The proximity of great souls reminds us that we are just humble servants who should fulfill duty with dispassion and faith and leave the rest to God
BY JUSTICE C.V. WIGNESWARAN
Justice C.V. Wigneswaran served in Sri Lanka’s judiciary from 1979 to 2001 as an Eastern province magistrate, a district magistrate in Colombo, then the High Court, Court of Appeals and finally the Supreme Court. Chosen by the Tamil National Alliance as their candidate in October, 2013, he ran from the Jaffna district to win as the Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Northern Provincial Council, as his country emerged from three decades of nearly continuous warfare.
RECENTLY I HAD THE PRIVILEGE AND GOOD FORTUNE TO shake hands with His Holiness Pope Francis I at the helipad constructed in Madhu Church premises in Mannar in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, when he alighted from his helicopter. Thereafter for some time, that evening and even during the night, a sense of happiness, peace and relaxation enveloped me. While traveling back to Jaffna from Mannar by car, I could notice I was smiling. I was totally relaxed. “How come?” I thought.
I had learned in the course of my studies of Hinduism and other religions that there is an aura around great human beings that is able to affect you in a positive way. Was I experiencing that now? I think back about His Holiness, a very simple, humble human being. His flow of energy towards us was through his eyes. There was love in those eyes. I had learned that love flowing from a human being to others is capable of doing wonders. I saw His Holiness driving in an open chariot, despite his age turning and twisting his body to bless the large humanity around him and acknowledge their love and enthusiasm. I saw him on television seated at the Madhu Church, slightly panting after his exposure a little while earlier. It showed that the flow of love and goodwill takes place despite the limitations of the body and its faculties.
It is then that I started thinking. “Who is he?” “Who am I?” “Who are we?” We belong to different religions; we come from different countries. Colors of our skin are different. Our tongues speak different languages. Our customs and backgrounds are different. Our conditionings are different. Yet we can love a fellow human being. How is it possible? Probably it is because we are essentially divine. Our inner beings must contain the spark of the Divine which makes us love fellow human beings. Have I not learned Anbe Sivam—Love is God?
As a child, I went to the Holy Family Convent in Anuradhapura. The nuns there would say, “We are all sinners. Only Lord Jesus Christ can redeem us. If you become a Catholic, you will be redeemed.” I remember running up to my father one evening, when I was five or six years old, complaining that I am a sinner and I need to get saved by Lord Jesus Christ. I asked my father whether I should become a Catholic. My father just laughed and showed me the electric light flashing from the ceiling. “What color is that light?” he asked. “White,” I replied. “Suppose I install a blue shade over it, what would the color be? “Maybe blue?” I said. “Good! Suppose I install a green shade?” “Green.” “That is it, my son! Life is how we see it. And what we see is dependent on how we see it. Your teacher is a Catholic nun. She sees life the way she has been trained to see it. She sees through the blue or green colored shade. Do not be worried. You will realize that what we seek is the white bulb not the colored shade.” I do not think I understood fully what my father said until later, when I was mesmerized during my student and early professional life with what J. Krishnamurthi, the world renowned philosopher, had been saying. “We are conditioned to look at life in particular ways as a Hindu, as a Christian, as an atheist, as a communist and so on. But Truth lies beyond those conditionings.” It was an extension of what my father had been saying. I thought to myself, probably the Truth lay beyond the blue and green shades!
Justice Canagasabapathy Visuvalingam Wigneswaran: on parade after winning the election in October, 2013
I come back again to my question, “Who are we?” Traditional Hindu way of life defines a person’s development physically and mentally as developing from a student’s life (brahmacharya) into a householder’s life (grihastha), then into a life of retirement (vanaprastha) and finally to sannyasa (renunciation of the world).
When I was on the threshold of a sannyasi’s life, I was forced into politics. From an old man’s life of ease and relaxation, love and affection, I was transposed into the hubbub of politics. Fear, lust, anger, jealousy, confused thoughts, selfishness, violence, malice and murderous instincts were all around me. There were times I asked myself the question, “Who am I? What am I doing here?” It was a difficult question to answer. I was used to a judge’s pattern of life. I had lived a relatively ivory-tower existence. The sufferings of people were known to me only through the lens of a professional judge and that of the newspapers and TV. I was now face to face with people. People who strove to kiss my fingers, people who fell at my feet, people who expected an end to their sufferings through me!
“Good Lord! What have you done to me? Who am I to be what they want me to be?” I asked. Then it dawned on me—I am nobody. But He is everybody. It is He who is in everything and everybody. This person identified as myself is only an instrument. I have to move on to the best of my ability with all my limitations and disabilities. He will take care of His instrument. I am in His hands. He directs. Sometimes why I am directed in a particular way is not understood by me. Then I understand. He knows where we are going. We do not know. There are pleasurable moments and painful moments. But they don’t belong to me. I am only an instrument.
Take the pleasure and the pain as they come. He knows what is best. When people fall at your feet, think of Him and ask Him to bless them. When people kiss your fingers, it is His fingers they are kissing! Keep the fingers clean and tidy. Because He dwells in them and at any time people would want to kiss His fingers. When a person praises me, I smile inwardly. When did I do anything they say I did? He did it. It is to Him all credit should go. I am an onlooker. When they criticize me, inwardly something says, “Why do you worry? They are criticizing Me.” Then I get back to a state of equilibrium.
Politics has taught me more religion than all I had learned at the feet of holy men and women whom I have had the privilege of meeting—so many of them!
I had learned of centers of consciousness, or chakras—muladhara, svadhishthana, manipura, anahata, vishuddha, ajna and sahasrara. They have various attributes. We are generally living at the level of the first three or four. Memory (muladhara), reason (svadishthana) and willpower (manipura) are the attributes of the first three chakras. Most of our energy is dissipated at this level. Only at the level of cognition (anahata) do we start looking at ourselves, our mind, our personality and question ourselves. “Who are we?” “What are we?” “What do we like?” “What do we dislike?” “What should I do if any quality of mine is reprehensible?” and so on. When we improve or progress, we move up to divine love (vishuddha). As you improve, it is as if some form of mercury is rising along your vertebral column. It goes up and comes down. Sometimes it reaches even beyond vishuddha.
Coming into contact with holy men like His Holiness the Pope, or the Dalai Lama, whom I had the privilege of meeting recently in Delhi, you realize that love is eternally flowing out from them, since they are always at the level of the vishuddha chakra or above. In their presence we mortal humans are able to suddenly reach up to their love, like the mercury in the thermometer. Suddenly our sense of love and well-being rise up in our hearts to touch or mingle with the love emanated by such holy men and women. You feel humbled in their presence. You feel you are nothing in their presence. You are deeply washed by their love. It was such an ablution that I experienced in the presence of His Holiness Pope Francis I—a simple, humble, noble human being. I was able to recognize who I am in his presence—just a receiver of love. Energy, which is all pervading, flows through such humans in the form of love, and we are but magnets, instruments which catch that love. For a while their love works in us and through us. Then it is gone. We get hooked into more mundane matters.
The Dalai Lama meets the chief minister of Sri Lanka’s northern province: The World Hindu Congress held in New Delhi November 21-23, 2014, brought together religious and political leaders from all around the world. Here, the head of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, connects with C. V. Wigneswaran.
But the question “Who are we?” still remains. “Who am I?” “Who are we?” There is no doubt that we are a combination of body, mind and intellect. But there is also a spiritual aspect which envelops us at the fringe of the body, mind and intellect level.
Saint Valmiki was able to transform himself from the body level to the spiritual. He was a bandit living at body level who changed because of his chance meeting with the Saptha Rishis (Seven Saints). Saint Sundaramurti Nayanar was able to reach the fringes of the spiritual dimension at the mind level. It was while he was preparing for his marriage that Lord Shiva intruded into his life. At the level of the higher intellect, Goddess Devi helped Adi Shankara. Various incidents at their body, mind and intellectual levels transposed them into the spiritual dimension. When you are an instrument in the hands of the Divine, He will decide when you should enter the portals of His privileged domain. You do not have to desire. It will take place in time.
So, let me conclude this piece by saying that my little experience in this life of 75 years has taught me that we are but instruments. He knows what to do with us. Just have faith in Him and carry on to the best of your knowledge, ability and skill. This is an easy philosophy of life, in essence the same as Krishna prescribed in the Bhagavad Gita—disinterested devotion to duty! There is nothing left for us except to do our duties to the best of our abilities, because we are but instruments in the hands of the Divine!