Everybody is searching for peace even if they are unconscious of this fact.
If we look up the dictionary, it defines peace as “freedom from disturbance” or, “quiet and tranquillity”. If we look at our life, there are so many things that disturb us. If we attempt to draw up a list, we are likely to run out of paper in no time, because life is filled with so many disturbances.
Many people think of peace as the absence of war. That is also a valid definition. But war or armed conflict is only one type of grave disturbance.
We can think of disturbance in relation to other issues as well, one example would be economic calamities, just as we experienced in 2008. The world economy took a massive nose dive and it still has not fully recovered. It created a great deal of disturbance within society; it became much more difficult for people to find work. People’s asset bases, their homes, their bank accounts, all eroded, and this was very disturbing for them, particularly for those approaching retirement.
But this lack of peace also manifests in a myriad of other ways. For instance, on a more personal level, with the idea of personal friends and betrayals. It’s tremendously disturbing when someone we thought of as a close friend, someone who was trusted and relied upon, and after some turn of events, that person betrays us. Even being “unfriended” freaks us out or causes huge disturbance for some of us.
Studies show that the use of social media tends to result in a greater lack of peace than of peacefulness. People are searching for something, but they don’t realise that what they’re searching for is peace and happiness. They’ve got their phones and they’re swiping and swiping away. What is it that they are looking for? People say, “I’m trying to see what my friends are doing.” But they’ve been constantly following what their friends are doing for the past four or five years and it hasn’t stopped. Because they’re actually searching for something else, something deeper.
Today, body image reigns supreme. It’s the age of selfies. Selfie is pretence. You have to get the right look on and the right angle, and get the selfie stick out, take a picture of yourself enjoying the moment—it’s all so fake. Nobody wants real video or real pictures. They don’t want a picture of themselves brushing their teeth, using the toilet, eating and dropping food on their clothes. They don’t want to be caught asleep on the sofa with saliva coming out of their mouth.
It’s not just youngsters, older people are into it too. Some people have had so many facelifts and so much body modification that they look stunningly youthful. “Oh, you look so great!” — but then they have to stand up and start walking and you suddenly become aware that “wow this person is actually 80 years old!”
How we want people to see us and relate to us, leads to becoming troubled by thoughts of how acceptable we are. This also leads to self-doubt, about whether others can actually accept us, and whether we are truly lovable. People end up in so much self-doubt and pain.
Another thing that brings disturbance into people’s life is the thought of not having something that they desire, or not having enough of it. They become agitated and disturbed: “I’m not getting enough of this sort of activity. I’m not getting enough out of that relationship. I’m not able to afford a certain new toy. I’m not able to afford something else. I’m just not getting enough stuff.” They’re feeling both distracted and disturbed, and looking for more. But no matter how much stuff, money or anything else you get, it will never satisfy you. You will continue be disturbed.
So, with unfulfilled desires, the things that we desire or want and are just wishing and hoping for, there is this false idea that the disturbance I’m feeling within my heart will be erased if I can get these things—if I could just get the perfect body, if I could get more possessions. I think that if I could just get these things, then everything is going to be great and I’m going to exist in a peaceful and happy condition. But that is the opposite of truth. If you lead a life of material pursuits, it’s absolutely not true that by getting all these different things you will find relief from your emptiness and suffering, that you will come to a state of happiness, fulfilment and peace.
What does the Bhagavad-Gita say?
The Bhagavad-Gita is probably the best known of all the Hindu or Vedic scriptures and is used as a reference or a guide for any serious practitioner of yoga. It teaches us many life lessons including the subject of peace and peacefulness.
The Bhagavad-Gita literally means the ‘Song of God’ and it was a dialogue between Lord Sri Krishna and a very great warrior prince named Arjuna about 5,000 years ago on a battlefield. It is quite different, in many ways, from other scriptures and it contains profound knowledge about the nature and purpose of life. It examines the basic question of identity: who am I? what is my life’s purpose? where can I find happiness and perfection in life?
There is a beautiful verse in the Bhagavad-Gita:
One who is not connected with the Supreme can have neither transcendental intelligence nor a steady mind, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace? [Bhagavad-Gita 2:66]
If we reflect upon this verse, it is saying that material life, chasing all these material things and experiences, instead of providing peace, leads to more agitation, more painful experiences. And this results in a dimming of whatever intelligence we have. If we are to actually come to the position of being fulfilled and peaceful, to have a spiritual life, and if we are to see things with clarity, then it’s necessary for us to have transcendental intelligence.
In another two verses, the Bhagavad-Gita describes this situation:
As a strong wind sweeps away a boat on the water, even one of the roaming senses on which the mind focuses can carry away a man's intelligence.
Therefore, O mighty-armed Arjuna, one whose senses are restrained from their objects is certainly of steady intelligence. [Bhagavad-Gita 2.67-68]
If we want to be able to achieve happiness, fulfilment, and peace, having steady intelligence is necessary. It’s also necessary to curb this endless chasing of the demands of the senses and of our minds.
A couple of verses later, the Bhagavad-Gita it states:
A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires—that enter like rivers into the ocean which is ever being filled but is always still—can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires. [Bhagavad-Gita 2.70]
If we are going to dedicate our life to simply following our minds and our senses, focusing our minds on all the different desires of the senses, we will not be able to come to the position of experiencing peace, to be free from disturbance. The chasing of desire is the same as putting gasoline on a fire. If I want to put a fire out and I add gasoline, although it’s a liquid it doesn’t put the fire out. It makes the fire burn brighter.
So, if my life is spent trying to fulfil the desires that manifest in my senses and mind, without any consideration of whether this will actually bring me happiness, and whether this is a wise choice, then I will simply be experiencing an ever-increasing agitation instead of going the other way. In order to experience happiness, one must cultivate spiritual intelligence.
A faithful man who is dedicated to transcendental knowledge and who subdues his senses is eligible to achieve such knowledge, and having achieved it he quickly attains the supreme spiritual peace. [Bhagavad-Gita 4.39]
What is the Solution?
We are embodied—we have a material body. We are living in this world. The important thing for us to do is come to understand and appreciate what is the actual goal and purpose of our life. And that is to find this fulfilment we hope for, to experience the actual happiness that we desire in our heart of hearts, to awaken the natural condition of spiritual love and to have this very extraordinary and completely fulfilling experience of spiritual love and happiness.
If we follow the path of materialism, founded on the idea that I am the material body and that I will experience fulfilment by constantly bombarding my body and mind with sensual experiences, then this is actually a display of a lack of transcendental intelligence.
The intelligent path, as it is pointed out in the Bhagavad-Gita, is when we engage in the activities of life, but focus them as an offering to the Supreme Soul, to dovetail our life in the service of the Supreme Soul and of other living beings. If we live our life in this way instead of greedily trying to grab things and suck the juice out of all this fruit that we get, hoping it will fulfil us; if we instead redirect our life and make it one of being connected with the Supreme Soul and with others in a mood of humility and service, then we will have another experience. We will actually find that condition of unlimited peacefulness, of tremendous spiritual happiness and love.
The principle spiritual process to bring about this change is to engage in meditation, and particularly kirtan meditation, under the guidance of a genuine spiritual teacher, which brings about a purification of the heart and the mind.
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