It is surprising that the FIDAYEEN or suicidal attackers of the World Trade Centre come from educated and privileged families. Had they been from the underprivileged class, their behavior could have been attributed to pecuniary benefits – as mercenaries, while if they lacked education, it could had been perceived that their minds had been fodder to mass propaganda. But their backgrounds indicate that they were committed fundamentalists harboring the firm conviction that theirs was a deeply religious act- it was God’s work that they were doing, and their death or suicide would open Heaven’s doors for them. They were people who had fought for religion and died for religion- but they had not LIVED RELIGION. The mass murder of innocent people can never be termed as JIHAD or a Dharmayudha.
In all sects, religion is an individualistic process. It involves the merging of one’s consciousness with one’s unconsciousness, to emerge into a psychic totality. This is what is termed as ADWAITWAD in the Vedant. Religion is the symbolic expression of GOD. Where is the place for assault or mass murder in the name of religion or of GOD? Bigotry is born out of half-baked ideas about religion. By and large, people believe and are goaded by a façade. The Bible says, “Letter killeth, spirit saveth”. By misinterpreting any scripture, it is not difficult to lead the uninitiated masses towards religious bigotry and fundamentalism. It is the spirit of the text alone that can be a safeguard for humanity. Hence, it is imperative that saner elements should become more vocal in all the mass media and steer people away from fanatic elements. Value-based education from kindergarten level can alone protect people from being misled.
When the followers of any religious sect say that their book alone contains the ultimate truth it cannot be questioned or added on to, it is a dangerous sentiment fraught with pitfalls, and is likely to cause immense damage. Spiritual wisdom involves the right to question, add and deduce, and this right is the only insurance against dogma. Any emancipated religion must always welcome such investigative analysis.
Jihad is principally a conquest of one’s self over one’s inner self, i.e. one’s bad qualities. Unfortunately, both in Europe in the past (the holy crusades) and more recently in the Middle East (Islamic fundamentalism), the two codified principal religion- Islam and Christianity, have been used as a camouflage to serve the interests of the rulers. The Crusades and jihads were used as convenient tools to further theocratic, fundamentalist, dictatorial regimes. Most of the so-called Jihads in history were born out of bigotry, improper understanding of the scriptures, warped interpretation, and Goebbelian brain washing by interested parties.
There have been several examples of martyrdom or suicidal missions in history. Martin Luther King had said, “If you do not have a cause worth dying for, your life is not worth living”. Martyrdom is achieved through acts of self-sacrifice and not thorough acts of mass murder and destruction. One striking example of a suicidal mission is that of Guru Tegh Bahadur – the ninth Sikh Guru. He went to the Mughal emperor or Aurangzeb’s court to protest against the oppression and forcible conversion of Kashmiri Hindus, knowing fully well that his effort was suicidal. He sacrificed his life for the cause without resorting to killing or destroying any edifice.
People use religion as a façade to demonize people. Today, there are two principal faces of religion. One spreads love and transforms people from within, while the other spreads hatred and demonizes people. All other labels are superficial. The shape and forms of icons, and the varied rituals attached to each religion are irrelevant. The only cognizable substance is the message conveyed by each religion. Today, unfortunately, the ugly face of religion is more visible than its real face.
We Indians have a special responsibility to correct the course of history. India has been the conscience keeper of the world- the depository of ancient wisdom. Multitudes of emancipated, noble men were born here, strived to give a proper vision to humankind, spread their fragrance and left behind a lasting legacy of eternal wisdom for us to delve into. The clarion call needed for society today is neither Allaho akbar nor Jai Bajrang Bali It is this:TAMASO MA JYOTIRGAMAYAHA