1 - Let it be clear we are fortunate with the fact that the
pain of the world is visible almost simultaneously everywhere.
It makes concrete help possible and leads to acknowledgment of
the traumatic events and the pain of the victims. Recognition
is very important since it is a basically necessary precondition
for mental recovery from traumatic affairs. See “trauma
and recovery” by j.l. herman (basic books 1992).
2 - Although our witnessing is virtual, our feelings are like
post-traumatic reactions and those occurring in mourning. As
shown for instance by the exaggerated claim on safety by citizens
of most western countries. While safety is a basic precondition
for recovery from factual traumatic events. More analysis of
post-traumatic phenomenon’s in mainly witness-countries
are important. This is because, it seems to me, that the witness-societies,
the witness-parts of them, think that merely safety will restore
everyday-life as before. Thus ignoring their possible other post-traumatic
reactions. Thus underestimating their own solidarity with what
is happening all over the world, as far as pain and
suffering are concerned.
3 - As said at the end of the summary (page 1), this reflection
intends to be multi-religious and humanistic. This in spite of
the fact that the concept of karma plays a crucial role. On the
other side, this might give some more clear understanding of
karma cultures. Since much of the pain of the world takes place
within countries where the concept of karma plays a major role.
In case this reflection meets little approval, I still hope it
will contribute to a better understanding of these karma cultures.
4 - For some psychological, sociological and political aspects
connected with the role of today’s media in broadcasting
the pain of the world, see: “regarding the pain of others” (susan
sontag; published by farrar, straus & giroux, new york 2002).
Of course the media manipulate the public. Willingly or not,
it does not matter. To those who propagate not to look at “all
that stuff” I would like to state: the reality is much much more cruel, much much more extensive,
than shown! To be a virtual witness, as intensively as we can,
in fact is our prayer too. Together with the universal perpetual prayer: “lord have mercy” (attachment).
5 – Rendering help to the victims is directed towards,
so to say, traumatised ones of the first degree. Those who
are immediate witnesses, those directly connected with the
victims, are, when compared to the victims, traumatised ones
of another kind. One could say: of the second degree. Aid workers,
offering material / physically and mental help, are submitted
to traumatic reactions too. Compared with the first two categories
they are traumatised so to say to the third degree. For being
able to give help, to continue their helping, they have to
be alert to their own post-traumatic reactions as well. We
as virtual witnesses are in a way traumatised ones of a fourth
category. These reactions of ours can consist not only of closing
our eyes, but also of exaggerated compassion for the victims,
for the world, not congruent with one’s own spiritual
development, as well as maybe born out of own fear and the
like. That means: for being able to give mental support as
well as for prayer, we also have to cope with possible own
post-traumatic reactions. Let it be clear finally, that any
division into categories does not affect or minimise the specific
substantiality of the post-traumatic reactions in question.
Although therapeutic treatment, social acknowledgement, followed
by all kinds of help for the traumatised ones, are absolutely
needed, without transforming their experiences their healing
will not be complete. See note 11. This seems to me to be the
case even when treatment takes place by what is evidently the
most successful therapy nowadays. As there is the so-called
eye movement desensitization and reprocessing-approach.
For more information about this relatively new therapy, visit www.emdr.nl
6 - The subject “karma” is far too complex for
these reflections to be deepened any further, as for instance
the relationship of karma and reincarnation is not taken into
consideration. Neither “acquiring positive karma by good
7 - For a short but clear reflection on karma and the underlying
mutual influence of individual and collective or cosmic karma,
see for example: “contemplating karma” (lata mani;
in “the hindu”; online edition dd 4 february 2001; www.hinduonnet.com).
For a more extensive introduction to karma from buddhist perspective,
see alexandra david-neel’s famous book: “buddhism”,
mandala books, london 1979. Or see other buddhist literature.
8 - One of the most piercing questions of today is whether
we, in the international community that we form, should or should
not, and may or may not, intervene between each other, and if
so, with what means. The karmaconcept could then be a guide
as well as give some consolation. In particular I refer to “karma
yoga”, a spiritual praxis in hinduism closely related with
the karmaconcept (see note 9).
9 - In short karma yoga means the following: since it is not
possible not to act, as not acting is still a form of
acting, it is impossible to withdraw from the law of karma. Unless
we act unselfish. In hinduism this means realising our social
duties (dharma), in accordance with the sort of work our nature
indicates (svadharma), renouncing or not claiming as a right,
the fruits of that work. We do this by offering, at least mentally,
these fruits to the transcendence, or, if you want to avoid
these term: to life (bhagavad gita, chapter 3 and 4). So as
far as the intervening party is involved, intervening in large-scale
karma is free of karmic reactions only if this intervening occurs
unselfishly-mercifully. Even then we can not withdraw from karmic
consequences. This, because wisdom is needed too. The wisdom
of the enlightened ones. Nevertheless, even if enlightenment
and wisdom are realized, even that cannot prevent the occurrence
of karmic consequences on large scale. Since this large scale
is out of scope, out of control, even to the enlightened ones.
Nevertheless, as far as ethical dilemma’s are at stake,
we have to choose: act or not. And if, in what way. Does
this paralyse us? I think not. Just our knowing about the fact
that in all cases we are continuing large-scale karma, just that
knowing legitimizes whatever unselfish wise choice we make. With
this interpretation of krishna’s message I hope to offer
some consolation to the ones who have to choose.
10 - Let it be clear: I do not see the victims of large-scale
karma as scape-goats. For this concept see the french philosopher
rené girard in his famous study “le bouc émissaire” (edited
by bernard grasset, paris 1982). Although he does not speak
in terms of karma.
11 – The absolute necessity of psychological help, acknowledgment
and social recognition, concrete help, this will be not sufficient
for the healing of the traumatised. Since transformation has
to follow. By exploring the signifance of what happened on a
more spiritual level. Although our wisdom and compassion can
not be compared with theirs, even if they are not conscious of
that, nevertheless, we have to help the victims with this transformation.
With the transformation of their pain into that wisdom as well
as into a source of compassion for the pain of others.
12 - Praying “lord have mercy” and the like,
in order to enlarge our compassion, can be compared with the
spiritual practice of “ tonglen” as known in mahayana
buddhism. See for instance pema chödrön’s: “tonglen”,
vajradhatu publishing, halifax, canada, 2001.
13 - The offering of virtual-mental support, especially
by praying, to the ones actually involved in these projects
of help, is well-known. Not only in religious contexts but
generally. Especially material and financial support are not
bound to religions in particular. For a recent example of support
by prayer there is mother theresa. She linked nuns and monks
who were home-bound due to bad health, or their belonging
to a contemplative order, to particular aidworkers-nuns and
monks. The latter knew themselves supported in their beneficial
and difficult work.
14 - This consideration should come with the appropriate amount of modesty. As said, it is not us, it is they who know. They know that misfortune and suffering are part just as much of daily life as do prosperity and happiness. It is they who know, even if they do not yet dispose of the proper words, that everything that does happen, also within, that all of that is simultaneously unreal. Unreal in the sense that essentially it does not touch us, cannot touch us. Psychologically, their feelings of unreality, their feelings that what happened can’t be true, may well be part of post-traumatic patterns. In a spiritual sense however such feelings, once psychologically interpreted and accepted, indicate a true transformation. This transformation refers to the realisation of our invulnerable and timeless core as the only true reality. Paradoxically - despite those feelings of unreality - such a realization leads for the first time to the experience of everything from daily life as being simply what it is. As factually. As what actually exists. Which is nothing but the fundamental acceptance I did refer to, nothing but living in fundamental surrender, in fundamental connectedness.
15 - It may be clear that assistance in the recognition of the transcendent meaning of such feelings of unreality, and the correct timing of such assistance, are of great importance. At least if we wish to avoid confusing post-traumatic denial on the one hand and fundamental acceptance/surrender at the other. We will be better equipped to render assistance with that recognition to the extent that we ourselves have realised our own invulnerable timeless core. Only then it is possible to pray for the pain of the world without disqualifying our suffering fellow men. Which, with no intention of course, is what we effect when remaining stuck in our tears. When collapsing under their weight. As it is thus that we fixate both them and us onto that one side of our daily life, i.e. suffering. Just as much as we similarly do when losing ourselves in feelings of joy when seeing the prosperity and happiness of others.
16 - Strictly speaking, to achieve all of this it is not necessary to seek for our support especially or exclusively in religion and spirituality. To assume that would be arrogant as well as unwise. An awareness of human dignity that is deep and realized - that means: anchored in attitude and conduct - leads, no doubt, to the same fully equivalent fundament. As indeed said that human dignity, being an unalienable right, is the same for all of us. Here too it applies that we will give as much effort in protecting the dignity of our fellow men as we have learned to carry this awareness of human dignity within our own person. And vice versa: our effort for our fellow men deepens this awareness. That awareness is no other than compassion.