World Peace – The Impossible Dream?

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I’d like to visit about peace. Certainly peace is not only one of the most glaring and pressing needs the world faces today, but it has been thus for thousands of years. Interestingly, the great prophets, sages, mystics and enlightened beings have been speaking and teaching about the need for peace for millennia and yet we, as a species, seem as far away from the realized ideal as ever. Why?

We look to all manner of externalities to provide peace for us. We hope that politicians can negotiate it for us or that it can be won on battlefields. We look to concepts such as “assured mutual destruction” as a means for achieving peace but in the end, none of these methods are viable or sustainable. They can only offer brief respites from conflict and will ultimately lead to even greater contention.

At the core of our collective failure to achieve lasting peace is the idea of separatism – the inability or unwillingness for us to realize that we are all but one human family – one also with the non-human beings we share our home with.

This world view has been fostered not only by politics and economics but by religion as well. I am often asked the question, “What is the difference in religion and spirituality?” The answer is religion is an institution designed to maintain (and sadly, often distort) the message of its figurehead. For Christians – Jesus Christ, for Buddhists – Siddhartha Guatama, for Muslims – Muhammad, for Hindus – Brahma et al, and so on. The problem is, those entities functioned on a much higher spiritual plane than their followers and it was their followers that were charged with conveying their message to the generations to come. The only means available was via oral and / or written tradition – a very limited mechanism.

For example, I can speak for hours, days or weeks about a rose to someone who has never smelled one but it will never compare to the experience of me handing them a rose and letting them smell it for themselves. Do you see the difference?

The followers of the great teachers not only were faced with interpreting the message of their masters, the religious institutions are charged with carrying on that message for generations.
Often, and unfortunately, religions are the enemy of spirituality. Where spirituality seeks the unity of man, religions often seek separation as emphatically as economics or politics.

It is this mindset that has given birth to suicide bombings, terrorism, wars, crusades and so much sorrow in the world. When religions began to focus on difference and separation they forget their core value – love. There is a story of a Jewish rabbi who was asked by a religious skeptic to teach the entire Torah to someone while standing on one leg. He raised one leg and replied, “Easy, do not do unto someone as you would not have done unto you. The rest is simply commentary.”

So what is the true path to lasting peace? It begins with the internal, not the external. If we are to ever transcend the violence and hatred that plagues our world, we must begin to focus on our collective sameness. We must change ourselves and our thinking – inside. We must necessarily realize that we are all one and that which we seek is already within us.

We must, as individuals, begin to understand and appreciate the divergent paths to our higher-selves. Think of it this way – you can place ten different lamps in a cathedral and they will certainly appear physically different. Yet, light each one and extinguish the main light in the room and you will not be able to tell one from the other. The light emanating from each will appear the same. The differences will have vanished leaving only their light.

As long as the forces of religion, politics and economics traffic in the idea that their way is right and all others are wrong, nothing will change and they will remain the enemies of spirituality. We will still feel vindicated and righteous in acts of exclusion, defamation, hatred and even murder. But when we collectively and individually begin to understand what the great spiritual masters were really saying all along, that we are all one and we must treat each other as we wish to be treated, regardless of race, creed, culture, religion, economic status and the like, then and only then will peace prevail.

It begins inside each of us. The will to let go of judgements and begin to accept, that is where the ‘battle for peace’ starts.

~Edward G. Dunn

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