Two Conditions for Peace
‘On two occasions in my life I enjoyed true peace of mind,’ said Ramu to his friend Anil.
‘The first one was,’ he continued, ‘when I eagerly wanted to buy a car and, after much struggle, finally purchased it. Commuting, travelling became much easier!’
‘Which one was the second occasion?’ asked Anil.
‘When I sold it,’ answered Ramu with beaming face!
Such is the nature of life. What seems to give happiness today becomes a source of unhappiness later. What seems to give ‘peace’ in a set of circumstances becomes a burden, a painful burden, at other times. This swinging between contradictions and contrasts is an essential truth we all have to face. Life is full of dualities, and one cannot escape this simple fact. Heat and cold, success and failure, praise and blame, good times and bad times—all these are inbuilt in the very fabric of life. One cannot think of life apart from these dualities. Our attitude towards these dualities is key to having peace within; running away from them is neither possible nor a way out.
Peace, as in the above conversation, comes when either of the two things is present—either we have what we wanted or we do not want something. We get something, and that brings peace. Or do not want to have something—i.e., we want to either avoid it or want to get rid of it—and when we succeed in doing it that brings peace. In Sanskrit the first one is called ishta prapti (getting what one wants) and the second one is called anishta nivritti (getting rid of what is unwanted). In either case, peace is the result.
Peace, Temporary and Permanent
Having said this, let us also examine why we lose peace of mind. Why do we become un-peaceful, restless, and further, anxious, worried, fearful and so on? What prevents us from becoming peaceful?
Of course, there is lower type of peace and higher type of peace. Both are important in our understanding of peace and for leading a peaceful life.
The lower type of peace is when our immediate desires and needs are fulfilled. It results from overcoming a lack, filling up some deficiency, prevailing over a scarcity. For instance, meeting our daily needs such as getting food and potable water, in required quantities and at right time and place, having proper place to live, or getting rid of a noisy situation or handling a quarrelsome person or being able to do something. Passing an examination, filing one’s tax returns, getting a ticket for the much-required journey, repairing a leaking roof, overcoming hesitation and fear in solving a personal issue or setting right a misunderstanding or sour relationship—all these seem to be sources of peace of mind.
The higher type of peace of mind is not a result of obtaining or getting rid of something but it comes from some deeper source. Peace that comes from ethically fulfilling a course of action or something even deeper, from calming the restless mind through meditation and prayer—they are good examples of higher types of peace. It is a well-known fact that only external, or lower type of peace cannot bring lasting peace. One needs higher type of peace, though the role of ‘lower’ type of peace is of no mean importance in the scheme of things.
Vedanta says that ignorance of the real nature of what we call our self is the chief cause of our restlessness. There are two selves—the lower self called ego, and the higher Self. The higher Self is called in Sanskrit atman. This higher self is by nature peace and joy itself. The lower self is born of ignorance and is hence full of imperfections and a mixture of good and bad, or happiness and unhappiness. To be happy or to attain true inner peace, one needs to experience the Higher Self or atman, which is also the ultimate goal of life. Ego is the source of all fear and restlessness. Ego or lower self, thrives on boundaries of separation from others which leads to imagined fear, or bitter show-downs against the perceived enemy or ego-filled celebrations at one’s success or others’ failure and so on.
Peace is a pre-condition for happiness. Gita’s famous question (2.66): ashantasya kutah sukham—‘where is the happiness for the one who lacks peace?’ poses a challenge: without peace of mind, there is no happiness. For instance, if fulfilment of a desire makes one happy, observe what happens just before happiness comes—there is peace. The want was causing restlessness of mind—one strove to fulfil the desire and, thanks to many factors, when the desire is met with favourable conditions, one becomes peaceful, and the joy or happiness that is already within, begins to shine out! You removed the covering of desire and inner happiness shone out. But, we mistake that it is the fulfilment of desire that brings happiness. On the other hand, when we succeed in getting rid of the unwanted, there too, peace precedes happiness. Peace is inherent. It is the nature of Self. And Self is not body, or ego or mind or anything created. It is. Self is and isness is peace.
The chief cause of peace-less-ness is clinging on to lower self and forgetting the ultimate goal of life. To cling to lower self is what is called materialism. Swami Vivekananda describes it thus:
We pray for material things. To attain some end we worship God with shopkeeping worship. Go on and pray for food and clothes! Worship is good. Something is always better than nothing. ‘A blind uncle is better than no uncle at all.’ A very rich young man becomes ill, and then to get rid of his disease he begins to give to the poor. That is good, but it is not religion yet, not spiritual religion. It is all on the material plane. What is material, and what is not? When the world is the end and God the means to attain that end, that is material. When God is the end and the world is only the means to attain that end, spirituality has begun.1
He further says,
Material science can only give worldly prosperity, whilst spiritual science is for eternal life. If there be no eternal life, still the enjoyment of spiritual thoughts as ideas is keener and makes a man happier, whilst the foolery of materialism leads to competition and undue ambition and ultimate death, individual and national.2
While materialism gives comforts, spirituality alone makes life a fulfilling experience. Materialism, in its extreme form, is nothing but rank selfishness, immorality and cruelty. Spirituality, on the other hand, brings a higher vision of life. It gives hope and meaning to life.
Materialism has a place in life but it cannot be the goal of life. Called abhudaya or material prosperity, it is necessary but without a spiritual ideal it leads to gloom, endless anxieties and death. Only that which is inherent can be the goal. Self, the atman, is inherent and realisation of it alone can be the lasting goal of life.
A Peaceful Mind
Samachittatvam or maintaining equilibrium of mind is essential to peace of mind. The term Samachittatvam comes in the Gita (13.9). In his commentary on the Gita, Sridharaswami, a renowned saint-scholar of fifteenth century, observes that equilibrium of mind is freedom from identification with ‘me and mine’. The more one identifies oneself with an object or person, the more one is likely to get shaken by the events connected with it. In other words, it is detachment which is the source of true calmness of mind.
Manah Prasadam or a cheerful and calm disposition of mind (Gita 2.65 and 17.16) is characteristic of a pure mind. It is both a spiritual practice and the goal of spiritual disciplines. As a practice, one should learn to keep one’s mind in cheerful and calm state by being cautious about those factors that may distract or affect us in any way.
There are many reasons which make the mind restless, and the resultant peacelessness An eminent monk of the Ramakrishna Order describes the obstacles in controlling the mind:
1. If we have strong likes and dislikes, attachments and aversions, we shall not be able to control our minds.
2. If we live an immoral life we shall not be able to control our minds.
3. If we have the habit of deliberately harming others we shall not be able to control our minds.
4. If we indulge in intoxicants, live unbalanced and chaotic lives, e.g. eat, drink, talk, work, or sleep too little or too much, we shall not be able to control our minds.
5. If we habitually indulge in vain controversy, are inordinately inquisitive about others’ affairs, or are too anxious to find others’ faults, we shall not be able to control our minds.
6. If we torture our bodies unnecessarily, spend our energies in futile pursuits, force rigid silence upon ourselves, or become too egocentric, we shall not easily control our minds.
7. If we are over-ambitious irrespective of our capacities, if we are jealous of others’ prosperity, or if we are self-righteous, we shall not easily control our minds.
8. If we have a feeling of guilt, we shall not be able to control our minds. Therefore we must erase all guilt from within us. To repent for sins committed and ask God’s help for strength of will so that they may not be repeated, that is all that is needed to be free from guilt.
9. To succeed in controlling the mind one must have, in addition to strong will, faith in oneself. Sri Krishna says in the Gita that one must oneself subdue one’s weakness and raise oneself by oneself. This teaching must be practiced by one who intends to control his mind.
10. The mind will have to be controlled by the mind itself. The difficulties which we experience in controlling the mind are created by our own mind. Mind cannot be controlled by artificial means for any length of time. Deliberate, patient, intelligent, systematic hard work according to tested and suitable disciplines is needed.3
If one wants peace, one has to go to the root of what causes its absence. Some superficial change in circumstances and conditions will not change it. One should have a comprehensive understanding and approach. Peace of mind includes a whole plethora of issues, the primary being inner purity which implies inner disciplines and inner transformation.
1. CW, 6.66
2. CW, 6.391
3. Mind and Its Control, Swami Budhananda, Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata. P. 39
The Final day program of Bala Mandir Summer Camp – May 2013 was held on 30 May 2013. On this last day children showcased what they had learnt during the month long camp, like Vedic chanting, devotional singing, Sanskrit and Tamil hymns & Stotras, picture drawing, yoga, drama and other cultural activities.
Swami Gautamamanda Maharaj spoke to the children at the end of the program about the significance of the summer camp and about the value & cultural education.
Some of the Pictures from the Program are published below:
01. Editorial – Peace of Mind
02. I shall Look Upon Them As the Blissful Mother Herself – Hironmoy Mukherjee
03. Sage Vasishtha’s Advice to Prince Rama – Swami Sarvadevananda
04. Swami Vivekananda’s Raja Yoga: A Contemporary Perspective – Swami Brahmeshananda
05. Entering the Himalayas—Lord Shiva’s Abode: A Pilgrimage to Almora – Pravrajika Brahmaprana
06. Three Transforming Statements – Swami Sunirmalananda
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01. Sri Ramakrishnarin Yelliya Margam
02. Dubayil India Anmigathin Selvakku
03. Ethu Meyyana Jnanasthanam
04. India Medavigal-3
05. Gurudavar Avarai Kappaar
06. Dhinamum Odha Sila Mandhirangal
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MONTHLY CALENDAR JUNE 2013 – ENGLISH
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MONTHLY CALENDAR JUNE 2013 – TAMIL
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Discourse in Tamil on the glory of Sri Ramnama Sankirtanam by Swami Asutoshananda
What is it that gives unity to the changing whole of our being? What is it that keeps up the identity of the moving thing moment after moment? What is it upon which all our different impressions are pieced together, upon which the perceptions, as it were, come together, reside, and form a united whole? We have found that to serve this end there must be something, and we also see that that something must be, relatively to the body and mind, motionless. The sheet of cloth upon which the camera throws the picture is, relatively to the rays of light, motionless, else there will be no picture. That is to say, the perceives must be an individual. This something upon which the mind is painting all these pictures, this something upon which our sensations, carried by the mind and intellect, are placed and grouped and formed into a unity, is what is called the soul of man.
And unless a man cuts through the layer of evil he cannot reach the layer of good, and unless he has passed through both the layers of good and evil he cannot reach the Self. He who reaches the Self, what remains attached to him? A little Karma, a little bit of the momentum of past life, but it is all good momentum. Until the bad momentum is entirely worked out and past impurities are entirely burnt, it is impossible for any man to see and realise truth. So, what is left attached to the man who has reached the Self and seen the truth is the remnant of the good impressions of past life, the good momentum. Even if he lives in a body and works incessantly, he works only to do good; his lips speak only benediction to all; his hands do only good works; his mind can only think good thoughts; his presence is a blessing wherever he goes. He is himself a living blessing.
Such a man will, by his very presence, change even the most wicked persons into saints. Even if he does not speak, his very presence will be a blessing to mankind. Can such men do any evil; can they do wicked deeds? There is, you must remember, all the difference of pole to pole between realisation and mere talking.
Any fool can talk. Even parrots talk. Talking is one thing, and realising is another. Philosophies, and doctrines, and arguments, and books, and theories, and churches, and sects, and all these things are good in their own way; but when that realisation comes, these things drops away. For instance, maps are good, but when you see the country itself, and look again at the maps, what a great difference you find! So those that have realised truth do not require the ratiocinations of logic and all other gymnastics of the intellect to make them understand the truth; it is to them the life of their lives, concretised, made more than tangible. It is, as the sages of the Vedanta say, “even as a fruit in your hand”; you can stand up and say, it is here.
So those that have realised the truth will stand up and say, “Here is the Self”. You may argue with them by the year, but they will smile at you; they will regard it all as a child’s prattle; they will let the child prattle on. They have realised the truth and are full. Suppose you have seen a country, and another man comes to you and tries to argue with you that that country never existed, he may go on arguing indefinitely, but your only attitude of mind towards him must be to hold that the man is fit for a lunatic asylum.
So the man of realisation says, “All this talk in the world about its little religions is but prattle; realisation is the soul, the very essence of religion.” Religion can be realised. Are you ready? Do you want it? You will get the realisation if you do, and then you will be truly religious. Until you have attained realisation there is no difference between you and atheists. The atheists are sincere, but the man who says that he believes in religion and never attempts to realise it is not sincere.
-The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 2.284-
Haripada babu found the Swami [Swami Vivekananda] well read not only in religion and philosophy, but in secular matters as well. To his surprise the Swami quoted at considerable length from The pickwick Papers. Thinking it strange that a sadhu should be so familiar with profance literature, he asked the Swami how often he had read the only twice. When asked how he could have memorized it in only two readings, the Swami answered that when he read anything he concentrated his entire attention upon it.
“Power of mind arises from control of the forces of the body. The idea is to conserve and transform the physical energy into mental and spiritual energy. The great danger lies in spending the forces of the body in wanton and reckless pleasures, and thus losing the retentive faculties of the mind. Whatever you do devote your whole mind, heart and soul to it. I once met a great sannyasi who would clean his brass cooking vessels making them sine like gold, with as much care and attention as he bestowed on his worship and meditation.”
Haripada Mitra continues:
At this time Haripadababu was given to dosing himself with various medicines. The Swami advised him against it, saying that most diseases were purely of a nervous character and could be eradicated by vigorous and radically different states of mind. “ And what is the use of thinking of disease always?” added the Swami. “Live a righteous life; then all will be well. And as regards death, what does it matter if people like you and me die? That will not make the earth deviate from its axis! We should never consider ourselves so important as to think that the world cannot go on without us!” From that day Haripadababu gave up the habit.
Haripadababu had a coveted position and was drawing a handsome salary; but he used to get irritated when reprimanded at the office by his superiors, who were English. When the Swami heard this he said: “You have yourself taken this service for the sake of money and are duly paid for it. Why should you trouble your mind about such small things and add to your miseries by continually thinking, ‘Oh, in what bondage am I placed1’? No one is keeping you in bondage, You are quite at liberty to resign if you choose. Why should you constantly carp at your superiors? If you feel your present position helpless, do not blame them, blame yourself. Do you thing they care a straw whether you resign or not? There are hundreds of others to take your place. Your business is to concern yourself and the whole world will appear good to you. You will then see only the good in others. We see in the external world the image that we carry in our hearts. Give up the habit of fault-finding, and you will be surprised to find how those against whom you have a grudge will gradually change their entire attitude towards you. All our mental states are reflected in the conduct of others towards us.” These words of the Swami made an indelible impression on the listener, and he turned over a new leaf.
Source: The Life of the Swami Vivekananda, Vol 1, by Eastern and Western Disciples, Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, Publication.