usual plane of human awareness is the only goal which can sate all desires. I also do not deny that cultural fossils of mystic insights, which come to us as organized religions have different hues in keeping with the space-time contingencies that guide their origin and subsequent progress. I am not against religious expression per se though I myself don’t find any solace in organized religion except possibly an aesthetic joy in certain symbolic rituals or the architectural beauty of ancient temples or medieval mosques. I enjoy the Shiv Tandav Stotram just as I relish the muezzin’s call for namaz at the Jama Masjid in Delhi. But these pleasures are aesthetic and do not mean I agree with all that the Koran has to say or with the dubious ills of caste system and prohibition of widow-remarriage in Brahminic ideology. Still, what I mean by being secular is that whenever I interact with a human being, I interact with him as one man with another and not as someone who belongs to any particular religion having an interface with the follower of the same or a different religion. This is as much a statement of identity as it is of a principle. The truth is that I do not derive the moorings of my identity from any religious current and not even from a fusion of all religions. Because all religions are fossils while I seek the living waters of mystic rapture, which anyways demand individual and personal encounter with the truth rather than any organized practice. While saying this, I must also clarify that by secularism I do not mean ‘minority appeasement’ but the complete absence of any label such as a ‘majority’ or a ‘minority’. My guiding axiom states that spiritual insight is inversely proportional to faith in any organized religion or historically transmitted belief structure. Better be a rational skeptic than a narrow-minded believer. As for the mystic, he has nothing to do with any belief for his only guiding light is direct first hand experience.