Lead me from death to life, from darkness to light.
Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust.
Lead me from hate to love, from war to peace.
Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.
Peace, peace, peace.
(From the Upanishads)
The fundamental mistake we make – again and again – is to think that some particular configuration of external events will bring us peace and happiness. This has two faces: we think that if we get this thing or that – money, a house, a job, a spouse, success in various endeavours – we will be content. But, of course, after one desire is fulfilled, the contentment soon fades with the rising of another desire. Then we work to gain that object, and the cycle repeats. The other side of the coin is aversion: we try to achieve peace by avoiding pain and suffering and anything we dislike, and a similar pattern occurs. As soon as an unpleasant state fades, we have an aversion to something else. Both these patterns, desire and aversion, leave us in a more or less constant state of mental turbulence. Sooner or later, frustrated by the limited success of our striving for peace we may turn to spiritual teachings, and here Babaji’s message is clear: it is desire and aversion themselves that disrupt the natural peaceful state.
Babaji also gives us the antidote: yoga, the quieting of thought waves in the mind, and he gives us the practices of ashtanga yoga to help calm the mind. Since the ego is the driving force behind both desire and aversion any practice which weakens the ego of individuality will lead to a more peaceful state. Practising virtuous behaviour has this effect; putting others’ needs ahead of ours and working for their well-being reduces our own selfish desires and quiets the mind. The Dalai Lama tells us this:
One of the basic points is kindness. With kindness, with love and compassion, with this feeling that is the essence of brotherhood, sisterhood, one will have inner peace. This compassionate feeling is the basis of inner peace.
The deepening of this peace brings a profound joy, ananda, experienced by those who have removed fear and craving from their minds. They attain the blessed state described by Saint Catherine of Genoa:
In this state the soul is in such peace and tranquility that it seems to her that both soul and body are immersed in a sea of the profoundest peace, from which she would not issue for anything that could happen in this life. She remains immovable, imperturbable, and neither her humanity nor her spirit feels anything except the sweetest peace, of which she is so full that if her flesh, her bones, her nerves were pressed, nothing would issue from them but peace. And all day long she sings softly to herself for joy, saying: “Shall I show thee what God is? No one finds peace apart from him.”
How did she reach this exalted state? Catherine was born to an aristocratic family, suffered through an unhappy arranged marriage and at the age of 26 began her life-long vocation of helping the sick and poor of Genoa. Despite her initial aversion to the level of suffering among the slum-dwellers and downtrodden, and working tirelessly through the plague that killed the great majority of those who stayed in the city, she became known for her selfless actions, joyful manner and saintly ways. She would doubtless have agreed with Mother Teresa who, five hundred years later, said:
The fruit of Silence is Prayer
The fruit of Prayer is Faith
The fruit of Faith is Love
The fruit of Love is Service
The fruit of Service is Peace
We do not need to travel far to serve those in need of love and care. Nor do we need to do dramatic works. Mother Teresa tells us: “Peace begins with a smile. What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.