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An Inquiry Into Peace

Swami Chinmayananda

The Sanskrit word Mananam means reflection. The Mananam Series of books is dedicated to promoting the ageless wisdom of Vedanta, with an emphasis on the unity of all religions. Spiritual teachers from different traditions give us fresh, insightful answers to age-old questions so that  we may apply them in a practical way to the dilemmas we all face in life. It is published by Chinmaya Mission West, which was founded by Swami Chinmayananda in 1975. Swami Chinmayananda pursued the spiritual path in the Himalayas, under the guidance of Swami Sivananda and Swami Tapovanam. He is credited with the awakening of India and the rest of the world to the ageless wisdom of Vedanta. He taught the logic of spirituality and emphasized that selfless work, study, and meditation are the cornerstones of spiritual practice. His legacy remains in the form of books, audio and video tapes, schools, social service projects, and Vedanta teachers who now serve their local communities all around the world.

Had man been just an animal, he would not need anything more than physical comforts and security, but as a highly evolved and developed psychological being, he wants emotional satisfaction. And being highly intellectual he is restless and impatient with all imperfections. He is not merely a physical structure consisting of his body; he has a mind and intellect too. The materialistic needs of the body can satisfy only the physical man, which is only a third of an individual; two thirds of the individual is not taken into consideration when materialism strives to satisfy merely the basic needs in a community.

Materialism is wonderful, no doubt, but it burdens man with an endless anxiety and craving to possess more and more, to acquire and aggrandize and to live with slavish attachment. It is natural for man to seek his fulfillment and happiness only in thoughtless intemperance, in toiling for and reaching the temporary gratification of his physical passions, mental urges and intellectual hungers. Is it not a fact that, in recent times, more people are killed by worry than by work? Man in his present misconceived civilization has learned to waste himself and his precious time in the inevitable trifles and tensions that beset his life.

Acquiring and spending, we lay waste our powers. Each of us seeks the same goal. We all want nothing but unadulterated, unbroken, absolute joy and peace among the sensual objects that constitute our world. But sensual objects have a false glitter of joy about them. The joy soon fades away. At the loss of such joy, the worldly seekers strive hard to multiply their capacity for purchasing more and more of the same fleeting joys.

If peace and joy is the goal of every living being, and all our day-to-day struggles are to gain that peace, it is quite natural to ask, “What is peace?” Surely we realize that the question is not about any phenomenon in nature outside where laboratory experiments and factual representations could facilitate understanding. The question is essentially a subjective inquiry into a state of satisfaction felt within and lived by the individual with or without reference to the external circumstances of the world outside. By peace, we mean a mental condition in the subject in the subject lived by him and recognized as such in the absolute sorrow-less silence in his own within. Therefore only by looking within, and observing the happenings and occurrences during the various mental conditions, can we conduct an inquiry into peace.
In short, self-analysis and introspection are the very beginnings of all philosophical inquiries into self perfection. They are the perfect means of achieving a true vital blissful living. As long as the values respected in life are of indulgence in feeding the sensual demands, attention gets diverted outward, and the chaos within cannot be ended. We will therefore strive to understand the entire inner processes by which the experiencer can adjust and purify his equipment.

The Rippling Action of Desire

In every one of us there are, at any given moment, a hundred desires struggling to seek their fulfillment. In those rare lucky ones among us who gain in life at least a seeming fulfillment of some of their desires, we observe how each fulfillment is but the breeding ground fro a dozen other complimentary desires—each an attempt to complete the imperfections of the phantom joy achieved!

Let us analyze a single desire and observe what exactly happens within us. “If only I had a son” is the beginning of an entire unending chain of life-long anxieties. The person wishing for a son feels that the available circumstances in his life do not serve his conception of full or complete joy or peace which he demands of life. His solution slowly gets crystallized in his vague desire that a son would complete his joy. His desire is thus an unconscious effort on his part to have a fuller expression of himself.

The desire for a son is at the beginning only a localized disturbance in the mental lake. But a million ringlets of concentric disturbance follow, and the widening ripples of thought come to splash upon the vast banks. The desire motivates an endless array of thoughts; thoughts thus motivated by each desire get projected into the waking state world, and among its sense objects they manifest as actions. Successful actions end in their desired fruit—which is but the objectification of the subjective desire.

The individual, tortured by his own thought, cannot contain himself within. His own thoughts, as they gain vitality from his desire, soon make him their slave. When these thoughts find their expression, then the seeking of a bride, the meeting, the talk, the transaction, the procession, and the wedding happen. The desire for a son, which caused the inner whirlwind, dragging him through a distance of sweat and worry, at last condemns him to the thorny fields of fatherhood. “Ah! My son has arrived! My great son!”

All joy, but alas, only for a fleeting moment! The joy is immediately followed by his constant run for the milk-powder and feeding-bottle, the doctor, the nurse, and the chemist! Soon the individual is shuttled between the toyshops and the home, the school and the theater, the bookshops, and so on. Every day that very thing-of-joy, the son, provides the father a hundred hopes, fears, plans, failures, disappointments, and sorrows.

“But at least in that sacred moment when he cried out ‘my son,’ don’t you think he had a taste of some joy?” If one is tempted to ask thus, one is perfectly right. Hence it is that in the very beginning, we admitted that sense objects do provide joy, but only a false glitter of joy.

“IF there be any joy-content at all in the sense objects, why don’t we arrest the moment of our experience and prolong it to any desired length of time?” Let us patiently continue our inquiry; probably we may come to discover the very secret of permanent joy.

We have observed how the desire for a song caused a storm of thoughts, how they manifested in the world outside the actions, and how the desire for a son had objectified, as it were, for the happy father. The father at the birth of his child, feels extremely happy. Why? Let us find out exactly what happens within him the moment he knows that his desire for a son has been fulfilled; say, at the moment of the first cry of the child at the inspiring moment when a foot-long tender thing placed between folds of cloth is laid in the father’s lap. The inner ripples or agitation suddenly settle down.

The thought-disturbances cause on the shore of the desire sink down; for a split moment, the mental stuff in its liquid clearness reflects the glory within. “Ah! The joy!” But the next moment it is gone. Why? A thousand other desires regarding the son and his comforts, the mother and her health, the nurse and her conveniences, all come up to disturb the glory-reflecting medium, the stilled mind.

So then, the mind is at once the breeding ground of desires, the dung-heap of contending thoughts, and also the glorious castle of perfect joy! When the mind is stilled, it ceases erupting its scorching lava of thoughts, and peace is the subjective experience. Peace is joy. This is why, in peaceful dreamless sleep, every living creature feels nothing but joy.

From what we have so far observed, it can be inferred that the joy-in-the-son was not in the son, but in the particular condition within the mind that the birth of the son occasioned. So then, the source of joy is not in the external world of objects, but is deep within us. Whenever the mind is at perfect rest, an effulgent flood of the inner bliss pours out its satisfying joy.

The desire for objects creates disturbances that shatter our real nature of shanti, peace. The struggle and urgency of the individual to get his desire fulfilled represents the urge of truth to assert itself. The spirit within is asserting to come back to its essential state of fullness. The tension in the bowstring is from the consistent pull of the stem of the bow to regain its straight nature. The tension of life and its pains are from the benign pull of the Truth upon untruth!

We have thus understood that desire breeds thoughts and thoughts propel us to action. When the actions end in successful fruition, the result is the calming of the though-storm, which in its turn produces the feeling of joy and peace in the subject. Hence the conclusion is self-evident; the solution for all the sorrows of life now becomes an open secret. Renounce desire—thoughts will end. When the desire agitations are hushed up, eternal peace is experienced. This experiencing of the all-full satisfaction and contentment, which is independent of the external world and the daily circumstances, is the perfect, achievable, and to-be-achieved goal of life.

Chinmaya Mission Boston is located at:

1 Union Street, Andover, MA – 01810

Phone: 1-866-RAM-DOOT


Chinmaya Mission’s Bala Vihar registrations are in progress. Please visit http://www.chinmaya-boston.com/register for details. Classes begin on September 11, 2009 at Nashua, NH and September 13, 2009 at Andover, MA and at Westborough, MA

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