A JOURNAL OF TRANS-ETHNIC SPIRITUALITY
VOL. 1, ISSUE 1
Letter to the Romans, Chapter 12; verses 14-21
Dhammapada, Chapter 8, ‘Thousands’, verses 4-5
Of course, it always seems easier to battle against our ‘enemies’ because we can go home and get some sleep once in a while and take rest from the battle. When we battle ourselves we, ‘have no place to lay our heads’. No question, this is hard work! Yet, is this not the work we really should be doing, instead of wasting our efforts on conquering each other?
And who is our enemy anyway? If we think that people of other religions, races, creeds, ideologies, are our enemies we are sadly misinformed. All are The Great Spirit’s children. The truth is, the truly faithful from all religions follow the same path; of conquering ourselves, of living humbly and harmoniously, of seeking Divine Guidance, Strength, and Grace inwardly, of following the Law that God has given which is Harmony and Loving kindness. We, in fact, are our own enemy, our ignorance, our arrogance, our selfishness, our hate, fear, passion, apathy, and anger; these are our oppressors; these are the legions against which we must battle day by day. This battle won is what brings peace to the world.
How can we fight this battle in our everyday lives, not only for ourselves but for the communities in which we live as well?
Firstly, make the commitment to declare peace in the world and take up the inner battle which is to, “struggle with ourselves and our possessions” as it says in the Qur'an. Examine your thoughts and feelings toward others. Root out preconceptions, resentments, and judgementalness toward others. This is hard for many, to forgive others of past wrongs, but this is how we ourselves help to bring violence and ill-will in the world to an end. We ourselves stop adding to it. And this is done by watching ourselves very closely, watching for the tendency that we all have to respond with anger when others have abused or insulted us. But how do we overcome these feelings of anger? Are we not justified to respond when others mistreat us? We read in the Dhammapada of the Buddha:
Is this to say that we just ignore others who abuse us or mistreat us? Not at all. Peace requires of us that we do not ignore things but that we deal with situations with courage and forthrightness as they arise. If we avoid problems out of fear, they only become bigger and once they are big enough a crisis is sure to ensue. The Tao Te Ching offers some good advice along this line;
Chapter 63: verses 1-2
There are many people who are into practicing conflict resolution and this is good but to follow the way of peace one must study conflict initiation. When a conflict is in the process of arising, which is a natural aspect of the dynamics of harmony, this is when we have the opportunity to shape a conflict into a harmonious unfoldment of life rather than wait for things to get out of hand and then try to resolve them which is always messy. If we can learn to take the initiative when conflict is in its formative stages and enter into the conflict properly, then we need not worry about it’s resolution because we have taken action from the very beginning. This is what is meant by, The sage never does anything great, therefore he can accomplish the great.”
Behind every thought and action there is the Divine Impulse. Nothing, and I mean nothing happens without the Divine Impulse supporting it. As Hazrat Inayat Khan says,
We need self discipline to gain control of our personal or egoic desire to have things and control things how we want them to be which may not be in accord with the Divine Harmony. We need renunciation to renounce our personal wishes in how situations and circumstances ought to be resolved for our own personal benefit so that we can perceive with equanimity the Divine Impulse which is at the root of our circumstances and then act in harmony with this Impulse.
The need to respect others is in recognition that this Impulse is acting equally through them as well and if we are very watchful and learn to perceive the subtle, intuitive feelings in our hearts, we will see that behind the appearance of others’ actions and words is this same Impulse. The conflicts that arise between people have their roots in a lack of recognition of this Divine Impulse first in ourselves and secondly in others this is why the Sufis say, ‘Regard everything as coming from Allah.’ in fact, in the Qur’an there is a verse, ‘Where ever you turn, there is the Face of God’
Recognizing and acting upon the Divine impulse is a tricky business because all of us, to one degree or another, interpret and even manipulate the Divine Impulse according to our own beliefs and experiences as it arises within and around us. This is where all conflict comes from; misinterpreting and manipulating the Divine Impulse.
This is why one of the important first stages on the spiritual path is the process of ‘unlearning’ which is to say, unlearning all of our personal preconceptions and beliefs, no matter how lovely, so that we might begin to observe the Divine Impulse as it is rather than how we believe or want it to be. Hazrat Inayat Khan says;
Chapter 48This is what is meant by conquering one’s self. This is subduing the enemy of our selves and gaining victory in the being of the Divine Beloved. This is waging peace. When we can recognize the Divine Harmony of Life and respond with selflessness to the Divine Impulse; to be an empty reed through which the Divine may manifest itself, this is the victory. In the next issue we will take up this process of unlearning in greater detail and explore the world’s scriptures for what they have to say on this subject. May God’s peace abide with you!
Life, a Continual Battle (1) Because life means a continual battle one's success, failure, happiness, or unhappiness mostly depends upon one's knowledge of this battle. Whatever be one's occupation in life, whatever be one's knowledge, if one lacks the knowledge of the battle of life one lacks the most important knowledge of all.
The question arises, of what does this knowledge of life's battle consist? It comprises the knowledge of warfare, how to fight and how to make peace. Human nature very often makes the mistake of taking sides, either the side of war or the side of peace. But if one studies the history of nations and races one will find that it was this mistake which often caused their failure. There have been times when nations and races have developed in their character the knowledge of peace, for instance people such as the Hindus with their most ancient civilization; but it could not bring them complete satisfaction as one side of human nature was neglected and misunderstood.
War comes from God in the same way that peace comes from God. A fruit has to go through many processes in order to become ripe and sweet. Sunshine and rain are both needed to make the fruit ripe; and that shows that war and peace both have their place. But with our limited understanding we do not always comprehend the justice of what is done to us. For instance, if a man had lived through all civilizations, he would think very differently from the ordinary man of today; and so it is with God in regard to His knowledge of the entire world. We are too limited to understand.
In this present age it seems that the knowledge of warfare has developed; but on the other hand the knowledge of peace is absent; for the full knowledge of warfare is both the knowledge of battle and the knowledge of peace. This can be learned according to the mystics by battling with oneself, and by bringing about peace with one's own soul. The life of an individual being is not very different from the Life of the world. An individual person's home is not different from the world. An individual's body and mind and spirit form the whole universe. An individual life can fill the gap between the dawn of creation and the last day. Man does not realize how important is his own life, his self; and the study of his own life and his own self is a study of the greatest importance.
A healthy person has waiting at his door several illnesses, several diseases, waiting for the opportunity when they can attack him. A person with wealth has many who wait at his door for the chance to take away from him what he possesses. A person about whom good is said, has many awaiting a moment when something bad may be said about him. A person who has power or position, how many are not waiting for the opportunity to pull him down and see him slide down from the place where he stands! And what does this show? Why is it so? One may give a thousand reasons, and yet no proper reason. The best explanation one can give is that life is a continual battle.
The process of creation began like this. According to science light comes from friction. It is one power against the other power, fighting; and from these two different forces striking upon each other comes an effect, and that effect in reality may be called life.
In this lies the secret of both love and hate. One sees in the animal kingdom that the first tendency of the animals is instinctively to fight one another. This tendency becomes modified; and it is its modification and its reduced force that produce in them what we call virtues. As it is said in the Qur'an that the world was created out of darkness, so wisdom comes out of ignorance. And the best knowledge is not only the knowledge of all that is good and beautiful, all that is harmonious and peaceful, but also the knowledge of the causes that are behind all the conflicts and all the battles that one has to face in life. The reason why man generally lacks this knowledge is because when he is faced with a battle he wants to fight, instead of first wanting to learn how to fight. And the one who goes into life's battle without first acquiring the knowledge of warfare loses in the end. But one who learns about this warfare of life first learns its reason and its causes, becomes more capable of fighting the battle of his life.
Christ pointed to this secret when he said, 'Resist not evil.' This means that if one resists or wants to fight a battle every time something in another person appears wrong or unjust, one will lose one's power. For the competent general is not the one who always attacks. The competent general is the one who stands firm in defence. His success is more secure than the one's who is continually attacking. Very often in everyday life one sees that by losing one's temper with someone who has already lost his, one does not gain anything but only sets out upon the path of stupidity. He who has enough self-control to stand firm at the moment when the other person is in a temper, wins in the end. It is not he who has spoken a hundred words aloud who has won, it is he who has perhaps spoken only one word.
For this battle in life the first thing that is necessary is to keep the army in order. And what is this army? It is one's nervous power. Whatever be one's occupation, profession, walk in life, if one has no control over one's own nerves one will be unable to control that walk in life. Today people study political economy or various other kinds of economy, but the most essential economy is economizing the forces which make one healthy and strong through life. This army must be drilled and made to work at command. And one will find the proof of this when one can sleep at will, when one can rest and eat and work at will; then that army is really at one's command.
The officers of this army are the faculties of the mind. These faculties are five: the faculty of retaining thought, the faculty of thinking, the faculty of feeling, the faculty of reasoning and judging, and that faculty in man which is the principal one, the faculty of 'I', or ego. Even in a body with strong nerves, when these five faculties which work as the generals of the army are not in working order, not clear, one cannot expect success in life's warfare. One should further study or practice the art of training these generals of the army in one's own body.
Even with an army and with competent generals one must, however, have the knowledge of what one is battling against. For very often man is battling with his own real interest. During the battle it is an intoxication; he is battling but he does not know 'where he is going, and at the end of the battle, even if he is victorious, he will find that his victory is a loss.
Today there seems to be a great seeking and enthusiasm everywhere; a new kind of urge seems to be aroused in humanity to understand life and truth. A very large number of people are looking for the best way of gaining the power needed to battle through life; and a small number again are looking for some way of bringing peace to themselves and to others. But both of these in their pursuit lack that balance which can only be brought about by understanding, by studying, and by practicing the knowledge of war and peace together. Without knowing about war one cannot thoroughly know about peace; without understanding peace one cannot thoroughly know about war. What is necessary at the present time is the study of life in general, and that means the knowledge of such questions as what is the purpose of life, what is really beneficial, what is nature, and where is the goal. It is no use practicing something before studying it. What does worldly wise mean? It means expert in this warfare of life; to know how to battle, how to make peace, why to battle, and what aim is accomplished by peace.
But it should be clearly understood that the battle with oneself means
peace, and the battle with another war. If a person has not practiced this
on himself he cannot be competent to battle with others. When one discovers
what is the secret behind this creation, one finds that out of one life,
the origin and the goal of all, this life of variety has come. That is
why the nature of the life from which this world of variety has come is
peace, and the nature of this life of variety is war. One can neither be
without war nor without peace. One might say that all war in life should
end, but this has no meaning; one might just as well say that the world
of variety should not exist. Where there is plurality there must be conflict;
and although conflict seems a tragedy, the true tragedy is ignorance. Instead
of wanting to end the battle of life, or instead of opposing peace, one
should gather knowledge of life and thereby attain to the wisdom which
is life's purpose.
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