Peace arrives when you stop resisting, stop fighting and stop struggling with Life.
Each of us is fighting something or the other. All the time. Someone fights for health. Someone else for wealth. There’s someone fighting for dignity. And someone for identity. Someone out there fights for companionship. Another soldiers on for acceptance. Yet a factor that’s common to all constituencies is that everyone, despite their individual fights, wants peace. You look around. Ask around. And you will find that almost everyone wants just peace. And they will all talk about inner peace __ bliss, joy, plain, good ol’ happiness.
But you can’t pursue peace when you are struggling with Life, fighting its every dimension. You cannot be angry with your situation in Life and expect to find peace in it at the same time. Peace will come, when you suspend all hostility in your mind, and through that act, make your immediate circle of influence peaceful. Peace has a price to be paid for, and that is to be accepting of a situation or a person or an outcome. Many people wonder what is the way to peace. And the simplest answer to their query is what Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh champions: “Peace is the way!”
But by ceasing to fight, are you embracing inaction? And isn’t inaction equal to committing hara-kiri? Let me clarify: ceasing to fight is not inaction. It means acceptance. You can be accepting of a situation, be peaceful, and yet work towards changing it. They are not mutually exclusive. On the other hand, they are complementary. The other day, at a coffee shop, I noticed a young couple argue with each other at another table. The lady was agitated. Often gesticulating wildly, raising her voice just so much that others around could hear and perceive that she was upset with the gentleman. The man, on the other hand, was stoic. He was calm and in control of himself, even if he was not in control of the situation. At the end of their discussions and arguments, I felt nothing had been resolved. Things were where they were when they came in. But the lady stomped out in a huff, and I believe she must have been continuing to fight the situation, or the man, in her mind. The man was calm, perhaps not happy either with the way the meeting ended, and made a slow, peaceful exit. He may also have felt that things could have been better, but for sure, he wasn’t feeling worse. He was peaceful. He wasn’t fighting. Yet he was not abstaining from action. Coming to the meeting, making an attempt, while staying calm, was indeed action.
We too can embrace this way of living. Simply, don’t start with asking ‘WHY?’ of Life at each of its twists and turns. Exclaim instead, ‘Interesting, so, we have a situation…!’, and mobilize your action to resolving it. Even a fight for a nation’s independence can be a peaceful__and successful__one. Gandhi proved it and so did 300 million of his followers, fellow Indians, back then. The same principle applies here. End all violent thinking __ about anyone or anything __ and approach each problem or situation with complete focus and total equanimity. Remember: to find peace, inner peace, peace is the way!
Letting go is not difficult. It is deciding to let go that is difficult. So, here’s a simple perspective on what it takes to let go!
When we try to control anything, we experience satisfaction and triumph in the short-term, but we are struggling with pain and suffering in the long-term. When we let go, there’s pain initially, but joy and bliss abound in the long-term. This applies to opinions, money, relationships, children, careers and any challenging situation in Life.
|The luckless rescue operation to save Thimanna (inset)
Picture Courtesy: Internet
I read a story in the papers last week of a farmer in Karnataka, Hanumanthappa Hatti, who had to take a heart-wrenching decision to let go. Hatti’s six-year-old son Thimanna had fallen into an abandoned borewell in their farm in Bagalkot. After three days of hectic rescue operations, Hatti pleaded with the district government officials to stop the rescue mission. Already a 75 ft trench had been dug to reach Thimanna who was believed to be stuck at 160 ft in the 300 ft-deep borewell. To reach the boy, the rescue mission team had decided to dig further, in an-L shape, even as almost everyone gave very little chance for the boy to emerge alive. Oxygen levels in the borewell beyond a certain point were nil, and at 160 ft, the chances of survival after three days was nil too. It was at this time that Hatti made the decision. He said already three lakh cubic metres of mud had been hauled out from the borewell. To fill the borewell back and reclaim his sugarcane crop will already require a humungous financial outlay – which was beyond Hatti’s means. If they were to dig further, Hatti reasoned, his costs would only go up with no chance of finding his boy alive. “I won’t get back my son alive after all this that is being done. I should at least save my land for the future of my two daughters,” he told reporters at his farm.
Hatti’s is a classic case of letting go – complete with the difficulty involved in making that crucial decision. Letting go is not about giving up. It is about accepting that there are some things in Life that simply cannot be.
The desire to control is an ego-based response. It represents a view within us, however subconscious it may be, that we are causing_and will want to continue to cause__things to happen the way they are. The decision to let go, is a spiritual decision, made in acceptance of and in surrender to a Higher Energy. When we let go, we feel a pain, an initial ache, but we also feel good. We feel a sense of relief, just the opposite of how we felt while we were clinging on to that situation__fighting, agonizing, suffering. Mitch Albom, the author of the beautiful book, ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’, awakens us to a new perspective: “Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you are not losing it, you are just passing it on to someone else.”
What a wonderful way to inspire all of us to let go. So, the choice is with us. Within us. To control or to let go. Let go, because you and I are mere voyagers, who came with nothing and will go with nothing. We will have led a meaningful Life if it can epitomize love and peace. By letting go, as the struggle within us ceases, we will become love and peace!
Choose to be a witness, especially when a ruinous emotion like anger rises in you, and you will attain bliss.
Watch your thoughts as you would watch traffic on the street. When riding to work, especially when you are not driving, aren’t you just a witness? You just see a million things happening in the hustle bustle of a daily Life in a metro. Ensconced in your car, in the comfort of your air-conditioning and listening to some music, you are just a witness. May be you are watching two irate drivers honking madly. Or you are observing a senior citizen crossing the road with extreme caution. Or you are seeing someone opportunistic brazenly edge past a more tentative driver. You are merely an observer__who sees everything but chooses not to participate in further confounding the chaos!
Is that really possible__being a witness to your own thoughts?
In fact, the Buddha, prescribes this, only this, to attain a Life of peace and fulfillment. He says: “Just be awake. Be a witness to your thoughts.”
The essence of the Buddha’s message is that we must not suppress ourselves. Take anger for instance. When someone does something stupid or hurts you or betrays you, you will feel angry. It is natural. And it is logical. What is the point in suppressing it? Suppressing ANYTHING that you believe is negative__like anger, sex, greed__is detrimental to your well-being. All these emotions are basically energy being expressed in different ways. So, suppressing them, means wanting to get rid of them, to kill them. How can you kill energy? Isn’t it a futile exercise? You will only end up creating more stress for yourself and within you. This also does not mean that you must succumb to these emotions and let their fiery energy consume you. Be aware. Be awake. Be alert. If you are witnessing your thoughts, you will realize that anger is rising in you. Then you won’t explode mindlessly, destructively. You will, through your awareness, be able to channelize your anger into, of all things, believe me, compassion!
Osho, the Master, says that anger can turn into compassion, a sexual desire into deep love and mindless greed into complete sharing! He says that these emotions are but energies. And the way to deal with them is to allow them to be expressed in a different form rather suppressing them.
I know, from experience, that this possible through relentless practice.
Once upon a time, I used to be a very angry man. I remember, in my teens, I once flung my shaving razor on the TV screen in our living room, because I was furious with my mother for saying something she should not have (at least in my opinion!). Over the years, right up to my mid-30s, which means a good two decades of my Life, I would let my anger control me. I wouldn’t even think before I exploded. It had become a normal, instantaneous reflex action to any situation that did not meet my expectations. Once when I was buying a car I had to travel urgently on the day the car was due to be delivered. So I had asked my admin assistant on my team to take delivery of the car while ensuring that the color I wanted was the one we got. My assistant called me AFTER taking delivery of the car that the company regretted not getting my color and said that I had to ONLY accept the color they had if I wanted immediate delivery. I lambasted my assistant for an hour on the phone, standing on the kerbside at a busy intersection in Bangalore. I went on abusing my assistant, who was both speechless and shocked at my tirade, and I went on, endlessly, until an old lady passing by, tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear: “Just be aware of where you are when you scream!”. I felt ashamed. I hung up. It was too late. My assistant texted me his resignation within the next 5 minutes. I lost a good resource. But that moment of personal shame and guilt did not transform me. I raged on. At work my colleagues had nicknamed me ‘chiefscreamer’. (My business title, also on my business card, is chiefdreamer!)
It wasn’t until Life landed me at the edge of a precipice, where I continue to hang from, and I realized that my kicking around is not going to help my situation in any manner, that I awoke to the futility, and vanity, of being mindlessly, violently angry. Anger by itself is not a bad thing. Without being angry, with any injustice or current reality, no change, transformation or revolution has ever been possible in the world! Yet mindless anger has to be channelized. And, in my experience, has to be converted into compassion.
Over the years of practicing mouna (daily silence periods) and growing awareness, I have come to realize that people that hurt you do so because they are suffering themselves. Their inner turmoil is reflected in their unreasonable and unfair behavior. So, when someone does something nasty to me, I try to understand them better. Anger is no longer a response. It has become an intelligent choice. When anger rises in me, and it well will, I watch it. Then I say to myself, why is this person doing what she or he is doing to me? And if it a foolish mistake the person has committed forgiveness is easy. But when there has been a willful assault on my privacy or dignity or sentiments, I simply feed someone on the street thanking the Universe and my detractor for the opportunity to serve. I don’t even tell my detractor I am doing this because I don’t need to. As I feed someone randomly, I concentrate all my energy on my detractor and wish deeply that she or he heals. And I dedicate the act of serving, and the meal, to my detractor. This practice gives me immense peace and joy. I find it meaningful that:
a. I have not lost my head and exploded.
b. I have been compassionate towards my detractor and another human being.
c. I feel grateful that I have been useful.
The bigger cause for celebration though is that when you are merely a witness, an observer, you don’t participate to perpetrate any mindless crisis that may emerge in the course of daily living. You don’t get distracted from your focus on being peaceful. You don’t feel disturbed. You feel love rather than raw desire for people around you. You choose saner responses and constructive energy options when you have to express yourself. You discover great joy in realizing that Life may often shake you but, by being a mere witness, you can ensure your inner core is not stirred!
All Life is equal.
Celebrating creation is our principal religion and only duty! Over centuries, religion, by its opportunistic practitioners pointing to an external God, has made bad spaghetti out of a perfect recipe for equality. Religion singularly has made us forget the divinity in all creation.
When you recognize that all Life is equal, and that you are as much the source of the cosmic energy, that which powers the Universe, as creation itself, then, you will discover the Godhead in you! Then, and only then, will your search for an external God end. When you have found God, why would you need religion?
Let’s do a small exercise to grasp this truth in a nanosecond.
Take an empty (water) glass.
Is the glass really empty? Or does it contain something?
Well, arguably, it contains air.
Now, drop the glass on a hard floor (not carpeted). Yes, just drop it!
It breaks, right?
Now what happened to the air in the glass? Where has it gone? Did it also break or did it go somewhere?
Well, it just merged with the air in the room. In fact, it always was merged with the air in the room in the first place. The glass was merely a container holding some of the air.
So is this, your, body. It is merely a container holding, during a specific tenure, a portion of the air, or the cosmic energy that’s powering the Universe. Isn’t that case strong enough to establish that you and everyone else are equal? Because all of us are powered by the same cosmic energy.
All our problems in the world, between us human beings occur because we identify too much with the human body. Without the body, without the mind, there can be no desire. Without desire, there can be no one-upmanship. Without one-upmanship, how can there be inequality? And without inequality how can there be ignorance? Just this awareness that you are not the body, that you are the God you seek, that you are the Universal energy is so brilliant and so very liberating.
“Desire, ignorance, and inequality—this is the trinity of bondage,” taught Swami Vivekananda, whose 150th birth anniversary it is today!
Indeed. We are enslaved by our ignorance of our true Self. We are trapped in our desires. And we are victims of the conditioning that we are an unequal race. The question we must ask ourselves is if you inhale from the same source I exhale into, how can you and I be unequal? If people across the world understood this truth, there would be no problems, no wars, and we will have peace and love everywhere.
Swami Vivekananda further said, over 100 years ago, and it is so true, so relevant, even today: “We believe that every being is divine, is God. Every soul is a sun covered over with clouds of ignorance; the difference between soul and soul is owing to the difference in density of these layers of clouds.”
By simply worshiping, and celebrating, creation, we will find our God and peace __ both that which we desperately seek and need!