Some years ago when visiting Gandhi’s Ashram just outside of Ahmedabad in India, I found myself facing a framed copy of a letter he had sent to Adolf Hitler asking him to refrain from leading the world in another war.
It began “Dear Friend.”
Those words were more than just formality and seemed to convey the humanity and inclusive world-view which Gandhi practiced. He was able to relate to Hitler not just as a dictator, but more fundamentally, as a human being and it was to his heart that this letter was directed.
A friend is someone we hold dear, someone we know intimately. Gandhi had never met Hitler but felt he knew him simply because he knew himself. He knew the ceaseless rush of emotions, the surge of power, the barrage of thoughts, the self-protection of ego including the fear, mistrust and hatred of others which accompanies it.
The only difference was he chose not to fuel it.
In the wake of recent terrorist attacks all over the world, we either react or respond. Some demand war and others, peace. But there is another option: we can stop demanding altogether and attempt to understand.
We cannot control the world but we can become more responsible for ourselves, training our own minds and hearts with the qualities we most admire in those we love.
In Mindfulness we cultivate an open-heartedness which includes everyone and everything. It is an openness which does not contract when faced with terror, or shrivel into hatred when criticised. We mine the depths of our hearts to discover the treasure of non- separation.
The more we develop this inner understanding of how the heart, mind and world are interconnected, the less we are swayed to commit acts of hatred and destruction. The more we understand ourselves the more we become aware of the responsibility we all share, just by being here.
Anyone can commit an act of violence and anyone can hate. But who is it that can commit an act of love even when everything around them is burning down? Who is it that can call a feared dictator Dear Friend?