We hear the word peace often, typically while watching news broadcasts regarding ongoing conficts around the world. The search for peace remains the ultimate goal of mediators intent on resolving long standing feuds that have claimed lives and destroyed cities. Cease-fires and treaties are signed by which all parties agree to end hostilities. However, conflict resolution and geunine peace are two very different concepts. Many of us seek peace in our lives, away from those who have wronged us or others who remain a source of irritation. The American pacifist A.J. Muste (1885-1967) believe that there is no way to peace, but instead that peace is the way. That is the central theme of this book by Deepak Chopra, M.D., who along with brothe Sanjiv, wrote the beautiful memoir Brotherhood Dharma, Destiny and the American Dream. As he explained there, the became a proponent of transcendental meditation and his practice of it, has led to him becoming a world reknown figure whose name is now synonymous with it. Here, he is focusing on the concept of peace, showing how and why so many of us fail to find it in our lives.
Skeptics might be tempted to write off the book as yet another attempt by a “guru” to tell us to be nice to each other. Those beliefs are not only misguided but inaccurate. At no point in the book does Chopra tell us to that peace comes about by simply being nice to each other. Peace is far more involved than that and if we pay close attention to what he says, the place where it can be found is within. All of us go through life experiencing joyful moments and other times of fear, tragedy an uncertainty. Peace, along with happiness, are truly what we all crave regardless of our backgrounds. However, out methods to attain each are what ultimately lead us astray and sometimes to our destruction.
To describe this book as eye-opening is an understatement. There is a profound amount of information to digest which surely will cause many of us to rethink what we knew about peace, not only towards those we meet but within ourselves. Early in the book, he sets the tone right when he says “the way of Peace isn’t based on religion or morality. It doesn’t ask us to become Saints overnight, or to renounce our feelings of anger or out thirst for Revenge. What you ask for is something new: conscious evolution“. From that point on it is clear that to fully understand this book, requires the reader to open the mind, clear it and be willing to learrn a new approach to life. And to set us on the right path, he includes a seven day plan for introducing true peace in our lives. I have yet to try it but have made a note of it and do believe that it can be beneficial especially in light of the current events in our world.
Chopra makes each point by drawing our attention to the very things which are supposed to result in “peace” such as Iraq War that began in 2003, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and others that have either achieved an outcome devoid of true peace or in other cases, failed to truly find it. Today, animosity and acts of aggression continue on the Gaza Strip making peace seem like a very distant possibility. But Chopra has hope for all of us and believes that one by one we can change the world simply by the way we live our own lives. And while you may not believe that to be true, there is certainly nothing wrong with living your own life in true peace.
Religion is also discussed as Chopra frames a very interesting discussion of how it relates to peace. Those of us who are devout in our beliefs will remain committed to our convictions. But Chopra is not asking you abandon your faith. He simply wants us to see where religion can sometimes lead us astray as we profound the utmost belief in the system of principles and scriptures we have been taught from a young age. In essence, religion is neither the cause or the cure.
There were many moments when I had to take a step back and reflect on my own life. And what I found is that Chopra had provided tools for me to personally understand how I can have peace in my own life. In particular, there are three concepts that he writes about early that could be seen as pillars for a way of peace: Seva: Your actions harm no one and benefit everyone, Simran: You remember your true nature and your purpose for being here and Satsang: You belong in the community of peace and wisdom. The book contains a far more detailed discussion of each but in their simplest forms, each speaks volumes.
Pain, turmoil and violence are parts of our world. We do our best to navigate life and avoid them as much as we can. But simply avoiding them does not automatically give us peace. Peace is a person process that requires deep introspection and an understanding of ourselves. Once that happens, we will truly understand that peace is the way.