On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre in New York City, killing thousands. A month later Radhanath Swami returned to India from his US tour. “America is shaken,” he told us. He had witnessed it firsthand.
‘Sex’ trends after 9/11
I was a university student in those days. Of all the news and stats that the tragedy created, a peculiar statistic stood out. Search engines declared a sharp plummet in searches for ‘sex’. Not that its entire share was taken away by searches related to the terrorist attack; simply that the focus on sex in people’s minds had blurred.
Most of the time our consciousness is consumed by the temporary realities of life—financial assets, job, sex, etc.—until occasional incidents like the 9/11 jolt us to the core, when we realize the impermanence and the uncertainty attached to them. Then, rather than devoting ourselves entirely to the temporary, we also question—or simply wonder—about the deeper realities of life. For some, who sincerely dive deep, these are times when the seed of their spiritual inclination sprouts rapidly. But for most this period of sobriety is short-lived.
Sure enough, ‘sex’ once again rose to the top of the search charts after a few months of the horrific incident.
‘Positive Terrorism’ promoted by the Vedas
Though calamities like the 9/11 catalyse the onset of spiritual quest for many, the Vedas never promote terrorism. The Vedic approach is always positive—and never negative; they are so positive, they help us convert even negative situations into positive opportunities. How? When we are inevitably struck by negativities of this world—either manmade or otherwise—despite our best efforts to curb them, we are sobered down. In that state, when we are plagued by questions about the meaning of life, the Vedas provide us with invaluable answers, thus paving the path to transcendence.
The Vedas however do promote ‘positive terrorism’ through the institution of sadhus, renounced monks. Monks, simply by their renounced—yet happy—demeanour challenge the way people seek pleasure only in the temporary. They terrorized society; nay, they terrorize the paradigm of absorption in the temporary.
Positive terrorism on a domestic flight
One day while flying on a domestic airline in the United Sates, Niranjan Swami, an esteemed monk of our society, found an American businessman seated next to him. As the flight took off, the businessman turned to Niranjan Swami and said, “Do you know your sweater doesn’t match with your clothes?”
“No! Well, thank you,” the Swami replied, surprised. Perhaps, he thought, the question was used as an icebreaker.
The businessman then kept his attention out the window for a while, before he again turned to the Swami, “What are you?” Dressed in the traditional attire worn by monks in India, the Swami was a strange sight even at the airport, and now on board. Niranjan Swami answered the question, but what followed was a barrage of inquiries about the way Swamis in India dressed, their habits and lifestyle.
It was a long flight. After a few hours of questioning, the man, on his own, started revealing details of his life—his family, his children, his in-laws, his friends, his business—just pouring out his heart. It turned out that the businessman was filthy rich, even owned a private aircraft, yet felt so lonely deep inside.
Suddenly, at one point of the conversation, the man’s facial expression turned red with anger. What happened? The Swami didn’t have a clue. The man then asked, as if in retrospect, “Why am I telling you all these things? I haven’t revealed these details of my life to anybody before. You are a complete stranger, and I am telling you!” He stared out the window for several minutes, as if pondering over an answer.
Coming back, he clapped his hands and a big smile came across his face. “That’s it!” he exploded.
“What’s it?” The Swami asked, not knowing what to make out.
“That’s it! That’s why I told you all these things.”
The man looked at the Swami right in his eyes and said, “Because you are happy. You don’t have sex, you don’t have assets, you don’t have a house…. and still you are happy! Tell me, how did you get like that?” Now his queries were getting serious. He wanted to know about the deeper realities of life, beyond the temporary.
During the rest of the flight, the discussion was on transcendence. And towards the end, the Swami added, “It’s not that you have to give up your business, family, etc., to be happy. But simply understand that real happiness is in transcendence, and invest sincerely, both time and energy, in that direction.”
It’s a serious responsibility for monks
We now live in a world where the need for celibate monkhood is questioned. Celibacy is more often considered a taboo subject. For most, it’s indicative of fanaticism, self-torture, and self-deceit.
Why has our society evolved to such a state? Every time a celibate monk succumbs to temptations, or worse still, acts hypocritically, he brings down the credibility of a devout life of celibacy. And scouring recent history for such instances—both in the eastern and western parts of the world—we find that the number is overwhelmingly large. It’s unfortunate that we have lost a lot of credibility.
But it’s never too late. We now need to take responsibility upon our shoulders, of leading a life of such purity and integrity that the impact is felt by the world—akin to the impact caused by 9/11. But unlike 9/11, our purpose is to challenge people’s shallow concept of happiness, not challenge their right to live! 😉 Are we ready to shake the world?