On November 8 at 8:30 pm IST, the Prime Minister of India announced the demonetisation of the 500 and 1000 currency denominations. The same day, the United States voted for electing its new President. The consequences, resulting from both these events, have produced grieving men and women in both countries who are not only afraid but who are angry as well. Resistance was only natural, leading to violent upheavals in one case and diatribes in another. The two years of reading and practising Zen Buddhism and what Eckhart Tolle calls Presence offered me sanctuary and yet for most part of the day, I was disconsolate, unable to understand the grief and fearful of this cyclic world. Not so much for myself but for my family and friends, I knew what I would have to do – stay resilient and be hopeful – without knowing how to do it.
After writing a brief letter to a friend from the South, who I knew was grieving, I decided to behold my own grief in silence. I purchased the Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for the Difficult Times and began reading it immediately. In her motherly manner, Chodron asks us to abandon hope to bring ourselves to acquaint with the groundlessness that we begin to feel when uncertainty rises. She writes,
“The first noble truth of the Buddha is that when we feel suffering, it doesn’t mean that something is wrong… We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. That grabbing [onto something] is based on hope. Not grabbing is called hopelessness. Begin with hopelessness.
We like to ensure that everything will come out in our favour. But when we really look, we’re going to see that we have no control over what occurs at all. We have all kinds of mood swings and emotional reactions. They just come and go endlessly.”
It was not long before Chodron’s heart advice penetrated into my despairing heart that had already been cracked open. I suddenly saw that these new times are continuing from the world’s history and that we, as the new generation, would have to dedicate ourselves again for the world’s children, just as our forefathers and foremothers had been called to do. That we have now been assigned a duty – a moral obligation – to perform acts of kindness and love even if they were infinitesimal.
To complement Chodron’s heart advice, later in the week I moved towards practical advice from Martin Luther King Jr. In A Testament of Hope, King reiterates the sacredness of a nonviolent resistance – the only means that could create a subsequent world without bitterness and hatred. He writes, “Unearned suffering is redemptive” and that love stands at the centre when you refuse to hate your enemy, your oppressor. That the oppressors are as human (although in forgetfulness) as the oppressed and that that gentle fact alone should undo our hearts that believe in the use of weapons and violence.
The world will very soon need warriors – men, women, and children – who have a heart that is broken open – so that as Leonard Cohen believed, the light could enter. In calling for hopelessness, we are preparing ourselves for a world that is beyond our imagination, our fears, and our understanding. A world in which, we stand in that light and say, we are ready, for it all.