Every Moment Is a Gift

One lesson of Sept. 11: It is only by the grace of God that we wake from our sleep each day.

BY: Swami Chidanand Saraswati

 
Reprinted with permission of Hinduism Today.

PARMATH NIKETAN, India, October 17--September 11 was a tragic day of unprecedented proportion. Never before in the history of the world had one group so blatantly, so callously, so mercilessly struck at so many thousands of innocent people.

We were in Munich, Germany on the Vishwa Dharma Prasaar Yatra, travelling first to the Caribbean, then to USA and Canada, then to UK and then to Europe, spreading the messages of peace, unity and Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam, that "The whole world is one family." In the midst of this yatra, we heard the shattering news. Times like this and acts like these almost render us speechless with sadness. It is only after the sand has settled back on the beach after the storm, that we can bend down and examine the pieces of that which was crushed in the tempest.

Those who engage in these unforgivable acts of terrorism, intimidation and violence claim that they are fighting a jihad, a holy war. However, the term "holy war" is itself an oxymoron, a paradoxical fallacy. A war can never be holy. Only peace is holy. That which is holy is peaceful, loving, pious and compassionate. War, by its very definition, is none of these. The terrorists claim they are fighting a war in the name of God. However, there is no such thing. War -- especially those acts which kill innocent people -- cannot possibly be undertaken with God's consent or to win His favor. How can we -- in God's name -- kill His children, His creation? Could you possibly kill your sister or your brother and claim you did it for your mother or father's sake? Or that you did it in order to win your parents' appreciation? This would be absurd.

Rather than fighting a true "holy" war, the terrorists are using God's name in order to justify their own evil, violence and aggression. To me, the true jihad is a holy war within ourselves, a war against that which is unholy within our own hearts, a war of annihilating our own egos, our own jealousies and grudges.

However, simply condemning the acts is not enough. That which happens must happen for a reason. That which happens must have a lesson inherent within it. Let us then look at what we can learn, what reassurance we can gain from this tragic event. What can we take from this which will both help us grow individually as people as well as help us grow as nations and as a world?

To me, one of the most important lessons here is one of safety, one of comfort, one of complacency. So many people throughout the world (especially those living in India, or Indians who live abroad) think of everything Western as superior, as inherently "safe." If you give someone a gift and say it's "from America," their eyes will widen with anticipation. If you tell someone that a particular object you own is "from America," that automatically grants it "First Class" status. The idea of sending our children "to America" for studies or work is one that fills us with great pride, comfort and security. It is every parent's dream to send their children "to America," and it is every child's dream to go. It is not only that parents think their children will have a higher income in America. Rather, there is an inherent yet almost tangible feeling of safety, security and superiority about everything Western.

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