As the Iraq war waged meditation teacher Christopher Titmuss wrote Transforming our Terror, exploring the response to 9/11 and the drive to war: ‘They decided that the way to combat their fear was to hit out.’ Vishvapani met him in Totnes to discuss the book and Buddhist responses in a time of war
Christopher greeted me at his house in Totnes, southwest England, in a large black hat, long black raincoat, and trailing black scarf. A senior teacher in the Insight Meditation movement, Christopher is without the cool reserve of some of his contemporaries. In Buddhist circles he has dispensed with his surname and now prefers to be known simply as Christopher. He has large, friendly eyes and an immediately engaging manner. Engagement is one of his themes. ‘I recently told one Dharma group, ‘I think I prefer Moslems to Buddhists. At least they have some fire, some passion …’. It was a provocative way of saying that I think Buddhists can be so ‘nice’, and so passive.’
We met to discuss a book Christopher had published in 2002 in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, called Transforming Our Terror: a spiritual approach to making sense of senseless tragedy. ‘I have been visiting the US for 25 years, but mainly just to lead retreats. So the America I encounter is the American mind. And I noticed that after 9/11 there was a great deal more fear and anxiety among the people I was teaching. I started to ask myself, what can Buddhist practice say to this experience?’
The result is an enquiry into the nature of fear, grief, loss, and how the human mind processes and makes sense of them.