Jan 312001

On Friday, 26 January 2001, at 08.46 local time, an earthquake of magnitude 7.9 shook North-Western India. We had left for our country home and did not feel the tremors that scared Bombay residents. Near the epicenter at least twenty-thousand people have died. The economic damage runs into billions. The after-shocks continue.

January, the twenty-sixth is celebrated in India as the birth of the Republic. Official Republic Day celebrations are colorful parades and an awesome display of weapons of destruction. The parades had started when the earthquake struck.

Is this Nature’s way of turning us back from the brink of destroying our planet?

And the most puzzling question: Does a tornado, a cyclone, a flood or an earthquake have power to spare a select few? The answer seems, yes.

The great earthquake of April 1906 all but destroyed San Francisco and turned Santa Rosa into a heap of rubble. It did not break a single pane of glass in Luther Burbank’s large greenhouse – not far from the epicenter. People considered this a miracle. Burbank (careful not to say so directly) thought it quite natural. The cosmic forces with whom he communicated and to whom he ascribed his success with plants, did not want the experiments interrupted.

Burbank said:

In pursuance of any of the universal and everlasting laws of nature, whether relating to the life, growth, structure and movements of a giant planet , the tiniest plant, or of the psychological movements of the human brain, some conditions are necessary before we can become one of nature’s interpreters or the creator of any valuable work for this world. Preconceived notions, dogmas and all personal prejudice and bias must be laid aside. Listen patiently, quietly and reverently to the lessons, one by one, which Mother Nature has to teach, shedding light on that that before was a mystery , so that all who will may see and know. She conveys her truth only to those who are passive and receptive. Accepting these truths as suggested , wherever they may lead, then we have the whole universe in harmony with us. At last man has found a solid foundation for science, having discovered that he is part of a universe which is eternally unstable in form, eternally immutable in substance.

Last year, coming down from Mandu, wide river beds with a trickle of water made me feel uncomfortable, almost threatened. At Maheshwar, I sat at the banks of the Narmada, the great wide river flowing majestically past the many tiered temples of the old city. Feeling refreshed, blessed and grateful, I had the strong notion that mighty rivers hate being interfered with.

It took an earthquake to remind me the Narmada Dam project not only displaces thousands, but it also violates the integrity of the river.

Natural disasters have miraculous survivors. The alternative to fearing earthquakes and death is loving and using every opportunity to listen quietly and reverently to the lessons which Mother Nature has to teach.