A Prayer for Reconciliation

स्वस्त्यस्तु विश्वस्य खल: प्रसीदतां
ध्यायन्तु भूतानि शिवं मिथो धिया ।
मनश्च भद्रं भजतादधोक्षजे
आवेश्यतां नो मतिरप्यहैतुकी ॥ ९ ॥

svasty astu viśvasya khalaḥ prasīdatāṁ
dhyāyantu bhūtāni śivaṁ mitho dhiyā
manaś ca bhadraṁ bhajatād adhokṣaje
āveśyatāṁ no matir apy ahaitukī

“May the entire universe be blessed with peace and hope. May everyone driven by envy and enmity become pacified and reconciled. May all living beings develop abiding concern for the welfare of others. May our own hearts and minds be filled with purity and serenity. May all these blessings flow naturally from this supreme benediction: May our attention become spontaneously absorbed in the rapture of pure love unto the one transcendent Supreme.”

(Bhāgavata Purāṇa 5.18.9; transl. Ravindra Svarupa Das)

At Princeton, we recognize — in fact, we celebrate — that our Hindu Life Program community is an incredibly diverse one, and that diversity sometimes expresses itself in terms of ideological, viewpoint, and political differences. At the same time, the events of the past few days seem to speak to something larger. This isn’t about who one voted for or which political party one identifies with. The unprecedented storming of the U.S. Capitol by a treasonous mob, incited by the seditious urging of a leader who has demonstrated unparalleled recklessness and moral bankruptcy, must be a wake-up call to all of us.

The attack on the Capitol was an affront to the values that undergird democracy itself. These values align with the core principles of Hinduism– values like unity (ekatva), humility (amanitva), truthfulness (satyam), and non-harming (ahimsa). And the attack on them illustrate the danger of indulging one’s lowest tendencies, like wrath (krodha), arrogance (mada), enmity (matsarya), and delusion (moha). We cannot aspire towards dharma if we are not willing to call out — and condemn — adharma.

As we struggle to make sense of this painful moment, we might remember this benediction, found in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa and attributed to the celebrated child saint Prahlada. Prahlada himself suffered the devastation wrought by Hiranyakashipu– a corrupt, ego-driven, exploitative leader. Yet, in response, he prayed only for reconciliation and healing. In this spirit, may we too meet the forces of hatred and division with the infinitely greater power of love and unity. 

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