Antidote to the virus of terror

by Mamta Kailkhura

The resilience of India is on test yet again even as her people reel in another phase of fear, sorrow and anger following the latest serial blasts in Mumbai on July 13, 2011. India, from government to the man on the street, reacted to the attack with confusion and helplessness. Tragically, the national anger could find no constructive direction and ultimately fizzled out into a vicious circle of blame game. From government to security establishment, from media to intellectuals, from the aggressor to the victim, there is always someone to be blamed.

By transferring the responsibility of safety of the nation and its citizens from the individual to the collective – the state and its leadership, the average citizen has wantonly become a victim who helplessly witnesses the inevitable regularity of terror attacks.

Who will show us the way? Is all lost? Not at all, for this country has a vast power of resilience powered by its spiritual roots. And that’s what Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and The Art of Living have been doing all over the world ever since organized terror raised its ugly head on that fateful day of 9/11.

Combating terrorism

"We do relief operations after every major disaster around the world, helping people overcome physical and mental trauma for such disasters, but that’s not enough in the long run. There is a need to have more people ready to combat such assaults,” says Sangeeta Gujarati from International Association for Human Values, a humanitarian organization founded by Sri Sri acclaimed for its immediate relief and rehabilitation work around the world. "That’s why alongside immediate relief, Sri Sri has focused on educating masses about the root causes of terrorism and empowering them to effectively take pro active action individually and collectively,” adds Mala, who worked post the Mumbai terror attack in 2008."

For 30 years, The Art of Living has been working for a stress-free mind and violence-free society through its self development courses, multi-cultural global events and conferences. Recently, The World Culture Festival in Berlin (July 2 & 3, 2011) brought together people from all cultures and religions from over a hundred countries. And when it celebrated its Silver Jubilee five years ago, people from 150 countries, including leaders from all major religions of the world came together and celebrated just as members of a large global family do.

"Only a genuine feeling of oneness among people of the world can put an end to terrorism inspired by fundamentalist elements,” says Radhika Prabhu, from the US who taught trauma relief courses post 9/11 in New York. Teaching people to take individual responsibility for the collective good has been one of the key teachings of Sri Sri. Much before the global terrorism raised its head, he has been empowering people to take responsibility of their society instead of waiting for it to be given.

Channelizing anger into dynamic action for recovery

This enthusiasm for social responsibility is what pushes The Art of Living volunteers to action after any major disaster around the world, including all major terror attacks in India and abroad. These interventions that have included immediate material relief and long term rehabilitation have not only helped people overcome their pain and trauma, but also strengthened their resolve to stand in action against terrorism and other evils such as corruption.

A key aspect of this movement for social transformation is ensuring that people do not react out of anger in the aftermath of a disaster. The Art of Living has focused on channelizing the dynamic energy for the betterment of society rather than letting it turn into violent and divisive responses.

Spirituality has helped several militants and jail inmates give up aggression and lead a reformed life. Pranayama and meditation are effective in releasing negative emotions and anger.

Sri Sri also constantly travels around the world and works to facilitate dialogues among people whose ideologies are at loggerheads. From bringing Imams and Rabbis together and search for the commonness in Islam and Judaism, to uniting rival communities in the aftermath of communal conflicts, he has been working to make people see the thread of humanity that ties them all.

Creating a ‘One World Family’

With India often ending up being a victim of terror attacks, there is an urgent need to prepare her people for a concerted, sustained campaign against the forces of terror. While the government needs to beef up various wings of its security management, at the level of civil society, the anti terrorism campaign needs to be in accordance with the Indian ethos of non-violence.

To root out the danger of terror from Indian soil, the first thing we need is to come together and pledge that we will work towards protecting our country. For this, as Sri Sri says, India needs social leaders who are satyadarshi (truthful), samdarshi (equanimous) and doordarshi (farsighted).

Ultimately the long-term remedy for terrorism is multi-faith education, says Sri Sri; teaching students a little bit of the wisdom of each tradition will go a long way in curbing fundamentalism and terrorism. This gives youth a broader spiritual vision of life that transcends the narrow divisive outlook promoted and exploited by religious fanatics.

Needless to say, the efforts of one group or community will not be enough to stop terror. The government alone will not be able to rid India of terror unless her people wake up and become active stakeholders. This task of fighting the outlook that fuels terror is a collective responsibility of all the stakeholders. The state, the media, the police, the political parties, citizen groups - all have a role to play.

The starting point for this collective effort is in ushering a new paradigm of peace and harmony based on the feeling of oneness. Our forefathers called this cherished ideal Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. And a modern guru is pushing it to its hilt to end hatred and unite the world into one global family.