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..:: Peace ::..


Alan Schneider


              Peace can be defined as an external condition of calm, repose, and stability that is almost always transitory, affected as it is by the “eternal boiling sea” (quoted from The New Testament, Book of Revelations) of human karma, politics, economics, and biology. Peace can also be defined as an internal condition – that is attainable within the consciousness of each of us, once again of calm, repose, and stability. While there is little hope of attaining lasting external peace, the possibility of attaining a significant degree of lasting internal peace is more feasible. It is that possibility which is the subject of this article. 

            The condition in which we find ourselves is inherently turbulent – never really at rest, and always undergoing agitation of some kind. This is most certainly the state of things permanently on the Physical Plane of manifestation, the source of the evolutionary process that has produced our physical organism, central nervous system, and ego awareness – all of which mirror the essential mechanical turbulence of the dense condition of original matter acted upon by primal energy. This is a recipe for chaos, and it is no wonder that chaos is what we so frequently get in this life! From the perspective of the attainment of peace, the deck of existence is utterly stacked against us, always has been, and apparently always will be. Yet, we yearn for the balance of homeostasis within and without, and dread the suffering that results from its absence. We must seek peace as the inevitable consequence of our sentient being. 

            To begin addressing this matter, we must ponder the inherent internal states that militate against the attainment of peace, since the external ones customarily lie beyond our control. What are these natural conditions of consciousness that doom us to lives of unrest and instability? Many such manifestations exist within our Psyche. Let us consider some of them now. 

            On a neurological level, the central nervous system which achieves and sustains our awareness has evolved to be permanently unstable. It is no wonder that we cannot achieve homeostasis for long – nature did not intend us to. Rather, we seem to have been intended to be continually seeking various types of drive state gratification linked to the physical body – eating, drinking, breathing, copulating, sleeping, and so forth. The body is the vehicle of Karma – it mirrors all that we still must do and be as the price of spiritual evolution on the Physical Plane. The body is why we occur on this plane, not merely how.

            For cosmic reasons that remain hidden from most of us, we must pass through the fleshly perception of sentience to satisfy the need of the Soul to experience its most dense form of expression – nested in the body and central nervous perception of the ego – the “me” that I seem to know as the focus of “my” experience.  The inevitable suffering of the body refines the Soul by stripping away all that is impure and nonessential from it across time, as we pass repeatedly through the sensory illusion and confusion of Maya – the world we seem to experience through the physical senses. Most of the time for most people, this suffering takes place in ignorance of its higher purpose, but eventually some of us manage to “connect the dots” of experience and begin to seek enlightenment – the first step along the path of true, lasting peace. So we must begin by understanding that almost all that we are is naturally opposed to peace. Evolution is about survival and procreation, not wisdom and enlightenment!  

            This is an important first step. If we can perceive the manner in which our inherent nature prevents the attainment of inner peace, we are half way there to the goal of restraining the “eternal boiling sea” – essentially of turbulent human perception – previously referred to in this article. Probably the next step is to also understand and accept the bitter knowledge that we will be subject to a more or less constant assault of destabilizing external influences as long as we are present in the body of flesh. That physical form – the body – is the human vehicle of Karma. As long as we have it (and it has us), Karma remains active – and so do suffering, pain, and mortality. This acceptance is very hard to come by, to be sure, but the work of enlightenment demands it. The body is the beginning of what we can do in this life as consciousness, and there is good reason for this, as outlined in the previous paragraph. One must know with finality that the only reprieve from the agonies of this life is death, and be on guard constantly in the mean time to control the internal and external threats and tribulations of existence. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and nowhere is this more true than in the pursuit of spiritual freedom and enlightenment.  

            Certainly external caution is the golden caveat of physical existence. But what of the internal condition of consciousness? Here we are confronted with another set of quandaries in the search for peace. We must not forget that the external mechanism of evolution produced the physical sheath of the spirit, and has left its mark there in the form of many obstructive mental processes. Some of these have already been discussed here, but there is much more that needs to be said. 

            Since the external state of human existence imposes certain obstacles to the attainment of peace, and these remain so intractable, the third step in the quest for peace must be to adjust our behavioral responses to external reality.  This is where the practice of postural and devotional Yoga is an invaluable aid to enlightenment. Both Hatha and Kundalini Yoga of will, when practiced from an involved spiritual perspective, tend to produce a physical vehicle that is particularly suited to spiritual attainment.  The devotional schools of Bhakti and Raja Yoga complement the spiritual development process by cultivating the capacity for selfless service and idealized contemplation of the Divine process. The practice of selfless service to others through charitable words and deeds is one of the ways that the otherwise intractable Karma of the Physical Plane can be released through performance of  Dharma – holy devotion in service to the Logos.

            Particularly in one’s youth, the practice of Yoga is indispensable for the attainment of enlightenment. The impact and importance of Tantra, the vehicle of all spiritual Ascension through the action of the Kundalini energy, cannot be understood without the accompanying practice of Yoga.  Yoga not only teaches mental discipline and focus, but also reduces the effect of the physical fears of suffering and mortality that plague  consciousness through the machinations of the ego. Yoga places the ego in its correct perspective in the Psyche – that of a physical guidance mechanism that, however,  tends to run rampant in the quest for the control of awareness, and must be subjected to comprehensive restraint for the good of the entire organism that it purports to assist and protect. That we must suffer and die is arguably inevitable – that we live in fear of that suffering and death is not.  

            The practice of postural Yoga is of great significance because it deactivates the ego and attendant thought processes. Of all the approaches to enlightenment, this is the most effective that I have found, because it works with the root problem of consciousness – illusion – where that problem lives – in the body of flesh and physical sensory perception. This is why the practice of Asanas, the postures used in Yoga, is so important. Each one of the hundreds of postures in use is designed to produce a specific effect or set of effects on conscious perception that will offset some aspect of Maya – the fundamentally illusory impression of an external world produced by the interaction of the ego and the physical senses.  

            The sincere adoption of Yoga and the Yoga lifestyle is frequently the work of at least a lifetime, and perhaps several lifetimes in progression. We must maintain the awareness when we accept this challenge that it runs directly contrary to physical human nature, and can expect the long road to follow to be strewn with every conceivable type of obstacle, hardship, delay, and vexation. Again, physical evolution is about survival and procreation, not the attainment of higher consciousness and enlightenment. What this all comes down to is a choice – will we remain enslaved to our basic animal nature, or will we heed the call to a cleaner, higher, lighter – and ultimately happier – state of being and living.  

            A number of other predominantly Eastern practices and philosophies complement the Yoga lifestyle, and this highlights the fourth, and arguably final, step to inner peace – the ongoing pursuit of additional resources.  As one particularly good example here, Sivananda, one of the most profoundly insightful Indian Gurus, has enumerated a complete and comprehensive set of practices that support the attainment of higher consciousness and inner peace. The full series of Sivananda’s discourses can be found on his website, The Divine Life Society, at www.dlshq.org.  And there are many other legitimate Masters, both living and deceased, who have illuminated the path to peace. In general, it is both wise and helpful to pursue Darshan – the presence and council of an Ascended Master or Guru – and Satsang – the company of other spiritual initiates. These practices customarily take place in an Ashram – a group dwelling specifically dedicated to spiritual living, seeking, and attunement. Eventually, the determined individual may choose to forsake the society of others entirely (and forsake their bothersome social brainwashing, illusions, and deceptions in the process!) and take up the life of a spiritual hermit. The traditions of Yoga and most schools of Buddhism make allowance for this type of admittedly extreme attitude, although one is generally encouraged to remain in society even after the attainment of full enlightenment and inner peace – a condition referred to as Samadhi in Yoga practice and Satori in Buddhism – to serve as a Bodhisattva – a teacher of spiritual wisdom and truth.  

            So it can be seen that the path to inner peace is very challenging, to say the least! One additional word of caution must be given here regarding the spiritual condition that the South Indian Guru Aurobindo has referred to as that of the Intermediate Guru. This is the state of partial enlightenment manifested by individuals who have achieved a significant level of spiritual attainment, but have not yet completed the full process, as characterized by humility, selflessness, and complete dedication of the personal existence to the work of the Logos. Intermediate Gurus are prone to using their demonstrated spiritual radiance and personal magnetism for selfish personal ends – monetary, political, and sexual. This does not mean that they have nothing of valid content to offer in the spiritual arena, it simply means that what they have to offer is contaminated with the presence of a personal agenda that requires the initiate to then filter out that agenda from all of the communications and messages that the Intermediate Guru offers, something that can become a very depressing, discouraging activity. The hallmark of this type of individual is the advocacy of a spiritual philosophy that caters to egoistic self indulgence, however subtly, on the part of the initiate, rather than confront the initiate with the truth directly – that personal gratification has little or no place in the seeking and service of the Divine Light and Truth. In order to succeed, selfless service must be genuinely selfless. Even the least degree of personal attachment to the outcome will interfere with the result. 

            This is the last characteristic of the real Ascended Master – detachment from all worldly motivation through attachment to a state of Divine Grace. This individual is no longer a slave to the ego or the physical senses, but has transcended both. Paradoxically, as opposed to producing a sociopath or catatonic personality, this condition exhibits a profound state of inner love for all things on all levels of being, accompanied by the complete and comprehensive inner peace known in Hinduism as Ananda – Divine Bliss. The genuine Guru radiates this Aurically on the Physical Plane, and all others, as an unmistakable and clearly recognizable link to the Logos – a permanent bond of Love has been forged at this highest level that flows out to all the world through every word and deed of the Master.  This is the ultimate expression of peace attainable in life on the Physical Plane – direct personal knowledge of Divine Love and Grace that is freely and openly offered to all.


                                                                              - With Love, Alan -

                                                                        (CR2008, Alan Schneider)


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