The following composition was transmitted by Rod Stryker in the days after following the Spetember 11, 2001 events at the World Trade Center.
Dear Friends and Yogis,
My thoughts and prayers have sought to comfort you this week. I hope they reached you. While I have wanted to convey my feelings I have been unable to compose a group email, struggling to find the one right and simple answer about these events whose scope of devastation and loss is so immense.
As well as, offering a prayer, I felt the obligation to share with you my own sense, some sense of how we as a community and nation might move forward virtuously, how we might best implement and exemplify the spiritual traditions that I know so many of you in your heart wish to embody.
I still don’t feel fully prepared to write you that today.
We all are naturally looking for strength, insight, and the blessings of those we respect. I have received a lot of emails, some of which were composed by true luminaries of our spiritual and world community. I am grateful that they could so quickly reach out and began to share their wisdom and experience to comfort us. I have read their thoughts with interest.
However, I feel very strongly that there is no one simple anecdote or credo for how we should view what has happened or how we are to act in the days and years to come.
The practical application of “Loving/kindness and Compassion” itself is rife with complexity and many faces. As a father, I am, above all else, committed to being consistently loving, but the application of that love must and does take on many tones and colors: from ultimate affection and comforting, to when necessary, authority and urgency. To love is also to respect and do what is required of us to honor the frailty and gift of life itself. The question many of us are now confronting is how? How does one rightfully respond when what we presume to be decency is threatened and violated?
Perhaps at a time like this many us would do well to turn to the writings of the Bhagavad Gita, a story dedicated to living in the highest reverence for Divinity and the sacred web of life in the midst of turmoil.
The message of it (be reminded that the story takes place on a battle field – that’s what sages 3,000 years ago saw as representative of life, even whether or not the true foe is the internal one, may be for you to decide. In this case, that may or may not be so). Perhaps it is also a reminder that peace is not the ordinary condition of the world we live in. And yet, even while war – literally or symbolically – might or does ensue, inner peace shines eternally. The story of the Gita is a dialogue between a sincere seeker – unable to answer questions with life and death in the balance, upon which his intellect alone is unable to resolve — and God.
In it we learn that Yoga is no so much a philosophy with parenthetical views of Yama and Niyama (do’s & don’ts), say of “non-violence under any circumstances”, or its polar opposite “eye for an eye”. The Gita instead asks us to use Yoga so that we seek out and reach a quality of experience where Divine Will can directly be known.
The point those teachings specifically make is: Be careful about looking outside of yourself – whether toward Pundits or Politicians – for answers.
Soul whispers to each of us, always calling us to act in service to the Eternal. Unfortunately, its voice is easily drowned out by the more pronounced pulls of our reptilian like instinct, our most base and animalistic impulse: Self- preservation. Why is the Gita so concerned with our taking pause to meditate? Not for our own personal comfort, so much as to help us reach that place within, where real knowing and truth reside. What necessarily follows is the order to act from that inner truth – moving forward and doing one’s duty whatever we are called to do.
For those of you that do not know how the Gita ends, after direct counsel with God, the warrior/sage, Arjuna went to war to defend and in support of virtue.
Please understand this is this is not an all-out “call to arms.” We must foremost proceed from the calm of self knowing.
Clearly, there is no one place to find our enemy and impose our will and be done with it. Afghanistan is already one of the more backward and suffering- filled countries in the world. Hatred toward us and what we stand for will not be remedied by the appropriate amount of “smart bombs”.
At the same time, we must also carefully consider the argument that more harm has been done by the non-activity of good people than the activities of those who are evil.
I am aware that some of these points may arouse in you or others some outrage or anger. Perhaps that is why I have hesitated to write. At a time like this what most of us want is comfort and agreement. I only suggest these things to invite you to look within and ask you to consider that our spiritual traditions have more than one voice. As for those who feel that their lives and its most vital concerns have been lost forever, I think of the people of Israel, who live in the midst of the worst and constant uncertainty. Still, they raise their kids, find reason and purpose in living, laugh, continue to contribute to humanity and fully participate in the stream of life. We can too.
We are a large and mighty nation. I personally will not hesitate to stand for what is right.
I have been touched and felt blessed to see Americans honoring America. We are a great nation and people. I am reminded that great things are expected of those who are great. I have no doubt that we can and will rise to it, together.
Is there uncertainty ahead, of course, there is. My practices and study tell me that we were and are wrong if we believed that uncertainty was not with with us before the events of Tuesday morning. It also tells me to pray for those who hate us for somewhere we are one. In the coming days ahead I would invite you and counsel you to do just that whether or not, and especially if you do believe in military response.
My thoughts and prayers go to you. May God bless you. Remember that you, in the deepest sense, are eternally safe.
Be a light to those around you.
I close with the words of a prayer from Sri Sivananda:
“O Adorable Lord of Compassion! Salutations unto Thee. Give me inner spiritual strength to resist temptation and melt in Thee this ego which is harder than granite or diamond. Let me always be Thy chosen playmate in the wonderful game You play in all worlds. Let me understand Thy mysterious Lila or sport. Let me be a perennial channel of Thy sweet love to all Thy children. Utilize my body, senses and mind for Thy unhampered play. O hidden Love! O undecaying beauty! Let my soul rest peacefully in Thee for ever and ever.”
OM TAT SAT