Life of Pi
How we cite our quotes:
Brahman saguna is Brahman made manifest to our limited senses, Brahman expressed not only in gods but in humans, animals, trees, in a handful of earth, for everything has a trace of the divine in it. The truth of life is that Brahman is no different from atman, the spiritual force within us, what you might call the soul. [...]. The finite within the infinite, the infinite within the finite. If you ask me how Brahman and atman relate precisely, I would say in the same way the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit relate: mysteriously. (1.16.3)
Said another way: The soul calls to God, and God calls to the soul. Although Pi relates here a tenet of his Hindu faith, his other two religious callings share this principle of divine intersection. In fact, much of the book builds toward these electric meetings between atman and Brahman (see Themes: Spirituality 2.85.6). We could also say much of the book – its degradations and tragedies – disrupt atman and Brahman. But isn't suffering, for Pi, a way to the divine?
But we should not cling! A plague upon fundamentalists and literalists! I am reminded of a story of Lord Krishna when he was a cowherd. Every night he invites the milkmaids to dance with him in the forest. They come and they dance. The night is dark, the fire in their midst roars and crackles, the beat of the music gets ever faster – the girls dance and dance and dance with their sweet lord, who has made himself so abundant as to be in the arms of each and every girl. But the moment the girls become possessive, the moment each one imagines that Krishna is her partner alone, he vanishes. So it is that we should not be jealous with God. (1.16.5)
Pi remains unattached to any one interpretation of God. Sure, he believes each religion – but he doesn't guard their specific tenets jealously. Pi shares a rich parable: Each time the milkmaids try to possess Krishna he vanishes. Likewise, each time a religious faith tries to claim sole ownership of God, true religion vanishes. This story reveals a few of the workings of Pi's complex religious beliefs. You may have wondered how anyone could ever hold Hindu, Christian, and Muslim beliefs all at once. Pi's answer: without a trace of jealousy.
I know a woman here in Toronto who is very dear to my heart. [...]. Though she has lived in Toronto for over thirty years, her French-speaking mind still slips on occasion on the understanding of English sounds. And so, when she first heard of Hare Krishnas, she didn't hear right. She heard "Hairless Christians", and that is what they were to her for many years. When I corrected her, I told her that in fact she was not so wrong; that Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims. (1.16.6)
Aw, isn't this cute? Pi charms the socks off everyone with this story. Pi uses his friend's mishearing to lay out one of his essential beliefs: Hindus, Muslims, and Christians are really all the same except for small differences in the practice of their faith. Hindus have a great capacity for love; Muslims see God in everything; and Christians are quite devout.