Act against terrorism with calmness and equanimity

Terrorism is an act of violence that inflicts pain and suffering, and is destructive to oneself and others. Terrorism induces fear and increases poverty, suffering and loss of life with no apparent gain to anyone. Instead of offering or seeking solutions, terrorism looks to destruction as an answer. In acts of terrorism, human values are lost.

Loss of loved ones in a terror attack causes a lot of sorrow and fear. If we keep reeling in sorrow, fear and anger, then life moves on the path of destruction. In order to channelise this energy and prepare to face this war bravely, we need to first calm the mind and come to a state of equanimity. Today, there is lot of anger against corrupt politicians and systems. To make our system stronger, firstly, we need to come together. We need social leaders who are satya-darshi(truthful), sam-darshi (equanimous), and door-darshi(far-sighted). So let's also resolve to first examine the qualifications of those whom we elect.

Secondly, we must resolve not to act out of anger, but instead channelise our dynamic energy for the common good; to expose all those who are supporting violence, no matter what religion they belong to; to get rid of the mentality which asks us to protect people from our own religion, or community, even if they are doing wrong. This is very important.

Religious community leaders should stop being rigid and rethink on how they can reduce the extremist tendencies within their communities. They should throw open their doors to other schools of thought and inculcate a broader perspective in the children. One of the ways could be to provide mandatory multi religious education. We need to thread a middle path, raise above politics and personal gains.

We accept food and music from every part of the world without reservation, don’t we? You don’t have to be Danish to eat Danish pastries or Italian to eat pasta and pizzas. You don’t have to be German to enjoy Beethoven or Indian to listen to sitar music. Why then, when it comes to wisdom, do we become so narrow-minded? The world would be a poorer for not knowing the teachings of Buddha who said so much on consciousness and meditation. The world would be a poorer for not knowing the wisdom of the Upanishads or Jesus’ teachings on love or the words of Mohammed and Lao Tzu. When we think that only our own scripture holds truth, then we are nurturing fanaticism.

Third, we have to value all human life above race, religion and culture. Respect for life is the basis for all values. Terrorists have no respect for life. If a person identifies himself with a race, religion, culture or nationality, he remains stuck in that position and he will fight for and die for that identity and others will die with him. Instead, develop a broader perspective. First and foremost we are part of the Divine. Our second identity is that we are human beings. The third identity we have is that we are male or female. The fourth identity is that we belong to a particular nation. The fifth identity is that we belong to a particular religion. If the right order of identity is understood, then human values are honored.

Next, educate in the human values of friendliness, compassion, cooperation, and a sense of belonging. Spirituality nourishes the human values of compassion, love, caring, sharing and acceptance. It means honoring the values that are found in all religions with a concern for the common good of one and all, accommodating the diversity in thought, in deed and in behavior. Educating people in human values is not a difficult because the values are already present. By nature every human being is friendly, cooperative and compassionate. If we are unfriendly, it is because of stress and tension. There are meditation and breathing techniques which can be practiced to reduce stress. Lack of spirituality gives rise to domestic and societal violence on one hand and suicidal tendencies on the other. When a person is frustrated, angry or hateful, you can’t expect brotherhood and non violence to prevail.

Stress and tension are the root cause of violence. Only spiritual upliftment can weed out the destructive tendency in the human mind. Without spiritual education, the instinct of anger and hatred cannot be managed. When anger and hatred are triggered, and they go uncontrolled all reasoning is lost. When reasoning is lost, values are lost.

Have a sense of belonging to this planet and its people. Cultivate confidence in achieving a noble goal in a peaceful, nonviolent manner. This confidence comes from your inner strength. There are many examples for us of people who have done this: Martin Luther King in the North American continent, Nelson Mandela in the African continent, Mahatma Gandhi in the Asian continent. If the programming of non violence is strong enough, no frustration or disappointment can overthrow it.

Three things need to be done today: Stringent laws should be in place and the hands of the police have to be strengthened for the enforcement of these laws. Second, intelligence agencies and the police should be well-equipped and third, politicians should allow them the freedom to take necessary steps independently. We need to attend to the smaller incidences of violence before it is too late.

Peace does not mean inaction. Peace and non violence do not mean passive acceptance of terrorism. We want a revolution, but a peaceful one. Mahatma Gandhi advocated peace, but he did not just sit back and allow injustice. Being in peace, he took action. The essence of the Bhagavad Gita is this - to fight with equanimity. Rather than reacting to acts of terrorism, precautionary measures have to be taken up to nip violence in the bud. Every small tendency of crime and instance of violence has the potential to explode into bigger act of terrorism.

One often finds peace loving people are inactive and those who are pro-active have no peace in them. A combination of peace and dynamism is needed today. Though this may seem idealistic it is not impossible. It is just a matter of education and orientation. Stand up and speak out for non-violence.

Excerpts from Gurudev’s address to victims of 9/11 and subsequent terror attack in various parts of India