The Peace Pilgrim has demonstrated through her padyatras across the length and breadth of America in the cause of peace, how significantly a single human being, without the support of any organization or institution, can impact the world.
From 1953 to 1981, when she was killed by a head-on collision on her way to a speaking engagement, she inspired many thousands through her travels to work towards inner peace, through which alone can the world find peace. In a frivolous and conflict-ridden world, her wisdom, simplicity, and unswerving devotion to peace have been beacons of light and strength. Here she writes about the inner journey that prompted her to devote her life to service:
In my early life I made two very important discoveries. In the first place, I discovered that making money was easy. And in the second place I discovered that making money and spending it foolishly was completely meaningless. I knew that this was not what I was here for, but at that time (this was many years ago), I didn’t know exactly what I was here for.
It was out of a very deep seeking for a meaningful way of life, and after having walked all one night through the woods, that I came to what I now know to be a very important psychological hump. I felt a complete willingness, without any reservations, to give my life, to dedicate my life to service. I tell you, it’s a point of no return. After that, you can never go back to completely self-centered living.
And so I went into the second phase of my life. I began to give what I could, instead of to get what I could, and I entered a new and wonderful world. My life began to become meaningful. I attained the great blessing of good health; I haven’t had a cold or headache since. (Most illness is psychologically induced.) From that time on, I have known that my life-work would be to work for peace; that it would cover the whole peace picture – peace among nations, peace among groups, peace among individuals, and the very, very important inner peace. However, there’s a great deal of difference between being willing to give your life, and actually giving your life, and for me, 15 years of preparation and of inner seeking lay between.
The Higher and Lower Selves During this time I became acquainted with what the psychologists refer to as Ego and Conscience. I began to realize that it’s as though we have two selves or two natures or two wills with two different viewpoints. Because the viewpoints were so different, I felt a struggle in my life at this period between the two selves with the two viewpoints. So there were hills and valleys – lots of hills and valleys.
Then in the midst of the struggle there came a wonderful mountain-top experience, and for the first time I knew what inner peace was like. I felt a oneness – oneness with all my fellow beings, oneness with all of creation. I have never felt really separate since. I could return again and again to this wonderful mountaintop, and then I could stay there for longer and longer periods of time, and just slip out occasionally.
Then came a wonderful morning when I woke up and knew that I would never have to descend again into the valley. I knew that for me the struggle was over, that finally I had succeeded in giving my life, or finding inner peace. Again this is a point of no return. You can never go back into the struggle. The struggle is over now, because you will to do the right thing, and you don’t need to be pushed into it.
However, progress is not over. Great progress has taken place in this third phase of my life. But it’s as though the central figure of the jigsaw puzzle of your life is complete and clear and unchanging, and around the edges other pieces keep fitting in. There is always a growing edge, but the progress is harmonious. There is a feeling of always being surrounded by all of the good things, like love and peace and joy. It seems like a protective surrounding, and there is an unshakeable ness within which takes you through any situation you may need to face.
The world may look at you and believe that you are facing problems, but always there are the inner resources to easily overcome these problems. Nothing seems difficult. There is calmness and a serenity and unhurriedness – no more striving or straining about anything. Life is full and life is good, but life is nevermore overcrowded. That’s a very important thing I’ve learned: if your life is in harmony with your part in the Life Pattern, and if you are obedient to the laws which govern this universe, then your life is full and good but not overcrowded. If it is overcrowded, you are doing more than is right for you to do, more than is your job to do in the total scheme of things.
Now there is a living to give instead of to get. As you concentrate on the giving, you discover that just as you cannot receive without giving, so neither can you give without receiving – even the most wonderful things like health and happiness and inner peace. There is a feeling of endless energy – it just never runs out; it seems to be as endless as air. You just seem to be plugged into the source of universal energy.
You are now in control of your life. You see, the ego is never in control. The ego is controlled by wishes for comfort and convenience on the part of the body, by demands of the mind and the emotions. I can say to my body, “Lie down there on that cement floor and go to sleep,” and it obeys. I can say to my mind, “Shut out everything else and concentrate on this job before you,” and it’s obedient. I can say to my emotions, “Be still, even in the face of this terrible situation,” and they are still. It’s a different way of living. The philosopher Thoreau wrote: If a man does not keep pace with companions, perhaps he hears a different drummer. And now you are following a different drummer – the higher nature instead of the lower.
Peace Pilgrimage It was only at this time, in 1953, that I felt guided or called or motivated to begin my pilgrimage for peace in the world – a journey undertaken traditionally. The tradition of pilgrimage is a journey undertaken on foot and on faith, prayerfully and as an opportunity to contact people. I wear a lettered tunic in order to contact people. It says ‘PEACE PILGRIM’ on the front. I feel that’s my name now – it emphasizes my mission instead of me. And on the back it says ‘25,000 MILES ON FOOT FOR PEACE.’ The purpose of the tunic is merely to make contacts for me. Constantly as I walk along the highways and through the cities, people approach me and I have a chance to talk with them about peace.
I have walked 25,000 miles as a penniless pilgrim. I own only what I wear and what I carry in my small pockets. I belong to no organization. I have said that I will walk until given shelter and fast until given food, remaining a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace. And I can truthfully tell you that without ever asking for anything, I have been supplied with everything needed for my journey, which shows you how good people really are.
With me I carry always my peace message: This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love. There is nothing new about this message, except the practice of it. And the practice of it is required not only in the international situation but also in the personal situation. I believe that the situation in the world is a reflection of our immaturity. If we were mature, harmonious people, war would be no problem whatever – it would be impossible.
All of us can work for peace. We can work right where we are, right within ourselves, because the more peace we have within our own lives, the more we can reflect into the outer situation. In fact, I believe that the wish to survive will push us into some kind of uneasy world peace which will then need to be supported by a great inner awakening if it is to endure. I believe we entered a new age when we discovered nuclear energy, and that this new age calls for a new renaissance to lift us to a higher level of understanding so that we will be able to cope with the problems of this new age. So, primarily my subject is peace within our selves as a step toward peace in our world.
Preparations for Peace Now, when I talk about the steps toward inner peace, I talk about them in a framework, but there’s nothing arbitrary about the number of steps. They can be expanded; they can be contracted. This is just a way of talking about the subject, but this is important: the steps toward inner peace are not taken in any certain order. The first step for one may be the last step for another. So just take whatever steps seem easiest for you, and as you take a few steps, it will become easier for you to take a few more. In this area we really can share. None of you may feel guided to walk a pilgrimage, and I’m not trying to inspire you to walk a pilgrimage, but in the field of finding harmony in our own lives, we can share and I suspect that when you hear me give some of the step toward inner peace, you will recognize them as steps that you also have taken.
In the first place I would like to mention some preparations that were required of me. The first preparation is a right attitude toward life. This means – stop being an escapist! Stop being a surface-liver who stays right in the froth of the surface. There are millions of these people, and they never find anything really worthwhile. Be willing to face life squarely and get down beneath the surface of life where the verities and realities are to be found. That’s what we are doing here now.
There's the whole matter of having a meaningful attitude for the problems that life may set before you. If only you could see the whole picture, if only you knew the whole story, you would realize that no problem ever comes to you that does not have a purpose in your life that cannot contribute to your inner growth. When you perceive this, you will recognize problems as opportunities in disguise. If you did not face problems you would just drift through life, and you would not gain inner growth. It is through solving problems in accordance with the highest light that we have that inner growth is attained. Now, collective problems must be solved by us collectively, and no one finds inner peace who avoids doing his or her share in the solving of collective problems, like world disarmament and world peace. So let us always think about these problems together, talk about them together, and collectively work toward their solutions.
Align with Universal Laws The second preparation has to do with bringing our lives into harmony with the laws that govern this universe. Created are not only the worlds and the beings but also the laws which govern them. Applying both in the physical realm and in the psychological realm, these laws govern human conduct. Insofar as we are able to understand and bring our lives into harmony with these laws, our lives will be in harmony. Insofar as we disobey these laws, we create difficulties for ourselves by our disobedience. We are our own worst enemies. If we are out of harmony through ignorance, we suffer somewhat; but if we know better and are still out of harmony, then we suffer a great deal. I recognize that these laws are well-known and well believed, and therefore they just needed to be well-lived.
So I got busy on a very interesting project. This was to live all the good things I believed in. I did not confuse myself by trying to take them all at once, but rather, if I was doing something that I knew I should not be doing, I stopped doing it, and I always made a quick relinquishment. You see, that’s the easy way. Tapering off is long and hard. And if I was not doing something that I knew I should be doing. I got busy on that. It took the living quite a while to catch up with the believing, but of course it can, and now if I believe something, I live it. Otherwise it would be perfectly meaningless. As I lived according to the highest light that I had, I discovered that other light was given, and that I opened myself to receiving more light as I lived the light I had.
To be continued in the next issue From a KPFK radio talk, Los Angeles
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