Book Review – Warpaint of the Gods, by Nila Sagadevan
by Suresh Ariaratnam
Associate Editor, The Times of London
Warpaint Of The Gods
By Nila Sagadevan
It is commonplace nowadays to see t-shirts emblazoned with all manner of logos and phrases, their pithy witticisms and corporate brands acting as shortcut revelations to the wearer’s persona.
I suspect that were Nila Sagadevan inclined to wear a t-shirt it would most likely read ‘Lord Save Me From Your Followers,’ a statement that given his belief in a Creator would identify him as a man of good-humoured perspicacity. In a global climate ridden by religion-fuelled violence it would also establish him as an iconoclast swimming upstream against popular belief.
In Warpaint of the Gods Sagadevan draws attention to the paradox of a single God in a world where so much murder is committed in the various names of the Creator.
He argues succinctly that this divisive ‘me and them’ mentality inherent in all of the major belief systems is due to the layers of man-made dogma that have encrusted the original teachings of love and compassion that underlie all religions.
His exhortation to the reader to apply their own minds and hearts in forging a personal relationship with God has noble precedents and this is highlighted in the thoughts and sayings of votaries like Gandhi (‘God has no religion’) that accompany the author’s text.
Reading Warpaint of the Gods I was reminded of an essay by Alan Watts who helped to bring Buddhism to the United States in the 1950s.
In the essay entitled The Finger and the Moon, Watts remarks that doctrine and religion are like the aforementioned digit that points at the moon, which in turn is what we are prone to calling God.
What is important is that we neither confuse the pointing Finger for the moon nor that we spend too much time suckling at the finger when we should be looking at the moon.
Similarly Sagadevan emphasises how religious differences occur not so much because of a multitude of Gods but because of the myriad ways in which we interpret, Its Being.
To use Watt’s analogy, it is as if we are all standing around pointing towards the sky, declaiming to each other that ‘don’t you understand? There is the moon, certainly not what you are pointing at.’
With a professional background as an aeronautical engineer and a pilot, Sagadevan is well placed to lift his pen’s scope beyond the earthly and does just that in his consideration of the possibility of life elsewhere in this “celestial ocean.”
He asks what the ramifications would be on our religious identities that we cherish so much were we to come into contact with extra-terrestrial life. Here references to the Green Bank equation and Bohm’s Theory of Implicate Order ensure that these are not unfounded ruminations.
In Warpaint of the Gods Sagadevan successfully uses both secular and religious approaches to argue convincingly for a paradigm shift in how we approach spirituality.
By doing so he in turn asks the reader to examine their own faith and decide whether or not they are following a true path to God or merely a refracted image.