By Suma Varughese May 2003 As much as we yearn for individual peace do we long for collective peace. Peace on earth and goodwill to men is probably one of mankind’s most powerful common dreams. Here’s how to make it a reality Apostles Of PeaceLord Buddhadisarming with love Peace and tranquillity can be contagious. It begins with the seeds of forgiveness we sow in our own hearts. When they take root and flower, the fragrance touches everyone around, transforming them. Lord Buddha would walk around radiating a serenity those around found irresistible. Once the divine one was passing through a forest that was the abode of the murderer Angulimala. The latter was so called because around his neck hung a garland of fingers he’d chopped off from those he’d killed. As he watched the Buddha advance towards him, his bravado melted, he was struck by the calm in the Buddha’s steady eyes. Angulimala’s heart clouded over with remorse, at his deeds, at the vile life he’d been leading. He surrendered completely unto Buddha and the mass murderer went on to become one of the Buddha’s most respected disciples, finally experiencing the serenity that he never thought would be his. The person who uses violence is not just; rather the just person learns and uses intelligence to distinguish right from wrong and to guide others, said the Buddha. ‘‘Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time, but ceases by love; this is an eternal truth.’’ The Buddha taught that one ought to give ungrudging love even to the man who foolishly does wrong to one. Such a man, hearing this about the Buddha, went to him and abused him. The Buddha silently pitied his folly. When the man finished, the Buddha asked him to whom a present would belong if a person refused to accept it. The man replied that it will remain with the offerer. ‘‘The slanderer is like one who flings dust at another when the wind is contrary; the dust does but return on him who threw it. The virtuous man cannot be hurt, and the misery that the other would inflict comes back on himself,’’ the Buddha said to him. ‘‘Everyone trembles at punishment, everyone loves life; remember that you are like them, and do not kill nor cause slaughter.’’ Remember this and one can truly bring, as the Buddhist greeting goes: ‘‘Peace to all beings.’’ Emperor Ashokawaging peace Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan dynasty came to the throne circa 268 B.C. and died approximately in 233 B.C. After eight years of rule, he waged a fierce war against the kingdom of Kalinga, Orissa of today. But his victory brought him no joy. He was appalled at the carnage he had unleashed. Over 100,000 had been killed and many more taken prisoners. Horrified by man’s capacity to wreak destruction, he renounced violence and turned to Buddhism. Today, Ashoka is considered history’s most benevolent rulers. His inner revolution changed war cries to a symphony of humanism. He made serving his dharma. In his efforts to propagate Buddhism, Ashoka built shrines and monasteries and inscribed Buddhist teachings on rocks and pillars in many places. He sent missionaries to countries as remote as Greece and Egypt and himself undertook Dharma Yatras to preach the basic tenets of Buddhism: Dana (charity), Daya (compassion), Satyam (truth), Sancam (purity), Sadhuta (saintliness), Dama (self control), Kritajnata (gratitude), Dri Dhabhakita (steadfastness). He undertook extensive public welfare projects—built roads and shelters for travellers, planted trees, provided improved medical aid even for animals and public sanitation. He also created a new position in his government to cater to women’s demands. And while he himself believed in Buddhism, he respected all other religious thought. Ashoka’s Dharma technique was successful—the crime rate was low, peace and prosperity, courtesy, piety and charity prevailed in his kingdom. How different is our century of regret, of mass murders and environmental crises, from Kalinga’s horrors? We’d do well to emulate the great king who when he could easily continue a policy of war, chose instead to conquer through peace. Martin Luther King, Jrweapon of affection ‘‘I refuse to accept the view… that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality,’’ was what Martin Luther King, Jr. firmly believed. Growing up in America in the 1930s, King was no stranger to racial discrimination in schools, at lunch counters, and public facilities. It was in an atmosphere of oppression and humiliation that he was raised, a witness to the schism in the promised democratic liberal values to all American citizens. Blacks were denied the right to vote and many economic opportunities enjoyed by the whites. Once armed with a Ph.D. in Theology from Boston University, King encouraged his believers to participate in a non-violent mission to achieve those freedoms constitutionally guaranteed to each and every individual. King believed that he had a social and moral responsibility to educate the nation about the evils of racism. Like Mahatma Gandhi, he fought injustices with love, respect, and non-violent protest. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks boarded a bus in Montegomery, Alabama, and refused to move to the back for a white passenger. Her arrest rallied King and his followers to begin a surge of boycotts protesting racial discrimination. His peace missions followed the footsteps of other peace heroes, particularly Gandhi, and used techniques of non-violent resistance, love, prayer, and speech as direct action against physical violence. King taught love instead of hate, kindness instead of aggression, believing that the act of non-violent resistance displayed the protester’s courageous will. He believed in countering his oppressors with a higher conscience. In 1964, at the young age of 35, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for wielding a weapon that in his own words ‘‘cuts without wounding and ennobles the man…’’ The Peace Pilgrimpeace walks On the first of January in 1953, a woman began walking in Los Angeles to spread her message of peace. Known only as the Peace Pilgrim, she carried with her few possessions: a comb, a folding toothbrush, a pen, and copies of her message. It was the height of McCarthyism and the Korean War and the petitions she circulated read: ‘‘Let the killing in Korea cease! Then deal with this conflict according to the only principles which can solve it—overcome evil with good and falsehood with truth and hatred with love.’’ Throughout her pilgrimage, she relied on the kindness of others, fasting when no food was offered, sleeping outside when no shelter was provided, never accepting things that she did not need for her survival, money included. She carried her message of peace over 25,000 miles. She spoke in churches and schools, for radio and television shows, and was written about in newspapers in numerous towns and cities across America. She always emphasised the joys of living a simple life, and the fact that it was improper for one to have more than was necessary while others did not have enough. A bizarre collision ended her life in 1981, yet her message lives on: ‘‘Be a sweet melody in the great orchestration, instead of a discordant note. The medicine this sick world needs is love.’’ The Dalai Lamapeace within, without His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has always been an advocate of the ‘human approach’ to world peace that begins at the most personal level—within yourself. ‘‘When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us. When our community is in a state of peace, it can share that peaceSixties PeaceniksAll we are saying is give peace a chance—John Lennon Flower Power was at its peak, tie and dye were in vogue, Woodstock happened. Yes, we’re talking of the psychedelic 1960s. Apart from the long-haired hippies and Timothy Leary’s famous one-liner (‘‘Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out’’), the turbulent ’60s symbolized an era of peace and love. ‘‘Peace is our religion and music is our food’’ was the recurring motif in the works of some of that era’s greatest musical names, such as: Bob Dylan: Upheld as the spokesman of his generation, Dylan made a huge contribution in spreading the message of peace with songs such as Blowin’ in The Wind and The Times They Are A Changin’. Today, these are the favourite anthems of peace marches. John Lennon: The man who created the Beatles phenomenon was much more than a Beatle. Lennon created quite a stir on the political front in America with his infamous ‘Bed-In’ and ‘War is Over’ campaigns. But this musician par excellence is best remembered for the immortal Imagine and Give Peace A Chance. Joan Baez: She stood alongside Martin Luther King Jr. to lead a crowd of 2,50,000 in singing We Shall Overcome at the 1963 Civil Rights March in Washington DC. A Vietnam War protestor and best known for her song Let Us Break Bread Together, Baez’s dulcet voice still champions the cause of peace. Bob Marley: This Jamaican reggae singer with dreadlocks was awarded the UN Peace Medal in 1978. Marley’s Redemption Song and One Love/People Get Ready will always shine on as evocative paeans to freedom and peace. Pete Seegar: Aged 81 today, Seegar hasn’t lost his passion for peace. He is a living musical legend, thanks to his lyrical songsWhere Have All The Flowers Gone and If I Had A Hammer. Richie Havens: Havens sang the lead song in Woodstock ’69, called Freedom. Even now, he goes around preaching love and peace, inspiring a brand new generation of peaceniks. – Sunit BezbaroowaA U
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