Friday, September 14, 2001

I was watching many people on television today as they observed a few moments of silence to honor the victims of last Tuesday's tragedy. Situated far away from those people as I am (I live in Italy, near the birthplace of Saint Francis of Assisi), I joined them in spirit. Later I participated in spirit in the inspiring services held in Washington D.C. and in other cities across America. I was proud to think I belong to a nation dedicated to truth and God.

During those moments of silence, I saw several people glance around as if asking themselves, "What do I do in this silence?" Obviously, the answer was to pray. However, I found myself asking along with them, What should I pray for? Surely there are many others asking that same question these days.

I wanted very much to pray. This drama, however, is so vast and so complex that I wondered how any prayer of mine, lacking a clear focus, could have any effect at all. And then I thought of the prayer attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi: "Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace." And I realized there could be no better prayer at such a time.

Assuming God heeds our prayers—and experience convinces me that He does—what prayer would reach Him? Surely, mere petitions would have little power under such circumstances. If God exists—and I haven't the slightest doubt that He does—and if He loves us (don't even human parents love their own erring children?), surely He requires no boost of love from me! His grief for people's suffering must be infinitely deeper than my own. Surely He also takes into account, and grieves over, the hatred and intolerance in the perpetrators of this tragedy. If Satan exists—and, again, I see no other explanation for the consciousness that sets human beings against every principle of love and truth—those acts cannot be called human, merely: They have to be called satanic.

So how do I pray? Do I pray with love for those who were thrust out of their lives so violently? with compassion for their families and loved ones? in support of our president and political leaders? in anger and with a desire for vengeance against our attackers? soul-searchingly, for personal understanding? fearfully, for the world's future? Could a few moments of prayer possibly settle these many issues even in my own mind? The silence and those divine services were uplifting, but, alas, they also increased my own sense of helplessness. And then, as I thought of those words of Saint Francis of Assisi, I realized there is something all of us can do: We can lift up our hearts in the prayer to become more worthy instruments of God's light, love, and wisdom.

The issues facing us are bewildering in their sheer diversity. One thing, however, emerges clearly from them: They are far greater than all human beings together. Humanity is caught in a struggle between good and evil: between God (define Him as you will) and Satan (define him, again, as you will). It is a struggle between light and darkness, between faith and the attempt to destroy faith in everything. If we meet hatred with anger and bigotry with intolerance, we take onto ourselves the same emotions that were responsible for this disaster. On the other hand, we have no need spiritually to love those terrorists. It is enough that we love God. We may love the evildoer as His child, but pardon and salvation are matters between the soul and God. Our concern is, and ought to be, for those on whom this suffering has been inflicted.

We owe it to ourselves, and to human beings everywhere, to do what we can for the good. Our duty is to act firmly, even sternly, to prevent evil from spreading—as, in a forest fire, a swath of trees may have to be cut down to prevent the fire from spreading. No scripture on earth counsels spinelessness. It is sufficient that we not be drawn into hatred for others. Our concern must be the threat their actions pose for the rest of humanity.

What should I pray for? I pray that I become an ever truer channel for God's grace. I pray for my fellow human beings, too, that they become stronger in God's light.

The real war today is not military. It is a conflict between faith and the repudiation of all faith, between love and hatred. What will win this war is if millions of people offer themselves up as channels of God's truth and justice. This offering is one each of us has the power to make.

Each of us has the power to pray to God: "Lord, use me! Let me be a channel of Your love to all." Divine Love is a force. It does not succumb meekly to evil, but opposes it with the power to destroy it utterly—if possible by transforming it into kindred love, but if necessary, by cutting a swath through the forest in order to save countless other trees. If we understand that by loving rightly what we express is God's love, He will be able, through us, to uplift the world's consciousness. For that is how He works: through instruments.

An ocean consists of innumerable drops. Although one raindrop adds but little moisture to the earth, when it unites with many other drops, they flow as a mighty river to the sea. We too, united with God's will, can help mightily in the struggle between the forces of light and of darkness. By praying and acting rightly, we may be instrumental in ushering in a period of international and inter-religious peace and understanding.

Author's Bio: 

Swami Kriyananda, (J.Donald Walters) is a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda. In 1968 he founded Ananda Village in Nevada City, California, A Yogic community dedicated to living the teachings of
Paramhansa Yogananda. He is the author of over 50 books and 300 musical compositions that have sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide and been translated into 22 languages in 90 countries. For more information on his books http:www.//crystalclarity.com For more information on Ananda Village http://www.ananda.org/ If you'd like to come visit Ananda' world renowned retreat facility go to http://www.expandinglight.org