Monday, August 06, 2007

"I am become Death..."

I looked around for thoughts on this 62nd anniversary of the dropping of first atomic bomb -- and found this among the letters in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Hiroshima karma

Editor - The biblical karmic warning, "As you sow so shall you reap," or the modern street version "What goes around comes around," both explain a deep rooted fear in the American psyche. Sixty-two years ago, in August 1945, America sowed the karmic seeds of this fear, by dropping, without warning, atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than 115,000 civilians, mostly innocent women, children and elderly.

In October 2002, President Bush exploited this fear by invoking the image of a nuclear "mushroom cloud" to dramatize Iraq's threat to us, and scare Congress and the American people into war against Iraq. If a karmic debt must eventually be paid for causing the great suffering of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it seems unwise for America and its leaders to nurture conditions, such as creating more suffering, hatred and conflicts, which would hasten this karmic ripening.

Buddhist chaplain
Juvenile Hall
San Francisco

As I wrote in my previous post, our rulers now encourage us to become a nation of quaking cowards. Perhaps they know they are tapping into deep vein of karmic anxiety carried by many.

The first test of an atomic bomb, on July 16, 1945, took place near Alamomogordo, New Mexico. The project director, the Jewish scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, named the test "Trinity". Why? He later claimed he had been thinking of the Christian religious poetry of John Donne. In 1965, Oppenheimer described the test (video is here; don't miss it!) quoting the Hindu God Vishnu:

"Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." I suppose we all thought that one way or another.

There was a man who knew the karmic anxiety so many of us feel.

1 comment:

sfmike said...

It's interesting how stupid the comments are to Li Chan's interesting karma letter over at the SFGate site. We're doomed.

And your Oppenheimer video link is fascinating. If you didn't see the John Adams opera "Doctor Atomic" at the San Francisco Opera last year, it was quite amazing, and the John Donne sonnet Oppenheimer is quoting was used as the first act finale in a ridiculously beautiful aria that John Adams wrote for the title character. I've got a bootleg recording if you're interested.

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