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The Indian conundrum of insufficient faith


Some five or so years ago, I had the privilege of giving a talk on “Marxism and Literature” at Kashmir University—an extraordinarily open-minded centre of learning.

In the interactions that followed, a young teacher expressed the view that not a leaf stirs without God’s will. My response to that was that were this to be admitted, we would need to further admit that everything that had been happening in Kashmir was also an expression of God’s will. In which case it would be wrong to attribute the goings-on to any agency.

Although a rather amused flutter went down the hall, the young teacher, nor anybody else in the audience, had a riposte that would extend the speculation.

I recall this episode as an aid to understanding the context of Aastha (belief) that informs the Ram Mandir issue.

Hindutva activists tell us that it is their belief that Lord Ram was born at the very exact spot where the demolished mosque once stood.

This is one order of belief.

The question that asks itself on another plane of thought is do they also believe that having been an avatar of the God Vishnu, Lord Ram is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent?

Should the answer to that be in the affirmative, is it not to be concluded that Lord Ram is fully cognizant of what has been happening with regard to the temple issue and that all those who follow and worship him must then wait for his will to be done? Think how often in our everyday conversations we say to each other “Ram Jaane” when the import of events escapes us.

Should we, on the other hand rather demur on the question of our faith in Divine Will, be it in the matter of Kashmir or the Ram Temple, we may not refuse the aspersion that we are in fact operating in the arena of a politically-driven human will. What the Ram bhakt must ask herself is which of his two beliefs is primary—that Lord Ram was born at the exact site of the demolished mosque, or that Lord Ram is all-knowing and that it is His will that prevails.

This conundrum of being divided between divine will and human will, as suggested at the outset, of course, afflicts the followers of all faiths. Among Christians, for example, the prayer reads “thy will be done” but not too many actually wait for that to happen.

As I think back to my grooming in Kashmir between the forties and the early sixties, I recall many instances of wayside sadhus and fakirs unquestioningly living their faith in the divine will. They could be seen dealing with all aspects of nature and all human subjects without discrimination as proof of their living submission to an undiscriminating divine will. No wonder they were such superb human beings who, in the memorable formulation of John Keats, poured balm on the world than vex it. They did not seem like men and women of religion at all, but lodestars of a spirituality that gave Kashmir—and indeed the rest of the subcontinent—the character we often laud without much conviction.

There are those of us who are unable to subscribe to the notion of a divine will, believing that “men make their own history.” And therefore, the likes of us operate fully in a world which we think is driven by contending human and social interests. But those who claim to be driven by Aastha, often appear to be riding two contradictory horses, trotting, ambling or galloping as per political convenience.

There is the rub.

Often those who pontificate most vigorously about the desirability of selfless action without thought to the fruits of action seem most contentiously, indeed often violently, to be after the fruit rather than the selflessness. Were that not so, for example, there never could be a profit-driven market-economy.

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