In accordance with Mahatma Gandhi’s admonition to “be the change that you wish to see in the world,” the Sri Swami Madhavananda World Peace Council raises awareness on the importance of inner peace in humans as a way to world peace. The peace endeavors can only be successful in correlation with inner transformation and yoga provides the requested power of positive change. Only peace within oneself is that necessary basis towards peace and justice in interpersonal relationships as well as in community, national, and global arena.
As the initiator of the Sri Swami Madhavananda World Peace Council, Vishwaguru Maheshwarananda clearly states:
“To live sustainably on this planet and to achieve lasting world peace, humans must re-awaken to the vital significance of maintaining their ethical and spiritual values, whilst at the same time fostering a genuine commitment to care for the community of life - all of life - with understanding, compassion and love. Revival of humanity’s ethical and spiritual values is the ‘first-step’ in affecting the change we want to see for Mother Earth.”
In our presentation we would like to present how this precious wisdom is not either individual or time-related. It has been there in almost all periods of time, at least the one we have written heritage.
As we know from Confucius (551 b.c. – 479 b.c.) the most important is to “love people” which means sympathizing with people and helping them in trouble. His partition to active part or “Zhong” principle – to help people; and passive part or “Shu” principle – don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you could be interpreted as fundamental basis of peace. It is most likely one could not expect peace without people feeling secure and helped as well as preventing of any actions that might harm in any way whatsoever other people. All those actions are very easy to determine since by actions one can easily describe all causing discomfort to yourself at first place:
“Now, if there is equality in distribution there will be no poverty; if there is harmony in society there will be no under-population, and if there is security, there will be subversion.”
Plutarch or Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus (AD 46 – AD 120), Greek historian, becoming Roman citizen, in one of his two masterpieces Moralia wrote an essay »On Tranquillity of Mind« where he mainly focuses on disturbances to tranquility of mind. Perhaps he also lays foundations for what we latter find in Kant and his “General History of Nature and Theory of the Heavens« (1755), since Plutarch outlines:
“Therefore we should not altogether debase and depreciate Nature in the belief that she has nothing strong, stable, and beyond the reach of Fortune, but, on the contrary, since we know that the corrupt and perishable part of man wherein he lies open to Fortune is small, and that we ourselves are masters of the better part, in which the greatest of our blessings are situated — right opinions and knowledge and the exercise of reason terminating in the acquisition of virtue, all of which have their being inalienable and indestructible — knowing all this, we should face the future undaunted and confident and say to Fortune what Socrates, when he was supposed to be replying to his accusers, was really saying to the jury, "Anytus and Meletus are able to take away my life, but they cannot hurt me." Fortune, in fact, can encompass us with sickness, take away our possessions, slander us to people or despot; but she cannot make the good and valiant and high-souled man base or cowardly, mean, ignoble, or envious, nor can she deprive us of that disposition, the constant presence of which is of more help in facing life than is a pilot in facing the sea. For a pilot cannot calm a savage wave or a wind, nor can he find a harbour wherever he wishes at need, nor can he await the event confidently and without trembling; as long as he has not despaired, making use of his skill,
With the mainsail dropped to the lower mast
He flees from the murky sea,
whereas when the sea towers over him, he sits there quaking and trembling. But the disposition of the wise man yields the highest degree of calm to his bodily affections, destroying by means of self-control, temperate diet, and moderate exertion the conditions leading to disease; even if the beginning of some evil comes from without, "he rides it out with light and well-furled sail," as Asclepiades has it, just as one passes through a storm. But if some great unforeseen disaster comes upon him and masters him, the harbour is close at hand and he may swim away from his body, as from a leaky boat.”
Plutarch clearly states situation human should find comfortable and natural, and which bring the desired tranquility of the mind:
“Eso we should not overlook even common and ordinary things, but take some account of them and be grateful that we are alive and well and look upon the sun; that there is neither war near factious strife among us, but that both the earth grants cultivation and the sea fair sailing to those who wish it; that we may speak or act, be silent or at leisure, as we choose. These things when they are present will afford us greater tranquillity of mind, if we but imagine them to be absent, and remind ourselves often how desirable is health to the sick, and peace to those at war, Fand, to an unknown stranger in so great a city, the acquisition of reputation and friends; and how painful it is to be deprived of these things when we have once had them. For it will not then be the case that we find each one of these important and valuable only when it has been lost, but worthless while securely held.”
But Plutarch was not the only one to write on tranquility. Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c. 4 BC – AD 65), a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman and dramatist of the Silver Age of Latin literature, was a tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero. He also wrote an essay “On Tranquility of Mind”, somehow advancing Plutarch, where he describes:
…“This abiding stability of mind the Greeks call euthyimia, "well-being of the soul," on which there is an excellent treatise by Democritus; I call it tranquility ... What we are seeking, therefore, is how the mind may always pursue a steady and favorable course, may be well-disposed towards itself, and may view its condition with joy, and suffer no interruption of this joy, but may abide in a peaceful state, being never uplifted nor ever cast down. This will be "tranquility." Let us seek in a general way how it may be obtained; then from the universal remedy you will appropriate as much as you like. Meanwhile we must drag forth into the light the whole of the infirmity, and each one will then recognize his own share of it; at the same time you will understand how much less trouble you have with your self-depreciation than those who, fettered to some showy declaration and struggling beneath the burden of some grand title, are held more by shame than by desire to the pretence they are making.”…
This tranquility is therefore determined as a necessary prerequisite for one’s inner peace. And without it:
…“Thence comes mourning and melancholy and the thousand wavering of an unsettled mind, which its aspirations hold in suspense and then disappointment renders melancholy. Thence comes that feeling which makes men loathe their own leisure and complain that they themselves have nothing to be busy with; thence too the bitterest jealousy of the advancements of others. For their unhappy sloth fosters envy, and, because they could not succeed themselves, they wish every one else to be ruined;”…
He even brings the non-balance or non-tranquillity to the level human could not and should not afford:
“… nothing can be more shameful – that we have no balance left.”
Of course, not only he describes what to avoid or should not practice, important are his even more than 2.000 years old “prescriptions” on what activities one should do:
“We must be indulgent to the mind, and from time to time must grant it the leisure that serves as its food and strength. And, too, we ought to take walks out-of-doors in order that the mind may be strengthened and refreshed by the open air and much breathing; sometimes it will get new vigor from a journey by carriage and a change of place and festive company…”
How common those words sound to us nowadays. That common we don’t even pay any attention to them and we rather constantly do everything only to disobey them.
Which brings us to Kant (1724 –1804) as commonly referred as central figure of modern philosophy. It is rather interesting how some works of him are famous and how others, like General History of Nature and Theory of the Heavens are not that known or praised, since he hasn’t just listed several conditions that he thought are necessary for ending wars and creating a lasting peace (in Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch), he also describes the nature of the human:
“The human being has been created to receive the impressions and emotions the world will arouse in him through the body that is the visible part of his being and the matter of which serves not only the invisible spirit that inhabits him to impress the first concepts of external objects but also is indispensable to repeat, to combine, in short to think these in the internal action.”
Even though one might think there exists no direct connection to peace, we should anyway outline Kant’s remarks on nature, since, at the end of the day, not having peace is not just committing wars, it is unfortunately also what human performs every day to destroy the nature. Here we find World has not yet learned important messages received by Kant:
“Thus everything in the whole extent of nature is connected in an uninterrupted graduated sequence by the eternal harmony that refers all links to each other.”
Yet another message one has to understand and follow is the one on peace not being the natural state and therefore to achieve one it has to be established:
“The state of peace among men living side by side is not the natural state (status naturalis); the natural state is one of war. This does not always mean open hostilities, but at least an unceasing threat of war. A state of peace, therefore, must be established, for in order to be secured against hostility it is not sufficient that hostilities simply be not committed; ….”
How far humankind has come during last 21 centuries towards achieving that particular natural state of peace we can witness every day. Some of us luckily trough the media, the others, less fortunate ones, by living their every-day lives. Still, what lays in front of humankind is to achieve and more importantly to live:
“Without inner peace, outer peace is impossible. We all wish for world peace, but world peace will never be achieved unless we first establish peace within our own minds. We can send so-called 'peacekeeping forces' into areas of conflict, but peace cannot be opposed from the outside with guns. Only by creating peace within our own mind and helping others to do the same can we hope to achieve peace in this world.”
Kant, Immanuel (1755): General History of Nature and Theory of the Heavens
Kant, Immanuel (1795): Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch
Plutarch: On Tranquility of Mind.
Seneca: On Tranquility of Mind.
The Complete Works Of Chuang Tzu; Translated by Burton Watson