Tuesday, September 25, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 24


 
 









 
Any freedom requires transformation

Angi Patton
Guest Columnist

In Vedic literature, specifically the Bhagavad-Gita, the essence of life is revealed in a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna. This historic discourse took place thousands of years ago as troops assembled on a battlefield preparing for war.

On the side of righteousness stood Arjuna, the greatest archer of his time. Skilled in military science, Arjuna was poised to confront the opposing army, led
by his evil-minded cousin. While he was an esteemed warrior, one who could purportedly "fight 10,000 archers single-handedly," Arjuna was also a
civilized and compassionate man.

In the gripping moment preceding the battle, Arjuna found himself paralyzed with indecision. His prowess as a military leader was overshadowed by his
inability to reconcile his sense of duty with his love for family. As a defender of virtue and morality, he was obligated to protect the world from evil influences,
and yet he was tormented by the thought of inflicting injury on his own flesh and blood.

On this day, Arjuna found himself unable to act, suspended in uncertainty, frozen in time.

Those who have never studied Vedic knowledge might be surprised to learn the legendary exchange between Krishna and Arjuna has been fictionalized in
Steven Pressfield's novel The Legend of Bagger Vance.

Set in 1931, Pressfield's story moves the conflict of good and evil from an ancient battlefield to a well-manicured playing field. Rather than a celebrated
archer and his ennobled charioteer, Pressfield transforms Arjuna and Krishna into an amateur golfer, Randolph Junah (R. Junah) and a mystical caddie,
Bagger Vance. Like Arjuna, Pressfield's Junah is also confronted with a dilemma that was precipitated by worldly events.

Although a decorated hero, Randolph Junah is a casualty of war. After witnessing the cruelty and devastation of human conflict, Junah grew disillusioned
with the human enterprise. Junah's emotional emptiness triggered a retreat from society similar to Arjuna's stalemate on the battlefield. Arjuna and Junah
represent the mortal aspect of humanity.

Lord Krishna and Bagger Vance signify spirit. The interaction between the human mind and the cosmic spirit indicates a transformation of the soul.

While a war-torn battlefield may seem a far cry from the civility of golf, and ancient scriptures and popular fiction may seem trivial compared to the gravity of
21st century terrorism, in fact and in fable these stories share the same dynamic they are tales of transformation.

Krishna and Bagger Vance counseled their protégés that to overcome the impediments of life, to defeat their opponents, they first had to look inward, settle
their minds, focus their attention, rise above their individual nature and connect to something greater than themselves. By expanding their awareness,
Arjuna and Junah gained the perspective necessary to deliver themselves from their troubled circumstances.

On Sept. 11, when darkness descended on the Earth, we awakened to the fact that evil had the upper hand; like our literary heroes, we felt impotent,
immobile and overwhelmed. We have emerged as a wounded nation. Rather than being led down a path that will heal our souls and transform our spirit,
our government leaders are enabling us, commanding us to languish in our misery through sound bites such as "If you are not with us, you are against us."

Terrorism of this magnitude represents a 21st century construct that is impervious to the Cold War tactics of the 20th century.

Terrorism is an intangible target because it is non-local and ubiquitous. As our world has grown more abstract and virtual, so have the evil forces that
threaten us. And yet, government leaders, blinded by convention, can only respond with strategies that require pinpointing targets that have concrete
destinations.

Terrorism is not a person or a place. Terrorism is a symptom of a suffering world, a consequence of the cramped conditions of the soul.

For the moment we may feel empowered by righteousness, but consider that those who planned and executed the horrific acts of Sept. 11 were also driven
by a sense of righteousness. They believed so strongly in their cause they were willing to plot and pilot their own deaths. Feeling righteous does not make
one right and it does not justify retaliatory violence.

This is not to suggest we should not act. The future of the world depends on our action. It is up to the United States to release the grip of evil and shift the
balance of power back toward good. But the action that is needed requires a more elite special forces unit than our military currently possesses. To strike at
the heart of the discord, our peacekeeping forces must be skilled in tactics that, on the surface, are as vaporous and abstract as the evil that threatens us.

In an open letter to government leaders and peace-loving citizens, a solution has been proposed that is outlined in Sunday's issue of the New York Times.

At first glance, a strategy aimed at neutralizing stress in the environment may appear to be insignificant against the enormity of terrorism. Consider,
however, that the most sophisticated, highly armed and powerful country in the world could not deter the terrorism that was inflicted on its shores.

In addition, a consciousness-based approach lies outside our belief system. But keep in mind that our belief system was shattered on Sept. 11 when our
own way of life was catastrophically turned against us.

What we need from our leaders is a solution that will transform the world by transforming consciousness. Freedom is, after all, a state of mind, not a
condition of geography.

Patton, an associate art
professor, can be reached via dccampus@mail.uh.edu.


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