Terror attacks in India
When thinking you’re right makes you wrong
As I write this, police, hotel staff and and various specialists are combing through the wreckage of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai looking for casualties, evidence, survivors and possibly terrorists in hiding. There have been so many shocking images coming out of Mumbai over the last three days. Bloodied bodies. Flames and smoke billowing from an historic and important landmark. Survivors climbing down drain pipes. Paratroopers repelling down ropes onto the roof of Nariman House. I found the most chilling image to be that of a smiling young gunman, toting an AK-47, as he goes on his murderous rampage. His smile seems so out of place, so remorseless, so certain. It’s the terrorists’ certainty that scares me, more than anything else. That certainty springs from a mindset deeply rooted in the dualistic notion of right and wrong.
Dualistic thinking can lead you to think that you’re right, and the other guy is wrong. Period. Anything your mind can conceive, you can believe. You can believe it’s okay to open fire on civilians, strangers, as they are eating in a restaurant. It can lead you to think it’s okay to fly airplanes into skyscrapers. To plant bombs in markets and amusement parks.
Someone once said George W. Bush would rather be certain than right. His certainty, especially about the Iraq War, is just as chilling.
But religious certainty seems to be the most deadly. Looking back over world history, untold numbers of people have died in wars, holocausts, inquisitions, crusades — all in the name of certainty. My god is the only god.
I have been very lucky and very privileged in my life to be exposed to ideas, philosophies and practices that teach a non-dualistic approach to truth that is based in felt experience. I breathe in, I can feel my breath in my body, sense my heart beat, feel that I am alive. I can hear the chatter of my busy mind — and gain some distance from it. (Interestingly, in light of the Mumbai carnage, most of these beautiful ideas originate in India, dating back to the time of the ancient masters.)
The human mind is a marvel. It is very creative and can think up incredible ideas, like open-heart surgery and central heating and penicillin and yoga and vitamin-fortified milk. But it can also think up religions and political systems and convince people that theirs is the right one. The only one.
Talking about god and spirituality in the western media is basically a taboo — and partly because of a recognition that religious psychology tends to be so dogmatic and rigid. But I think that espousing and teaching a non-dualistic spirituality that helps put people in touch with their own divinity and engenders a deeply rooted respect for the divinity of ALL living creatures can help counter the certainty mindset.
For myself, I would rather be alive than certain.
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