Choosing peace over conflict

be-wise-buy-peace

This is a thought-provoking aphorism on peace [Source] . What can we learn from it?

Peace is the most valuable quality

Without peace, all the material objects in the world will not give joy. It is peace which will make us inwardly rich, yet peace is often the thing the world lacks most.

“This world has everything
Save and except one thing,
Peace,
And this peace has to blossom
From within.”

– Sri Chinmoy [2]

Don’t wait for tomorrow

If something is good to do, now is the best time. If we have a bad habit, now is the best time to break it. Sometimes, we can feel ‘maybe when I am an old man and retired, I will then have the time to give up bad habits and meditate on peace.’ But, if we keep delaying, we may surrender completely to the bad habit and wrong way of living. By the time we are old, we are stuck with our bad habits. If we can see a new approach to life which will bring more peace of mind and happiness, we should choose this path straight away – whilst we still have the enthusiasm and aspiration. To meditate on peace requires determination and sincerity, the sooner we start the better.

How to buy peace?

We can’t buy peace with money. We can only buy peace with our own inner attitude. For example, sometimes we have to give up our pride in order to gain peace in return. If pride comes to the fore, it makes us unwilling to change and we can persist in a wrong course of action. But if we lose the desire to be proved right, then we can gain inner peace. If we live in a state of desire and expectation, we will not experience peace because some desires will always remain unfulfilled and we will feel frustration. This is the price for attaining peace – giving up our desire and pride.

Escalation of conflict or choosing peace

In life we come across situations where we have a choice how to respond. One choice is to respond to an initial confrontation with escalating the conflict. If we have hurt feelings, the response of the mind and vital is invariably to retaliate. If we feel hurt, we subconsciously want to project this back onto others. But, this tit for tat attitude will make peace more distant and harder to achieve.

The other response is to invoke the heart and the quality of peace. Rather than retaliating, the heart can be sympathetic to the struggles of others, and we seek to be the one to let go of the unfortunate situation. This magnanimous attitude is often the best way of bringing the good qualities of others to the fore. If someone else is full of anger, we won’t diminish their anger by getting angry in response. But, if we remain calm and peaceful, they will respond in a better way. Through forgiveness and maintaining our inner peace, their conscience will come to the fore and secretly they will be inspired by our calm attitude.

No price is too great to pay for inner peace.

“No price is too great to pay for inner peace. Peace is the harmonious control of life. It is vibrant with life-energy. It is a power that easily transcends all our worldly knowledge.”

– Sri Chinmoy [3]

Choosing inner peace does not mean sacrificing principles and truth. It means we reject the negative emotions of jealousy and pride, but invoke a real and meaningful quality of peace instead. It means whatever happens in the outer world, we hold onto our inner peace.

This inner peace is more than just intellectual understanding. We have to pray, meditate and serve to gain a real sense of peace. The peace that comes from the heart is a powerful reality that will convince the mind.

Related

Quotes on peace

The secret of inner peace by Sri Chinmoy

Sri Aurobindo on Poetry

“Art can never really find what it seeks or succeed in liberating its soul in the highest perfection of speech unless it transfuses the rhythms of its exquisite moods into a sustained spiritual experience.” ~ Sri Aurobindo

After Sri Aurobindo moved to Pondicherry, he entered upon an intense period of practicing Yoga. He communicated only with a few of his students who looked after his physical needs and he generally did not receive any visitors except on very rare occasions. But almost every day he would sit with a few of his students, in an informal gathering, sometime late in the afternoon or evening. At these meetings the students would ask him questions and he would answer them. They asked him questions from a wide range of topics that included spirituality, politics, World War II, art, poetry, culture, history and medicine.

Once while answering a question on poetry, Sri Aurobindo said, great poetry must have power of beauty, power of vision and power of expression. He went on to say that there are different types of poetry and he mentioned psychic poetry. Then one of his students asked him to give them an instance of psychic poetry. In response, Sri Aurobindo quoted the following four beautiful lines from Shelley’s poetry:

“The desire of the moth for the star,
Of the night for the morrow,
The devotion to something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow.”

According to Sri Aurobindo, in the above lines of Shelley, the feeling and the expression are both psychic. In contrast to psychic poetry, Vedic poetry, Sri Aurobindo said, ”is poetry on the plane of intuitional vision. There is rhythm, force and other elements of poetry in it, but the psychic element is not so prominent. It is from a plane much higher than the mental. It moves by vision on the plane of intuition, though there are passages in which you may find the psychic element. It is a wide and calm plane, – it also moves you but not in the same way as the poetry which contains the psychic feeling. It has got its own depth-but psychic poetry differs from it in its depth and feeling.”

At another time while discussing the poetry of Blake and Shakespeare, the question came up as to who was a greater poet. Sri Aurobindo said, ”Shakespeare is superior in one way, Blake in another. Shakespeare is greater because he has a greater poetic power and more creative force, while Blake is more expressive.” Then he was asked what is the difference between “Creative” and “Expressive” and he replied, “”Creative” may be something which gives a picture of life creatively, representing the life-situation of the Spirit. “Expressive” is that which is just the expression of feeling, vision or experience. In “The Hound of Heaven” (Francis Thompson’s Hound of Heaven) you get a true creative picture. There you have such a picture of the life of a man pursued by God.”

When he was asked why a devotional feeling in a devotional poem cannot be considered “creative”, he clarified, “Because you identify yourself with the feeling and not with the character or man as in the case of Hamlet (Shakespeare’s Hamlet). It must come out as a part of the poet’s personality and the reader identifies himself with the world or personality which the poet has created or the experience which he had. Of course, anything is creative in a general way.”

(Source: Evening Talks With Sri Aurobindo, A.B. Purani, Sri Aurobindo Society, 1959)

Commenting on Sri Aurobindo’s poetry, K. D. Sethna said, “When he wants to bring home to us some eternal verity from its mysterious abode of light, he speaks in a tone which has in it either a sublime simplicity which renders clear a profound truth by a few striking images, or a direct imaginative force which without needing to bring in abundant colour can create for us a self-sufficient mystical symbol or atmosphere, or else a puissant intuitive luminosity which wears form and name only as a concession to the weakness of human mentality but imparts in a subtle unanalysable manner a sense of some beatific vastitude of ultimate creative Idea.”(1)

“In poetry there is an upward evolution of its powers and at its summit the highest function of sound is to instill in the listener the poet’s experience of a Truth that is behind all things, its significances in themselves beyond word and thought finding expression through an inner silence, and to lift him rapt, spellbound, dazzled into sudden awareness of that wondrous supreme Beauty and Delight which elude normal perception, a high-uplifted Beauty and Delight sustaining magically the cosmic process…If, therefore, the possibilities of the poet of the future are to come to their utmost fruition, his art, whether it flowers forth in the lyric cry or the narrative, in the drama or the epic, should not merely be an instrument of forces which work through him by passing inspirations. It must represent the continuous rhythm of an inner life in which the meaning of the universe shall be unfolded in the individual and the Spirit manifested, with constant integrality, even through the prose of daily intercourse with the world.” ~ Sri Aurobindo(2)

References:

1) Sri Aurobindo the poet, Pg. 29 K. D. Sethna, Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, 1970.
2) Sri Aurobindo the poet, Pg. 39 K. D. Sethna, Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, 1970.

Related

Sri Aurobindo

Basic steps for learning meditation

In many of my articles on self improvement, I often suggest meditation can be an invaluable aid to alleviating many of our daily problems. I don’t look upon meditation just as a problem solver, I meditate because I enjoy the consciousness of meditation. But, if we can gain real peace of mind through meditation, there is no problem that cannot be helped in some way. These a few preliminary steps for learning how to meditate.

meditation

1. Location

Firstly, find a suitable quiet place for meditation. If it is very hard to find somewhere quiet, use some meditative music to drown out background sounds. If possible keep a corner of your room reserved just for meditation; this will help build up a meditative vibration in that particular part.

2. The basics

  • It is important to meditate with a straight back. (If you try meditating whilst lying down, you are more likely to fall asleep, than entering into a high state of meditation.)
  • Don’t meditate after eating a heavy meal – you will feel lethargic and sleepy.
  • If possible shower and wear clean clothes before meditating.
  • Try to switch off. If you try to meditate straight after work, you may be still thinking about the day. Try reading some books on meditation to help make the transition from work to meditation.

Continue Reading →

We will prevail

On April 16, 2007, a student at Virginia Tech, had killed 32 of the university’s students and professors besides himself. The tragedy had plunged the academic community at the university into sorrow and grief. The entire nation was deeply moved by this tragedy. Amidst this morning rose a voice that was strong, powerful and defiant with a touch of rebellion. It was Nikki Giovanni. She was addressing the thousands who had gathered the next day at the memorial service for the shooting victims. She was asked by the president of the university to give a speech at the memorial service. As Nikki Giovanni is a professor at Virginia Tech, she was herself deeply affected by the tragedy. She found it very difficult to write a speech. Instead she composed a poem. In fact it was a poem chant. In her very opening lines she takes the tragedy head on and accepts the reality with courage to ‘stand tall tearlessly’ and with humility ‘bend to cry’. She said,

“We are Virginia Tech.
We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while.
We are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning.
We are Virginia Tech.
We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly,
we are brave enough to bend to cry, and
we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again.
We are Virginia Tech…”

In the lines that follow she conveys the message to her listeners that even as the tragedy is very personal, yet they cannot afford to indulge in the pleasures of self-pity. And so she tries to connect to the tragedies suffered by other innocent people like them. She said,

“We do not understand this tragedy.
We know we did nothing to deserve it,
but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS,
neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by the rogue army,
neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory,
neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water…”

In these very powerful lines the poet by embracing the sorrow of others, transcends from the personal to the universal. Even as they grieved, by reaching out to the sorrow of others, Giovanni tapped into the fundamental goodness of humanity that resides deep within every human heart. Some of her closing lines are as follows,

“…We are strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid.
We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be.
We are alive to the imaginations and the possibilities.
We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness…
…We will prevail…”

Many speakers spoke before her including the president of United States. But it was the lone voice of Nikki Giovanni that not only raised the spirits of the students and teachers at Virginia Tech, but also the entire nation. It is these rare voices like Nikki Giovanni who help us rise above hatred and intolerance. They help us to accept the reality around us and embrace our fellow travellers, on our life’s journey, with sympathy and goodwill.

“Our philosophy is the acceptance of life for the transformation of life and also for the manifestation of God’s light here on earth, at God’s choice hour in God’s own way.” ~Sri Chinmoy

Be careful in rushing to judgement

It is easy to make snap judgements based on partial information and first impressions, but these quick judgements can be misplaced. These are a few things to bear in mind.
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Who is responsible?

When something goes wrong we often look for somebody to blame. The train is late, so we get angry with the train staff; but the problem may be completely out of their control. We shouldn’t blame someone when they have endeavoured to do their best given the circumstances. We have all been on the other side of the coin – where we have been judged and blamed, despite it being due to factors beyond our control. Sometimes it is those under intense pressure, who most deserve our patience and understanding.

Worst case scenario

A tendency of the human mind is to anticipate the worst. By nature the mind is suspicious, and if something happens we put a negative slant on it; however, there is a danger this negativity can become self-fulfilling. If we expect something bad, it is more likely to manifest. Instead, if we suspend this negative judgement, we often find that things turn out better than we expected. This is why it is important to avoid rushing to a negative judgement.

Judgement leads to conflict

If we are quick to judgement it can make other people defensive and confrontational. If we approach an issue with an open mind and open heart, we help to facilitate a better outcome – in which the other person can modify their approach. Continue Reading →

The Master’s indifference

This is a short story which is semi-autobiographical. It touches on issues relating to expectation and seeing beyond outer appearances.

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There was a spiritual Master who had many disciples. At times, he would express great concern about their health or spiritual progress. Sometimes, no detail was too small for the Master’s concern – be it work, health or their own meditation. At other times, during weekly meditations, the Master would be lost in trance – deep in communion with the Highest Reality.

When a new seeker called Rakhal joined the path, he was surprised to find his Master appeared indifferent to his new arrival. As the disciples filed past the Master, the Master would offer broad smiles to his established disciples, but when it was Rakhal’s turn the Master closed his eyes and seemed to look the other way.

To some extent, Rakhal was puzzled; he expected his Master to treat everyone in the same way, yet it appeared the Master was showing favouritism to his older disciples. However another thought also came to Rakhal’s mind – despite the outer indifference, he felt inner peace and happiness while coming into the Master’s presence – even if he was outwardly ignored.

Over time Rakhal became used to this differing treatment and no longer expected to get a smile from his Master. He realised that outwardly the Master treated everybody in a different way, depending on what the individual disciple really needed.

Gradually, Rakhal felt even the Master’s indifference was an important lesson – the Master was wanting to teach Rakhal to let go of expectation, but instead develop his inner faith and inner connection.

After a few years, Rakhal had largely overcome his own expectations of how his Master should treat him. But then, when he least expected it, his Master would offer a divine smile or offer short words of encouragement. Rakhal was happy – both to receive the outer attention of the Master, and also because he had learnt to be detached about whether the Master spoke to him or not.

Then, out of the blue, the Master passed to the other world, and Rakhal was deeply upset to lose the outer, inspiring presence of his Master. But, now more than ever, the disciple was grateful for his Master’s lessons in detachment and learning to value the inner essence of spirituality.


Photo top: Sri Chinmoy meditation 1970s

…The journey itself is home

In one of his travel diaries, Oku no Hosomichi, the 17th century Japanese Haiku poet Bashō most famously wrote, “A lifetime adrift in a boat or in old age leading a tired horse into the years, every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” Born in 1644, near Ueno, in Iga Province, about thirty miles southeast of Kyoto, Bashō’s first poem was published in 1662. Over the next decade his poems continued to be published in various anthologies. In the spring of 1672 he moved to Edo to further his study of poetry. He undertook arduous studies in Chinese and Japanese literature, philosophy, and history. His studies also included Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Shintoism. By 1680 he made a name for himself as a poet and taught poetry to quite a few students. Basho is considered one of the most learned poets of his time. In spite of his success as a poet, Bashō was lonely and dissatisfied. From 1682 Basho started undertaking long journeys on foot. On each journey he maintained a dairy which turned out to be a new poetic form he created called haibun. In haibun, Basho combined haiku and prose to trace his journey. This combination of prose and poetry was rich in two kinds of images: the external images observed on the journey and the internal images that these outer images invoked in the mind of the poet. Starting from 1684 Basho composed several such travel diaries that included Nozarashi Kiko, or Travelogue of Weather-Beaten Bones (1685); Oi no Kobumi, or The Knapsack Notebook (1688); and Sarashina Kiko, or Sarashina Travelogue (1688).

It was his last travel diary, Oku no Hosomichi, or The Narrow Road to the Deep North, that turned out to be his best and most famous piece of literary work. Basho composed this poetic travel journal on the last long foot journey that he undertook to the northern provinces of Honshu, covering 1,200 miles in over five months. He started his journey in the beginning of May 1689 and was accompanied by his student Kawai Sora. Their goal was to visit Oku that lay north of Sendai by following a narrow path that passed through the Sirakawa barrier, over the mountains. Both of them headed north to Hiraizumi, which they reached in one and half months. They then walked to the western side of the island, touring Kisakata and began hiking back along the coastline returning to Edo in late 1691.

When Basho was about to start on his journey many friends come to see him off. He describes this touching scene by putting into words an internal image that passes through his mind, “I felt three thousand miles rushing through my heart, the whole world only a dream. I saw it through farewell tears.” (1) Then he goes on to pen the following haiku:

Spring passes
And the birds cry out-tears
In the eyes of fishes

In this haiku, Basho is trying to convey the depth of his sorrow at parting with his close friends. The sorrow was so great that even the birds were crying and he increases the intensity by saying there were even tears in the eyes of fishes.

Many of the places visited by them had a lot of cultural and spiritual history behind them. These were places that were described by other poets of the past and Basho refers to these poems in his writing. For instance when he reached a beach called Shiogama, it was evening. After the summer rain the sky was just clearing revealing a pale moon over Magaki Island. This beautiful twilight scene reminded Basho of a line from Kokinshu’s poem, “fishing boats pulling together” and for the first time he understood what the poet meant.

Along the Michinoku
Everyplace is wonderful,
But in Shiogama
Fishing boats pulling together
Are most amazing of all.

On this journey into the deep north, often his mind soared into the rich depths of the Japanese history, culture and Zen philosophy. From those aesthetic heights, Basho came out with insights that are golden nuggets of human thought. The form was in prose but on reading the aftertaste is sheer poetry. When visiting a shrine at dawn, he gives the following description, “huge, stately pillars, bright painted rafters, and a long stone walkway rising steeply under a morning sun that danced and flashed along the red lacquered fence. I thought, “As long as the road is, even if it ends in dust, the gods come with us, keeping a watchful eye. This is our culture’s greatest gift.” (2). For a moment it is worth pondering on Basho’s insight. This shrine was five centuries old at the time of Basho. It seems what Basho is trying to tell us is that far into the future, maybe hundreds of years later, if a devout pilgrim visits this shrine and even if the shrine is in complete ruins, the pilgrim will receive the blessings of the gods he has come to pay homage to. The shrine which is something physical is time-bound (i.e.bound to decay with time) but its essence “the blessings of the gods” is timeless, eternal.

During their journey, Basho and his companion decided to spend a night at a place called Iizuka in a country inn. As it was a country inn the facilities were less than basic. After they had gone to bed, there was a heavy rain storm. Basho writes, “Suddenly a thunderous downpour and leaky roof aroused us, fleas and mosquitoes everywhere. Old infirmities tortured me through the long, sleepless night.”(3) At another time when for days and days they had to walk through rain and heat Basho wrote, “Through nine hellish days of heat and rain, all my old maladies tormenting me again, feverish and weak, I could not write.”(4) Sometimes for days they also had to walk through marsh land. These and other descriptions give one the impression that the journey was arduous and physically very difficult as Basho was of a delicate constitution and suffered from several chronic diseases. Also travelling by foot in seventeenth-century medieval Japan was immensely dangerous and hazardous. Yet Basho was willing to risk his life for the rich experience of his journey. In fact he considered it a pilgrimage.

By the time Basho composed his last diary, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, he had matured as a poet. The Narrow Road to the Deep North was the climax in his literary career. Using his close interaction with nature as a tool, Basho was always trying to be in resonance with something within him that was impersonal, deep and meaningful. Once when he was passing through a remote forest area where a few hermits lived in thatched huts under pine trees, Basho wrote, “Smoke of burning leaves and pine cones drew me on, touching something deep inside.” (5) Sri Chinmoy said, “Art in the most effective sense of the term is a sublime truth that draws our soul from within towards the infinite vast.” Through his poetry, Basho tried to achieve this artistic excellence. His poetry was based on the Zen concept that one attains perfect spiritual serenity by immersing oneself in the egoless, impersonal life of nature. The complete absorption of one’s petty ego into the vast, powerful, magnificent universe. Hamill writes, “When he (Basho) invokes the call of a cuckoo, invokes its lonely cry. Things are as they are. Insight permits him to perceive a natural poignancy in the beauty of temporal things – mono_no_aware – and cultivate its expression into great art.”(pg. xiv)

References

1. Narrow Road to the Interior, Basho, trans, Sam Hamill, Shambhala, Pg. 4
2. Narrow Road to the Interior, Basho, trans, Sam Hamill, Shambhala, Pg. 16
3. Narrow Road to the Interior, Basho, trans, Sam Hamill, Shambhala, Pg. 12
4. Narrow Road to the Interior, Basho, trans, Sam Hamill, Shambhala, Pg. 28
5. Narrow Road to the Interior, Basho, trans, Sam Hamill, Shambhala, Pg. 17
6. Narrow Road to the Interior, Basho, trans, Sam Hamill, Shambhala, Pg. xiv

Letting go of anger, doubt and jealousy

Whatever problems we may have, it is helpful to remember they are temporary. When we remember the impermanence of our negative thoughts, it diminishes their power and enables us to let go of them.

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This poem, by Sri Chinmoy, speaks of a trait in human nature to become attached to these fleeting emotions.

He forgets.
He forgets that anger
Is a passer-by.

He forgets.
He forgets that doubt
Is a passer-by.

He forgets.
He forgets that jealousy
Is a passer-by.

He forgets.
He forgets that bondage
Is a passer-by.

Alas, he touches their feet
And asks them to be
His bosom friends.

– Sri Chinmoy, The Dance of Life, # 655

Everybody is subject to anger, doubt and jealousy, but this poem reminds us that they are temporary experiences and not our real self. Sometimes, we can cultivate an attachment to holding on to these negative emotions, and then they become part of us. The secret is to let go and resist the pull of holding on. We have to remind ourself – this is not who we are; this is not what we want.

***

One meditation exercise is to sit still and observe the thoughts that come into your mind. We don’t judge or even try to control them. But, we just see these thoughts as external entities – as passersby. Through this exercise, we realise our deepest inner self can accept or reject the flotsam and jetsam of passing thoughts, and gradually their power diminishes so we become aware of the stillness underneath. Even if thoughts still come, we have the confidence and ability to disassociate ourselves from them.

If you like, you can imagine these passing thoughts as clouds high in the sky, leaving no mark on the earth below.

***

It reminds me of a story about Socrates. Once Socrates, with his followers, went to see a soothsayer. The mystic examined Socrates and said “this man is full of impurity, anger and jealousy.” The followers of Socrates were shocked, believing he was a great sage. They wanted to leave straight away, but Socrates said ‘No, let us wait to see if there is anything else the soothsayer has to say.’ The mystic went on “Although Socrates has these qualities, he also has them under his control.”

The point is that even a great sage like Socrates is subject to the passing emotions of anger and doubt, but great sages don’t identify with them – they don’t allow them to become the master of their lives. It is this detachment which enables man to become more illumined.

We shouldn’t be discouraged if we are aware of negative thoughts and emotions which come to the fore. Our job is to let them go and see them as itinerant passersby. At the same time, we should never surrender to these negative emotions – we always have to see them as a false representation of our self.

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