Humanity stands at the crossroads of destiny. Amidst wars and conflict on this planet, along with poverty, disease, and changes in the environment leading to global warming, the way ahead is not clear to me. Is it clear to you? If so, please share your views.
Our heroes in the past have tended to be warriors, kings, conquerors, entrepreneurs, innovators, inventors, who through their power of imagination, genius, organization, cleverness, and ingenuity were able to succeed beyond measure and attain personal empires, fortunes, and glories. I ask you all to consider that perhaps we need different types of heroes if human evolution is to find its rightful purpose and survive. Our heroes, out of necessity now, have to be those with a long term vision of peace. Our heroes have to be the Peace Makers. Without them, the very survival of humanity is at stake.
I read somewhere that in the 19th century, over 19 million people died in armed conflict. In the 20th century, probably due to more sophisticated weapons and technology, almost 110 million people died in wars. Now we are in the 21st century. One wonders what will happen in this century to us, our loved ones, our children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, neighbors, friends, and the human family in general?
Will our wisdom finally catch up with our knowledge, cunning, technology, ruthlessness, and the ability to destroy each other along with the planet? Or are we helpless in face of the human condition where gross self-interest, violence, and vengeance are the rules for individuals, groups, and nations. Even the environment and the various species of plants, animals, and sea creatures have not been spared from the tendency of humans to violate.
A careful analysis of human violence no longer involves simply evaluating a moral issue. This reflection is important because the answers we come up with and the way we operationalize and implement these will impact the long term future of humanity it self.
Violence means to violate. To impose one’s will on another is a form of violence. Violence, of course, is part of all nature. Some violence is even essential for survival. However, excessive and unnecessary violence breeds fear, resentment, anger, and rage. It is not a recipe for any type of realistic peace among human beings. A strong person, group, organization, and even a nation can always attain a temporary victory. But such a victory generally comes with lasting consequences of worry, fear, anxiety, and retaliation. Violence and Peace can never stay in the same house together.
Is violence so genetically embedded in humanity that, even knowing better, we are simply unable to overcome it? Is the destruction of humanity inevitable because of our helplessness in face of our root instincts? I shudder at the thought of this possibility. What comforts me in such moments are the Peace Makers and the way they lived their lives. You know who they are. You have heard of them. We have read their stories. Possibly, if we are very lucky, we might have run into one at some point in our life. Buddha, Jesus, Mahavir, Gandhi, St. Francis of Assisi, Bishop Tutu, Mother Theresa…there must be thousands of such heroes. It does give me some hope that there have been human beings who somehow were able to rise above the instinct to survive and lived their lives for others.
It seems to me that the path shown by the Peace Makers throughout history contains the seeds for survival of humanity. Embracing Ahimsa as the engine of human evolution has now become essential. The supreme principle and the cardinal rule of the spiritual life has always had its foundation in the ancient philosophy of Ahimsa or nonviolence. This principle can no longer be limited to the spiritual life and must be broadened to include all aspects of life and creative endeavors such as business, politics, and world affairs. In fact, we have no choice but to do that.
The energy of consciousness, projected through the mind, is responsible for evolution of humanity through breakthroughs in technology and improved understanding of how the physical and subtle laws of the universe function. However, without Ahimsa (nonviolence) as the basic foundation of our thinking, the power of the mind can easily turn into a destructive force with the possibility of undermining human civilization.
Without truly understanding the nature of our interdependence with each other as human beings regardless of country, race, religion; and without realizing that we share with the plants, animals, water, air, and all living beings, this common desire to flourish, Ahimsa as a philosophy is difficult to understand and embrace.
Mahavira, the Jain prophet of nonviolence, said 2500 years ago that all beings have the natural desire to live and survive. Wanting to be safe, happy, and in a nurturing community is not unique to any particular country, culture, religion, or spiritual tradition. In fact, it is not even unique to human beings. Enjoying success at the expense of others including nature and the environment cannot be sustained. This is a simple but an ancient truth. According to the law of karma, if we wish to be happy, we should respect all life as sacred and minimize any type of violence to the extent we can.
Dr. Martin Luther King said in one of his sermons:
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. We are faced now with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late…We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: Too late.” (Martin Luther King Jr. ‘Where do we go from here: chaos or community’).
My friends, prejudice, hatred, and incomprehensible violence are part of humanity. Still many individuals in every age, country, religion, and culture have been able to demonstrate the innate capacity of human beings to love, to nurture, to heal, to be peacemakers, and to forgive without reservation.
Like two lovers who are inseparable, Ahimsa and wisdom go hand in hand. Both point to the precious nature of all life and the sacredness of the present moment. Be that present moment and let compassion guide your way. You are the Peace Maker.