By Suma Varughese
The terror attacks in Mumbai have left the country shaken, coming as they have on the heels of a series of attacks across the country. How can spirituality help us to accept and transcend the perils of our time?”
Hatred does not cease through hatred at any time. Hatred ceases through love. This is an unalterable law – The Buddha
I suddenly saw what witness consciousness was in the middle of great action. I had no conception of myself as a victim. Once, I began to stabilise, I recognised the amount of love that surrounded me. Today, I weep with gratitude.”
The speaker is Michael Rudder, one of the victims of the terrorist attack that overwhelmed Mumbai on November 26, 2008. Rudder was staying at the Hotel Oberoi, together with 25 others who had come down from the USA with meditation teacher and founder of Synchronicity, Master Charles (whose interview we had carried in November 2007 under the title Modern Mystic), for a series of satsangs and workshops.
Rudder, along with five others, including Alan Scherr, vice-president of Synchronicity (who I had often been in touch with for quotes from Master Charles), were dining at the ill-fated restaurant called Tiffin when the gunmen opened fire. Rudder received four bullet shots, including one on his bottom (which he called with irrepressible spirit, a rude shot). Alan and his teenage daughter, Naomi, were both shot dead. Two other women at the table were also shot, though not fatally. A tragedy of the most profound nature. And yet, seen from another angle, a salutary lesson on the power of the spirit to overcome and convert a crushing and painful event into an occasion for gratitude and growth.
Rudder explains that his consciousness was light even during the gruesome slaughter. As he lay in a pool of blood, he asked himself how much time he had to live and tried to come to terms with his death. Eventually, he gingerly dragged himself to one of the waiters’ exit doors and found that despite his multiple injuries he could walk. He escaped outside and was helped into a taxi by a policeman and driven by a terrified cabbie to the Bombay Hospital. A series of operations was instantly undertaken to remove his bullets and stitch him up. Now healing, the joyous Rudder (58) an actor and film director based in Canada, says that this event has lifted his consciousness to a higher level and that henceforth all he wants to do is help raise human consciousness.
One can talk about the necessity of using the negative to create the positive, to give love for hate, to turn the other cheek, and other spiritual precepts till the cows come home, but it is only when one sees them practised that one recognises the tremendous power and strength of these principles.
Three weeks after the terror attacks, our usually resilient Mumbai is still buckling under an avalanche of anger, fear and horror. Over it all hang the questions, what is happening? Why is everything collapsing around us? Is there a future at all?
Only three issues back, in the October 2008 issue of Life Positive, we talked about 2012 and how we are inexorably moving towards this point in human history. 2012 heralds the beginning of a brave new world in which spiritual values will prevail, giving rise to oneness, peace, love and harmony.
However, that is a good three years away, and in the meantime we are ankle-deep in the detritus of the old age. The present world order, based on separateness, external conquest, conflict and competition is imploding under the weight of its own contradictions. Capitalism, which ran through the world’s scarce resources, destroyed the environment, and made stress into a global pandemic, is now collapsing, and no amount of bail-outs will stem this outcome. Food prices are on the rise as a denuded earth refuses to yield fruits. The steady demonisation of one community has in many ways created the global spectre of terrorism.
Should we not rejoice that this unjust, ignorant and exploitative culture is self-destructing? Should we not look forward to the chance life is offering us to begin anew? But perhaps you are one of those who have been laid off, or have lost money in the stock exchange. You could also have been wounded in a terrorist attack or lost a loved one. What comfort do we have for you? Only this. In the coming years all of us will suffer to a greater or lesser extent. We have to reap the fruits of our collective karma for we all had a part to play in perpetuating this culture. Perhaps like me, you kept using plastic bags even though you knew that it was choking the environment. Perhaps your livelihood was not in the best interest of mankind. Perhaps you drove a vehicle and added to the pollution choking the cities. Let us accept our karma, and embrace the opportunity life offers us to void it.
Reap good from bad
There is no guarantee that simply because we are seekers we will be spared. Alan was a meditator and his young daughter was only 15. Yet, we can draw comfort from his wife Kia’s comment at a press conference in the US. She had no hatred for the terrorists, she added. She forgave them. Her words fall upon the world like balm on a wound. How much negativity she must have siphoned away by that single statement. This is the benefit of being a seeker. Spirituality teaches us to employ the alchemical talent of making good come out of bad. If all of us can learn to do this assiduously in the coming days, whenever disaster threatens or affects us or one of our loved ones, we will have fulfilled our responsibility to the times and brought the New Age closer.
In every way, we are going to need the benefit of spirituality in the coming years. Take the issue of terrorism itself. Tempting though it is to react with anger and vindictiveness, spirituality teaches us the danger of doing so, for the more we react, the more anger and hate we will spread in the world, and the more of it we will reap. That we create our reality is a fundamental spiritual tenet, and if we want a world free of terrorism, we will have to create it. Surprisingly, many of those who have been directly affected by the terrorism, either by having a family member injured or held captive, or by having endured the attacks themselves, seem to have recognised this truth, and are responding wisely.
One person called Romil Parikh, whose father was shot at by terrorists at Hotel Oberoi, but fortunately escaped with minor injuries, writes in an email forward, “Do not preach violence and war without first understanding its true nature. I spent two nights hearing the guns and grenades going off from outside the hotel and imagined my father in there… We must not let our passions take control of us and become the very same demons that held our city hostage.”
He further adds, “To the people of Pakistan… I know that you have been victims of terror too and I pray to God that you have the strength and clarity to face the demons that exist in your country… never forget that we were once one proud nation and the same breed of men split us apart. We are with you in body, heart and spirit.” Such a clear-headed and compassionate response is what we need in these fevered times when many are campaigning to wage a war with Pakistan.
And if you ask, what are we supposed to do with our feelings of anger, frustration and so on, spirituality has the answer to that too. Become aware of these feelings within you and take custody of them. They belong to you and nobody else, and you need to handle them within yourself through the process of ‘acceptance and experience’. Only then, will we reach the stage of coping with situations without spraying unwanted emotions all over the place.
Gautam Sachdeva, head of Yogi Impressions, a spiritual publishing house, discovered the value of his spiritual practices during the recent terror attacks. Yogi Impressions had joined hands with Synchronicity to bring down Master Charles and his group, and therefore the attacks involved him intimately. Gautam, his mother and sisters, did not sleep on the night of the 26th. Master Charles, who was cooped in his room with one other follower, had a local mobile and every one hour, he called them for updates. Then they got news of the carnage at Tiffin and the family rushed to Bombay Hospital. Says Gautam, “While it was going on, there was no time to respond but I thought that after it was all over, the mind would react and replay. Strangely, there was little or no resistance. The questions of why them, why did it happen, did not come up.
“The evening satsangs had been so beautiful, so full of love, reverence and respect and what happened after that was the polar opposite. It became so clear to me that life holds both pleasure and pain and you do not know what the next moment will bring forth. My sister Nikki and I were greatly helped by calling up Eckhart Tolle. I told him that staying in his teachings was like being in cement, one felt so grounded.”
He also lauds all the members of Synchronicity for their enormous equanamity . Says he, “Linda Ragdale, a writer of children’s books, told me that she knew that she was destined to go through this. She was sure the whole sequence of events was orchestrated by God. Master Charles too, said something I will never forget at a press conference. He said, ‘It’s very clear to me that it was an experience whose time had come.’”
When Gautam asked Master Charles what he went through during the hours he spent at the Oberoi waiting to be rescued by the NSG, he said, “Each time fear arose, I got the message, ‘Trust and watch.’”
These are signal lessons we can take away with us. Spirituality teaches us that there is a Higher Power running our lives and whatever comes to us, comes through that Power. Therefore what we are destined for, will happen. And contrarily, what we are not destined for, will not happen.
This means we can shed our fear and caution and walk freely into the world. There is no point in wondering if a terrorist attack will get us or not. If it is meant to, it will, and nothing will stop it. If it is not meant to, it will not, and nothing will make it happen. So worry not. We need to simply walk through each moment of life, knowing that our lives are determined by destiny. And whatever happens is meant for our highest welfare.
The other spiritual truth we can employ for these times is that there are no guarantees in life. There never were. All we have custody of is our present breath. Even the next one is forfeit. We need to be grateful, therefore, that this truth now confronts us in its stark reality. If we can truly experience this truth, we will be enlightened, for we will naturally settle into the present moment, which is all we have power over.
And finally and most importantly, we need to work on ourselves. Spirituality teaches us that the purpose of human existence is growth and that every situation and experience is a teacher come to hone and shape us into greater perfection and wholeness. What the terrorism attacks teach us is to uproot our own anger, hate, envy, resentment, violence and everything else we saw reflected in the attacks. During the freedom struggle, each time a group of people gave in to violence, Mahatma Gandhi would fast, not, as many assumed, to manipulate them to change their ways, but to purify himself and uproot the weakness within him that was reflected in the outside world. That is total responsibility.
These are times that try our soul. We can either sink into a morass of fear, panic, anger and frustration or we can heed its clarion call and rise to greatness. What is it to be?
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