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Staying sane in the face of terror

In the face of paralysing terror, faith is the only way out.



Suma Varughese is the Editor-in-Chief of Life Positive magazine



23 July, 2005:

Just a few days after the Ayodhya blasts had shaken up all Indians, came the London bombs. Even as the bombs exploded in the subway and bus, paranoia worldwide began to peak. The first reaction to such attacks is withdrawal. We long to take out our childen from school, dive into some hole and never surface again. More moderately, the fear restricts our actions and lives. We go out less, are more cautious and less trusting, and hold our breaths until we or our family members are safely home.

Is this feasible? Or even fair on us? Should we really succumb to fear and worry? Could there be a better way to handle this?

When disasters and calamities occur, they shake us out of a false sense of complacency that life is secure and controllable. The truth, of course, is that it is not. We have no control over it at all. We do not even have control over our next breath. This is the absolute truth. If we get this deeply, and I must warn you that it takes courage to accept this, we will understand how futile it is to worry at all. 

This is where faith comes to the rescue. Those who are attuned to the Source of existence accept that everything that befalls us come from God. Therefore, it is meant for our highest welfare. Such an attitude breeds fortitude and acceptance. Instead of worrying about eventualities, we focus completely on the here and now, accepting all. 

The Vedantins have a concept called Prasada Buddhi which encapsulates this concept. The devotee receives all that comes to her as a prasad, an offering from God, to be accepted with gratitude and humility. What a beautiful attitude to cultivate. If we can truly live like this, why need we fear bomb attacks or earthquakes? We will go our way quietly and serenely, unhurried and in the moment, rejecting nothing, fearing nothing.
Such people are also aware that they will only get what they are meant to get. If they are meant to die in a bomb attack, they will; if they are not meant to, they won’t. So why worry? Only the bullet that bears our name will get us. Nothing else will. When we know this, we will not flinch from the uncertainties of life. It will enable us to board the plane without worrying if we will ever land. Or to take the subway regardless of bloodthirsty killers. It will support us in taking the risks required to live a successful and happy life without holding back out of fear.

The point to remember is that life is meant to enhance us, not diminish us. All that comes to us is an opportunity for growth. That is the purpose of life. Life is a school and we are here to grow in strength, courage, acceptance, compassion and love. All the terrifying possibilities of modern life including terrorism, hijacking, the mushroom cloud and global warming, are opportunities for us to grow. To grow in understanding, strength and courage, yes.

But also to grow by ridding ourselves of the emotional charge that creates the problem. Rage and anger create terrorism and so we eliminate our own rage and anger. Fear and insecurity creates the nuclear stockpile and the mushroom cloud. Uproot it from within you. Faulty lifestyles have led to global warming. Change yours. We are part of the macrocosm, and what we do influences the world. When we change ourselves, we change the world. 

In this way, we use the very factors that could scare us into that which makes us powerful and strong. So who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?



God save the Malayalee

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