The people of Paris are trying to come to terms with what happened on 13th November.
There is a palpable sense of generalised trauma in the city. People are insisting they’re not scared, but the truth is that they are. Even my most sociable friends, the ones with whom I had been enjoying nights out at cafes and restaurants, have gone to ground. People are not going out. People are not even going out for a walk. Events are being cancelled. Everyone is on edge.
For myself, I have been reflecting on the matter of free will. The free will of the attackers to do what they did. What does free will mean in the context of the spiritual practices in which I engage every day? What does the fact that subject is object and object is subject mean in the face of someone with a Kalashnikov shooting to kill? I haven’t found an answer to this.
I will share a recent experience, though.
I have written before about the Gayatri mantra. I chant it every morning, as well as the mantra to Green Tara. The Gayatri mantra is an educative process. Slowly, it opens up the one who chants it – as I quoted before, it is ‘a meditation on the impersonal nature of existence.’ A few days ago, I was about 20 recitations in to the 108 when a feeling of nausea and horror started to rise from my guts. I continued chanting for a couple of minutes, then, for the first time ever, simply stopped as I was convinced I was going to vomit. My palms were sweating and I was shivering and prickly all over. To complete some semblance of a distinct practice, I whipped through 108 Green Tara mantras, then stood up. After a few minutes the dreadful sensations subsided and, rather puzzled, I got on with my day, concluding that I must have had some sort of panic attack.
For my evening practice I set myself to redo the Gayatri mala I had not completed that morning. To my surprise, the feeling of horror started to mount in me again. I realised this time though, what it was. I was touching the horror of these recent events. The horror of the will to destroy. The horror of the will to harm, of the will to do one’s will with no care for the consequences. The horror of being convinced that one’s will is so just that one is able to kill and destroy in its name.
As I continued to chant, tears came. I chanted through them. When I had finished 108 Gayatri mantras, I sat in meditation and again, tears came. I meditated through them. As I chanted Green Tara’s mantra, tears came and I chanted through them. Towards the end of the 108 Green Tara mantras, I had a visualisation.
I saw Green Tara (not for the first time). She was sitting in lotus position, hands folded in meditation, above the Earth. I noticed her posture, as it is not her usual depiction. Usually she is represented in what I believe is called lalitasana, with her right leg extended, one hand holding a lotus. There was a feeling of infinite compassion in her (the word means ‘to suffer with’), her eyes closed, her presence utterly still as she sat above the Earth, the flawed, chaotic, fearful, damaged mess of it.
I asked her if I could make it stop. No, she replied. Then how, I asked, can I respond to this? I got a very short, succinct response.
Make your love active.
I will try.
Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha