Lessons from Thai cave rescue
Sri Caitanya Candra Das: Recently the news of the 12 Thailand boys (age 10 to 17 years) and their football coach( 25 years) trapped in the deep cave in northern Thailand on 23rd June grabbed the attention of the whole world. The rescue operation by the Navy SEALs and the international divers led by Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn was phenomenal resulting in finally rescuing all of them after 17 days in the dark cave 4km inside and 1 km below the earth. I too was caught in the pandemonium of emotions and was checking the rescue operation updates daily. I was candidly praying for the boys safety like millions all over the world did. Later when the rescue mission was successful I was cogitating what should we learn from this event. I came up with some lessons a practitioner can learn through this incidence.
On July 2 two British divers found these 12 boys and their coach stuck for 9 long days deep inside the dark Tham Luang cave due to heavy rains. Later the arduous rescue operation began with around 100 Thailand and foreign divers put into rapid action. The Navy SEALs and some world class divers from various countries risked their lives to get them out. Three SEALs and 1 doctor stayed with them for the remaining days till all were rescued. They put their own lives at equal risk with the boys caring for them 1 km below the earth surface on a 10*10 meter dry land.
Lesson:- A preacher is like the Navy SEAL who risks his own life for saving the conditioned souls from deep dark cave of Maya. He runs the risk of getting trapped by Maya but on the strength of Lord’s mercy & the training he has received he ventures out fearlessly for the benefit of the people.
23rd June was the birthday of “Night”, a member of “Wild boar” who turned 17 and the soccer team decided to celebrate it in the cave. They parked their bicycles at the entrance and didn’t carry even their bags inside as they expected to be out within an hour. They usually would celebrate their team successes deep inside the cave sometimes venturing 8 kms inside. The cave normally shared their joy of celebration but this time it shared the horror of desolation. Night’s birthday turned into a nightmare within moments as the heavy rains trapped them 4 km inside for 9 days without help.
Lesson:- While living in this material world any moment & any place can turn into disaster. A celebration can turn into tragedy within seconds. In this world at every step there is danger and between every step also there is danger. This world is termed as miserable and temporary in Bhagavad Gita.
While the boys were trapped inside the cave without any outside help for 9 days the monk turned into coach taught them meditation to keep them tranquil. He taught them how to consume minimum oxygen in the exiguous oxygen stock in the cave. He even gave his own food to the boys. He also taught them how to utilize the water dripping from the walls of the cave for drinking purpose.
Lesson:-Leader is not just by position but by his disposition. Leader should not just get strength from his position for helping his subordinates but his nature or disposition should be always helping others irrespective of his position. That is a real leader.
Throngs of foreign volunteers counting upto 2000 from many countries like US, Australia, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Scandinavia, China, Finland, Canada, etc congregated to help this mission. Some couldn’t get rooms to stay in hotels so they stayed in local temples in Thailand. How to help the “Wild boar” soccer team get out was the only thing ruling their minds.
Lesson:- In serving the mission if we always keep the goal as the top priority then we can remain united even without caring for personal comforts and gain. Harry S Truman rightly said “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
While the perilous rescue operation was going on for extricating the soccer team from the cave, millions of people all over the world were praying for their safety. They were tuned into the latest updates from news channels. Parents of the boys were avidly waiting at the entrance of the cave wishing speedy recovery. The rescue team was hoping that more rains should not hit which could turn the task more menacing or impossible. Boys inside were ardently waiting to get out. But they all have to wait. The operations took 8 painful long days.
Lesson:- We human beings are at mercy of nature and the master of that nature, GOD. We can try to help someone but till some limit only. After our efforts we can just wish well or pray for our dear ones, outside that we have to depend on power beyond us. We are not supreme controllers but just tiny controllers subordinate to the desire of the supreme.
Many “well intentioned” volunteers came for helping the trapped boys but in the process one group got trapped at winding treacherous mountain side. They radioed for help and later were helped by the main rescue team at the cave.
Lesson:- Good intentions are not good enough. We need appropriate skills also for any service. Character and competence both are important on the spiritual path. Srila Prabhupada said sincerity & intelligence are required for spreading our movement.
The Navy SEALs gave training to the boys for swimming in the dark murky waters & how to breathe under water with scuba gear. The parlous rescue path till cave entrance was 4 km with narrow passages and water logged in between. It can take 8 to 10 hours for each boy to emerge out. The boys had no experience of swimming over water or under water. Two divers, one in front and one in back would escort each boy out. Only danger was the boys should not panic in between due the claustrophobic environment in the cave. It could be fatal for all.
Lesson:- Ground training can be given to pilot but ultimately one has to fly his own plane. If one loses control in the middle no one can help. Ultimately we have to remember Krishna at the time of death. During our lives we will be helped by many in remembering Krishna but at final moment we have to remember Krishna ourselves to achieve perfection in life.
When all the boys and the coach were salvaged from cave the rescue team was euphoric. There were around 30 volunteers still 1.5 km inside the cave winding up the remaining equipments when a disaster struck. The water pumps stopped suddenly resulting in water rising rapidly in chamber 3 of the cave. The volunteers inside didn’t carry oxygen masks. They screamed for their lives as the water level shot up suddenly in the head height cave passage. Somehow they swiftly ran through the chest deep water to a dry land and were thus saved.
Lesson:- Maya strikes when we are most inattentive. When we are successful we tend to become lax in our practice and let our guard down thus becoming very susceptible to attacks of Maya. While fighting with Maya we have to be always alert and attentive.
Finally after 17 days the boys and coach were out and recovering in the Chiang Rai hospital. Not only Thailand but the whole world was in exultation at the success of the “Mission impossible”. Boys again reunited with their family members. The Thailand President gave a grand party for all the volunteers involved. Later they left for their respective countries. Next what? Did the Near Death Experience brought any change in lives of the boys? Or it passed as just another phase in their lives? In the interviews with boys in the hospital most of them told they are grateful to the rescue team and they would like to eat crispy pork or meat or chicken or raw fish with rice after getting discharged from the hospital.
Lesson:- Any incident happening in our lives should make us better human being. It should take us closer to God and make us godly. We should be grateful to God for giving new life and use it for His service. Then only it can be called as a success story.
Navy SEALs after the successful rescue operation posted the quote on their face book “We are not sure if this was a miracle, science or what””
Lesson:- By God’s grace and human determination anything can be achieved. Impossible is the word in fool’s dictionary. Everything is possible by grace of Lord. If anyone thinks by human endeavors alone or just by God’s grace alone everything is possible he is wrong. Any success is due to combination of God’s Grace and human endeavors, miracle and science both.