war & peace

(finding balance through the power of choice)

Our lives are constantly shifting, coming in and out of balance. Every step we take requires us to go out of balance in order to move forward. Sometimes this can feel like a dance as we surrender to the movement; sometimes we need the determination to walk straight into what lies before us.

As I write this, the world is braced for war. We are balancing between the forces of war and peace. On TV, images flash of streets that are full of soldiers and streets that are full of people demonstrating for peace. How do we resolve issues as a global community? At this time in history, there seems to be a desire to deal with conflict in an intelligent way so that no particular interest gets out of proportion. We are searching for oneness. People are finding ways to come together to speak their concerns, gather the facts and be informed. With all the different languages, we find our oneness in the universal language of prayer, Light and peaceful action. Grave situations make us think more deeply about our lives and what we can do to achieve peace.

We need to look clearly at the world we have created, and our own inner world is a good place to start. When we look within our mind, it seems we consistently separate and polarize. We conceptualize and judge ideas as good and evil, male and female, tension and relaxation. Yet when we explore and challenge these opposites we see the variations and degrees of meaning. Take, for example, the duality of male and female. Everyone has the male quality of intellect and the female quality of emotion, and when they are brought together in us we feel whole. Each side can move to meet in the centre instead of tipping the scales in one direction. When the opposites are too distinct, our centre doesn't hold a steady position it shifts and spins, causing imbalance.

How can we maintain a position of steadiness? When we look outward at situations in the world, we often feel that we have no control, no ability to effect change. But we can go back to changing our world within where we do have the ability to change. We can change how we use our intellect and emotions so that we are not swept up by outside forces. When we harness the emotions and intellect, we can gather facts and mobilize ourselves to actions rather than getting stuck in reactions. We can't stop war in the world, but we can change how we react to war. We can sit in silence listening to our intuition, in stillness facing what is before us and in reflection thinking deeply. And in those moments of awareness, ask: "What is the Divine asking of me in this situation?"

The Divine is asking us to take responsibility for the powers we have been given. We have the power of choice. Firstly, we have the power to choose to identify with the Light in whatever form and name we attribute to it. Also there is the choice to discipline our minds so that we are in control of ourselves and do not give in to the temptation to control others. We can be examples by developing the qualities of compassion and understanding. In this way, we elevate our interactions by bringing quality into our daily encounters and we make our ideals very tangible.

As we mature spiritually, the subtleties of the everyday become more evident. We can feel the power of the Light; we can gain understanding of the way it works. If we send out vibrations of Light, we will create a different atmosphere in the world. Peace and Light will manifest. Many people are influenced. It may take years or lifetimes, but every positive thought and action has an effect.

We often think of the power of compassion as a feminine force, as Divine Mother. We recognize Her as Mary, Tara or Kuanyin. We pray to Her in times of need. She can be thought of as a power that is outside of us, but She also lives within each of us male or female. You can honour and worship Her by acting in a compassionate way toward all creation. All the world is Divine Mother, even the challenging situations. Her love teaches us lessons through opposites, the negative and positive, the sting and the soothing comfort.

The most powerful love is to support and encourage others toward their highest potential. When there is an imbalance in the world, and we want to take the steps to move forward, it is love that will protect us. There is nothing so powerful as being able to see the Divine in everyone you meet, to offer love and Light, to envision people living in peace within themselves and with their neighbours, to send out loving-kindness to all.
Swami Radhananda is president and spiritual director of Yasodhara Ashram in British Columbia, Canada.

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