As I write this I am listening on the verandah to night prayers starting over Delhi’s traffic noise. Today we have walked around the Lodi Gardens. Of course I was tired but at the tomb of Mohammed Singh, the Mogul Emperor, I felt a great depression. So much power and beauty: now crumbling stone. The crows wheeling slowly overhead, the November sun orange in its intensely setting, always unlike an English park. Some movement.
I stood on the edge of Jama Masjid, the Great Mosque of Delhi’s Old City. India in all its teeming life was before me. At times, like there, the impossibility of redemption seems close. Say there are five billion humans and five billion planets with intelligent life in the universe. How could God – any god – know every hair of every head? But God surely is not just us, it is much more and much less. It is the whole of us but something different. I dreamt that God was a vast unity, a kind of brain and we were all inside. God was not looking down on us, a separate distant intelligence but was looking at us with an inward eye. It is strange how little organised religions talk of the nature of God. We waste so much time on futile arguments about arcane liturgy and rules when no one actually knows or could know the will or wills of God.
In the vast modern concourse of Delhi’s domestic airport, I paused at the bookshop. The usual John Grishams, Jeffrey Archers, etc., and the Bhagavad Gita. I bought it. I was struck by Gandhi’s remarks: “The last nineteen stanzas of Chapter 2 have ever remained engraved in my heart.”
They are indeed unexpressingly moving.
“That man alone is wise who keeps mastery of himself! If one Ponders on objects of the sense, there springs Attraction, from attraction grows desire, Desire flames to fierce passion, passion breeds Recklessness; then the memory – all betrayed Lets noble purpose go, and saps the mind, Till purpose, mind, and man are all undone. But, if one deals with objects of the sense Not loving and not hating, making them Serve his free soul, which rests serenely lord, Lo, such a man comes to tranquillity.”
Gandhi says these verses contain the essence of Dharma.
The great fort of Jodhpur rises up from the city of one million souls. As I stood on its ramparts I looked down upon the blue-glazed, flat-roofed houses.
What is the meaning of Gandhi’s “non-attachment”? I don’t believe that non-attachment is right for most people. Can one be non-attached to the necessity of food? Can, should, the soul be non-attached to the needs of the self: work, love, health, life, home.
I prefer the way of what I call Right Attachment. A median way of attaching worth but not undue care or worry to most things.
“Most things don’t matter and hardly anything matters at all.”
What is the nature of the Divine? In Chapter 11 of the Bagavadgita
“So did Pandu’s Son behold All this universe enfold All its huge diversity Into one great shape, and be Visible, and viewed, and blended In one Body – subtle, splendid, Nameless – th’ All-comprehending God of Gods, The never-Ending Deity!”
We walked down the dusty lane from the Fort of Chandelao to a lake – past veiled, sari-ed women, brightly coloured, carrying everything on their heads. The November sun hot, sacred cows, wandering barefoot children playing, goats standing, the dry, flat plains all about.
For Indians, the very earth is sacred. Here in the numberless villages of India, time is slower, lengthened.
The Gandhi museum is strangely moving. His sayings are displayed. The simplicity of the room in which he spent the last eighteen months of his life. Everywhere his life confronts our own. Tears rolled down my cheek. “I want, if I don’t give you a shock, to realise identity with even the crawling things on earth, because we claim descent from the same God, and that being so, all life in whatever form it appears must be essentially one.”
Finally one follows in his footsteps across the manicured lawn to the place of his martyrdom. I went on to the Indira Gandhi museum, where she also lived and was assassinated. Now the prevalence of death and of her son Rahul was too depressing. Why this violence and hate?
A contrast. First Mass in the Papal Nunciature, a grand neo-classical building with green lawns roundabout and likenesses of recent popes and Mother Theresa, then on to the Gurudwara, the main Sikh temple. It was a feast day. We formed an intense stream of brightly coloured pilgrims moving slowly into the Temple and around the lake. I bought two contrasting books: the last stand of the 31st British Army Sikh Regiment in the Afghan Wars of the 1890s. All 21 soldiers in a signalling fort were killed by Pathan insurgents. And next a meditation including this from Gurbani, a Sikh guru:
“Walking in the ways of life, moment to moment, live by Godly qualities.”
Everywhere we were treated with great courtesy. Sikhism seems a most attractive religion.