The acclaimed movie and the TV series “Fargo” starts with a disclaimer –“The events are based on a true story.” This adds an element of tension to an already gripping narrative. However, last week, I suddenly found out that this was not necessarily true. But after a moment’s disappointment, I thought whether it really mattered if the events were true or not. It was still a gripping narrative.
I was in a flight with one of my oldest friends, waiting for it to take off. I was glad for his company. We could even resume conversations from two years ago. It was all great till he started saying, “Did you know that Brahma has mentioned the multiverse i.e., the concept of many parallel universes in the Puranas? And then 20th-century scientists agreed that there indeed could be a multiverse?” Of course, he never cited any sources.
I asked him how could the Puranas have mentioned the multiverse? They didn’t know about these things back then.
As we had some drinks, my friend went on, “Did you know that the distance between India and Sri Lanka is mentioned in the Ramayana. And do you know it turned out to be the exact number of kilometres as the actual distance between the two places? Doesn’t that make you think?” I thought to myself what exactly the point of this conversation was. Was he trying to prove that claims in Indian mythology have a scientific basis? Just for a moment, I found it tempting to go on a tirade about the stranglehold of religion on our populace and how we use pseudo-science to prove myths true. But then I thought what if I agreed that all his points were valid?
So, I turned to my friend and said, “You know what? I agree that the Puranas story proved Brahma exists and so does the multiverse. But doesn’t that make you think? How is it relevant to your life in any way? Did you learn anything valuable from this? If you accept the concept of the multiverse, what does it make you think about the morality of your actions, or how you should live your life? Because isn’t that what religion is supposed to be all about? Isn’t religion really just about faith? How does scientific evidence even matter?
“If you believe in Rama’s teachings, whether he was a God and whether the Ramayana actually happened should be totally irrelevant to your faith. Why do you need proof of the divinity of Jesus to believe in him? If you believe in Jesus, whether he really walked on water or not is largely irrelevant. But here’s the deal. A few years from now, even Gandhi may be projected as a God in history books. Maybe they would say that he had mystical powers and at his one glance, hordes of barbarians decided to give up on violence. It would be an easy sell. He would have furious followers and detractors. But the only thing that matters is his teachings.”
I am reminded of “The Da Vinci Code”. Towards the end, Sophie wonders if they would ever get empirical proof of her being related to Mary Magdalene. Robert Langdon says, “But Sophie, the only thing that matters is what you believe.”
The point is simple. Whether people had the internet during the Mahabharata or not is frankly irrelevant. Because it doesn’t matter whether the message came from God or from an irritating WhatsApp forward.
What matters is the message you choose to believe in and imbibe.