The Power of Peace. That phrase almost seems contradictory, an oxymoron. How can peace be powerful?
We see around us that outer action, aggressive action is chosen time and again as the answer to most problems, while the soul within is left sleeping, inactive, unaware.
But peace, real peace comes from inner action, inner awakening, inner struggle.
Within us is the place of our most dramatic battles, our bloodiest wounds, our most tumultuous triumph. It is the place of our mortal struggle, true victory, true freedom. But we don’t take the path to that world. Most don’t even know it exists.
There are no mortal struggles here in this world. Each battle is but one round in an endless fight, and we, the aging boxers never allowed to leave the ring. When we are bloodied, we are woven together again, and when the body is completely destroyed, from the earth a new body emerges, enveloping us like a giant serpent swallowing its prey. Then, it changes into our new body, and we are not even aware that we are not one, but two, that we live with this body as with another creature, a voracious killer that consumes us. We think we are body, one and the same, but in truth we are always two. However ill we understand body, we are its slave, its victim, its prey. In blindness, in amnesia of our greater heritage we take pride in that very machine which soon parts from us anyway, falling apart, like decayed flesh dropping of its own weight, our body soon enough looses its grip. It is eaten from within, by parasites, disease and disrepair carefully installed by design, and augmented by our own abuse. But all these decades living in a leaking, decaying house are only to become the food of yet another captor.
Jesus said that there were two women working one hand mill, two men in a field, two sleeping in one bed, and one would be taken, but the other left behind.
When his disciples asked when this separation takes place, Jesus said with wry humor, “Wherever the vultures gather.”
Luke 17: 34-37
We are patched up, and are but a patchwork. We are the immortal slave never allowed to leave the battle, an entertainment for others. So much has been worn and changed, in body and mind we don’t even remember what was ours in the beginning, and what has been rebuilt, replaced. Our memories have been purposefully erased. We have forgotten our true family. We have no access to the past.
The battle lords know well that a slave without a past is a much more engaged fighter, much less likely to doubt, to question, to wonder if there is even such a thing as freedom. We are a conglomerate of nature’s machinery made and remade, genes spliced and respliced, parts wearing out, removed, refitted to keep forever fighting, as deals are made, bets taken by an audience observing in the dark. We are so pleased when we aren’t being battered that we call such moments happiness. The crowd roars approval when we strike a good blow, but are equally enthusiastic when we are struck and suffer enormous pain.
My mind, abandon this abode of pleasure and pain,
Rise above it and attach yourself to Satnam, the true Lord.
Your stay in this body is short-lived,
It is a city you will have to abandon one day.
Neither your wealth, nor your spouse,
Nor your children and grandchildren
Will be of help to you then.
Your breath is like a two-edged sword
Constantly cutting away at your life.
The day is not far off
When you will be left an empty heap of flesh,
When your body will breathe itself out of life,
Like a punctured float, leaking day and night.
But you are too careless to think about that,
Too apathetic to attend to the primal Shabd.
Why don’t you give up your lust for Maya,
The seductress who is always chasing after you?
Practice the Name given by the Master
For without his grace
You can never release yourself from her grip.
Contemplate on the form of the Master within you
And keep your mind in check.
The gracious Master is full of compassion,
helping and protecting you at every moment.
Give up sensual pleasures –
Why invite disease and suffering?
No peace is to be found in them.
Only if you listen to the Master’s advice, dear soul,
Will you find any rest.
He will end all your miseries
And grant you the eternal home.
Take heed of what Radha Soami says
And seek the primal Name.
Swami Ji Bachan 15, Shabd 9
The gift of Nam, the gift of a living Teacher, the gift of God coming down into the flesh for us to see and hear, is not a gift given to everyone. The Lord, in His wisdom, has not chosen to bring all of us home. The evidence can be seen by looking around us. New generations of people born into this world who know only what their senses, imagination, others, books and media tell them. They have a future of innocence lost, of pain and pleasure, of learning and relearning lessons learned over and over for thousands of years, mistakes made by human beings multiplied by the hundreds of millions throughout human history. But, they are the same mistakes.
We can see it in the youth, marching in joyously, angrily, passionately discovering everything again as they duplicate with uncanny precision the very innermost lives of their predecessors. And the middle aged, struggling to make much of this fading life, reaching back for strength, standing proud on the eroding foundation of a constructed identity. And finally, slipping into old age, losing everything and everyone of this world and the self we came to love so.
To paraphrase Tennyson, the triumphant athlete, beautiful in youth, symbol of vitality, confidence, success and mastery, now stands with buckling knees, held up by the arms of their children; the brave statesman who saved millions of lives from war and certain disaster stumbles for the simplest words, barely able to speak a rational sentence, hardly able to hear but what their spouse or friends shout to them; the deep and thoughtful poet whose inspirations moved the hearts of readers to the plight of their less privileged brothers and sisters hardly recognizes their own name, which must be written for them by others; the visionary artist, who helped us to see the forgotten grace and beauty around us, now with trembling hands, sees a blur and paints little more.
Rows of soldiers marching millions abreast with each passing year in youth with the rising sun blindly obedient to a level of atomic precision, headlong into the sunset of old age and the abyss. Along the way every emotion washes through us, and we react to these as a symbol of our greatness and individuality, as our companion, as our faith, as a sign that we are new and living as no one ever lived before. We are making history. But every act of rebellion, courage and genius was pre-scripted. These emotions are false guides; they have little to do with where we came from, who we really are and where we are going.
We accept our fate or rail against providence, follow or lead, struggle to the top, find a niche somewhere below, or lay helpless at the bottom beneath the crushing weight of others’ selfishness and our own incapacity. Yet we march on. Our legs work even against our own will. We, being imprisoned within our own bodies, are powerless, regardless of how powerful we may feel, to stop our gradual and inevitable progress towards our own end. The world outside this physical shell is wonderful, awesome, and frightening. We have no idea, living on the inside, mostly in our own dream.
In each row stretching out beyond the horizon march heroes, the powerful and brave, the infamous and cruel, the stunningly beautiful, the undistinguished, the kind and compassionate, the lame and weak. He manufactures an extensive line. They have enjoyed lives of luxury and pleasure, or poverty and tragedy, some without any apparent balance or justice. They have learned different lessons, some of greed and hatred and others of compassion, forgiveness and mercy; of submission and grace, or power and subjugation. But, as Ecclesiastes wrote, nothing new is learned.
In God’s eyes we are as close to being clones of others we do not know who came before us as any definition of cloning. He not only shapes our genes but our environment, and despite all our efforts at progress, that environment repeats itself over and over again in the most fundamental ways. We are ignorant of the instructions we follow to the letter, and, as Goethe said, we think we think, decide, move and act, but we are moved to act.
We arrive, discover each other, enjoy a few moments together and like passengers on a strange train, are politely asked to leave at different, unknown stops, not generally by choice, parting into the mist we entered from. We have our hat handed to us and are gently but firmly escorted off just as we were beginning to enjoy the trip.
From our perspective we are free. From His perspective, we move exactly to the set pace through the course He created eons ago.
The body is like a passer-by,
No sooner do you look at him,
Than he goes out of sight.
Be dedicated to the Name of God
As long as there is breath in your body.
You have made my days a mere
The span of my years is as nothing
Each man’s life is but a breath.
Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro.
Psalm (39: 5-6)
If He is supreme, then there are no surprises for the Lord, nothing vague, no doubt. What appears to us as unfolding events is for Him, who created all, who knows all, who is all powerful, a completed whole. He metes time for our benefit, taking moments from our grasp into the untouchable past, leaving only the ashes of memory and keepsakes; the present, which is so immense we must filter and interpret, and so live only in a part of it; and the future, which has never and will never exist; a creation of imagination, emerging into reality only in the present with events, occurrences unsuspected and inevitable. For Him, they are all the same. Time is for us. This portioning out is a system He created so we can eat our piece of the cake of life one bite at a time. It is all adventure, mystery, surprise, comedy and tragedy for us. It is a battle between good and evil, a challenge, a call to action. But for Him, it was baked as one whole cake.
The question of evolution versus creation does not arise where every moment of time, every emerging outcome was generated in one single act.
If there is any drama, any great tragedy or inspiration, any story of triumph, it is the story of those who are given the chance for freedom, by His hand. If we have any sight at all we quickly scramble out the opening He created, thinking foolishly to ourselves it was our doing. Yet, that is not the story that enthralls humanity. It is rarely seen, and less understood.
Observe how the whole world is going adrift
In this ocean of existence.
Seeing the world in such a plight,
I have cautioned you time and again
That you have suffered the pain of birth and death,
Even the tortures of hell,
In all the four ages.
Life after life you have suffered this anguish
Without finding a moment of peace.
Through virtue and vice you have endured great adversities,
But you never sought refuge
At the feet of a true Guru.
Now that you have been blessed with a human form,
Devote yourself to bhakti and burn away your karmas.
Your negligence will not be forgiven this time,
But will make you liable for punishment of all kinds.
Give up apathy, detach yourself from the world,
Then prepare and drink the ambrosia of the Name.
Be on your guard against the mind
And serve your Master.
Radha Soami has revealed to you the sublime mystery.
Swami Ji Bachan 15, Shabd 10
In the vast expanse of water,
In the depth of the sea,
Toss the sun, the moon,
All men and deities;
In its vicious whirlpool
They revolve and revolve.
They crave happiness,
But fail to gain release
From the embrace of pain.
No one discerns
The real cause of sorrow;
Searching for its cause
They become lost
In endless forms of delusion.
In their search for the Lord
Some become frenzied,
In their search for Him
Some become clever and wise;
Yet they fail to know the true Lord
Who dwells within every heart:
He is the true Lord,
He is the true Deity,
And his devotees are his true slaves.
But deluded man
Neither conquers Yama
Nor finds the one
Who will stand ransom;
His soul, alas, has to depart
Frustrated and downcast,
Like a woman unloved.
Kabir, Bijak Ramaini 41
All this play is a dream, and I have now woken you up. False is the body, false is the world, and false the mind that allures.
Swami Ji (Sar Bachan, 14:4, p. 111)
What is the Power of Peace? Just us sitting in peace, and merging in the true power.
To sit, to see Him within, to feel His presence, to hear His Word is a blessing. More than peace, more than respite, it is merging with the Lord. While we are sitting in Peace, he runs the world. So we can give all our cares to Him, and let Him take care of them for us. That is the natural arrangement. Our sphere of activity is within, and simply to love.
We can submit to Him, unburden ourselves, and rest in the company of our true friend.
Maharaj Sawan Singh Ji once said, “When love is engendered, our purpose is accomplished.”
We have only to love Him, to sit in His presence. It is a worthy struggle.
To understand peace, to strive for peace we become mighty warriors within, for we struggle against the greatest enemy, the most alarming and powerful foe who resides within us, and that is our mind. Our mind is really our history, our karma, living ever with us. Our Lord, the living Christ, the True Master, the Satguru, gives us the way and the tools:
First, the vows, our foundation….
Then, the inner pathway….
Simran, the repetition of the five holy names;
Bhajan, hearing the divine Word within, the sound current, the Shabd, Nam;
Dyhan, seeing Him within, placing His image before us.
We occupy our ability to see and to hear, the Nirat and Surat, with our devotion to Him.
How do we fight a superior foe? How do we accept defeat yet fight again? Our friend, our support, is an even greater power. The Father, the Lord of all Lords. He is our coach, our trainer, our chess challenger, and our lover. If we choose to live and work with our enemy, we will be unhappy. But we can choose to live with our lover, and that will make working with our enemy that much easier. At some point our enemy is also transformed by the same Love that transforms us, His love. Then, our imprisonment ends.
As Baba Ji said in Fayetteville, when we battle alone, then we can be overwhelmed, we can be disturbed by life. But when we are part of a larger love, a greater consciousness, then these issues of time, circumstance, limitation, even defeat and harm cannot perturb us. We are on a larger mission, a greater intimacy.
When we arrange our lives around meditation we prepare for the unknown. We prepare for the ups and downs of life that will come to us, which today, we are unaware of. We stock our emergency room with supplies and staff, ready to handle what is about to walk in. That is also the strength of Peace, of building an atmosphere and a reservoir of peace in our lives. He is that atmosphere, He is that reservoir, infinite, personal, loving and compassionate. And He is but a thought away. “Dear Lord, Dear Master…” and there He is. Then we understand that He was always there attending to us. It is we who choose moment by moment to turn away. The moment we turn to the sun, we see the sun. The sun didn’t just rise for us, but we made a different choice, and now see it for what it is.
Whether we are walking, running, flying, crawling or falling, we can do so with our face to the sun, the true Son of God, our Master.
Jaimal Singh Ji writes eloquently about this intimacy with the Master within, by taking ourselves out of every situation, and placing Him in. He is writing to Sawan Singh Ji, the disciple who would become the Living Christ for millions.
March 22, 1900
….Please keep doing bhajan and simran every day for whatever time the mind remains attached to the Shabd-dhun and the soul hears and enjoys its bliss. Then even a minute or two, or five, are sufficient, and the task is done. Have firm faith; the worldly obligations you are fulfilling are all essentially spiritual. Do not allow the self to intrude; everything is the Satguru’s work…..
May 24, 1901
…. He is always by your side and will do what he considers to be good. With love and devotion, keep the inner faculties and the higher mind always attached to the Shabd-dhun, and remain content at whichsoever place he keeps you. All work is his work; remain happy wherever he keeps you, and take on whatever work you do as the Satguru’s work – do not keep your self in it. Instill it firmly in your mind – this idea should never leave the mind – that the body, mind, wealth, and the inner faculties, the eyes, mouth, nose ears, hands, feet, all, everything, each and every article that exists in the world, belongs to the Satguru: “I do not exist.” Look upon everything you do as the Satguru’s work; do only that which is appropriate.
This advice, the directive I have written above, should never leave your mind at any time. Keep these words firmly in the mind while doing your work, and also during simran while listening to the Shabd-dhun. You will then certainly receive the bliss of the Shabd-dhun. Always remember these three points: Do not feel elated even if you receive the kingship of fourteen realms, because it would be false and transitory – if you love false things, you will be deceived. If such a sovereignty is taken away, do not feel depressed, because he who gave it took it away. It belonged to him and it was unreal. However much respect or criticism someone may offer, neither be pleased with the respect and praise nor offended by the criticism. Always remain happy and content wherever the Lord is pleased to place you. When our attachments do not touch the mind, and the mind always remains in balance, then the boon of entering Sach Khand by way of the Shabd-dhun comes daily through the Satguru’s Word. Grace and mercy especially are upon you all the time. Keep listening to the Shabd-dhun every day….
Novermber 16, 1901
….Bhajan and simran is to be done every day, my son. Keep it in mind that all that exists is the Satguru’s. All occupations, material goods, every worldly thing, sons, daughters, relatives, the physical body, and the love and inner yearning of surat and nirat, and the higher mind, the Shabd-dhun, one’s intelligence and intellect, and the hands, feet, tongue, nose, mouth and eyes, everything is the Satguru’s: “I have handed over all to the Satguru and work only to serve him.” The sound of the Shabd-dhun that comes from our original home, from the wondrous Anami Radha Soami, is the true form of the Satguru. All that is happening in the world emanates from within his command. Always listen to the Shabd-dhun with love and devotion. While continuing with your worldly duties, listen to it devotedly with the mind and the surat and nirat. Never let the mind become detached from it. Do not yearn for any worldly work. Nothing in the world is greater than the wealth of Nam. Why hanker after anything when you have already found the greatest home of all? ….
February 26, 1902
….All of you should do your bhajan and simran every day. Always, with love and devotion keep the inner faculties of surat and nirat and the higher mind attached to the Shabd-dhun within, while doing your worldly work with the body. You are never to keep love for worldly work or material possessions in your mind. Instead, think like this: “It is not I in the body; the Satguru is all in all.” The attention is definitely to be kept in the sound of the Shabd-dhun every day…..
July 31, 1903
….Bhajan and simran is our real work, my son. This will always remain with us, as it is the Satguru’s gift. This gift will grow, and never diminish. Every other honour, right up to the god’s abode or paradise, is unreal. It is subject to destruction and also to creation again. So to gain or not to gain it is the same, because an honour which is first given and then snatched away means nothing. But this is how the affairs of the world go on. So what is there in high distinction? If received, it is good, and if not, still better…..
Jaimal Singh tells us that to submit all to Him is really to take ourselves out of it entirely, so that we cease to be altogether. That is really not a change in reality, but an awakening understanding of the truth. He is, and we experience that in every waking moment when we are not. So, in short, take yourself out of it.
The Story of King Mahmoud and his slave, Ayaz (adopted from stories by Rumi, and the poet, Sir Edward Arnold)
Once upon a time, long ago, in ancient and magical Persia, there lived a mighty ruler, named King Mahmoud. He was not only wealthy and powerful, but wise and loving.
From time to time he would arrange a glorious parade of camels laden with sparkling jewels, courtiers, jugglers, and acrobats. All dressed in colorful silks, celebrating the greatness of the Lord and the good fortune and dignity of human life. Happily he led them through the streets of the Kingdom and to the outskirts of the city. The crowds thronged the parade, cheered their King and followed out of the city walls. Here, the King raised his mighty scepter, and lowered it again, whence the courtiers and entertainers removed the jewels from their costumes, from the camels, from large satchels and scattered them upon the sands for all to partake.
King Mahmoud rode happily beyond and looked back to see that everyone, even his own wealthy princes and reagents had left their camels to partake of the treasure. Only one stood at King Mahmoud’s side, a lowly young slave name Ayaz.
King Mahmoud looked squarely at the young man and asked him “Why are you not partaking of my wealth?” to which young Ayaz, gazing into Mahmoud’s eyes, smiled and said quietly, “I am.”
From that day forth, King Mahmoud arranged to have this young slave serve at his court. In place of old, tattered and soiled rags, Ayaz now wore silk pants and a silk vest, and beautiful silken shoes. He happily did all that he was told. He ate little, but well. He had a pleasant and clean corner in which to sleep upon a large pillow.
The other members of the King’s court noticed that the King paid special attention to Ayaz. Since they worked so hard for the King’s attention, some began to grow a little envious. They wondered what this Ayaz was all about, and why the King would be so drawn to him. After some discussion among themselves, they elected one reagent to approach the King. He asked King Mahmoud, “Dear King, why do you keep this slave here? He is neither beautiful nor strong, nor articulate, nor intelligent. Surely, if you would allow, we could find a more suitable slave for our beloved King’s court?”
The King replied, “I am happy with him where he is. He has a beauty you cannot see, within his heart. Look for it, and you will understand why he is here.”
The regents’ and courtiers’ jelousy was inflamed by King Mahmoud’s words. They sought to find a way to remove Ayaz, for they thought he was a threat to the rest of them.
They spied on Ayaz and reported to the King. “Dear King, we know how deeply you feel for the young slave, Ayaz, but we are concerned for you, and we have noticed that Ayaz slips out of the walls of your castle every night, down dark alleys into a hidden and locked room. We have seen him do this night after night. We are concerned that he is not what he pretends to be. Perhaps he is a spy for your enemy. Perhaps he listens more closely than we realize to the goings on in your court, only to report your decisions and plans to those who would harm you.”
King Mahmoud gave them permission to unlock the hidden room by force, and bring whomever, or whatever was inside to the King’s court.
The next day, the courtiers returned with a trunk, and when they opened it all that was inside were Ayaz’s old tattered and filthy clothes.
Ayaz saw this and stood up, shocked and embarrassed.
King Mahmoud called out, “Ayaz, come here. These fine members of my court tell me that every night you slip out of the castle to go into a dark and locked room in a poor neighborhood of our kingdom. I have asked them to bring me whatever they found in that room. Can you explain this?”
Ayaz began quietly, and said, “My Lord, I apologize if I have offended you. Every night when I slipped out of the castle, I went into the old windowless room, dark and dirty, my old home, to put these old torn clothes on for a little while.”
“Dear Ayaz,” the King asked compassionately, “why would you do that?”
“So that, my beloved King, I would never forget that before you brought me here, I was nothing.”
One day the King assembled his courtiers. He handed the minister a glowing pearl and asked “What would you say this is worth?”
“More gold than a hundred donkeys could carry,” replied the minister.
King Mahmoud commanded, “Break it!”
“Sir,” said the minister, “how could I waste your resources like that?” The King presented him with a robe of honor for his answer and took back the pearl. He talked awhile to the assembly on various topics. Then, he put the pearl in the chamberlain’s hand and asked, “What would it sell for?”
The chamberlain said “Half a kingdom, God preserve it.”
“Break it!” the King again commanded.
“My hand could not move to do such a thing,” said the Chamberlain. The King rewarded him with a robe of honor and an increase in his salary. So it went on with each of the fifty or sixty courtiers, each trying to outdo the other in their praise of the precious pearl. One by one they imitated the minister and the chamberlain and received new wealth.
Then the pearl was given to Ayaz.
“Can you say,” asked the King, “how splendid this is?” to which Ayaz replied, “It’s more than I can say.”
“Then break it, this second, into tiny pieces.”
And Ayaz picked up two stones and in one swift motion crushed the priceless pearl between them into dust.
The court assembly screamed at the recklessness of Ayaz, “See, Dear King, he is a fool!”
They asked “How could you do that!”
And Ayaz, without hesitation replied “What the King says is worth more than any pearl…. I honor the King, and not some colored stone.”
Ayaz was a faithful servant for many years. One day, the aging King called all his court before him. They knew that he would not live much longer, and this was the day he would announce his successor.
Before the festivities began, the King turned to Ayaz,
“Dear Ayaz, you are always standing. Here, why don’t you sit down for a while.”
Ayaz replied, “But, my King, there is only one chair here.”
The King dismissed Ayaz’s comment with a wave of his hand and motioned him to sit on the Throne.
“I just wanted to know if that felt comfortable for you.”
As Ayaz sat, tears began to stream down his eyes. He could not speak. He nodded in resignation.
The King, with trembling hands, took from a velvet pillow, the crown, newly polished.
He said “I just wanted to see how this felt, does this fit your head?” He placed the crown upon Ayaz’s head.
Ayaz, obedient, sat tall and firm, tears streaming down his cheeks, and down his silken vest.
“Do you think this fits, my beloved Ayaz?”
And then it was that quietly, so quietly only the King could hear, Ayaz spoke through his tears and said “ To look into the eyes of my King is Kingdom enough for me.”
Paul spoke eloquently about this inner treasure, the Love of Christ, which he works hard to unveil and protect, by the very power of that inner treasure, which is also the Love of Christ. He tells us this is the same spirit of faith spoken of in the Psalms. Indeed it has been spoken of throughout recorded history. The love of Christ stands forever, unassailable, even as this body, this jar of clay must endure its fate. It is precisely the effect of this Love on us under the most difficult of circumstances that is the evidence of its eternal reality even amidst this transient one.
"7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
2 Corinthians 4: 7-18