October 2001

» About This Issue - Editorial

» The Art of Living According to the Bhagvad Gita - Devi Vanamali   

» Thoughts on Violence and Nonviolence - Nipun Mehta   

» A Reflection from Silicon Valley on the Events of September Eleven  - Tom Mahon    

» A Meditation - Nick Warren   

» It's time to Wage "War" Against hat Mongers - Henry Baer   

About This Issue - Editorial

Kumar Mehta
Disasters, whether natural or man-made, challenge our ability to cope, recover and rebuild. We have demonstrated a remarkable unity and resolve to recover from highly vicious terrorist acts of 11 September. While we rebuild, the nation is already at war against the enemy. There is enough evidence against Osama Bin Laden, who has also been implicated for assaults in the past against American civil and military facilities. Bin Laden and his associates are hiding in Afghanistan and are being protected there by an army of Talibans who are a cult of Islamic fundamentalists. Whereas some angry American advocate bombing of Afghanistan back to the stoneage, many others would like to see a non-violent response to the hatred, which is the root cause of violence.

Who is the real enemy, and how can we destroy this enemy completely to prevent a recurrence of the 11 September carnage? Correct answers to these questions are important in the case of man-made disasters, because human acts are governed by a complex web of social, political, and religious inclinations of an individual or a group. The _ar?against terrorism will have to be waged on several fronts. This issue of Ahimsa Voices covers personal reflections on the subject from the editor and from several other members of the AHIMSA community.

Is religion the root cause of holy wars that Islamic fundamentalists are waging in many parts of the world? Huston Smith (Ahimsa Voices, Jan. 2001), an authority on world religions, does not think so. He says that, when new religions emerged ?Christianity out of Judaism, and Islam out of these two, there were religious wars because of the differences in theology that brought the conflict. But now, despite what the media tells us, these are not religious wars. These are political wars (possibly for the control of national and human resources). The perpetrators of these wars use religious theology selectively to exploit ignorant and uneducated masses.

Why do some individuals indulge in violent acts against fellow human beings, and can they be transformed by compassion and love? According to Charles Flinton (Ahimsa Voices, April 2001), a clinical psychotherapist, many individuals act in violent ways because of social learning. They learned violent behavior from adult role models when they were children. From a variety of personal and social experiences, many violent offenders develop distorted beliefs regarding pride, power, and justice. This makes them act in violent ways without regard to consequences of their behavior to themselves and to others. Some may become psychotic and transforming them is a very slow and difficult process.

How far America and her allies are justified in using force to destroy the schools and training camps in Afghanistan that support terrorism. How much violence is acceptable to apprehend Bin Laden and his associates before they carry out any more reprehensible acts of massacre of the innocent? Even those who abhor violence seem to accept that some violence is unavoidable in dealing with the hard core of evil-minded individuals. The pacifists who say 'no' to war under any conditions quote Gandhi, 'an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.' But it is Gandhi who also said, 'Resist evil. That is the first imperative. Resist it with non-violence -- that is the right way. But if you cannot resist evil with non-violence, then resist it with violence even, but without ill-will. Do not surrender; do not submit to evil.'

It should be remembered that Gandhi drew his inspiration from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagvad Gita, which was the subject of a talk delivered by Devi Vanamali (see p. 1). In the Gita, Lord Krishna (a Divine incarnation) rebukes Arjuna, the warrior, for refusing to fight and destroy the army of his evil-minded and irrational cousin, Duryodhana. Lord Krishna exhorts Arjuna to give up cowardice, to do his duty and fight for the protection of dharma for the larger human good. Making a distinction between nobe acts and demonic acts, Lord Krishna says in the Gita that the former are undertaken as a duty, without prejudice and without any selfish interest. The demonic acts are those that are undertaken without right understanding and without any regard to loss or injuries to oneself and others.
Lord Krishna's teaching in the Gita clearly places the human terrorism in the category of demonic acts, and any violence in defense of the larger human good as a noble act. Having settled this issue, let us now focus on the wars within the American society because our success on these war fronts will, in the long run, determine whether we can help build a peaceful world. We have allowed ourselves to get buried deeply under a materialistic culture that is supported by too much greed, selfishness, and violence in interpersonal and personal spheres. In fact, for too long, even the U.S. foreign policy has been based on narrow and selfish considerations, and not on what is good for the world. This will be a much more difficult 'war' to win. But act we must. In the battlefield of life, let us pursue enobling acts. Only then we would be at peace with ourselves and the world around us.

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The Art of Living According to the Bhagavad Gita

Deva Vanamali

I am very happy to be with you this evening and share with you some thoughts on the Bhagavad Gita. The world has known many scriptures that have made an impact on the rest of humanity for some time than passed away into oblivion. This is because scripture have two aspects to them. One is a temporal aspect which pertains only to that particular time in which it was produced; the other is a universal aspect that is eternal. The Gita is one of those scriptures, which has defied the sands of time. It continues to retain its pristine clarity even three thousand years after it was produced. This is because there is very little which is temporal in the Gita. It deals with universal values even though the sermon was given to a particular person as an answer to a particular question during a particular event of that time. The answer that Lord Krishna gave to Arjuna is indeed a universal answer to a universal problem in human life. This is why the teaching of the Gita is as fresh and new for each person who reads it, as it was to Arjuna.

Many scriptures of Hindu philosophy deal with abstractions about God, the absolute, the transcendent, the unmanifest, omnipresent and omniscient. What do these words mean? We can admire the scriptures and the philosophies, which give us a fundamental view of truth, yet our mind has a difficult time conceiving an abstraction like beauty, for instance. How can we know beauty? We know it through beautiful scenery or a beautiful painting. This is how the mind acquires a concept of beauty. The philosophy in the Upanishads gives a glorious picture of truth as unmanifest, infinite, and something beyond thought. But how are we to capture this unmanifest, and how is it going to help us in our day-to-day life?

Any religion and any philosophy, which does not tell us how to deal with daily life, is not of much use to us. It may be wonderful as a philosophy, as an intellectual inquiry, but we want something that is more helpful to us in our daily life. This is the most wonderful quality of the Gita. It has its head in the clouds but it also has its feet on the earth. Every chapter of the Gita deals with not only the science of being but also the art of living. These two aspects are both important in every day life. In the history of India there never was a dichotomy between science and religion, unlike the west where an unholy science and unreasonable religion have often been at war with each other. In fact, in dealing with the science of being and the art of living, the latter aspect is more stressed in the Bhagavad-Gita. Lord Krishna deals with the science of being in just one chapter (Chapter 2), and then he immediately goes into karma yoga, the art of living. The rest of the Gita is mostly about everyday life, and this is what makes it a wonderful book. The sermons in the Gita are so easy to understand even in this age and time because the problem of Arjuna is a universal problem. It is a problem of every human being who aspires for a spiritual life yet feel that he/she doesn't know how to live spiritually when surrounded by a materialistic world.

Arjuna was an ordinary human-being, ready and ripe for further spiritual evolution. Why was the sermon given to Arjuna and not to his elder brother, Yudhishtara, who was already a highly evolved human-being. Because, Arjuna was a man of action, not a philosopher. In life, most of us have to work. How many of us can give up the world and go to the Himalayas to live in a cave and devote our entire life to spiritual practices? Very few of us can do this. Therefore, the sermon in Gita is addressed to the warrior, the man of action. In this amazing philosophical discussion between Arjuna and Krishna, Arjuna stands for the prototype of a human being and Lord Krishna stands for the God that descended in human form to teach spiritual truths to fellow humans. The sermon is given as a conversational dialogue between man and God. The man is distressed by a problem for which he can find no solution. In despair, he turns to Krishna whom has always known as a friend, but does not know that he indeed is God incarnate.

It is interesting that when we are at the peak of our career, at the height of our glory, wealthy, young and successful, we think that we do not need God. It is only when we are beset by troubles, struck by disease and deserted by our friends and relatives, that we turn to God. So this is what happened to Arjuna at that time. That is why the first chapter of the Gita is called, 'the Yoga of Arjuna's sorrow.' What does yoga mean? Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means _o unite.? In the spiritual context Yoga is any activity that unites us to the Supreme. The Bhagavad Gita has eighteen chapters -- all named after different yogas. So, eighteen different methods of uniting with God are given in the Gita.

Surprisingly, the first yoga is the yoga of sorrow. How can sorrow act as a yoga? Can we gain union to God by sorrow? When everything goes right for us we don't need God. But when we are suffering and when we are filled with sorrow, when everything we hold dear has deserted us, and when we are left helpless it is then every human being longs for something which is capable of helping him/her. So, sorrow itself can become a yoga and can be helpful to further our spiritual evolution if we understand it properly.

In fact, that is the methodology of creation. Duality is the nature of the world and duality has been given to us because that is the only way we can begin our search for eternal bliss in this world. If there was only happiness, only joy, only light, and only goodness--how boring it would be. It is like going to a theatre and seeing a show in which everybody is good. One has to have a villain to enjoy the show. One has to have bad things happen--someone has to drop off a cliff and to be picked up and recover. Duality is the way nature has given us to know bliss. Nobody can understand happiness who has not experienced unhappiness. The person who lives in the sun has no conception of light. What does he/she know of light if he has never experienced darkness? And this is the way the world works; this is the nature of the world. Sorrow should not be condemned as a punishment from God, as something to be feared and hated. It should be taken as a yoga, a method of bringing us to spirituality or accelerating our evolution and taking us further to our goal. That is why the first yoga given in the Gita is the yoga of Arjuna's sorrow.

Now another amazing thing about the Bhagavad Gita sermon is the venue at which it was given. Of all the unlikely places for a divine teacher to give advice to his disciple, Lord Krishna chose a battlefield. Can you imagine a battlefield which, by its very name implies that it is filled with violence. Now could this be because he could not find another place? It couldn_ have been so because Arjuna and Krishna were friends and they had been together for many years. At any time Krishna could have called Arjuna and said "Come here friend! Let_ find a nice place under a tree or by the riverbank or in the palace because I have a few words of advice to give you." But he never did this. Why did he do it just before the battle was starting? Here again lies the great utilitarian value of the Gita. The battlefield is an allegory for the life of a human-being. We are in the battlefield of life.

At every point in life we are faced with some sort of battle or another. There are the attacking armies of old age and disease against which the individual has to fight. In youth we succeed to a great extent, but eventually we succumb and are overcome by these enemies that are constantly attacking us. Now that is one side, but what about our relationships to the world. Even in our relationships, there is always an undercurrent of mistrust and hostility. Even in the most close relationships, there is always the fear that one word or one unkind action might upset the whole applecart. And the relationship built on years of so-called, love may disintegrate and lead to a break up. We never know, we can never be sure of any of our relationships even with the society outside. So there is a subtle guerrilla warfare going on around us with our relatives and with the people we know.

And, of course, there is a battlefield within us. We find that within us is the biggest battlefield of all. All these various negative emotions of desire, anger, fear, horror, and jealousy. All these are battling within us all the time. We are constantly swayed by greed and selfishness. One time our good nature calls us but another time negative tendencies pull us down. And this seesaw goes on all of our lives. Unless we make tremendous effort we are on the seesaw of emotions until the end of our life. The great battlefield which is facing us throughout life appears to be a battlefield of conflicting forces. The child is born into this battlefield with a cry as if he knows what is in store. When we get to the end of our lives, do we leave with a laugh?

Unfortunately, this is not so. At the end of our lives most of us are disappointed that our dreams and hopes have crumbled to dust, and we exit from this world with a sigh. In between, we try to cover all these disappointments by running after little bits of happiness. We go to a movie or to a disco, or we try bungee jumping. These things excite us for some time but when that time is over, we are back again where we started. In order to cover these disappointments, which are constantly in store for us, we run after new pleasures which we hope will give us the happiness we crave. How is it that we never come to an end of this search? This is because the human being is not satisfied with temporary happiness; and an infinite happiness from a finite, material world is impossible.

How can the finite world possibly give infinite happiness? We are looking for the right thing in the wrong place. We are trying to get infinite happiness from a world that is incapable of giving it. We have an idea of what infinite happiness means. If we did not have this idea, then any of these little things--a cup of coffee, a cigarette, or some drugs would give us happiness forever. 

But no, we have an idea in our subconscious minds of what it means to be infinitely happy, to have eternal happiness. This is because our very nature is made out of eternal happiness. Deep down, our nature is bliss alone. Because of that we compare everything with this. It is like a man who loves his mother. He wants to get married and every woman he compares with his mother and says, "Oh, she is not half as good as my mother." What he wants is an ideal woman, and when a real woman doesn't tally with his ideal, he gets disappointed. We have a very good idea what we mean by infinite happiness and nothing in the world tallies with this conception and that is why we get disappointed.

We are seeking for something outside of us that lies within us. The source of happiness is right there within us, and if we could only search within us there will be no need anymore to go rushing around looking for something that we already have. God as Krishna was Arjuna's constant companion but he did not know it. But Krishna, the God, answered Arjuna only when his ego was at it lowest ebb and when he turned to Him for advice. This is the same with our constant companion within us. The companion waits until we realize we are nothing, that we are not in control as we think we are. At that time, if we turn inwards, we find that the answers are forthcoming.

Many scriptures stress that only through inaction or escape from this world we get salvation. The Bhagavad-Gita is unique as it recognizes that activity is absolutely essential for most human beings. In as much as we live in an active universe, we cannot even think for one moment that we can remain inactive. Therefore, if we cannot remain inactive, and if it is action that binds us to the wheel of birth after birth, how can we escape from this vicious cycle? Karma Yoga is the technique that Krishna taught to Arjuna so that action would not bind him. We think it is action that is binding us because we have some vague ideas. Even those who do not believe in the Law of Karma know that as we sow, so shall we reap. Now this is true of course, this is the basic law of nature. We reap what we sow. If we eat a lot of unripe plums today, we are going to get a stomachache tomorrow. But the results of actions are not always immediate. Results often come after a very long period of time. A man has a heart attack at the age of fifty. Does it mean that he ate cholesterol-containing food at the age of forty-nine? No, his entire lifestyle for many, many years culminated in his heart attack at the age of fifty. So, the results of action need not be immediate; they can also come after a passage of time. The Law of Karma says we always reap the consequences of actions, either good or bad. If you do something good, you reap very good consequences. If you do something bad, there are bad consequences.

This law decrees that maybe one lifetime is not enough either to suffer the consequences or be rewarded for good action. And that is why we say it may take many births, not one lifetime to reap the consequences of actions performed in this life. Some ask, is it better not to act at all? Many scriptures suggest that the monastic life is the only, safest, easiest and fastest way to liberation. That is why all religions glorify monastic life. Those who feel spiritually inclined sometimes think the only way to achieve salvation is to renounce the world and to join a monastery. If that were true it would mean that most of us who cannot adopt monastic life, will never attain salvation. And that would be very unfair. In this respect Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita, "Action binds, but the way out of this dilemma is not by becoming inactive but being active without any desire for the fruits of your actions." This is one of Krishna's greatest teachings. The way out of this bind is not through inactivity but through activity without attachment to results. You might think this is a very strange thing. Who would work if they don't get paid? Even before we take a job, the first thing we negotiate is the terms of work. How much will I make? That's the first thought we have. Whoever says that I will go to work, but I don't care if I get paid. In fact, imagine someone telling you -- you must work really hard but don_ ask me what your salary will be. You would probably decline the job. But it looks like God is doing the same thing to us. He has put us into this world but we are given only one right, namely the right to act.  We are allowed to act but we are not supposed to ask for the reward of our action. How could God do such a thing? He is following a natural law, because nature allows only the privilege of action. Nature reserved for herself the method of how she should reward. Though the action is done by us, the results of the action are governed by a cosmic law over which we have absolutely no control. Nature is unselfish, and gives and gives alone. The sun shines, the rain falls, the winds blow. The whole of nature goes about giving in this beautiful fashion. Does nature ask for some reward? Does the sun go on a strike or the moon refuses to shine anymore? This never happens in nature because nature does its duty and is never bothered about the reward. In the orgy of self-giving, the human being stands alone as a selfish, unhappy and discontented entity. Why? Because he demands that he be the sole benefactor of the fruits of his labor. The sole benefactor mind you -- we do not like it if even a bit of the fruits of our labor are taken away. If we have fruits in our garden we do not like it if a neighbor’s child comes and takes a few fruits for himself. We want that we alone should have that we have worked for. How can we be happy in such a state because this world is not made under these conditions? This world was not made for those with selfish intentions. The more we give, the more we get. Why do you behave like a beggar in this world Lord Krishna asks, begging for results? If we are not begging, we are demanding. We all demand our rights while being totally oblivious to our duties.

The world does not run according to our demands but according to how far or how well we do our duty. If you have done your duty then you have no need to demand and no need to beg. What petty-minded creatures we are, constantly asking for reward for our actions. We can live like kings in this universe; this whole place is given to us. All we have to do is just like the rest of creation -- to be constantly engaged in unselfish action. We must carry on our activity unselfishly for the good of everyone. We just do work to the best of our ability. That is all what the creation asks from us. Do your work to the perfection you can. Do not think that there is some great ideal or great goal you have to strive for. There is a beauty in every level of evolution. There is a beauty in a child acting like a child. Who would want a child to behave in an adult fashion? He may be clumsy in doing something, but does the mother say what a clumsy child? No, she sees the beauty in what he is doing.

Every level of evolution has its own beauty. We don_ have to think that we have to attain some impossible heights of glory before we will be accepted or liberated. God asks us only to do your best according to your ability. If you have only one hand, use only that hand. Nobody asks you to do something that is impossible. The law is very, very simple and very just. It will see to it that you get your just rewards. Everybody gets what they deserve , nothing more, nothing less. You don't have to ask for it. You don’t have to beg for it. All that Krishna said in that one simple verse where the entire theory of Karma Yoga is stated. Karma means action, and the secret of action is the secret of life because we cannot remain inactive even for a single moment. By closing your eyes and shutting your ears and sitting still, don't think you are inactive because the greatest action is the action of the mind, and the mind is never inactive. Arjuna thought that he would rather run away than face the terrible battle. But Arjuna sitting in a cave and meditating would still be Arjuna the warrior, filled with hatred for the enemies whom he did not dare to face on the battlefield. His mind would be a seething mass of hatred and emotions. What sort of a meditation is this? What sort of a monk he would have been? Many who become monks are those who wished to get away from the world; who could not look after their family. 

Lord Krishna says that the greatest yogi is the one who does his duty. He/she may be a householder with so many responsibilities. But if he/she is doing the duty, then he/she is a real yogi; not the one who has renounced all but the one who carries on the normal daily life of a human being and does the duty without any thought of rewards. We are such selfish creatures that we cannot even give a smile without expecting a smile in return. I may be passing by a person daily and give a smile every day. But one day that person, probably engrossed in his thoughts, walks away without giving me a return smile, and this will make me angry. People expect a return for everything they do, otherwise they don't think it is worthwhile doing it.

We have been brainwashed into believing that we must get something for everything we do. No other species in nature make such demands. We alone make demands, and therefore we are unhappy because we don_ always get what we demand. If we just carry on with our duty without making any demands, we will find that the rewards will come automatically. It may not be the rewards we expected because we always expect only the best for ourselves. But we forget that we may not have given our best effort. The nature is very just, and we will get what we really deserve. Maybe sometime it will not be what we expected. Lord Krishna says that, like nature, we should do all actions as an offering to the Supreme. If all our actions are done in the spirit of an offering to the Supreme we will get what is known as prasad.? This is an important teaching of the Bhagavad Gita.

Whatever result we might get, sometimes good, sometimes bad, and sometimes indifferent -- whatever it is, we should accept with joy because it is a prasad from God. This covers every action. It is not reserved for actions like meditation. It applies to any action even something like cleaning your car or washing your clothes or washing dishes or cleaning the baby's diapers. It doesn't matter what actions you do, give it as an offering to God. Make the best possible effort. If you are cooking, prepare the food as if the Lord himself is coming to eat the food. The mother never gives a list of the number of diapers she changed and the number of times she woke up at night to look after the child. A mother does not count the trouble she has gone through for the child and demand her wages when he is old enough to compensate her. She gives her work as an offering from the overflow of love in her heart. Who is she looking after but the Divine in the form of her child? Who are you looking after in your mother or your father or your husband or your wife? Think of them all as gods in human form. The secret of karma yoga is this attitude. That is what makes 'karma' into 'karma yoga.' Karma is action which all of us do; karma yoga is that action which is done most unselfishly as part of that offering to that Cosmic power which has brought you into this world, which is nurturing you and uplifting you. So, to that power in nature, let us say I offer this action to you. Action done in this way is spiritualized.

Divinity is omnipresent in everything. This is the very simple advice that Lord Krishna gives for day-to-day life so that the kingdom of heaven is not barred to anyone. Anyone can enter; according to his/her pace, personality and character, and not by some rules laid down by a priestly authority. Anyone can follow karma yoga according to his/her own nature. God wants us all to attain salvation. He does not want you to deny your nature and take up some other nature by which you shall attain salvation. God is not such a brutal taskmaster. He understands that everybody has a different nature. Everybody can choose his/her own path and travel at his/her own pace, and everybody will definitely reach the goal one way or another. Lord Krishna says, "Arjuna, my devotee can never fall; there is none who has taken to this path of karma yoga and has fallen. Get up, brush off the dust, and do your duty."

To summarize, don't think you are beyond the pale -- that you have done something that cannot be forgiven by God. The forgiveness has to come from your own heart. Forgive yourself. If you can do that, you can start your life again. This is the method to salvation that denies nobody, and gives the promise of liberation to every being regardless of one's nature and shortcomings. Whatever action you are doing, do it with this discipline. And don't worry about the results. Neither happiness nor unhappiness is under your control. This world will become blissful when you experience the presence of the divine spirit in all your actions. To achieve this, there is a technique of living and that technique was taught by Lord Krishna as karma yoga in the Bhagavad Gita.

Devi Vanamali is the Head of a spiritual retreat in Rishikesh on the Ganges at the foothills of the Himalayas. This transcript of her talk to AHIMSA was prepared by Paulette Millichap.

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Thoughts on Nonviolence and Violence

Nipun Mehta
Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his acceptance speech for the 1970 Noble prize for literature talked about the 'spirit of Munich,' referring to the way that the world handled Hitler before the outbreak of WWII. He said, 'The spirit of Munich is a sickness of the will of successful people. It is the daily condition of those who have given themselves up to the thirst after prosperity at any price, to material well-being as the chief goal of earthly existence. Such people--and there are many in today's world--elect passivity and retreat, just so as their accustomed life might drag on a bit longer, just so as not to step over the threshold of hardship today--and tomorrow, you'll see, it will all be all right. But it will never be all right! The price of cowardice will only be evil; we shall reap courage and victory only when we dare to make sacrifices.'

Gandhi once said that if there was a choice between violence and cowardice, he'd pick violence any day. There is no excuse for cowardice, which in its essence just results from serious attachment to oneself. However, that is not to say that courage implies violence. While violence may be better than passivity, retreat and cowardice, the lesser of the two evils is still evil. Non-violence comes from a space of power, strength and inner resolve that love will transform the anger of the oppressed. It is not to say that when someone hits you, you don't hit back. It is, rather, to say something much more powerful--that when someone hits you, the strength of your love will shake the foundation of anger and negativity that resulted in the oppressor's action.

Gandhi's salt march is an excellent example. One by one, people lined up to get whacked in the skulls, get bloodied in the face, get wounded like never before in their lives. That is hardly passivity, retreat or cowardice. They took a stance and stuck to it. But that's just one part of the story. Gandhi told everyone very clearly that you are to look the oppressor in the eye, summon all the compassion your heart can gather, and wish well unto them as they hit you. Thousands and thousands of folks lined up for this three consecutive days. Until finally, the oppressors were transformed.

Years later, Martin Luther King, Jr. demonstrated the power of compassion in a similar way. And even in this day and age, Dalai Lama is doing the same with the Tibetan struggle for independence. What these revolutionaries have shown and are showing is that victory is not when you suppress the oppressor; it is when you transform the oppressor. Their view of the world is not about my people, my country, my well-being--they are concerned with all of humanity. They fully understand what Gandhi said so eloquently, ' Eye for an eye and the whole world will be blind.'

Having said that, though, I don't think that refusing to fight is always the right answer. Krishna helped Pandavas fight a war in the India epic, Mahabharata. In almost all scriptures, 'demons' are fended off with the metaphoric use of violence as well. But, first, we must identify the demon properly. Our own ignorance and thoughtless reactions to injustice and oppression, just add fuel to the fire. However, if the intent serves the whole with compassion, it dissolves the gap between the oppressor and the oppressed. If your fight is a reaction to internal anger and outrage, you are getting sucked in, deeper and deeper into the tornado. If, instead, you are fighting for the benefit of all, you will fight a different fight, even if it involves violence.

To me, non-violence is about the victory of love over hatred, peace over turmoil, wisdom over confusion. How it manifests, is a different story but until we are in tune with those fundamental tenets of nature, we will suffer. And for me, I can honestly say that I am bringing suffering unto myself because I am not nonviolent in every single moment. Furthermore, that personal violence is contributing to the external war that has been continuing for a long time now. (We only notice it when buildings blow up and people die.) And until we are determined to stop it, within ourselves, we will continue to experience it again and again, in different ways.

Before responding to the situation, let us place emphasis on fully understanding the situation. People are talking about peace without having any concrete experience with peace; others are talking about war while totally oblivious of their intent. This is not a mere exercise in rational intellectualization. This requires some 'experiments with truth,' and demands that you 'be the change.'

Nipun Mehta is the Founder of CharityFocus.

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A Reflection from Silicon Valley on the Events of September Eleven

Tom Mahon
Along with the symbols of America's financial and military preminence, there is also a symbol of the country's technological leadership: Silicon Valley. Mercifully, we were spared an attack. In part, perhaps, because there is no physical landmark that symbolizes the place. However, we need to attend to the roots of rage that underlie this unspeakable horror.

Thirty years ago, technology companies stressed the human benefit of their engineering ingenuity: progress is our most important product; better things for better living. Today, there is little pretense that technology serves human ends. The term used now is 'cool stuff,' as if to acknowledge we don't even know why we do it any more. We do it and trust you'll buy it and then buy some more in 18 months when this is obsolete. This is not sustainable.

For 400 years, the words 'just' and 'ethical' have been excluded from the scientific and technical vocabulary. We have labored too long under 'the doctrine of ethical neutrality.' On September 11, 2001, that paradigm shifted in a big way. Much engineering excellence is squandered on the trivial and the deadly, from video games to 'smart weapons.' The search for meaning in our lives and the cries of the dispossessed get lost in the noise of so much electronic blather. The problem is not the technology. It is we who choose to endanger or to ennoble ourselves with the tools in our hands. The problem is the habits of our hearts--the patterns of our thoughts.

To re-tool and re-engineer the imbalanced industrial infrastructure, to mitigate the digital divide, to equalize the unsustainable imbalance between global haves and have-nots is the greatest challenge confronting us. We have the ingenuity, the capital and the organizational skill to accept this challenge. But do we have the soul and the grit to harmonize our leading edge information-gathering and distribution capabili-ties with the search for composure and compassion taught by generations of wise men and women?

Tom Mahon has been writing about technology for nearly 30 years, and is a member of the Ahimsa Board.

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A Meditation

Nik Warren
"I have found that life persists in the midst of destruction and therefore there must be a higher law than that of destruction." M. K. Gandhi.

It is two and a half weeks since September 11th, 2001. It is important to note this, for by now so many voices have been raised. So many perspectives have been stated. We know both the cries for vengeance and for restraint. We have seen black mourning flags, the bright declarative American flag, and the whole-earth flag. And we have witnessed the power that arises from hurt and compassion steeled into heroism. And we have even come to understand something of the fierce power of martyrdom that comes from deep religious belief forged with anger into action, against us here. Today, we see the shaping of the next phase. The field of action expands. We see momentum building toward national action. There will be action. And here my meditation begins.

Action is our national mindset. As a people and a country we have declared ourselves by our actions throughout our history. We have proclaimed and acted with resolve. Always the action: to leave England; to declare independence; to become a nation; to expand West; to stay one nation, North and South; to assert our will in the Spanish American War; to assume our responsibility through World Wars, the Cold War. Always the action taken to express those traits we consider most noble: democracy, openness, enlightened self-interest, capitalism -- the market and patriotism declared together -- as announced in commercial advertisements this very week.

We have declared our place on the globe, and so in turn, the currents of the broader world must sweep over us. How can they not? How can our place and peoples be privileged or isolated from violence? This cannot be the view of wisdom, nor the wisdom of the warrior. Have we not seen the whole planet from space? A single sphere declaring a supra logic. On the sphere where is the isolation? Where is the front? How can we avoid being affronted? How can we call our violence 'action', and the others' actions 'violence'? Do we not see stars explode to make the very atoms of our Earth and bodies? Do we not see the Earth crack and shake to bring forth mountains, and oceans and continents that sustain us. It is action that sustains us. It is the form of the action that defines us.

It is action that sustains us. It is the form of the action that defines us. This was the insight declared by the actions of Gandhi. This was the declaration of Martin Luther King Jr. This can be the declaration of a teacher, or a doctor, or a mother, or a neighbor. To define us -- on one globe, of one genetic stuff, of one set of atoms, and, as we will come to understand, of one mind and one soul. Although it may be extremely painful, we must seek the ability to see the same mind and soul in others. It is the mind and the soul which responds to love, to respect, to truth, to those powers, ahimsa and satyagraha -- non-injury and truth-force -- nurtured by Gandhi to form life and action.

In the two and a half weeks since September 11th, we do seem to see a national response containing patience and argued balance. And on the day I write this, a declaration of aid to Afghanistan's people has been made a careful acknowledgment of the commonality and community needs that bind us within the diversity which our lives express. I hold these as favored signs that action will be rooted in deeper awareness than national pride.

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It's Time to Wage "War" Against Hate Mongers

Henry Baer
Our legal system can fine and punish an individual for saying to a co-worker or employee: "you look sexy" or "I'd really like to get to know you better" etc. These utterances are considered sexual harassment. On the other hand, a hate monger can get on the pulpit, podium or on TV and spew racist, bigoted and prejudicial remarks without breaking any law.

The teachers, preachers and politicians who try to instill "hate" into the minds of others need to be held accountable for their comments. Allowing Hitlers, Farrakhans, Bin Ladins, David Dukes and their likes to teach intolerance and hate, undermines the fabric of our society and is the root cause of most of the world's ills. Not only the U.S. but also every civilized government needs to enact legislation holding accountable "hate mongers." They need to be brought to justice in proportion to the damage that they or their remarks do to others.

The acts of terrorists are the result of indoctrination and brainwashing that they've received. If hate mongers were not allowed to spew their venom, we would live in a much more tolerant and compassionate world.

Henry Baer is a dentist, and a member of the AHIMSA Board.

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