A Time for Peace


Looking at our present world it seems that there are struggles and discordance everywhere.  The din of confrontation and threats of violence are all around – among nations, within societies and especially within individual.  World leaders as well as the common citizen long for a time for peace that must come.  But how, from where, and what kind of peace?

 Mahatma Gandhi, the most universally quoted man in the United Nations, is broadly heralded as the philosopher of peace for the modern world.  He is more than that.  Surrounded by violence he was yet an architect of peace.  He knew and lived peace so that he could apply it to violence and emerge victorious.  His method was perfect according to the laws of the cosmic nature as he observed them, and therefore his peace is a peace practicable by the human nature which is parcel of it.  But like the profoundest and simplest of philosophical truths, Gandhi’s is too often misunderstood, misapplied or altogether ignored.

 The popular misunderstanding about peace is that it is a group contrivance-that it can be legislated or physically enforced.  Even with respect to present day “satyagrahis” there has been exploitation of the “peaceful” means Gandhi employed as some seemingly sincere followers have used “noncooperation” as a kind of political blackmail.  Gandhi admonished against the use of nonviolence as such coercion which makes adversaries of the parties and then becomes a kind of punishment.

 What Gandhi comprehended, advocated and—-most important-lived, is a complete yoga of peace.  The truth of it, as he confessed, is “as old as the hills”.  The idea of returning love and forgiveness for hatred and injury was not, of course, invented by Gandhi.  Krishna revealed to Arjuna that he who mortifies or abuses the body does injustice to the Self residing within.  Buddha taught directly that ahimsa(noninjury) is the highest dharma(principle) of life.  Patanjali’s first percept of yama which includes abstention from injurious thought, word or deed.  Gandhi himself referred often to the teachings of Christ to “Love thy neighbor as thyself;” to “resist not evil;” and to “bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.”

 At the time of the Second Round Table Conference in London (1933), an English lady observed it “strange that Christians should feel that the best Christian in the world today is Hindu.”  In a “Christian world” it seems that from the of Christ few have understood his teachings of how to meet evil.  No great leader of the Christian Church has ever proclaimed nonviolence as the WAY to salvation.

 The ethical validity for using moral force rather than brute force was preached by Leo Tolstoy whom Gandhi called the greatest apostle of nonviolence that the modern age had produced,  Thoreau’s “Essay on Civil Disobedience” influenced Gandhi’s design for peace, and the phrase and the concept, “the moral equivalent of war,” was introduced by William James.  But Gandhi’s life is a profound marriage of the metaphysical realities of peace and its meaningful human manifestation.  In fact, Gandhi stands as a landmark towards which our evolving consciousness of peace will progress:

“The greatest power in the world is that of the Soul.  Peace is its highest expression.  To attain peace, first we must acquire greater mastery over ourselves.  We secure then an atmosphere of perfect peace, calm and goodwill that protects and fortifies ourselves and bless others around us.”

 “Peace requires one first to BE brave enough to love another, to tolerate another, and to trust another.  That requires faith in oneself.  One has not the strength to be peaceful if he is fighting the internal duel of selfish desires.  Good can never result from evil desires or actions; hence, the GITA’s central teaching of the oneness of the means and ends.  The practice of peace is thus a test of the sincerity of our hearts; it requires solid and silent self-sacrifice, honesty and the capacity for diligent work, but must  be realized first in its source within.”

 Gandhi of course decried the physical violence of war, but his motivation was the perfection of human nature and character.

 “Behind the death-dealing bomb there is the human hand that releases it, and behind that still is the heart that sets the hand in motion……Human nature will find itself only when it realizes that to be human it has to cease to be beastly or brutal.”

  War is glorification of brute force, and therefore it is essentially degrading and demoralizing to the human spirit.  Gandhi wanted to see us train ourselves in the realization of soul-force daily through the common actions of self-restraint, unselfishness and patience.  “these are the flowers,” he said, “which spring beneath the feet of those who accept but refuse to impose suffering.”

 “A Time for Peace” addresses not only our global issues, but also our individual cultivation of peace as the first requisite to world peace. Gandhi himself exemplified this in several ways, especially by acknowledging his heeding of the “still small voice” of his consciousness of peace within.  He also set the practice of daily prayer meetings and, though a man of intense and almost continuous action, he tried to observe one day of silent self-examination per week to establish his own inner peace.  Even though his practice of vegetarianism, which he originally followed only out of acceptance of a cast injunction, he evolved to a belief in man’s responsibility to care for lower animals and thus to uphold God’s plan for a peaceable kingdom throughout nature.

Gandhi demonstrated that it is not necessary or even desirable to lead a life apart from responsibilities, associations, and activities in order to find stillness and peace.  The “cloistered” life is not a full and natural one.  For most, retiring to cave-like seclusion in order to find inner peace would mean disaster.  Their minds would still be whirring with thoughts, impressions and desires from their involvements with the bustling world they left.  The way to leave the world is not to reject it!  Furthermore, love and service in the cave of solitude?

 Gandhiji heeded these teachings of BHAGAVAD GITA he so loved:

 “…..the man who has attained perfect control over his mind and complete mastery over his senses, who is free from attachment and aversion, while living in the world of sense objects, he realizes peace.

Impossible is the attainment of wisdom by the uncontrolled mind. Impossible is meditation for the restless.  Peace can never be attained without meditation. And unless one has realized peace within, where else can one find it?”

                                                                        (Ch , II, verses 64 and 66)

–          Translation by Swami Premananda

From Mahatma Gandhi – An American Profile by Srimati Kamala

To pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, please join Gandhi Jayanti celebrated as 1000 Lights for Peace on Sunday, October 6, 2013 at Miller Outdoor Theatre from 6 PM to 8 PM.  For more information, please visit www.gandhilibrary.org or call 713-829-6979.