[EDITORS NOTE: On December 26th I arrived in Mumbai and have been the fortunate guest of Radhanath Swami and the many wonderful Vaishnavas of the Radha Gopinath Temple. Having seen my previous article “Finding Selflessness Amidst Mumbai’s Sorrow”, Radhanath Swami kindly shared some of his written thoughts about the Mumbai terrorist attacks. I’ll share them with you below.
It was a balmy autumn night in Mumbai. Over a hundred close friends were gathered for a reunion on a tenth floor rooftop garden near the sea. Along the terrace border, small trees and leafy bushes blossomed with campak, mogra and night queen flowers. Their fragrances merged with the salty sea breeze, cooling us from the heat of the day. The moon shone brightly above while waves crashed upon the rocky shore below.
We shared our hearts with laughter and affectionate tears. Suddenly- an explosion shook the earth. It didn’t have the jarring affect of a firecracker. Not at all. The blast resonated in a low bass pitch. It was an eerie, ghastly sound. My stomach sickened. Not knowing what it could be, as anything strange could happen in a massive metropolis like Mumbai, we continued speaking. Five minutes later, another explosion, just a few blocks away.
Terrorists had begun their siege. For the next three days the city was gripped with fear, anger and wrenching sorrow, as the world watched, calling it India’s 9-11.
With each day, person after person came to me, traumatized. It was like a flashback of the terrorist train bombings in Mumbai just three years before when our hospital was lined with the mutilated and the dead, filling all the beds and practically every inch of our floor space. But this time, the elite were among those targeted.
Some told me how their relatives or friends were brutally slaughtered. Others had witnessed the carnage, escaping only after slipping through puddles of blood and tripping over fresh corpses, as the smiling terrorists sprayed innocent crowds with the ripping bullets of their assault rifles and hurled hand grenades, like it was play.
The carnage took an emotional toll on everyone, the rich, the poor, the powerful and the weak. Shaken from their routine lives, questions burned in many minds. The same questions people have asked since the beginning of time. Why such suffering? If there is a God, how could He allow this? What is this fragile thing called life? Do I exist beyond death? Is there a meaningful purpose beyond this rat race?
A week later I came back to the home where I grew up forty years before, twenty-five miles north of Chicago. From the back room that my father built back in 1954, paneled with old growth redwood and heated by a crackling log fire in a brick fireplace, I gazed out a window into our small back yard. A blanket of snow covered the grass that I once frolicked upon as a child. In the cold of winter, only the squirrels were out that day.
As I gazed up at a leafless tree, I contemplated the nature of life and inevitable death. The lessons I had learned my beloved guru filled my mind as I watched a seemingly endless shower of snowflakes swirling in the Chicago wind.
Within every human heart there is the potential to realize ones own essence. We are by nature divine, eternal full of knowledge and bliss. With the key of spiritual practice and the blessings we receive, we can unlock the treasure of spiritual love from within the heart and live as instruments of that love for the world.
Or by our free will we can choose to utilize our God given resources to cultivate the selfish ego and its counterparts of envy, greed, anger, lust, arrogance and illusion. By that choice we become to greater or lesser degrees instruments of maya or the illusory energy. We all have that choice, at each moment.
To some it seems that evil is conquering the world. Evil is a symptom of extreme illusion. When the human intellect falls prey to such evil, it can justify anything to suit its purpose, even in the name of God and ultimate goodness.
Truth is eternal and characterized by wisdom, love and compassion. It is compared to the sun. Illusion with all of its counterparts is compared to the darkness of a shadow. It cannot cover the sun of truth but it can cover our perception. Darkness can only be overcome by light. The light that is within all of us, an infinitely resplendent spark of the source of pure beauty, knowledge and love, the ultimate truth, Krishna. Bhakti is the science of channeling our thoughts, words and actions toward awakening the inner beauty of the soul.
Related post: Finding Selflessness Amidst Mumbai’s Sorrow