Earlier this month, another Muslim man was beaten to death by a Hindu mob who suspected him of stealing a cow, the fourth time in six weeks that such a tragedy has occurred. I wrote about the first of these recent incidents, which was followed by another beating and then the bombing of a truck believed to be carrying beef—the young Muslim driver, most of his body burned, died days after the attack.
Where the hell is all this coming from? Where’s the logic in saving a cow and taking another life in the process?
Interestingly, I had these questions answered by an angry woman who wrote to me after seeing the cover of my book.
“For my intents and purposes here, I will only be addressing one of the offenses in your new book,” she began her letter, which I was truly grateful to receive. After all, my book is meant to be provocative. “There are others who will do their duties to address other errors and appropriations you make, I am certain—and reveal your adharma masquerading as dharma. Here, I will ask you to explain one specific thing: your rationale for holding up a piece of beef on the cover.”
She goes on to site scriptural support for the cow’s sanctity and the absolute abomination of killing one of these creatures, adding that verse 10.87.16 of the Rig Veda “prescribes severe punishment for the person who kills a cow. The Atharva Veda recommends beheading (8.3.16) for such a crime…”. She ends by saying that “you should also offer an apology for the offense you’ve caused to Hindus and all other followers of the Vedas for your callous treatment of the sacred.”
While I have the utmost respect for sacred texts, I’m just going to call it: This is nonsense.
Worse yet, it’s just this type of attitude that leads to the tragedies in India—and Paris. And Mali. And New York and Washington on September 11. While I don’t think this woman is going to decapitate me with the flaming sword of the fire god (a more complete translation of one of her cited verses), she did threaten me based on a fanatical reading of an old book. Instead of waving a Koran or a Bible, she was Veda thumping, and it’s easy to see the progression from the pulpit to the cockpit.
We’ve seen this type of mad behavior throughout history when petty, bureaucratic minds attempt to imprison mystic experience in the straitjacket of religion. Jesus, himself, exhorted people to follow the spirit of the law as opposed to the letter, because adherence to the letter leaves us with a lot of bloodless scholars arguing over how many angels can fit on the head of a pin and sending young men off to kill and be killed because of the answer.
Personally, I don’t mind being called adharmic. Honestly, I kind of like it, but that’s because I think that anyone who believes they have the answers about righteousness is someone to avoid at all costs. I’d rather throw my hat into the ring with the bad kids than the prissy goody-goodies so intent on getting a gold star from God that they miss the heavenly universe spinning inside them. And in everyone else.
My greatest beef with extremists everywhere, be they ravening mobs or rabid white yoga practitioners, is that in the scuffle over textual correctness they denigrate the very thing they profess to believe in: God. I would be stunned if God gives a flying fuck about what we eat, or whether or not we have a vagina, or how we’re having sex, or what kinds of fibers are woven into our clothes, or if we have no legs or a shriveled arm. That kind of thinking is just a human projection of what we want God to be versus a life devoted to exploring what God is.
Besides, if God is that prissy, patriarchal, sex-phobic drill instructor that the world’s holy books (invariably written by men in power) profess “Him” to be, cut off my head and send me straight to hell, because that’s where the holy people are.
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