Peace of Mind For World Peace
By Mr. S. N. Goenka
Every religion worthy of the name calls on its followers to live a moral and ethical way of life, to attain mastery over the mind and to cultivate purity of heart. One tradition tells us, "Love thy neighbor"; another says, Salaam walekum - "May peace be with you"; still another says, Bhavatu sabbamangalam or Sarve bhavantu sukhinah - "May all beings be happy." Whether it is the Bible, the Koran or the Gita, the scriptures call for peace and amity. From Mahavir to Jesus, all great founders of religions have been ideals of tolerance and peace. Yet our world is often driven by religious and sectarian strife, or even war - because we give importance only to the outer shell of religion and neglect its essence. The result is a lack oflove and compassion in the mind.
Peace in the world cannot be achieved unless there is peace within individuals. Agitation and peace cannot co-exist. One way to achieve inner peace is Vipassana or insight meditation - a non-sectarian, scientific, results-oriented technique of self-observation and truth realization. Practice of this technique brings experiential understanding of how mind and body interact. Everytime negativity arises in the mind, such as hatred, it triggers unpleasant sensations within the body. Every time the mind generates selfless love, compassion and good will, the entire body is flooded with pleasant sensations. Practice of Vipassana also reveals that mental action precedes every physical and vocal action, determining whether that action will be wholesome or unwholesome. Mind matters most. That is why we must find practical methods to make the mind peaceful and pure. Such methods will amplify the effectiveness of the joint declaration emerging from this World Peace Summit.
Ancient India gave two practices to the world. One is the physical exercise of yoga postures (Asanas) and breath control (Pranayama) for keeping the body healthy. The other is the mental exercise of Vipassana for keeping the mind healthy. People of any faith can and do practice both these methods. At the same time, they may follow their own religions in peace and harmony; there is no necessity for conversion, a common source of tension and conflict.
For society to be peaceful, more and more members of society must be peaceful. As leaders, we have a responsibility to set an example, to be an inspiration. A sage once said, "A balanced mind is necessary to balance the unbalanced mind of others."
More broadly, a peaceful society will find a way to live in peace with its natural setting. We all understand the need to protect the environment, to stop polluting it. What prevents us from acting on this understanding is the stock of mental pollutants, such as ignorance, cruelty or greed. Removing such pollutants will promote peace among human beings, as well as a balanced, healthy relationship between human society and its natural environment. This is how religion can foster environmental protection.
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