There was a time in my life when I didn't spend hours of my day doing spiritual practices. When I was a young boy growing up in Iran, I tended to do things against my parents' wishes. I would do everything from play football in the street to run around and play in the fields behind our house where there were poisonous snakes and other things that could endanger a young boy. But even though I would likely incur my father's wrath in the way of a good spanking when my parents found me out, I continued to seek out my naughty adventures.
This is, of course, how unruly children are on the whole. Despite the fact that going where they're not supposed to, eating things that compromise their health, and generally acting in ways that undermine their well-being will possibly lead to problems, they still overstep the boundaries their parents have laid out for them and risk the consequences such behaviors entail. But, through discipline established by guidance, reprimands, and even punishment, the parent continuously intervenes so that the child has a stable frame of reference for how to live as an individual and as a part of a community. And while this discipline might lead to conflicts, tension, and other situations that are unappealing for the child, it ultimately helps them to prosper. By being less likely to be bitten by a poisonous snake, they enjoy a greater sweetness of life.
But while enforcing discipline may be appropriate for a young child who has not yet discerned the consequences of their actions, is it productive for us to enforce peaceful ideals onto other members of society in general? When we consider people who are labeled as "peacekeepers," we typically picture someone who seeks some sort of change in the world by influencing others through their words and actions. When someone commits a violent act, they may create laws, tell them to lay down arms, or otherwise petition them to behave in a different way. Their mind tells them that peace can be attained when everyone stops being violent. But while each of these actions may carry with it the illusion of control when the violent people momentarily fall in line, there is just as much of a possibility that the peacekeeping will fall flat; the perpetrators of violence may break the law, retain arms, and continue to inflict harm onto others. Seeking change and peace in the world by relying on others to reform their violent ways is like an unruly child seeking independence in a field full of poisonous snakes: The peacekeeper may have the illusion of control, but there's a possibility that they will get bitten.
Our goal on the yogic path is to alleviate the suffering that happens in our mind as a result of the ego's incessant need for control. By taking control of the mind through different spiritual practices, we move away from the ego. The ancient teachings state that when we let go of wanting control, we awaken a natural perfection that reflects the divine force that created plants, animals, and the whole of life. By alleviating our suffering and aligning ourselves with this force, we no longer rely on the outside world to feel satisfaction. We don't create peace because we've forced everyone to no longer perpetrate violence, we create peace when we experience a state of supreme joy within ourselves and reflect that joy onto others. As a result, the other person feels this joy within themselves and peace becomes contagious; it then spreads organically. This is the difference between hoping someone will be peaceful after we tell them to be so and showing them the peace that exists within them by reflecting it through ourselves. True peace will be the result of that which we find within, not any negotiations or political actions.
But if this state of being is so perfect and full of peace, why should it be so rarely sought out by most of the population? Why are laws and aggressive rhetoric the default way for peace to be maintained? When we search within, we must contend with a deep-seated darkness that has grown from long-held pain, past trauma, and underlying fears about the entirety of our existence. And assuming complete, unconditional responsibility for our own state of peace in response to that darkness is scary -- it's as scary as the punishment that awaits the unruly child when they return home. But even though the child knows that misbehaving has consequences, they still return home and endure whatever discipline is implemented. Even though they sought the world outside, and even though the house presents scary possibilities, they still return to receive the parents' loving guidance.
We can follow the child's example. We can go within and liberate ourselves from the darkness born from our ego so that we can experience supreme joy. From there, we can observe the suffering of others and share our peace with them in response. But never will we be dependent on the other person's actions to sustain that state of being within ourselves.
That which created us awaits. It's time to come home.
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