I was on the first flight that was allowed into New York after the September 11th, attack. For security reasons the flights before and after mine on that day were cancelled that day. Luckily mine got through.
When we flew over Manhattan on the way to Kennedy airport I could see the fire and the huge cloud of smoke. Still, I was separated by a window and so while shocking, it was still separate.
When the plane landed we were the only passengers in the United Terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport. This was a deeper shock to the system. It felt as if the dismal future depicted in science fiction movies was here now. Only armed men in uniform and a few passengers in a deserted terminal. Our walk to baggage claim was in eerie silence and I could hear my feet hit the ground.
But it was not until the smell. The smell of burned plastic, rubber and human flesh that the immediacy came all the way in. I cried when I first saw the pictures on the television. I cried when the mayor announced the death of whole squads of firemen. But when I smelled and tasted the smoke it hit a deeper level.
For the first time in my life the streets of Manhattan were quiet. There was no horn honking by busy taxicabs and trucks. People on the street were open. Strangers talked and helped each other. It was not normal life.
This attack was a psychic wound in the fabric of society and the trance of isolation and security was ripped open. In this wounding is the possibility. In this end of “normal life” is the opening to the unknown. Of course the tendency of both egoic mind and government, which is the projection of egoic mind, is to rush to cover the hole, to return to “normal” and forget the gaping, looming black hole that has appeared. The president urges all Americans to return to shopping as sheep go back to pasture.
As a young man I was on the front lines of the revolution of the sixties against American imperialism and capitalism. I wanted to bring down the system. We took to the streets and chanted, “bring the war home!” It has arrived.
I have sadly seen that all revolutions, with the best intentions, fail. The American, the French, the Russian, the Chinese, the Cuban to name a few were all revolutions fought for the dignity of humankind; for liberty, fraternity and equality; for the pursuit of happiness; for the elimination of hunger and suffering. While each was an improvement to some degree on what came before, each ultimately failed.
The failure of all revolutions has been because the people were not awake. Most people of the revolution were ultimately only interested in their own self-interest. Consciousness, caring for each other, selflessness, true love cannot be mandated, cannot be forced, cannot be created by changing the working conditions.
We can see that both sides consider themselves right. Both sides are crusading. Crusading is a disease that gets spread with the spread of religion. No religion seems to be exempt. Buddhists are killing Hindus in Sri Lanka as Jews kill Muslims in Palestine and Muslins are killing Christians and Jews. Of course Christians at one time or another have killed everyone.
If we look at the biblical idea of God we find it is a projection of a primitive mind to explain the unexplainable vastness of totality. God, the totality of existence, becomes an idea of “one God,” and he is mine. First the Hebrews have “one God” and he “says” to kill whatever is in the way on the way to your holy land because you are “my chosen people.” Now this makes others quite upset until Jesus comes along and now the pagans, from Romans to the Germanic hordes, can say there is only one God and he died for my sins and says I should kill the unbelievers. This of course must have upset the Arabs until Mohammed declares that in the lineage of Abraham, Moses and Jesus there is now Mohammed who is spoken to by God and told that there is only one God and he is ours! This primitive belief in an anthropomorphized God is a form of cult worship. It is the root of enormous suffering in this world. We now give medication to those who claim that God talks to them, often telling them of paranoid plots and commanding them to shoot from church towers.
It was only when I got to Europe that I heard the madness of the other side: the half-baked teacher of “non-duality” who asks, “why cry since no one dies?” This ignorance, parading as enlightenment, is another spiritual belief that causes suffering in the name of “no one to suffer.” I would ask anyone who teaches this to consider for a moment if something is being avoided, some deep pain, or some acting out that is disassociated from with a spiritual idea.
True teachers have their heart broken by the suffering in the world. My own guru’s guru, Ramana Maharshi, sent my teacher, Papaji, to rescue his family from the coming massacre in the Punjab as Hindu India divided from Muslim Pakistan.
I also heard someone tell me that their “non-dual” teacher told them they should have no preferences when they watch the horror on television. This is more half-baked madness. Would you have no preference if the Taliban ruled Germany? This article, this magazine, and much of your life would be illegal. You would be forced to either collaborate or go underground. Can you say you have no preference really? Non-duality is not blind to distinction. In fact in a silent mind distinctions that arise are seen with even more subtlety. The world does not become a custard mush of oneness. The vast and subtle distinctions arise with more clarity when the mind is still.
A silent mind is the source of all and the nectar that heals. When you realize yourself as Silence you are naturally in service, naturally open, naturally willing, without belief or spiritual concepts to guide you. If you find you are being guided by a concept, either the idea of God or the idea of Oneness you are still living in ideas and missing both reality and the world.
Why not be grateful that we live in a society that allows us the freedom that it does. Let’s not deny it and let’s not settle for it either at the expense of anyone else.
Let’s each one, one by one, embrace the possibility of a silent mind and an open heart, to bear the suffering of this world and bring it to peace.