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The Divine Dimension of Man - by Asif Zaidi

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Unlike, for instance, the terrestrial flow of water that never rises above its source, the river of human life constantly endeavours to rise beyond its source.

A young hero like Aitzaz Hasan who gives away his life in a bid to save other children in the school is running opposite all biological impulses in him. The biological instinct ingrained in human life is to save and preserve oneself, but there is an inexplicable heroism in the deeds like the one of Aitzaz Hassan who is willing to throw away his only life in an attempt  to save others. Many a great men in the human history have abdicated and renounced their right to this life in order that some higher cause might prevail. Consider in this context the cases of Jesus and of martyrs of Karbala. Judged by worldly standards, giving up one’s life or having one’s thirsty body slashed to death by swords and spears did not seem to be an attractive bargain at all. And yet these men of truth act with the fire of their soul and testify, by giving away their life, that eternal glory awaits those who sacrifice themselves for the consummation of a noble purpose after their life. These are some of the illustrations of human experience which show that the life in man is capable of rising beyond its own plateau. The heroes among us always seem to be swimming up the stream against the flow of biological impulses.

Now the fact that this happens tends to manifest that man has an instinctive awareness of right from wrong. Otherwise we cannot explain why some people, for the sake of speaking the truth, are prepared to invite the ridicule upon themselves. There are men who are willing to stake all they have –their riches, their honour, their reputation, their family, and their own lives- in order to uphold their capacity for speaking truth and doing justice. These are men who regardless of the odds, wish to live good lives and are prepared to pay all costs to fight evil. While a tyrant is surrounded by perfidious sycophants, there are some people who always utter the truth to him. These are manifestations of man’s ingrained capacity to rise beyond the life’s source, in so doing presenting evidence of man’s moral capacity to go beyond its current ground. While earth’s gravitation pulls downwards, there is a pull that draws the life of man upwards and responding to that pull man transcends himself to fulfil a higher law. That is his real ascension.


The imperative of a moral life is such that even an immoral person is always trying to justify his acts to himself in order to be able to suppress the guilt inside himself. Even a confirmed criminal does not admit his real role even to himself or to those whom he truly loves. Despite being aware that he is a rascal he, deep down in his heart says: “indeed this only is a minor aspect of my life, otherwise I am a good fellow.” He knows that he is lying but he still feels obliged to take a false position against himself. This, therefore, is the mystery of man’s moral life that somehow even the evildoer acknowledges integrity as a superior value. Why is evil obliged to constantly pay this compliment to the good? Because there is the flame of an enduring goodness caged somewhere in the inner being of a man. We all know Gates, Bono, and Edhi, and we all know who developed Penicillin. But there are countless unsung heroes all round us in our societies who constantly participate in helping human life surge past its source. For example, the guy who invented seatbelts or the bloke who invented air bags. We can go through a countless list here. Do we know their names? I don’t. Yet, they have saved numerous lives and prevented incalculable disabilities till eternity.

Against all odds, there are men who are driven to do the good. No matter what the price, the best among the humanity are committed to their code of honour. A man’s inner state has its own rule. One may be wealthy and may possess all material things he desires and yet be unhappy. It seems that the longings of flesh cannot satisfy the basic urge of life. Without corresponding inner fulfilment, acquisition of riches becomes like drinking saline water, the more you drink, the more are you thirsty. Haven’t we all, in our experience, come across people who are miserable although they have everything the wealth can buy. This probably was the experience that urged Prince Siddhartha to give up all he had in order to find the answer for the suffering he saw around him. The Big question remains, “what am I here for?” Unfortunately, we do not easily find the reply, and when the question is raised but the reply is not found man struggles to know what to do with himself. After all it is not what we have, but what we are that is important. What we have we may lose anytime, but what we are is ours for ever – often in death too. When that is the case, then we don’t need a prophet to come to tell us that in which we are lacking, creating a void that gnaws at our soul, will not be supplied by that which we are trying to grab.

This hunger to search for truth and the everlasting peace within, to me, is the Divine Dimension of man’s being. An open spirit and humility, above all, inculcate this divine dimension. I have an analogy to describe closed-minded people –like religious fanatics- obsessed with one idea in exclusion to all else. It is like a state of dream consciousness that includes seeing things as real at the time when we are in a dream-state. It is impossible to convince a person while he is dreaming that he is dreaming, isn’t it? In such a state it is not possible even to communicate with him. He has to first wake up in order for us to have any chance to convince him that he was dreaming. I think many human waking-lives are not much different. Only when we really wake up, we see the unreality and illusoriness of what we thought was real. Divine dimension, when enkindled, enables man to wake up in a life that is real. To be awakened, to be enlightened, to be inspired, to be transformed – is the divine dimension of human experience on this earth.

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