AN APPROACH TO PERSONAL PEACE
By Bridget Baker
The world is a tumultuous place. Everywhere acts of destruction are seen, from wars between countries to "wars" in our own families. This is happening because more people are concerned with only themselves than with others. To change this, we need to look at ourselves. As the Dalai Lama states in the article The Human Approach To World Peace, "If we adopt a self-centered approach to life and constantly try to use others for our own self interest, we may gain temporary benefits, but in the long run we will not succeed in achieving even personal happiness, and world peace will be completely out of the question"(2). He also notes, 'In order to bring about this great adjustment, we need to revive our humanitarian values"(1). Although he is referring to striking a balance between material and spiritual development in our societies, this same concept holds true on an individual level. One cannot change things globally if they do not change personally. Taken from Buddhist Ideas for Attaining World Peace by Ron Epstein, "... It is individuals who decide to wage war. Even if war is global, its beginning can be traced back to the decisions of individuals... "(3). I believe this is the fundamental truth in the quest for peace. A sense of self -peace needs to be obtained before world peace becomes a possibility. In order to do this, an individual must examine his/her own personal flaws. Once identified, an active attempt to alter these ways must begin.
One of the biggest personal obstacles we need to overcome is selfishness. If ignored, it can lead to greed, a powerful and negative motivator. Greed compels people to lie, steal and kill in order to get what is wanted. Wars begin because the people or leaders of countries desire more of something- such as power and wealth. They have a complete lack of compassion for others in their attempts to better themselves. Again, we can refer to His Holiness who states Compassion is the pillar of world peace. "How do we overcome our selfish desires and become compassionate? Some would say that the act of satisfaction or well being after doing a good deed for another. It is rewarding. Thinking about what we are sacrificing to obtain things is another place to look. Are we severing ties with people we care for, or hurting innocent people? What good is everything you've achieved if you have no one to share it with? I see this as a losing of oneself or an accidental isolation. Sooner or later, the selfish or greedy person is going to end up alone.
The previous thought leads to another question; what is causing people to behave this way? One can surmise that they may be suffering from insecurities about themselves. In order to feel or look better, they need to place themselves in what they see as a position of power. Prejudices and racism probably grew from feelings of insecurity, due to ignorance. It is easier to attack what is different than to learn to accept or understand it. All through history, we have wars caused by people's unwillingness to co-exist with different beliefs. They were either fighting to make their ways accepted, or to keep them from being oppressed. One prime example is the holocaust. Hitler managed to use his
own insecurities about himself
as a driving force to achieve a position of power in
Another idea is that some people do not feel all that is "deserved" has been given to them. "The principle cause of anger and hatred is dissatisfaction."(The World of Tibetan Buddhism, by the Dali Lama -77). Feelings of anger and hatred arise towards the perceived "enemy". If we are harboring these emotions, we cannot possibly be at peace with ourselves. Anger and hatred feed on themselves, giving a person a false sense of power and energy. It is intoxicating and addicting. An inability to control oneself can lead to irrational violence. So begins a personal war because you are not satisfied with yourself, and before you know it your self -dislike has turned outward to blame society, thus creating a tension filled atmosphere that leads to war.
And so we are still left with the question: how do we find self-peace? If we all took a moment to reflect, we would probably realize that everyone wants the same thing: personal happiness. How can anyone be happy with the world at war? As stated previously, we need to change personally to change globally. We need to look inside ourselves and see what needs to be changed. How can I become a better person? In The World of Tibetan Buddhism, it states that through patience, "not only will you reach a state of omniscience in the future, but even in your everyday life…you will be able to maintain your peace of mind and live a joyful life" (83). A few other ways include learning how to be personally confident and trust one another and recognizing that everyone has the same basic rights as a human, regardless of what country we live in or just what flag we live under. These rights, first and foremost, include the right to live. We also need to begin using our technological advances for the betterment of the world, not just for our own country. Preparing for war should not be a method to secure peace. All that does is promote terror.
Finally, I would like to add an excerpt from the writing of Nichiern Daishonin(Volume of Gosho): " ... It can be seen that the ultimate happiness for a Buddhist is that one should fight with his own bad nature of life to achieve a character that's strong enough to help and encourage people of his own surrounding. This is a battle against oneself, or a revolution of one's own, known as the human revolution. The aggregation of each individual human revolution can eventually lead to a world of peace, joy and love... "
Epstein, Ron. Buddhist Ideas for
Attaining World Peace. Lectures for the Global Studies Program,
World Peace Buddhists, Stanford Buddhism in Fundamental
The whole volume of Gosho (The writing of Nichiren Daishonin) is available at: http://www.gosho.net/
The Dalai Lama. The World of Tibetan Buddhism. Trans.
Geshe Thupten Jinpa. Wisdom Publications: