The world is turning into a scary place, or so it would seem. One moiety watches the other with misgivings, distrust or worse, hatred. We are the righteous, but “they” are the ones that cause trouble. Religious divide, political contrariness, economic “haves” versus the “have-nots”, we are never short on labels to highlight differences and align ourselves behind the one or hold a placard aloft to herald the other.
In most cases, “cause and effect” end up prolonging age-old grudges. We study and yet ignore history, causing it to repeat itself. Peoples, races and entire countries double up in agony over real and perceived slights and injustices they have lived through. If only those wrongs could be righted and justice meted out, can we expect to move forward, they argue. The oppressed turn into aggressors, the righteous switch to being the unjust.
I am reminded of a parable related by the mystic Osho in several of his talks. A seasoned, old Zen master and his pupil were traveling from one monastery to another. They were celibate monks, not even allowed to direct their gaze at women. After a long walk, they came to a river, which they had to cross. The river was flooded and there was no way that they would get across without getting wet. A young woman in expensive clothes was waiting to cross but was afraid to do so, not least because she did not want her dress ruined. The older monk, without much ado, carried her on his shoulders and soon they reached the other bank, where he set her down. The lady went her way and the two monks continued their walk in silence. The younger monk was really upset, finding the other monk’s act disturbing. As per their injunctions, they were not allowed to look at, let alone touch a woman, and yet the master had carried her on his shoulders and all the way across the river! After a few hours the confused monk couldn’t stand the thought of what had happened which kept filling his mind, and so he began to berate the older monk, “We are not allowed to look at other women, not touch them, but you carried that woman.” “Which woman?” replied the older monk. “The woman you carried on your shoulders across the river!” The other monk paused and with a smile on his lips he said, “I put her down when I crossed the river, are you still carrying her?”
In 2002, I attended a session in downtown Toronto by the well-known speaker and author Caroline Myss. She traipsed in and literally scampered up the dais to face a hall packed with several hundred people and shouted, “How many of you in this room remember some traumatic event from when you were a child?” It seemed as if almost all the attendees shot their hand up in the air. “And when do you expect to get over it?” she laughed, before exhorting the audience to “Never go to bed with a grudge inside you or beside you.”
The poet Sardar Anjum could not have recited it any better:
“Hum bhatak kar junoon ki raahon mein
Akl se intaqaam lete hain”
[Wandering/floundering on the paths of frenzied madness, we
Seek vengeance/retaliation from (our) mind/wisdom]
Read in isolation these lines may appear stark, but Jagjit and Chitra Singh’s singing of the entire ghazal is metamorphosing: