The following piece was written by Toni Packer in response to a request by Inner Directions magazine for a few words concerning the events of September 11, 2001.
You are asking for a few paragraphs reflecting my thoughts on the events of September 11 from the standpoint of awakening — how our belief in being a “separate individual” is the root cause of fear, anxiety, and the desire to “do something” about these events.
Rather than start with the “standpoint of awakening” let me go briefly into the events of my early youth that became the seeds for sustained questioning.
Even though we lived in a city (Leipzig), with industry surrounding it we were never bombed until December 4, 1943. A large squadron of bombers had set out for Berlin, the capital that had been bombed heavily almost every night. Because this night an unusually large number of planes were approaching, Leipzig sent its fire fighting and anti-aircraft equipment to Berlin to help out. However, instead of targeting Berlin, the squadron made a sharp turn toward Leipzig and dropped all of its cargo on the undefended city. The firebombs were placed in such a way that a strong windstorm developed which kept the city burning for a week or longer. We didn’t see much daylight during those days — the sky remained a darkish gray-yellow smoky veil. The streets were littered with debris, among it partially burnt papers — torn up book pages — Leipzig was the principal publishing center of Germany. Many people’s houses that were not hit at the beginning of the attack caught on fire during the week of the storm. Our house was not damaged this time, and I do not remember the number of casualties. German media were not keen on publishing numbers. The surrounding industry remained mostly intact.
What is deeply imprinted in my memory is the depressed mood that set in right after the attack — the feeling of utter hopelessness and despair, not only because of the air raids that I knew would happen again and again, but also the constant fear that my mother who was Jewish could be deported to a concentration camp at any time, and the tormenting doubt whether there would ever be an end to the horrendous carnage of war.
Out of this darkest of moods was born the question that kept propelling me from then on to find an answer beyond all doubt: What is the meaning of this totally senseless fear-ridden life?
My faith in God had shattered. I had seen my father, who had been a glowing model of brightness and equanimity for me all these years, sitting wrapped in a big gray coat in the dusty basement air raid shelter of our house, his hat pulled deeply into his forehead, absorbed in faceless fear. No feeling of security remained, nothing left to trust.
Only the question about the meaning of life stayed alive during the following years, and I engaged countless books and many people that I respected for their knowledge and wisdom in verbal or tacit dialogue — to no deep satisfaction.
Eventually, after much psychology, sociology, anthropology, philosophy and mythology studies, I found meditation practice that would put an end to all questions and doubts about life’s ultimate meaning.
It is as clear as sunshine in a bright blue sky that there is no extra meaning to life — that life, just the way it is, changing from moment to moment in unexpected ways, does not point to any meaning beyond itself. Every moment is the result of the infinite past and at the same time new, fresh, and free.
Quietly listening, this moment of simple openness, there is no entity here who is fearing, wanting or suffering — there is wanting and fearing and suffering the instant our thinking resists and fights what is here right now, and longs for what is not. Living each moment fully is totally different from dwelling in stories about it.
Right action does not flow out of reaction of any kind — be it fear, anger, revenge, thirst for justice or yearning for the solace of belonging. Symbols like crosses, swastikas and colorful flags do not bring insight — they may provide inspirational energies and limited feelings of togetherness, but they cannot reveal this moment of wondrous presence, full of love, without any lack.