April 4, 2011
On March 11, Japan was violently shaken by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake that prompted a ferocious 30-40m tsunami to strike its northeastern shore.
To date 28,000 people are dead or missing.
Nearly 400,000 people are homeless.
Over 168,000 households have no electricity and at least 220,000 households have no running water.
When Swami Purnamritananda Puri spoke to Amritapuri students and faculty during Samavarnam 2011 on March 31, he recounted what a few visitors from Tokyo told Amma about the Japan disaster. “They never expected a day would come when they wouldn’t have food, electricity or water,” he said.
Due to globalization and technological advances, human beings seem to be growing more than ever before … but are we really?
Even with our technological advancements we couldn’t predict or prevent Japan’s multiple catastrophes.
Technology has also failed to solve the Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis. Radioactive water continues to spill out from a pit at the Unit-2-reactor, damaged by the earthquake.
This isn’t the first time technology fell short. Think 2010, when it took BP 87 days to plug the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.
“The world is full of scientists, scholars and wealthy people, but nature can make them into beggars in a fraction of a second,” emphasized Swamiji.
“Human intelligence and technology are not enough. We need grace.”
How to get grace? “Grace is possible by purity alone, which can be attained only through prayers, good actions and love,” said Swamiji.
With natural calamities like the Japan disaster on the rise due to the disharmony between man and nature, Swamiji’s next topic, fear, was pertinent.
He quoted Bhartrihari’s beautiful poem, Vairaagya Shatakam (one hundred verses on dispassion).
The poem lists nine fears. Bhoge Rogabhayam-fear of sickness; Kule Chyutibhayam-fear of losing one’s good reputation; Vitte Nrupaalaad-Bhayam-fear of losing one’s wealth;
Maane Dainyabhayam-fear of humiliation; Bale Ripubhayam-fear of enemies; Roope Jaraayaa Bhayam-fear of old-age; Shaastre Vaadibhayam-fear of learned opponents; Gune Khalabhayam-fear of wicked people; and the biggest fear, Kaaye Krtaantaad-Bhayam-fear of death.
What can set us free from these fears, asked Swamiji. “Sarvam Vastu Bhayam – through dispassion alone can we become free from fear. All things in this world can disappear at any given moment. That’s why we need detachment.”
The imbalance in nature persists. Its agitation continues to be expressed through disasters. Man has every reason to be afraid.
Will we get the grace we need to face these disasters if we continue to depend on unreliable technologies and human intelligence alone? Shouldn’t we instead follow Swamiji’s suggestion and entrust ourselves to grace? Perhaps prayers, good actions and love, that generate grace, will save us and save nature too.
We better get started, we are running out of time …