“It kept getting worse.”

September 12th, 2001

Bhaktivedanta Ashram – New York City

Luke showed up at the door at eleven o’clock this morning and brought the New York Times. The opening sentence of its lead article (above) explained it all. Luke lives on 6th two blocks away so I joked with him, “It takes a national tragedy for you to visit the ashram.” Luke, however, was unusually somber. His mother was visiting his disabled sister at her Battery Park City apartment yesterday next to the World Trade Center. They were watching the burning towers and nearly got stampeded as they were literally forced to the ground by the power of the collapse before the mad rush began. He was initially in contact them, but didn’t hear from them again until evening when they were finally evacuated from the area by tugboat to the midtown pier on the Hudson River. He was still somewhat shaken from yesterday and we talked for some time.

At eleven o’clock I began my daily walk. The roads are now completely desolate, most shops and businesses closed, the quietude uncanny. It’s a once in a lifetime New York sans passion, no running here and there. People are sad, but the mode in New York is so much more peaceful. I pass the regal Middle Collegiate Church on 2nd Ave. Its doors are surprisingly wide open, as are every church I eventually passed this morning, welcoming the distressed souls for shelter. As I stop and curiously look inside a man standing on the steps, about sixty, casually and neatly dressed, wearing a baseball cap, looks up and sincerely invites me in to pray. A few people in the front pews sit with heads down. I sit in the back and chant on beads quietly appreciating a sacred space and praying for Krishna’s mercy.

I return to the ashram. There’s a phone call from Akincan Krishna. He asks,”My mother is falling apart and wants to see me. Should I see it as an opportunity to help her understand God consciousness? She has been so averse to religion that she immediately becomes indignant and shuts off even at the mention of it”

I advise. “Try to increase her understanding, but be sensitive to her trauma. There is no set formula. Judge the situation and apply your intelligence accordingly. Perhaps tell her that you also find it difficult, but the knowledge and insight you’ve gained by philosophy and theology enable you to cope with such difficulties. You may try to explain that all bona-fide creeds of spirituality and wisdom teach that stability and happiness lie not in our destiny (which is beyond our power) but in our perspective and response to it (which is in our control).

I check my email. There’s a lot of response to the journal sent yesterday on the disaster here. I read:

“I hope this does not lead to a full scale war, we will have to pray hard for calm amongst the countries, the world is now so far away from the simplistic life that once reigned on this planet.”

Why is there such widespread fear and insecurity? We have come to this world for material enjoyment and naturally use our environment for that purpose. Unsurprisingly, after a time, in any environment, as we learn more and more to employ and view it selfishly, we become attached. (By the covering potency of Maya even Indra, the king of heaven, became attached to his filth when cursed to take birth as a hog) As our world moves beyond our control by the force of destiny, we live in constant fear, especially in calamity, where our environment rapidly changes in a manner threatening our attachments. When such alterations foretell permanent hanges in our life, the fear is especially strong.

A devotee is detached. He is satisfied with God’s will regardless of what that means to his comforts and pleasures. He is thus sober and satisfied in all circumstances, beyond duality. Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrother, Srila Sridhara Swami, therefore offered us the very deep but relevant aphorism:

“If you’re not optimistic, you’re an atheist.”

Without Srila Prabhupada I would be just another fearful soul swept in uncertainty by the force of time. I offer my respectful obeisances to my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who kindly bestowed upon me the elixir of transcendental knowledge.

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