Peace is not simply the absence of war. It also means the absence of all kinds of negative feelings, such as hatred, anger, intolerance, because violence is nothing but a manifestation of these negative feelings. Peace therefore is the presence of all kinds of good, such as love, compassion, tolerance and coexistence.
Peace is a product of a positive mental attitude, while violence is the result of negative thinking. Violence always begins in the mind, and it needs to be uprooted therefore from the mind itself. We have to eradicate the violent mindset and inculcate instead a peaceful way of thinking.
The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said: “A Muslim is one from whose tongue and hands people are safe.” Peace is therefore one of the prerequisites of Islam.The entire spirit of the Quran is in tune with this concept. For instance, the Quran attaches the greatest of importance to patience. Patience, in fact, is another name for peaceful activism, while impatience is another name for violent activism. Patience, in essence, is exactly what is called non-violence in modern times. Patient activism means non-violent activism.
For making the society peaceful, it is essential that individual minds be transformed because individuals are the building blocks of society and unless change comes at the individual level, no true change can come about in society. In this regard it is important to convert negative thinking into positive thinking. Why is this important? This is of crucial importance when seen in the context of the creation plan of God. According to the creation plan of God, every human being has freedom to act as he or she pleases. Many individuals tend to misuse their freedom which creates problems for others. It is inevitable that we would face unpleasant experiences from others in this world. The only option for us in the face of provocative circumstances is to convert negative thinking into positive thinking. If we do not do so then our mind will be a jungle of negativity. The price we would have to pay for harbouring negative feelings is that a positive character would not develop in us. Thus, having a peaceful mind depends on one’s own way of thinking, it is not something that one receives from the external environment.
The example of Mahatma Gandhi is very relevant in this regard. Mahatma Gandhi was a symbol of peace and spirituality. Here, I would like to quote two of his incidents. On June 7, 1893 Mahatma Gandhi was forcefully thrown off a train for riding first class at the Pietermaritzburg railway station in South Africa. This was during the British rule in that country. Mahatma Gandhi then permanently returned to India in 1915. He took the command of the freedom struggle against the British rule. But contrary to the behaviour he suffered in South Africa during the British rule, he declared that he would carry out his freedom struggle against the British rule through totally peaceful means. This is the best illustration of peace.
Peace is to adhere to positive behaviour even if you have suffered violent behaviour from others. Our world is full of provocative events. The only condition to adopt the peaceful behaviour is to not get provoked even when you are provoked by others. Living in peace requires a pre-peace discipline, that is, developing a non-reactive attitude. If you are trained in the non-reactive discipline, then only you can live in peace in your society, or the nation in the extended sense of the word.
Then there is another event from the life of Mahatma Gandhi that gives the best illustration of spirituality. It was in 1946 when bloody riots broke up in Noakhali (in present-day Bangladesh). Mahadev Desai (d. 1942) was the personal secretary and biographer of Mahatma Gandhi. I happened to meet his son Narayan Desai in February 2009. He is the author of a book in Gujarati, Bapu ki god mein. I asked him to relate to me an incident of Mahatma Gandhi. He said that during the Noakhali riots of 1946, Mahatma Gandhi travelled from Delhi to Noakhali to calm down the people there. He had gone to spread the message of peace among the people there. At that time, he had written a historic letter from Noakhali to a Congress worker. This letter is still preserved. In the letter Mahatma Gandhi wrote in Gujarati: “Main jahan hun, wahan har taraf aag aur khoon ka manzar hai, lekin mere man mein shanti hai.” (There is fire and blood all around the place where I am right now, but in my heart there is peace).
This is peace and spirituality. Peace and spirituality are another name for positive behaviour. Only a person with a positive mind can live with peace and spirituality in society. Peace and spirituality are the manifestations of a trained mind.
An individual is always governed by his thinking. That is why, if we have to make a non-violent world for a peaceful society, there is only one way, and that is by using educative methods to convert people’s thinking from violence to non-violence. Peaceful revolution is the outcome of peaceful thinking. Peaceful minds make for a peaceful world.
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