By Life Positive
In the path of the peace pilgrim
In the last issue, the Peace Pilgrim wrote about how she came to embrace the mission of peace. She also talked of two of the preparations – a right attitude towards life and bringing our lives into harmony with the laws that govern this universe. Here, she elaborates on the other preparations and purifications she was called upon to make.
These laws are the same for all of us, and these are the things that we can study and talk about together. But there is also a third preparation that has to do with something which is unique for every human life because every one of us has a special place in the Life Pattern. If you do not yet know clearly where you fit, I suggest that you try seeking it in receptive silence. I used to walk amid the beauties of nature, just receptive and silent, and wonderful insights would come to me. You begin to do your part in Life Pattern by doing all the good things you feel motivated toward, even though they are just little good things at first. You give this priority in your life over all the superficial things that customarily clutter human lives.
There are those who know and do not do. This is very sad. I remember one day as I walked along the highway a very nice car stopped and the man said to me, “How wonderful that you are following your calling!” I replied, “I certainly think that everyone should be doing what feels right to do.” He then began telling me what he felt motivated toward, and it was a good thing that needed doing. I got quite enthusiastic about it and took for granted that he was doing it. I said, “That’s wonderful! How are you getting on with it?” and he answered, “Oh, I’m not doing it. That kind of work doesn’t pay anything.” And I shall never forget how desperately unhappy that man was. But you see, in this materialistic age we have such a false criterion by which to measure success. We measure it in terms of dollars, in terms of material things. But happiness and inner peace do not lie in the direction. If you know but do not do, you are an unhappy person indeed.
There is also a fourth preparation, and it is the simplification of life to bring inner and outer wellbeing – psychological and material well-being – into harmony in your life. This was made very easy for me. Just after I dedicated my life to service, I felt that I could no longer accept more than I needed while others in the world have less than they need. This moved me to bring my life down to need-level. I thought it would be difficult. I thought it would entail a great many hardships, but I was quite wrong. Now that I own only what I wear and what I carry in my pockets, I don’t feel deprived of anything. For me, what I want and what I need are exactly the same, and you couldn’t give me anything I don’t need.
I discovered this great truth: unnecessary possessions are just unnecessary burdens. Now I don’t mean that all our needs are the same. Yours may be much greater than mine. For instance, if you have a family, you would need the stability of a family centre for your children. But I do mean that anything beyond need – and need sometimes includes things beyond the physical needs, too – tends to become burdensome.
There is great freedom in simplicity of living, and after I began to feel this, I found a harmony in my life between inner and outer well-being. Now there’s a great deal to be said about such harmony, not only for an individual life but also for the life of a society. It’s because as a world we have gotten ourselves so far out of harmony, so way off on the material side, that when we discover something like nuclear energy, we are still capable of putting it into a bomb and using it to kill people. This is because our inner well-being lags so far behind our outer well-being. The valid research for the future is on the inner side, on the psychological side, so that we will be able to bring these two into balance, so we will know how to use well the outer well-being we already have.
Then I discovered that there were some purifications required of me. The first one is such a simple thing: it is purification of the body. This has to do with your physical living habits. Do you eat sensibly, eating to live? I actually know people who live to eat. And do you know when to stop eating? That is a very important thing to know. Do you have sensible sleeping habits? I try to get to bed early and have plenty of hours of sleep. Do you get plenty of fresh air, sunshine, exercise and contact with nature? You’d think this might be the first area in which people would be willing to work, but from practical experience I’ve discovered it’s often the last because it might mean getting rid of some of our bad habits, and there is nothing that we cling to more tenaciously.
The second purification I cannot stress too much because it is purification of thought. If you realized how powerful your thoughts are you would never think a negative thought. They can be a powerful influence for good when they’re on the positive side, and they can make you physically ill when they’re on the negative side.
I recall a man, 65 years old when I knew him, who manifested symptoms of what seemed a chronic physical illness. I talked with him and I realized that there was some bitterness in his life, although I could not find it at once. He got along well with his wife and his grown children, and he got along well in his community, but the bitterness was there just the same. I found that he was harboring bitterness against his long-dead father because his father had educated his brother and not him. As soon as he was able to relinquish this bitterness, the so-called chronic illness began to fade away, and soon it was gone.
If you’re harboring the slightest bitterness toward anyone, or any unkind thoughts of any sort whatever, you must get rid of them quickly. They aren’t hurting anyone but you. It is said that hate injures the hater, not the hated. It isn’t enough just to do right things and say right things, you must also think right things before your life can come into harmony.
The third purification is purification of desire. What are the things you desire? Do you desire new clothing, or pleasures or new household furnishings, or a new car? You can come to the point of oneness of desire just to know and do your part in the Life Pattern. When you think about it, is there anything else as really important to desire?
A Matter of Motive
There is one more purification, and that is purification of motive. What is your motive for whatever you may be doing? If it is pure greed or self-seeking or the wish for self-glorification, I would say, Don’t do that thing. Don’t do anything you would do with such a motive. But it isn’t that easy because we tend to do things with very mixed motives, good and bad motives all mixed together. Here’s a man in the business world: his motives may not be the highest, but mixed in with them are motives of caring for his family and perhaps doing some good in the community. Mixed motives!
Your motive, if you are to find inner peace, must be an outgoing motive – it must be service. It must be giving, not getting. I knew a man who was a good architect. It was obviously his right work, but he was doing it with the wrong motive. His motive was to make a lot of money and keep ahead of the Joneses. He worked himself into an illness, and it was shortly after that I met him. I got him to do little things for service. I talked to him about the joy of service and I knew that after he had experienced this, he could never go back into really self-centred living. We corresponded a bit after that. On the third year of my pilgrimage route, I walked through his town and I hardly recognized him when I stopped in to see him. He was such a changed man! But he was still an architect. He was drawing a plan and he talked to me about it: “You see, I’m designing it this way to fit into their budget, and then I’ll set it on their plot of ground to make it look nice.” His motive was to be of service to the people that he drew plans for. He was a radiant and transformed person. His wife told me that his business had increased because people were now coming to him from miles around for home designs.
I’ve met a few people who had to change their jobs in order to change their lives, but I’ve met many more people who merely had to change their motive to service in order to change their lives.
Now, the last part. These are the relinquishments. Once you’ve made the first relinquishment, you have found inner peace because it’s the relinquishment of self-will. You can work on this by refraining from doing any not-good thing you may be motivated toward, but you never suppress it! If you are motivated to do or say a mean thing, you can always think of a good thing. You deliberately turn around and use that same energy to do or say a good thing instead. It works!
The second relinquishment is the relinquishment of the feeling of separateness. We begin feeling very separate and judging everything as it relates to us, as though we were the centre of the universe. Even after we know better intellectually, we still judge things this way. In reality, of course, we are all cells in the body of humanity. We are not separate from our fellow humans. The whole thing is a totality. It’s only from that higher viewpoint that you can know what it is to love your neighbor as yourself. From that higher viewpoint there becomes just one realistic way to work, and that is for the good of the whole. As long as you work for your selfish little self, you’re just one cell against all those other cells, and you’re way out of harmony. But as soon as you begin working for the good of the whole, you find yourself in harmony with all of your fellow human beings. You see, it’s the easy, harmonious way to live.
Then there is the third relinquishment, and that is the relinquishment of all attachments. Material things must be put into their proper place. They are there for use. It’s all right to use them; that’s what they’re there for. But when they’ve outlived their usefulness be ready to relinquish them and perhaps pass them on to someone who does need them. Anything that you cannot relinquish when you have outlived its usefulness possesses you, and in this materialistic age a great many of us are possessed by our possessions. We are not free.
There’s another kind of possessiveness. You do not possess any other human being; no matter how closely related that other may be. No husband owns his wife; no wife owns her husband; no parents own their children. When we think we possess people there’s a tendency to run their lives for them, and out of this develops an extremely inharmonious situation. Only when we realize that we do not possess them, that they must live in accordance with their own inner motivations, do we stop trying to run their lives for them, and then we discover that we are able to live in harmony with them.
Now the last: the relinquishment of all negative feelings. I want to mention just one negative feeling which the nicest people still experience, and that negative feeling is worry. Worry is not concern which would motivate you to do everything possible in a situation. Worry is a useless mulling over of things we cannot change. Let me mention just one technique. Seldom do you worry about the present moment; it’s usually all right. If you worry, you agonise over the past which you should have forgotten long ago, or you’re apprehensive over the future which hasn’t even come yet. We tend to skim right over the present time. Since this is the only moment that one can live, if you don’t live it you never really get around to living at all. If you do live this present moment, you tend not to worry. For me, every moment is a new opportunity to be service.
One last comment about negative feelings which helped me very much at one time and has helped others. No outward thing – nothing, nobody from without – can hurt me inside, psychologically. I recognized that I could only be hurt psychologically by my own wrong actions, which I have control over; by my own wrong reactions – they are tricky but I have control over them, too; or by my own inaction in some situations, like the present world situation, that needs action from me. When I recognized all this, how free I felt! And I just stopped hurting myself. Now some one could do the meanest thing to me and I would feel deep compassion for this out-of-harmony person, this psychologically sick person who is capable of doing mean things. I certainly would not hurt myself by a wrong reaction of bitterness or anger. You have complete control over whether or not you will be hurt psychologically, and any time you want to, you can stop hurting yourself.
These are the steps toward inner peace that I wanted to share with you. There’s nothing new about this. This is universal truth. I merely talked about these things in my own everyday words in terms of my own personal experience with them. The laws which govern this universe work for good as soon as we obey them, and anything contrary to these laws doesn’t last too long. It contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction. The good in every human life always make it possible for us to obey these laws. We do have free will about all this, and therefore how soon we obey and thereby find harmony, both within ourselves and within our world, is up to us.
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