by Dr. Khalid Sohail




One evening when Darvesh returned to his hut after a long walk he was pleasantly surprised to see his friends were already waiting for him. They felt so comfortable in his modest hut that they had served themselves tea and made a cup for him too. They knew the doors of Darvesh’s hut and heart were always open for them.

Darvesh brought his special long and rounded pillow, put it next to the wall and joined the circle of friends on the straw floor. As he was sipping tea suddenly everybody became silent out of respect for him. He smiled in a graceful way with his smiling eyes.

“ You need not be quiet” he said in his affectionate and charming voice.

“What were you people discussing before I came into the hut?”

“We were asking each other what was the fundamental difference between Humans and Animals?” one Student of Philosophy stated who loved those meetings, as they were heart warming and intellectually stimulating.

“That is an interesting question. I would love to hear your answers.” Darvesh encouraged the dialogue to continue. He knew that his friends came to listen to him but he always tried to encourage them to share their own thoughts. He believed dialogue was more precious than a monologue that can easily become a sermon.

Darvesh looked at his Scientist friend who was visiting from the United States and was well respected for his articles about Darwin’s theory of Evolution. He stated in a very calm, cool and collected manner, “ Human beings can think logically, rationally and objectively. Animals do not have thoughts, they just have instincts.”

“That is an interesting thought” Darvesh responded. “I wonder whether Animals have thoughts like Humans, they are just not aware of them. Animals know but human beings know that they know. Let’s ask the poet’s opinion.” Darvesh looked at his Poet friend who was very popular because of his Urdu ghazals and Punjabi poems.

The Poet stared into space for a few seconds and then said, “ Human beings have a language that Animals do not have. That is why Humans have used their imagination and created poetry, fiction, folktales and scriptures.”

Darvesh looked at the Poet friend and responded, “ Maybe you mean written language. Language is communication and maybe animals can communicate in a non-verbal way. I have seen ants and bees communicating in a non-verbal language doing wonders. Even silence can communicate volumes and sometimes silence can communicate more than words. Unfortunately written language can be misunderstood and words can be misinterpreted leading to breakdown of communication. Some people use words to conceal rather than reveal themselves.”

Suddenly Darvesh saw a Priest sitting in the corner. He was always nervous as free thinkers and intellectuals made fun of him. But Darvesh welcomed him in his hut as much as the intellectuals as he was a sincere friend and an honest follower of his ideals.

‘And what is your opinion?” Darvesh asked the Priest.

The Priest stuttered for a few seconds and then said, “ Human Beings can pray to God. Animals don’t pray as they do not have a concept of God.”

Suddenly the Comedian friend started laughing and said,

“ Can I say something?”

“Go ahead.” Darvesh gave his blessing.

“I think the biggest difference between Animals and Humans is that Humans can laugh and laugh loud, the belly laugh. I have never heard any animal laugh. As far as prayers are concerned my Psychiatrist friend told me a joke. He said, “ When Humans talk to God we call it prayers but when God starts talking back, we call it Schizophrenia. Since animals don’t talk to God and God does not talk back to them, Animals do not suffer from Schizophrenia. Maybe that is the fundamental difference between Humans and Animals.”

While everybody was smiling quite amused the Comedian said, “ Let me ask you a riddle.

“What did the insomniac, agnostic, dyslexic say in the middle of the night?”

While everybody was looking at him anxiously, he blurted out, “ The answer is, “Is there a DOG?”

Some people seemed offended by the off colour joke and the riddle as they had a sophisticated sense of humour. Darvesh tried to bring back the dialogue to a serious note so he asked his Psychologist friend,

“What is your opinion about prayers?’

The Psychologist scratched his head and said, “ Our Priest friend has a religious perspective as he believes in God and Prophets and Scriptures and Religion but there is also a secular perspective. Twentieth Century Psychologists think that we can study spirituality as part of humanity and not part of divinity. They call those encounters Peak Experiences and Humans can have those experiences even when they do not believe in God and Prophets and Scriptures and Religions. Humans have those experiences when their Right Brains are stimulated. They believe that Poets and Prophets have very active Right Brains.”

“But what is your own opinion Darvesh?’ A young woman asked who had been sitting quietly and patiently for the longest time. She was an Artist and loved to paint Darvesh’s portraits. She had been charmed by Darvesh, “I come here to listen to you.” She said in a stern voice. Her comment sent an uneasy wave through the room.

“In my opinion” Darvesh said, “ Humans have far more freedom than Animals. But that freedom is a mixed blessing. Because of that freedom they have choices, a choice to achieve enlightenment and also a choice to commit suicide. It can be a personal suicide with a gun or overdose of pills or a collective suicide by atomic bombs, wars and genocide.” The young woman was pleased to hear Darvesh’s opinion.  She believed she could get out of Darvesh what others could not. Others wondered about the nature of her relationship with Darvesh but kept quiet out of respect. They knew women were drawn to his charming magnetic personality. They were not sure whether it was an animal or a spiritual magnetism. They wondered whether he was a saint or a sinner. Some thought he was both.

“And what do you think?” Darvesh wanted to give her special attention and did not want her to feel isolated in predominantly male company.

“ I am a mother and when I gave birth to my son, I felt like a goddess. I realized I could give birth to life. I do not see much difference between Animals and Humans. The differences are much smaller than similarities. We are all children of Mother Nature. Humans are distant cousins of rocks and trees and birds and fish and Animals. We sometimes forget that we are all here on planet Earth for a short time. Since men are unable to create babies and life they suffer from the inferiority complex and try to compensate by giving birth to sterile ideas and philosophies and religions. They have limited capacity to love so they get violent and have holy wars. Women have no need to do that. There is not a single woman in the whole human history that was so deluded to call herself a Prophet and declare that she talked to God. Women were always humble trying their best to serve their children and their communities as mothers and teachers and nurses. They never created Religions and fought holy wars. Men are the ones who are conceited and arrogant as they have big EGOS.”

While the woman was talking another friend of Darvesh came into the hut. He was a Political Activist who had spent a few years in jail in Pakistan as he had challenged Islamic Sharia during Zia-ul-Haq’s military regime. Everybody became silent. Darvesh asked him to come and sit close to him.

“Where are you coming from?” Darvesh asked.

“From a seminar.” He responded sitting next to Darvesh.

“What was the topic?”


“ What did the speakers say?”

“ Some were Atheists who stated that we cannot prove God logically. Some were Believers who stated that we cannot logically prove that God does not exist. Some talked about teleological and cosmological arguments that were as clear as mud. And then there were agnostics who sat on the fence.”

“What is your view about agnostics?” Darvesh asked.

“To me they seem emotionally confused and intellectually lazy.”

“And what about the audience?
          “ They were passionate in their responses. Many people expressed their opinions:

One existentialist said “GOD EXISTS BECAUSE I DO”.

One Psychologist stated, “God is a Santa Claus of humanity. It is a nice illusion”.

One Anthropologist shared, “ God is part of world mythology. God is an abstract metaphor not a concrete reality.”

One Naturalist mentioned, “God is Nature and nature is God. God is laws of nature.”


One Mystic said, “ God is everywhere, in here, out there. God is our guts, our conscience. God is enlightenment. We have to experience God and not think about God.”

At the end of the seminar a woman stood up and started crying. She said she was devastated to see so many Muslims becoming atheists and agnostics and free thinkers. She was afraid they would all burn in hell. As we were leaving the hall she was praying for all atheists loudly”.

“And what is your opinion about God, Darvesh?” the new friend asked.

“ I like the philosophy of Buddha. He preferred not to discuss God as he believed such discussions would cause more confusion than clarity. He said it is important for all of us to know what not to do and what not to talk about. He said we needed to know ourselves to become better human beings to serve humanity so that we can all achieve inner and outer peace and harmony. Heated discussions and passionate dialogues might create more conflict than harmony if they are not done in good conscience with the goal of learning.

I met a Psychotherapist friend who told me he used dialogues in therapy to heal people. He said psychotherapy is healing with words and silences. It is a discipline in which the Socrates tradition of dialogue is merged with Buddha’s tradition of silence and meditation. An experienced therapist knows when to talk and when to listen, when to speak and when to be quiet.  When I asked the psychotherapist ‘Why do people who do not believe in God has such a need to talk about God?” he smiled and said,

“ When people grow up in religious families and communities some of them are penalized, punished and persecuted. They are religiously abused. And we need to help them keep on talking until they are healed. If you do not let them talk and discuss they might get violent.”

“So for me” Darvesh said” Buddha’s silence is the end and not the beginning of the journey. Sometimes we have to go through the road of passionate dialogue to reach the destination of peaceful silence. Some of us need a therapist to get there a wise psychotherapist is like a good teacher and guru who listens to his students and disciples and helps them listen to themselves. And when people are able to listen to their own silences then they get in touch with truth.”

“And what do you mean by truth. Do you mean Personal truth or Ultimate truth?” the Artist woman asked one more time as she was blushing.

Darvesh was silent for the longest time and then said, “This is the most difficult question to answer. But I will try to answer it indirectly. I think truth was revealed to Humanity by five great personalities, by five great men of Jewish tradition.

The first one was Moses. He said, “The most important thing Humans have is their Head. It is our intelligence that is significant. We need to use it wisely.”

The second one was Jesus. He shared, “ The most important thing Humans have is their Heart. We need to be caring and loving and forgiving and compassionate.”

The third one was Marx. He stated, “The most important reality is our Stomach. Our hunger is the guiding force and is linked with economics and labour. Hungry people can bring revolutions. We need to create Just societies so that we can have paradise on earth and not wait for the life after death. We all know that religion is the opium of the masses”

The fourth one was Freud. He shared in his free association, “The biggest reality are our genitals. It is our sexuality that gives birth to love. If it is repressed it creates neuroses and Religion is a Universal Neurosis because it gives birth to the concepts of sin and guilt and hell. Sex is the ultimate reality. All the rest is rationalization.”

Finally the fifth one came. His name was Einstein. He listened to all the other four and said, “It is all relative.”

“So, dear friends” Darvesh said with his graceful smile, “ There are as many truths as there are human beings.”

As it was getting late his friends wanted to go home. Darvesh kissed his friends on their foreheads, hugged the Artist and said, “You know the doors of my heart and hut are always open to you. You are always welcome here.”                                     

Khalid Sohail

October 15th, 2005






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