Saturday, May 6, 2000
T H I S  A B O V E  A L L

Why not leave God alone
By Khushwant Singh

TO me God has become somewhat like a toothache which I thought had ceased hurting. To make sure I feel it with my tongue and it starts throbbing again. I can’t put God out of my mind. It doesn’t take much for me to restart the debate whether or not He exists. The latest provocation came from an issue of Osho Times in which the Acharya’s views were published under the title God Riddance. It began with an excerpt from an editorial which appeared in The International Herald Tribune at the end of last year in which William Pfaff dealt with the most significant changes that took place in the thinking of people in the past century. He wrote:

"In contrast to the 19th century there is no longer a general deference to the Christian god or serious acknowledgement that such a deity might exist. This is a fundamental change because it means that the West today no longer acknowledges the existence of an external rule-giver or moral authority. It regards mankind as entirely autonomous, existing within a moral framework entirely of its own creation, responsible only to itself. The new millennium will be one in which, on present evidence, majority and elite belief in God is all but totally unseated in the West. Many would undoubtedly say that this is a good thing. Others would ask why it makes any difference. It makes a difference because for the first time in western history there is no general acknowledgement of an external standard or reference for how humans and their states should conduct themselves ".

  "No one can say what will happen in the new century and the new millennium. My concern in writing this is simply to note that we in the West enter not only a new millennium on January 1 but truly a new age, when man has declared his radical autonomy, his absolute freedom to do whatever he chooses — alone in the universe."

Throughout the ages there have been thinkers who rejected the notion of a God who has created the world and controls our destinies.

In ancient times there were Chararakas and the Epicureans of Greece. In more recent times there was the German philosopher Nietzsche (1844-1900) who had the audacity to pronounce, "God is dead". Nietzsche ended his life in a lunatic asylum. Osho Rajneesh when asked "Is God really dead?" replied: "Yes, the old God is dead. The God that used to sit on a golden throne in the seventh heaven is dead. The God that you used to believe in your childhood is dead. The God of your conceptions is dead".

"Man needs a new conception, a new perceptivity. God will not be back, godliness will be back. God will not come back as a person again — man has passed that phase, man has come of age. Now we will have to think in terms of godliness, not of God; not of personality, but of presence."

"Now God will be synonymous with love, now God will be synonymous with meditation, awareness. Now God need not be worshipped. God will not be the deity in the temple any more. God will be your inner consciousness."

I am in complete agreement with Osho’s last sentence. But I find myself out of depth when he goes into lyrical prose: "God is the green in the trees and the red and the gold. God is the song of the bird. God is the white cloud floating in the sky. God is the starry night. God is when two persons meet and hug each other. God is when two lovers melt and merge into each other. God is in all experiences of beauty, joy, celebration. God is in every orgasmic experience.

Why not leave God alone when no one knows anything about Him or Her?

Science and faith

In the USA he is known as Dr Lal; in Punjab he is addressed affectionately as Bhai Harbans Lal. In America, he is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology, in the University of North Texas Health Science Center. He got his Master’s degree from Kansas and a doctorate from the University of Chicago. He is best known for his research work in longevity and as Editor of Drug Development Research.

Dr Lal has published over 400 research papers and 20 books. A couple of years ago, the Association of Scientists of Indian Origin honoured him with the Senior Scientist

Award for his life-long accomplishment in science. In Punjab he is known as a product of Punjabi University who made good in America but remains a Punjabi at heart. The honorific Bhai (brother) was conferred on him by the Sikhs because despite being a Hindu he was elected President of the Sikh Students Federation, given the Robe of Honour by the SGPC, an honorary doctorate by Guru Nanak Dev University and last year conferred the Nishan-e-Khalsa at Anandpur for his services to the Khalsa Panth. I do not know of any other living person who is both Hindu and Sikh, both Indian and American.

Bhai Harbans Lal, though a scientist, is deeply into religion. A couple of weeks ago he was in India and on his way to the airport to catch his flight back to the States, he dropped in to see me. With him was a kindred soul, Captain Mohan Singh Kohli, who after retiring from the Navy took to mountain climbing. He was the leader of the team which put nine Indians on top of Mount Everest. He also received the Nishan-e-Khalsa, the same time as Harbans Lal. He joined Air India and introduced expedition tourism. He is working on his autobiography. Just as Harbans Lal combines science and faith, Mohan Kohli combines physical fitness with faith.

‘‘We will be with you for exactly 45 minutes,’’ Kohli told me on the phone. So they were: he arrived on the dot and departed on the dot. Kohli did most of the talking, reminiscing about his feats of endurance and mountaineers he had befriended. He does that every time he comes to see me. By contrast Harbans Lal hardly spoke of his achievements and only talked about his future plans. ‘‘In a few years we will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the completion of the Adi Granth. I am going to persuade scholars of religion to write on different themes dealt within our scriptures like Sewa (service), status of the guru, status of women, preservation of environment

— and that sort of thing. Our Granth Sahib is a treasure house of wisdom, Sikhs have made into an idol to worship, they drape it in fineries, put it to bed at night, rouse it in the mornings, take it out in processions, hire granthis to read it but rarely, if ever, bother with its meaning. We must broadcast its message to the world.’’

I listened to their discourses with much respect but felt like an outsider in their august company.

I’m the boss

A boss was complaining at a staff meeting the other day that he wasn’t getting any respect. Later that morning he went to a local sign shop and bought a small sign that read, ‘‘I’m the boss’’. He then taped it to his office door.

Later that day when he returned from lunch, he found that someone had taped a note to the sign that said: ‘‘Your wife called, she wants her sign back!’’

What is globalisation?

When an English princess along with her Egyptian boyfriend, crashes in a French tunnel driving a German car with a Dutch engine, driven by a Belgian driver, who was high on Scottish whiskey, followed closely by Italian paparazzi, treated by an American doctor, using Brazilian medicines, dies!

(Contributed by Amir Tuteja, Washington)