How Many Gods?


Sarjano’s book, The Great division between Old and Young, sample reading Part 2 of 3

While we leave young and old ones to play together, there is another division that I wish so much somebody could explain, and this is about our religious practices. All religions are in fact nothing else than a ‘practice’ and they may know something about superstitions, but where religion is concerned, we are really below zero! In truth, there is nothing less religious than the religious organizations, be it Christianity, be it Islam, be it Confucianism or any other group. Let’s ask ourselves for once a very simple thing, something that we never ask ourselves:

How many gods can exist on this earth?

How many religions?

How many ways of praying and prayers connected?

And how many paradises can exist? And how many hells?

Let’s try to be clear on these points, please; otherwise I don’t understand a fucking thing about this story!

Either there is a god for each of us, and everybody is free to invent and create his favorite god – something about his image and resemblance, so to say – or there is only one god for every creature on earth, and I mean all of them, cockroach included! Let me know where you stand in all this, I beg you, because I’m sick of this absurd story. But do you realize that there are people out there, even in this very moment, which are killing each other in the name of God, myyygggoood!

There are people who hate each other and fight since millennia for the only reason of having another god, can you believe it?

Is there a limit to human madness, or are we really destined to destroy ourselves in the name of our stupidity and our blindness?

If there were a God he will certainly want all his creatures to live in peace and harmony, don’t you think so?

If there were a God, do you think he will ask us to kill each other in his name?

If there were a God, don’t you think that he will curse all these separations?

If there were a God, would he not scream “Please stop all this nonsense!”

And he is shouting it since a long time, but who is listening?

Do you know that your so-called religious wars have killed more people than all other wars together? What kind of religions are we talking about?

Who is this God? Have you ever met him?

I’ve met him a couple of times, even recently, and in the most incredible places. I met him during the Sufi Festival organized every year in Delhi by Ali and Meera Muzaffar.

The year was 2002, and the coincidence was that in those same days of the festival people were butchering other people and that in the name of the same gods that were sung to here in serene harmony and in right remembrance.

What do I call ‘right remembrance’?

The simple remembrance (and keep it with you forever…) is that we may call God by a thousand names, yet He has no name.

We may give Him a thousand forms, yet God remains formless.

And we may say that we are God’s chosen people, and at the same time every being on this planet can claim the same thing, even your pet cat or your dog.

And I mean it! For we are all equally chosen by God, and whatever name you may give Him does not makes any difference. God in fact creates only unique creatures, hence there can be no comparison; but when will we understand?

Comparison is an exercise in futility, that’s it. You can compare two cars or two fridges; you can compare machines, because they are made in series. But not human beings, for God has no serial-production, and He creates only unique and unrepeatable creatures.

At this Sufi-Festival, all God’s creatures were represented: people from Iran, from Sudan, from Tunisia and Pakistan, from Kashmir and India, from Morocco and the US. If I tell you that it was the most beautiful musical gathering in my life after Woodstock, you’ll think that I’m exaggerating; but I’m not, and I still cherish those days. First of all, I was afraid that the Festival would be cancelled, because of the tensions poisoning the atmosphere in those days, and I waited until the last minute for confirmation, before flying to Delhi.

When I could finally see all those musicians of God together, my heart was suddenly healed! I was hurt, I must tell you. Mr. L. K. Advani had called the Gujarat pogrom “a blot on India,” but for me it was such a wound, that for the first time in my life I was seriously contemplating to leave this country for good. But the power of love, the power of music, the power of the heart, and yes, the power of women, even in that circumstance, helped immensely to heal my wounds…

The boys did their best; they danced like whirling dervishes, they went crazy (and made us crazy!) with drumming upon drumming, because each new band joined the one who just played. They sung in abandon and were truly inspired, but when the women took the stage it turned suddenly into something else. They went straight to the point, so picture this:

On the left side of the stage is Abida Parveen with her little group (she is from Pakistan and many believe that she is the best female singer in all of Asia!) and on the right side there is one of the most famous Indian vocalists with her supporters. Abida sings in the name of Allah and of Ali. She performs with her terrific voice all the nuances of Islam…and when her voice fades away, the Indian lady starts singing “Ram Ram Ram”…in all the possible variations in the universe, and then, hear that, one sings “Ali – Ali – Ali…” and the other answers, “Ram –  Ram – Ram…” and for over one hour, with thousands of people clapping!

Have you ever seen a journo crying? I was, and not alone. I would have loved to place a garland of jasmine at the feet of those two women, but there was no need, for existence sure takes care, and the garlands were supposed to come from more sensitive hands than mine, from another woman I love:  Sheila Dixit, who had brought with her at least one hundred of them for the last evening of the Festival.  It was her way to personally thank each and every musician.

While Sheila Dixit was distributing garlands and placing them around the neck of each and every performer, I started noticing that she was moving with a certain strategy in mind, as if she deliberately wanted to leave someone of the whole bunch to be the last person she was going to meet, and I was right!

Sheila Dixit and Abida Parveen

Sweet Sheila went around and back just to make sure that the last artist to meet would be none other than Abida. And there we go, after having placed her last garland around the neck of Abida, Sheila, having now both arms free (how politically correct!) could easily throw a huge hug around the Pakistani singer.  Abida was about to faint under the impetuous and warm manifestation, then she went to kiss respectfully Sheila’s hands. To which Sheila promptly replied by pulling her hands first away, then grabbing Abida’s and kissing them in great respect!

Should I tell you that this writer was openly crying? No, I won’t this time, but I can tell you for sure that I have seen many people crying in that moment. Hey, just a few hours away they were butchering people of another God, and here they were singing all the names of God, and without a single problem!

The hugging between Sheila Dixit and Abida Parveen will remain forever one of the most poignant, intense, symbolic images in my long life! You can see how women can skip in one blow every formality, every division, every issue, and go to the heart of the matter, in that universal space where it is love that binds us. It is the same song, the same God, even if we sing it with thousand names.

Ohhhh, how I wish in my dreams that Sheila and Abida could be the real Ambassadors of Peace for their countries so tragically divided, and the whole issue to be left in their hands; but I am a dreamer, you know, and unrepentant too. I salute you here Abida, since I didn’t have a chance at the Festival to place my gift at your feet; let me place my personal garland now, made with the words of another Saint, which will be familiar to you.

For the way to heaven
Is heaven…
I am the way.”

Santa Teresa D’Avila

That day you have been the way for me. Thank you.

But we, stupid separatists, have created so many taboos and so many divisions in God’s name and we have created so many Religious Wars, Holy Crusades, and Death to the Infidels, have looted and burned people alive and erased entire cities from the earth, have exterminated entire populations…all in the name of one religion or another.

But when are we going to stop it – when?

The Great Division between Old and Young (Part 2 of 3)
Excerpt from the book, 491 Questions and Not a Single Answer, by Swatantra Sarjano
Read part 3: Another Bloody Division
Read our review…

Comments are closed.