WAR AND PEACE
War and peace are the epic saga of humanity. They are all that our
history books contain because they are what our hearts contain.
If you have ever read //Don Quixote//, you'll remember that he was
fighting windmills. Everybody is doing just that, fighting windmills.
Don Quixote was the figment of a writer's imagination, a man who
believed himself to be a great warrior. He thought that every windmill
he met was an enemy and started battling with it. That's exactly what we
are doing within our own hearts and that's why this story has such an
everlasting appeal. It tells us about ourselves. Writers and poets who
have survived their own lifetimes have always told human beings about
themselves. Mostly people don't listen, because it doesn't help when
somebody else tells us what's wrong with us and few care to hear it. One
has to find out for oneself and most people don't want to do that
What does it really mean to fight windmills? It means fighting nothing
important or real, just imaginary enemies and battles. All quite
trifling matters, which we build into something solid and formidable in
our minds. We say: "I can't stand that," so we start fighting, and "I
don't like him," and a battle ensues, and "I feel so unhappy," and the
inner war is raging. We hardly ever know what we're so unhappy about.
The weather, the food, the people, the work, the leisure, the country,
anything at all will usually do. Why does this happen to us? Because of
the resistance to actually letting go and becoming what we really are,
namely nothing. Nobody cares to be that.
Everybody wants to be something or somebody even if it's only Don
Quixote fighting windmills. Somebody who knows and acts and will become
something else, someone who has certain attributes, views, opinions and
ideas. Even patently wrong views are held onto tightly, because it makes
the "me" more solid. It seems negative and depressing to be nobody and
have nothing. We have to find out for ourselves that it is the most
exhilarating and liberating feeling we can ever have. But because we
fear that windmills might attach, we don't want to let go.
Why can't we have peace in the world? Because nobody wants to disarm.
Not a single country is ready to sign a disarmament pact, which all of
us bemoan. But have we ever looked to see whether we, ourselves, have
actually disarmed? When we haven't done so, why wonder that nobody else
is ready for it either? Nobody wants to be the first one without
weapons; others might win. Does it really matter? If there is nobody
there, who can be conquered? How can there be a victory over nobody? Let
those who fight win every war, all that matters is to have peace in
one's own heart. As long as we are resisting and rejecting and continue
to find all sorts of rational excuses to keep on doing that there has to
War manifests externally in violence, aggression and killing. But how
does it reveal itself internally? We have an arsenal within us, not of
guns and atomic bombs, but having the same effect. And the one who gets
hurt is always the one who is shooting, namely oneself. Sometimes
another person comes within firing range and if he or she isn't careful
enough, he or she is wounded. That's a regrettable accident. The main
blasts are the bombs which go off in one's own heart. Where they are
detonated, that's the disaster area.
The arsenal which we carry around within ourselves consists of our ill
will and anger, our desires and cravings. The only criterion is that we
don't feel peaceful inside. We need not believe in anything, we can just
find out whether there is peace and joy in our heart. If they are
lacking, most people try to find them outside of themselves. That's how
all wars start. It is always the other country's fault and if one can't
find anyone to blame then one needs more "Lebensraum," more room for
expansion, more territorial sovereignty. In personal terms, one needs
more entertainment, more pleasure, more comfort, more distractions for
the mind. If one can't find anyone else to blame for one's lack of
peace, then one believes it to be an unfulfilled need.
Who is that person, who needs more? A figment of our own imagination,
fighting windmills. That "more" is never ending. One can go from country
to country, from person to person. There are billions of people on this
globe; it's hardly likely that we will want to see every one of them, or
even one-hundredth, a lifetime wouldn't be enough to do so. We may
choose twenty or thirty people and then go from one to the next and back
again, moving from one activity to another, from one idea to another. We
are fighting against our own //dukkha// and don't want to admit that the
windmills in our heart are self-generated. We believe somebody put them
up against us, and by moving we can escape from them.
Few people come to the final conclusion that these windmills are
imaginary, that one can remove them by not endowing them with strength
and importance. That we can open our hearts without fear and gently,
gradually let go of our preconceived notions and opinions, views and
ideas, suppressions and conditioned responses. When all that is removed,
what does one have left? A large, open space, which one can fill with
whatever one likes. If one has good sense, one will fill it with love,
compassion and equanimity. Then there is nothing left to fight. Only joy
and peacefulness remain, which cannot be found outside of oneself. It is
quite impossible to take anything from outside and put it into oneself.
There is no opening in us through which peace can enter. We have to
start within and work outward. Unless that becomes clear to us, we will
always find another crusade.
Imagine what it was like in the days of the crusades! There were those
noble knights who spent all their wealth on equipping themselves with
the most modern and advanced weapons, outfitting horses and followers,
and then setting off to bring religion to the infidels. They died on the
way because of hardships and battles and those who reached the end of
the journey, the Holy Land, still did not get any results, only more
warfare. When we look at this today, it seems utterly foolish, to the
extent of being ridiculous.
Yet we do the same in our own lives. If, for instance, we wrote
something in our diary that upset us three or four years ago and were to
read it now, it would seem quite absurd. We wouldn't be able to remember
for what reason it could possibly have been important. We are constantly
engaged in such foolishness with minor and unimportant trifles, and
spend our energies trying to work them out to our ego-satisfaction.
Wouldn't it be much better to forget such mental formations and attend
to what's really important? There is only one thing that's important to
every being and that is a peaceful and happy heart. It cannot be bought,
nor is it given away. Nobody can hand it to someone else and it cannot
be found. Ramana Maharshi, a sage in southern India, said: "Peace and
happiness are not our birthright. Whoever has attained them, has done so
by continual effort."
Some people have an idea that peace and happiness are synonymous with
doing nothing, having no duties or responsibilities, being looked after
by others. That's rather a result of laziness. To gain peace and
happiness one has to make unrelenting effort in one's own heart. One
can't achieve it through proliferation, by trying to get more, only by
wanting less. Becoming emptier and emptier, until there is just open
space to be filled with peace and happiness. As long as our hearts are
full of likes and dislikes, how can peace and happiness find any room?
One can find peace within oneself in any situation, any place, any
circumstance, but only through effort, not through distraction. The
world offers distractions and sense contacts, and they are often quite
tempting. The more action there is, the more distracted the mind can be
and the less one has to look at one's own //dukkha//. When one has the
time and opportunity to introspect, one finds one's inner reality
different from what one imagined. Many people quickly look away again,
they don't want to know about that. It's nobody's fault that there is
//dukkha//. The only cure is letting go. It's really quite simple, but
few people believe this to the point of trying it out.
There is a well-known simile about a monkey trap. The kind used in
Asia is a wooden funnel with a small opening. At the bigger end lies a
sweet. The monkey, attracted by the sweet, puts his paw into the narrow
opening and gets hold of the sweet. When he wants to draw his paw out
again, he can't get his fist with the sweet through the narrow opening.
He is trapped and the hunter will come and capture him. He doesn't
realize that all he has to do to be free is to let go of the sweet.
That's what our life is all about. A trap, because we want it nice and
sweet. Not being able to let go, we're caught in the ever recurring
happiness-unhappiness, up-down, hoping-despairing cycle. Instead of
trying it out for ourselves, whether we could let go and be free, we
resist and reject such a notion. Yet we all agree that all that matters
are peace and happiness, which can only exist in a free mind and heart.
There is a lovely story from Nazrudin, a Sufi Master, who was gifted
in telling absurd tales. One day, the story goes, he sent one of his
disciples to the market and asked him to buy him a bag of chilies. The
disciple did as requested and brought the bag to Nazrudin, who began to
eat the chilies, one after another. Soon his face turned red, his nose
started running, his eyes began to water and he was choking. The
disciple observed this for a while with awe and then said: "Sir, your
face is turning red, your eyes are watering and you are choking. Why
don't you stop eating these chilies?" Nazrudin replied: "I am waiting
for a sweet one."
The teaching aid of chilies! We, too, are waiting for something,
somewhere that will create peace and happiness for us. Meanwhile there
is nothing but //dukkha//, the eyes are watering, the nose is running,
but we won't stop our own creations. There must be a sweet one at the
bottom of the bag! It's no use thinking, hearing or reading about it,
the only effective way is to look inside one's own heart and see with
understanding. The more the heart is full of wanting and desiring, the
harder and more difficult life becomes.
Why fight all these windmills? They are self-built and can also be
self-removed. It's a very rewarding experience to check what's
cluttering up one's own heart and mind. As one finds emotion after
emotion, not to create allowances and justifications for them, but to
realize that they constitute the world's battle-grounds and start
dismantling the weapons so that disarmament becomes a reality.
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