Hindu, Muslim and Christian Reflections on Arun Gandhi's 9/11 Talk
September 26, 2011
Introspection is the essence of our humanity and Dr. Arun Gandhi requested we not forget this as students hoping to contribute to a better world. He argued that our faiths should connect us, not divide us. In fixating on differences and forgetting to look inwards, to assess who we are and who we wish to be, we become disassociated from our world.
I once sat through a guided meditation in which I was asked to focus on the life inside me, then on life ten feet around me, then on the life in India, then on life on Earth and finally to draw my internal gaze to the universe. It was an awe-inspiring experience as I felt that spark inside me grow until I became the universe.
Hinduism emphasizes introspection as a means of connecting your soul, atman, to the universal Energy, brahman, around you. It asks us to be a part of this world, to feel the pain of others as our own and to do our duty and relieve this pain.
It disappoints me that our religions divide us when they all rest on principles of love and compassion. Dr. Arun Gandhi reminded us gently, in his call to introspection, to end the passive violence in our own lives so that we can end violence globally. Reflection on the pain we may cause others or our environment will allow us to avoid inflicting this pain again. It will encourage peace and if we can introduce peace in our own lives, we will re-introduce it to our world.
Islam allows me to self-reflect every day. As a Muslim, I am asked to pray five times a day but also to think of God as often as I can. After each ritual prayer, I say a personal prayer to God.
Whether asking God to help me do well on a test or to help me be more understanding to a friend, I feel a personal connection in which I can be completely honest. In escaping the fast paced lifestyle of Georgetown meetings, work, studying, and dance practice, introspection allows me to find peace. As well as providing an oasis, in the reflection of my day and the goals I hope to attain, I constantly tell myself that I will try harder in my pursuits and in upholding my values.
Similarly, Arun Ghandi suggested we try waking up every morning telling ourselves we will be a better person than we were the day before. This point resonated with me because it is something that I strive for personally and spiritually. I can appreciate that a moral guide such as Arun Ghandi as well as my close friends from diverse backgrounds at Georgetown see similar value in the peace and motivation caused by introspection.
The Roman Catholic Faith
One of the topics of Arun Gandhi’s dialogue that resonated deeply within me and within my faith as a Roman Catholic was his call to introspection. When St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus in 1534, he emphasized the importance of reflection and thus created a special prayer – the Examen of Consciousness – to aid his followers in their spiritual growth. He believed that in order to become closer with God, it was necessary to search for the movement of the spirit in everyday life.
Mohandas Gandhi considered Jesus to be the first non-violent activist, and Jesus’ teachings of universal love and turning the other cheek coincide perfectly with Mohandas Gandhi’s theory of non-violence. Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice embodies the core of Gandhi’s teaching.
As a Catholic and a student of a Jesuit university, I have long been touched by Jesus’ call to follow his example of love and self-sacrifice and to work towards a more perfect world without violence, a call that asks us, in the words of Gandhi, to “be the change [we] wish to see in the world.” Arun Gandhi’s dialogue highlighted the universality of this teaching.