A sincere seeker rues the paucity of wise men who can purvey wisdom in a glut of of storytellers and preachers.
By M Rajaque Rahman
There is a crisis of wisdom in the world today. Information is available in abundance. Knowledge is almost everywhere, but wisdom is very rarely seen. Sacred scriptures, be it the Bhagawad Gita or the Quran or the Bible, have always been available in exactly the same form they were revealed.
But where are the signs of divine guidance? There is no paucity of wisdom, but there is an acute scarcity of wise men who can purvey it. We have a glut of storytellers and preachers but not even a stream of knowers of wisdom. Translators are a plenty because translation calls only for a command over language. Interpretation is hard to deliver for it calls for a mastery over the heart. The problem is that the world of today takes these translators for interpreters who know the heart of the matter.
The matter is further compounded by the irony that most of the scriptures are written in languages which have become almost alien. There are a very few pundits who know Sanskrit in its divine avatar. There are very few who know Arabic with all its intricacies and the grammar.
To the true pundit, Aum isn’t a mere word; it is the sacred sound to address the Divine in its totality. To the true Aalim, Alif isn’t just the first alphabet of Arabic language, but the divine symbol that proclaims oneness of God. To the true priest, the Holy Spirit is not in the wine that is offered at the altar. To them, these signs, sounds and the spirit give the power to totally align with that one Truth. Not just themselves, but also those who put their faith on them.
The sad reality is that their tribe is almost extinct from every corner of the world. That explains why organized religions have become so maligned today. Take the case of Islam. The religion whose literal meaning is peace is today loosely identified with terrorism and violence, prompting many to wonder whether Islam is a failed religion. To me, it’s a clear case of its self-proclaimed protagonists failing the religion. They have interpreted every Quranic word revealed to invoke love and devotion for God into scary signs of impending severe punishments. Some go to the extent of making Allah appear like a manipulator whose only way is the carrot and stick. Their gross outlook has ensured that the Muslim population is denied of practices that could take them to the subtle world.
The problem is compounded in the Subcontinent for whom Arabic is an alien language. To truly understand the Quran and Hadith (sayings of the Prophet), they need scholars who can interpret the essence. But they often end up getting convincing translators.
Recently, I was at a Friday prayer somewhere in Assam. A young, suave and charming mullah who fitted the bill of a modern-day Islamic evangelist was delivering his commentary quoting the Quranic verses “When heaven is rent asunder” and “When earth is shaken with a mighty shaking.” His aim was to scare the gathering to pious actions before the tremor struck and it’s too late. It was plain and literal translation of the verses. He made no mention of the inward interpretation of the verses which sees this rent and tremor as the pleasures and pains that one’s soul goes through every moment. The harm in this kind of myopic interpretations is that they deny the majority in the Muslim world from understanding and attending to the mechanics of the soul and healing them to help it connect with its Creator.
Sadly, this crisis of wisdom is not confined to one particular religion or other. All the mainstream religions of today are afflicted by this. Hinduism, whose essence is in one consciousness permeating everything, is today seen as a religion of idolaters. More than stereotyping by the people of other faiths, it’s the shallow understanding of the religion by Hindus themselves which is responsible for this branding.
Hardly any pundit explains the formless essence behind the forms they worship. Even fewer understand that the multiple forms are just a variable manifestation of one Brahman. The ultimate Divine proclamation “Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma” has become just another topic for spiritual discourses. There is a definite dilution of the spiritual essence of Hinduism. To very few, does Ram mean the “light within me”. Not many understand that meditation and mental puja is the highest form of devotion. The public don’t know the rich significance behind a yagna. I have been told that it’s quite common these days that ignorant pundits chant funeral mantras at wedding and vice versa.
Ironically, those who swear by the essence are almost immediately elevated to the ranks of spiritual leaders. No one calls a Sri Sri Ravi Shankar a Hindu scholar without an ulterior motive of making him look like communal!! And for that matter, nobody calls a Rumi a Muslim mullah.
The biggest collateral damage of this vacuum in wisdom is to the religions and their propounders. It makes them look small and mean. For example, the myopic interpretation of the Biblical statement ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ that equates Jesus with the physical body that was symbolically crucified on the cross makes the messiah look like a partial mortal who discriminated among people.
The vision to see the all-compassing presence of Jesus beyond the physical body is missing. Because of this myopic understanding, we often hear Fathers proclaiming that God will heal only if one embraces Christianity. I am sure that Jesus, the Son of God, never had such a limited vision of his father.
During my travels in tribal-dominated areas where a large number of people from indigenous faiths are converting to Christianity, I often come across priests who talk about how Jesus will withhold his blessings from those who commingle or eat together with people of other faiths. It’s blasphemous to cast Jesus, who is an epitome of love, in such demeaning character. Unfortunately, the church of today lacks the men of wisdom who can denounce this and uphold the magnanimity of Jesus and Christianity. It appears nobody is listening to Lord Jesus’ last word — “Me and my father are One.”
The time has come to make wisdom prevail. What the world needs today is men of depth who can unveil the Spirit without the limited medium of religion. Surely, the paths to God are many. However, it’s so only till the junction of religions. Beyond that, it’s one seamless track wide enough to take the whole of the humanity to the ultimate station. But who will guide us in crossing that junction? I have found my guide. Have you?
For a detailed curriculum vitae of a reliable guide who surely knows the way, watch this space!!