Chapter 6: Peacefulness
One notices that many of the treatises and writings on occultism or on the spiritual life end with an invocation of peace. Thus, the Upanishads usually end with “Santi, Santi, Santi.” St. Paul, in the Epistle to the Philippians, declares that “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Light on the Path and The Voice of the Silence end with “Peace be with you” and “Peace to all beings,” and so also many other similar books.
All this makes one think of the relevance and importance of peace in the outside world as well as within oneself. Peace in the world depends on and flows out of peace within the hearts and minds of the individuals who inhabit it. One reads and hears so much every day about wars and one does not know when a minor war may become a major one and when, in an atmosphere charged with hostility and hatred, a small incident may lead to a major conflagration like the proverbial spark consuming a whole haystack.
To highlight the role of thought in this context, it seems pertinent to refer to a letter from one of the Masters of the Wisdom to A.P. Sinnett in which he says: “Every thought of man upon being evolved passes into the inner world and becomes an active entity…It survives as an active intelligence…for a longer or shorter period proportionate with the original intensity of the cerebral action which generated it. Thus, a good thought is perpetuated as an active, beneficent power, an evil one as a maleficent demon…The Adept evolves these shapes consciously; other men throw them off unconsciously.”
Because thought precedes action, fear leads to conflict and therefore to lack of peace. Fear has many facets—insecurity, possessiveness, impatience, intolerance, anger, and aggressiveness. The phenomenon of fear has been analysed in a simple manner in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad thus:
He (Prajapati) was afraid; therefore man, when alone, is afraid. He then looked around. “Since nothing but myself exists, of whom should I be afraid?” Hence his fear departed; for whom should he fear, since fear arises from another?
A state of fearlessness is a state of peace. That peace lies in unitive living. Unitive living is in that consciousness which permeates all life and in which, therefore, there can be no conflict, no contradiction, no separateness. The sense of non-separateness or oneness is emphasized in the many religions of the world and in the sayings and songs of their saints and mystics. With what supreme confidence does one of the Upanishads declare: ”He that is here in the human person and He that is there in the sun are one.”
The universal brotherhood of humanity is a reflection of that unitive consciousness which is the heart of peace. Therefore, all work and movements which seek to foster, develop or encourage cooperation, goodwill, tolerance, mutual understanding and mutual help, transcending the narrow boundaries of creed, race and nation, deserve one’s hearty support. One often hears criticism of the United Nations and its several agencies for what, in a number of situations, they were unable to do; but at least they represent a movement in the right direction towards unity and peace. Their imperfection is a measure of our own imperfection as individuals and nations.
Peace in its depths is a state of self-recollectedness, of calmness, of being like a placid lake which reflects faithfully the stars, and the moon above. But when winds blow, waves arise in the lake. When stone is thrown into it, ripples spread out. So also does the individual get ruffled and lose his calm through happenings, real or imaginary, which affect the vehicles of body, feelings, and thought. I say “ real or imaginary” because, indeed, many of our “waves” or problems are only imaginary. A man imagines that a friend does not really care for him; that his wife or son does not love him; that his superior does not rate him high enough, and so on, he loses his calmness and peace in consequence.
It has been said that disturbances, whether real or imaginary, are all illusory. They are illusory because nothing can disturb or even reach the Self within—the Self which is beyond the senses and is therefore ever at peace. Does the deep ocean feel disturbed when waves arise on its surface? Does the earth feel perturbed when children build castles with its wet sand on the seashore and when the waves wash them away?
Peace is living in the eternal. The Mundakopanishad tells of two birds, similar in every way and sitting on the same tree, but one eats the different flavoured fruits while the other looks on as the eternal witness, without eating.
I remember an anecdote narrated in a biography of Dr. Samuel Johnson. A lady of high position once invited a number of important persons, including Johnson, to dinner. Something went wrong with the food and the lady was greatly upset. Dr. Johnson spoke to her calmly: “Madam, just imagine what you will think of this incident twenty years hence.”
A mountain stream carries along in its swift current pebbles, branches of trees, wood and whatever else comes in its way. The water at a particular point is constantly changing, is different every moment. But the two banks of the stream remain the same and peaceably watch the water flow by.
Peace leads to joy. In fact, peace is joyousness. But it does not depend on external stimulation. It is like a bubbling brook or a flowing river, spontaneous in its movement in timelessness.
Peace is joy because nothing can touch it, nothing can sully it, nothing can interfere with its naturalness. Its fulfillment lies within itself. It is like the glow of a candle, like a flower which blooms in the richness of spring—innately joyous and joy-giving. It is joy because it abides in the spirit. Or as put by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.”
Peace is not, however, living in isolation, living for oneself or by oneself alone; nor is peace a state of passivity, inactivity or dullness. It abides in a vibrant life, intensely active, flowing out to all sides and over all in benediction. Its activity is, however, totally harmonious, since it wells up from the One and seeks to reach out and serve all that the One encompasses. “If thou wouldst be perfect, O Servant of Life, Thou must dwell in the Light and work in the shadow.”
Then shall peace be with us ever.