Remembering other 9/11s: Landmarks of History
What is secular and what is religious? As a Hindu I can be spiritual but not religious and vice versa. I can choose to be at any end of the spectrum. Yet, God's relevance matters so aptly said by Swami Vivekananda over a hundred years ago, but equally relevant now:
" All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.....As different streams having different sources all mingle their waters in the sea, so different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to God......Where can we go to find God if we cannot see Him in our own hearts and in every living being.....The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him - that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free......"
9/11" has become synonymous with an event of terrorism that changed America. Though much has happened, the American spirit of goodness, of compassion and patriotism remains as strong as ever. This has allowed an interfaith movement to sweep through the country. It has created an environment where a concerted effort has gone in to reduce Islamophobia, through education and service. Interfaith dialogues and prayer meetings have helped to bridge the chasms. Sacred spaces play an important role.
Of course, America needs to continue to defend its freedom. We must support our brave men and women as they continue to protect us. But, we need to keep in mind that acts of terrorism, such as what happened at the World Trade Center on 9/11, or recently in India at Delhi and earlier in Mumbai, does not define a whole religion or a whole community of people. We need to be careful of stereotyping others. Lest it be done to us. They (whoever the "other' are) are also our neighbors and friends in our communities and schools. And, now all of us must take responsibility of turning the country away from the negative mindset; towards one of prosperity and peace.
As we celebrate the 10th anniversary, I am reminded of Gita's teaching of acceptance. I believe, we, as a country of diverse communities, need to accept the events happened; and then get beyond it.....
I have reached a point where I certainly don't want our future generation to remember 9/11 just as a day of destruction and negativity. I support our country's efforts of calling it a National Day of Service and Remembrance, where the country is bridging the faith divide, by working on interfaith service projects, by honoring service men and women, by sharing the many stories of goodness.
I propose we remember that history records ANOTHER 9/11; one of non-violence and interfaith dialogue, the first global Parliament of World Religions, held here in America. Let us bring the "other 9/11" to the forefront. Perhaps now IS the time to invoke that memory!
Ironically, it was on 9/11 of 1906 that Mahatma Gandhi started his Satyagraha movement of non-violence in South Africa, influenced by Thoreau's Civil Disobedience essay. Thoughts have no boundaries. This launch of the Modern Non-Violent Resistance Movement influenced America's Civil Right's Movement. Senator Harris Wofford who recently addressed the Hindu American Seva conference at the White House shared with us his journey to India to understand the Gandhian thought (including seva movement) and of bringing it to America, serving as an advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King.
"Brothers and Sisters of America. It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome, which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions, and I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects. "
The America of that time was divided along racial lines. Yet, it warmly embraced the message of Swami Vivekananda's (a "colored person" in the parlance of that time). Today, the governing body of the revived Council of Parliament of World Religions is represented by all major faiths. I am honored to be part of this august body which is working hard to amplify the interfaith principles globally.
As I see it, the American Vedic Hindu path, which started with the transference of knowledge from India by Swami Vivekananda, is a path on which our immigrant Vedic Hindu community and its progeny are grafting on to and traveling, along with many in the mainstream community, starting from Emerson, Beatles, etal. The many aspects (such as yoga) have today become ubiquitous in America resulting in, we hope, increased understanding.
So, let me, with folded hands, just say Namaste and honor the divine in each of us. Let us respectfully remember all impacted by the 9/11 tragedy. As we move forward let us remember the multi-historical facets of 9/11.
Let us fill our consciousness with the positive and collectively, bridging all divides, become proactive problem solvers, innovators and job creators, for our country.
Om, shanti, shanti, shantih!!! Let there be peace, peace and everlasting peace, only.
I realize I could not write this remembrance without invoking God. Whether we choose to define it as secular or religious to me the divine is ever-present.
September 8, 2011; 7:48 AM ET
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