A Reason Why I Am Determined
to Spread Spiritual Knowledge
by Stephen Knapp
When you see the people of the world who are troubled or confused by the violence, the political upheavals, the poverty, or the lack of unity on this planet, it's natural to want to do something about it. And for me, that something is to try and spread deep spiritual knowledge, especially the universal truths which are provided by the Vedic culture. But this need for doing something has never come home to sit with me as much as it has recently with an incident that took place in South Africa. It has disturbed as well as motivated me even more than the violence that brought down the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, a year ago.
South Africa is famous for its violence. It can be a dangerous place. That is nothing new. A year ago I visited it in order to attend the wedding of a few friends of mine. The bride is of Indian descent with her family of brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, all in South Africa, mostly Durban. The groom and myself are westerners. Lovisha, one of the bride's nieces, was 13 years old then. Lovisha is a lovely name, composed of the words love and Isha, meaning to love God or one who loves God. She was a sweet girl, shy but also excited about having some westerners in her family. It was something novel. I had also taken photographs of the wedding, which included photos of Lovisha and her family. However, her father had been killed by the violence of South Africa only a year before, murdered on his way to work one morning. And now, just a year after my visit to South Africa, Lovisha, that same little girl who recently turned 14, has become a part of South African history in the worst way.
In the early evening of this last Janmastami (August 31, 2002), Lovisha was going to the store to buy some fruits for offering to the Deity in observance of the appearance of Lord Krishna. Many people were out celebrating the event, and the store was only a few houses down the street. But she did not return home, and they could not find her after searching. The next day a school boy found her dead body, where she had been dumped in one of the wealthier Indian areas of Durban. This 14 year old girl was found after having been raped. But her ears and lips and nose had been cut off, her eyes had been gouged out, her breasts had been sliced off, her forehead was bashed in, pieces of her flesh had been carved out of her body, and she was stabbed over 150 times. The knife was still lodged in her throat when the boy found her. She was the victim of a hate crime, and this crime is now on record as the most hateful and violent of crimes against Indians in South African history.
When I first heard about this, I was shocked and could only think of how much terror this little girl must have experienced. She had obviously been kidnapped by a person or persons who then tortured and terrorized her before killing her. It was auspicious that she had been doing some devotional service for Lord Krishna that day, and that her last intent was to buy some fruits to offer to the Lord, and that she left her body on Janmastami. Yet I couldn't help but think that her state of mind while she died must have been filled with fear. I was fairly dysfunctional for the rest of the day while thinking about this.
The next thing I considered was how much hatred and anger that a person would have in order to do this to another human being. Of course, I realized it was a hate crime and, thus, a brutal message toward all other Indians in South Africa. But this was beyond reason. This was too much. To use a little girl in such a way is insanity. No human would do such a thing. It was a demoniac act, done by someone who is subhuman.
Actually, I cannot comprehend how much hatred and deviousness another person can have in order to be motivated to act in such a way. In some ways, it makes me ashamed and embarrassed to be in the same species as such a person. Of course, there are many sincere and loving people in this world. But there is also no crueller species of creatures on the planet than human beings when you consider the history of how they have acted toward one another.
The next thing I felt was that I'm simply on the wrong planet. That there must be some mistake regarding why I've been placed here. I'm not meant to be here, am I? I should've been born someplace else. But somehow this is where I am, so there must be a reason. So, as my spiritual master Srila Prabhupada would say, you have to make the best use of a bad bargain. Therefore, I also realize that while I'm here, I have to not only become as spiritual as possible, but I also have to help spread genuine spiritual knowledge. Such spiritual understanding is all that can really show us what our identity really is, how close we are to each other, how our differences are actually quite minor, what the goal of life really is, and how we could all be working together to help one another rather than merely trying to bring each other down.
It is also incidents like Lovisha's murder that make it clear to me that there is no greater need in the world than to distribute deep spiritual understanding to the masses of people. It makes it clear that many of our concerns and the issues that seem to monopolize so much of our lives are not as important as we often think. When something like this happens, what is it that could be more urgent that it would keep us from working toward spreading spiritual knowledge? What is it that is so crucial that it distracts us from this purpose? If we cannot engage in distributing the deep spiritual wisdom that has been given to us, then what are we doing? How is our life truly beneficial to anyone?
For those of us who know the deep aspects of spiritual truth, we cannot blame anyone but ourselves for the conditions of the world. It is up to us to change it by delivering this knowledge to others. So if things have not been adjusted appropriately, then it is because we have not done our duty to bring this knowledge to the mainstream of society in a way in which allows everyone to take it and participate in some aspect of it. It is our fault for whatever is wrong in this world. It is our fault we haven't carried out the mission of our spiritual master. That is up to us. And if we all felt that way enough to remain free of the distractions and stay focused on our mission, the world could change and be uplifted quite rapidly.
In light of this, I can't help but feel somewhat responsible for what happened. I ask myself, have I done all I can do? Could I have done something more to spread spiritual knowledge in a way that would help reach enough people so that crimes like this would not happen? What more can I do to develop ideas and techniques to bring this spiritual understanding to the social mainstream, so that it is not viewed as something that is merely for a fringe group of seekers and not meant for everyone? I wrack my head thinking that there must be more ideas, because if I was more serious, more focused, more creative, then maybe I could help do what is necessary that would make such incidents preventable.
One reason why I think this way is, as I said, I had been to South Africa a year ago to attend the wedding. But I had also given lectures at the Krishna temples in Durban and Phoenix, and another local Vishnu temple. The classes were based on my free e-booklet, "Why Be a Hindu: The Advantages of the Vedic Path," found on my website at: http://www.stephen-knapp.com. And sometimes I can see things in the future regarding how events will unfold. So I had told the people who attended my lectures that the crimes that were already so much a part of South African life were going to get worse, that serious trouble was lurking just over the horizon. Therefore, whether amongst the Indian society in general or the devotees in the temples, whatever their differences or issues may be, they needed to rectify them and get closer to one another and depend on each other. They would need to rely on their own community for support because in time they would have little else for shelter. I could foresee this happening. And now it has manifested.
What has contributed to this heinous crime wave against Indians in South Africa is a controversial Zulu song titled AmaNdiya (meaning Indians). There is a growing sentiment in the community that a spate of recent murders of Indians has been sparked off by the song.
Earlier this year, internationally acclaimed playwright and songwriter Mbongeni Ngema created a stir with the release of AmaNdiya in his album Jive Madlokovu. The song accuses the Indians of being worse oppressors than the erstwhile racist regime.
AmaNdiya opens with the line "Oh brothers, oh my fellow brothers, we need strong and brave men to confront Indians." Ngema has steadfastly maintained that the song was meant to stimulate discussion around Indian-African relations and to promote reconciliation between the two groups. However, many people who hear the song don't seem to take it merely as a topic for discussion, but as a motivator for hate crimes. Now I think that it is clear that all Indians and whites should leave South Africa if it is at all possible. When I was there the average murder rate in South Africa was 67 per day. The country has now gotten much more dangerous and much more violent in only one year since then. And there is much more I could say about this.
So should I have given a heavier lecture when I was there? Should the warning have been more serious? Or would the people have merely thought I was being too fanatical, overly dramatic? Or maybe I did what I could, and the rest was up to the people and devotees to do as they saw fit.
Nonetheless, it is when I hear of crimes like Lovisha's murder that I realize the immense amount of suffering that is taking place in the world. That the world is in a state of emergency wherein only a concerted effort to spread spiritual knowledge will put out the fire of ignorance and hate and human inflicted suffering. It is only trivial issues that distract us from the more important need for implementing a cooperative and focused campaign to spread this spiritual knowledge to mainstream society. And thus the state of emergency on this planet continues.
It is incidents like these that make it clear to me that I have no other business than to help spread this spiritual knowledge. Some people may think that this plan is too simplistic. But there is no other amount of plan-making, economic development, political arrangements, or whatever that can help reveal our real identity in a way in which we can truly see each other for who and what we are, that we are beyond our religious, cultural, national or racial designations. And that we are all spiritual in nature, parts and parcels of the Supreme Being. That identity only needs to be awakened, which can thus pave the way for the possibility of real peace.
That is why I have no other interest. I have no other reason for being here. This motivation is all that keeps me alive because I really don't care that much about staying on this planet anyway. There are far too many better places in which one could exist. But my spiritual master said that now that I've become fortunate by understanding this spiritual knowledge, we all must now make others similarly fortunate. Or at least give them the chance even if not everyone will be interested. And that's why I have also taken all of my money and invested it in publishing the books I write, and promoting this spiritual knowledge through my website and in continuing the mission of my spiritual master. That's also why if I should get deathly sick, have a heart attack or stroke, it would be better that I simply die because I have no money for doctors or hospitals. All my money is tied up with my preaching efforts. And though some people may view that as foolish, I intend to keep it that way. I feel the Lord will keep me here as long as necessary to do what I need to do, and after that I will joyously take my leave of this place.
Yet, I have to try and deliver this knowledge, and work with others who feel the same. I cannot help but try to do whatever it is that I'm capable of doing to try to help relieve the suffering of others in this way. To give them the same opportunity of seeing the purpose of this human life and what is best to do now that we have it. I cannot leave this place until I know I've done all I can do. And for that reason I welcome the support, encouragement, or team efforts with others who feel the same.
In many ways, parts of this planet are like battlefields in which there is a need for immediate relief. Even though this Earth is a wondrous and beautiful place, the issues that the wrong aims of humanity have brought into it have made things incredibly difficult. However, as we see in any battle, there will be some casualties, just as Lovisha has now been taken away from us for some reason. Even in the battle of Kurukshetra the son of Arjuna, Krishna's friend, was brutally and unjustly slaughtered. So even though we may know that everything has a reason, we must remember that even in the darkest of moments there is a glimmer of light and hope, though it may take some time to understand why particular things take place the way they do. In fact, we may never understand why certain things have happened. But it is all part of a plan, a purpose. And for that reason we cannot allow ourselves to become overly emotional and weak, but must remain strong in our intent.
I am now posting this article on my site on this day 9/11/02, a year after the World Trade Center tragedy. It shows that there are still way too many tragedies caused by humanity's hate and misunderstanding of each other. And, yes, it is a reason why I'm so determined to keep trying to spread genuine and deep spiritual knowledge which can assist humanity to understand each other, their real identity, their relationship with God, and the purpose of this life. With that there is hope for real improvement.
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