Tag Archives: Peace
By V.J. Leventhal
Though my musings often tend toward the more metaphysical, I feel the need to say something about the place where inner peace meets the outer world.
This is an old question: how does an enlightened being, or society, survive when confronted by unenlightened, violent practices? How do we engage violence without becoming the very thing we are trying to fix? The only way this has ever worked is through passive resistance. South Africa, India, the American civil rights movement all are examples of non-violence winning the day. Yes, people are injured, jailed, and even killed, but the group, in remaining persistently non-violent, eventually prevails against a seemingly immovable, all-powerful adversary. In fact, violent response to violence usually only creates an excuse to crack down and increase the brutality. In the long view, non-violence is the better answer. In the short term, however, each individual must decide how they will respond when attacked or oppressed. The argument is sometimes made that if Gandhi had been dealing with someone like Hitler, as opposed to the somewhat more civilized British Empire, all resistance would have been futile. And of course, all the inner peace possessed by the Dalai Lama could not stop China from overtaking Tibet. This is where seeing the big picture helps. Where Tibetans have responded aggressively, they have been jailed or destroyed. The Dalai Lama and many of his countrymen had to flee. Sometimes discretion really is the better part of valor. Because he is free, he can continue to inspire and lead the world toward peace while working tirelessly to free his people. So too, did Mandela continue working from jail to free South Africa. There are no easy answers, but if you desire a more peaceful world, you logically must learn to be a more peaceful person.
by V.J. Leventhal
Last week I began my column with a general discussion of external versus internal power. I’d like to talk about what I mean by “internal” or “spiritual” power.
I’ve been studying Buddhism, especially Zen, and Taoism for many years in my own sporadic but dedicated way, and I have found these teachings to be a useful pathway to personal evolution and inner transformation. This study is not simply an intellectual exercise although it is certainly that but also a very specific practice of meditation and expansion of the mind, which includes learning about other states of being. The goal of this practice is to increase one’s awareness of both inner states and outer realities, in order to learn a peaceful and balanced way of living. Thich Nhat Hahn, the Vietnamese Zen master and founder of what is called “engaged” Buddhism (because it practices both service and contemplation), teaches that wisdom (or enlightenment), requires both clarity of understanding and the practice of lovingkindness. Both the mind and the heart must be developed to live in balance in the world. The Dalai Lama also emphasizes that the key to wisdom is through compassion. Buddhism is a sort of scientific approach to comprehending the true nature of reality, in order to reduce suffering. The Buddha taught that the reality of the world is suffering and also the cessation of suffering. The Tao talks of the rising and falling of the “10,000 things” in trying to describe the fact that everything is impermanent, and in constant motion. By increasing your awareness of the flow of thoughts, emotions, and physical discomfort or mental anguish, you can learn to put things into a larger perspective, and to become more detached and calmer in your life.