“The happiness and peace attained by those satisfied by the nectar of spiritual tranquility is not attained by greedy persons restlessly moving here and there”— Chanakya (371 BC- 283 BC)
When one thinks of heaven, the first thing that strikes is peace. Peace in the surroundings, peace at heart and above all, peace of mind. A cool serenity that overcomes anxiety, tension and allows one to be happy and breathe with ease, A sense of freedom from all problems, where tragedy never strikes, where there is no question of shedding tears, where fear has no place and the only reality that actually exists is ‘peace’ but can heaven be attained on this earth?
Many will obviously answer in the negative with the rest being in full agreement and as depicted by Christopher Marlowe quoted from his play Dr. Faustus: “All places shall be hell that is not heaven”. No doubt, the concept of paradise is utopian and it is quite ridiculous to imagine a life in this world that is sans trouble but there are some moments when one can experience a taste of heaven.
Check out the time when one is in the company of friends, or engrossed in reading a favourite book, or playing with one’s children, or mesmerized with a new found love, or just basking in the sunshine on the beach, or watching a movie full of suspense, or when in deep slumber or enjoying a comforting massage on a well-deserved vacation. These are the occasions when one’s mind is totally oblivious to the pains and stresses of this world making life seem balmy and oh so livable. Alas! This is just a temporary phase which is soon overtaken by problems-in-waiting. So many people can be observed to lose their senses at the slightest of fear. Sudden attacks of paralysis, hypertension, mental disturbance, heart failure, even diabetes can get triggered off when face to face with a troublesome situation. Yet there are many who have withstood extreme crises without as much as a frown and emerged with a renewed vigour to confront even severer challenges to prove their resilience and spiritual strength.
When life is full of untold twists and turns then under such circumstances how can one achieve peace of mind? Better still, are there any mechanisms that can help to alleviate sufferings in a manner which helps to develop the capacity to retain that much-needed balance for a mind at peace? People have successfully found refuge in religion but it has been noticed in some that there is a tendency to lean to the extent of celibacy that prevents enjoying regular moments of life. There are others who cast on a bohemian attitude and adopt a hedonistic lifestyle ignoring moral values and ethics. Yet there are some who find solace in addiction to drugs and alcohol, suggesting a state of “could not care less.” They are in pursuit of peace of mind one way or the other but all these methods are artificially induced and are therefore short-lived bringing in their fold even greater stress and financial losses besides poor health and social alienation.
As rightly pointed out by Chanakya, tranquility can never be achieved by restless and greedy souls. Greed is not necessarily limited to material gains but can extend to other perhaps unlikeable things like lust for power and gluttony. Harbouring an ambition is not at all bad unless it turns into obsession (greed) sacrificing on its altar multitudes of human beings and causing destruction to the world. Not only are the perpetrators devoid of peace of mind but they are responsible for snatching away happiness of their innocent victims stripping them of the exuberance of their lives which comes from a sense of security.
Religious leaders, psychologists, yogis, spiritualists, elders, wise men etc. are full of precious advice for comfort seekers. Thus they insist upon prayers, meditation, interaction with family and friends, joint catharsis sessions, pursuit of creativity, nature walks, travel, social service, solitude, spending time with persons who are more miserable in order to come to terms with one’s own afflictions. No one can disagree that these measures are indeed very beneficial for attaining peace of mind and reducing one’s level of anxiety but how come we are surrounded with perturbed souls because of whom life remains perpetually disturbed? There are God-fearing people who are ready to forgive, to love, to show kindness, to extend a helping hand, to wipe away tears, to protect, to mediate, yet uneasiness prevails. What is actually lacking? Self-awareness.
How rightly has Alexander Pope mentioned in the opening stanza of his Essay on Man:
“Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man…..”
The reality is that we are taught everything except the skill to study our own souls. To delve deep within ourselves, probe our conscious, weigh our attributes against our weaknesses, check out our desires, our needs, our relationships first with ourselves and then with others. We learn to live in disillusionment about our personalities with an air of false arrogance and unachievable desires. There is discontentment with our bodies, our life, sometimes our parents, our siblings, our children, our social status, our income, our work, our idleness—in short, we remain in a constant state of apprehension which invokes grumbling that prevents clear thinking and ability to handle crises cool headedly.
Only peace within can ensure peace without. A content soul is capable of managing problems while ‘a bad workman quarrels with his tools.’ Many a times a minor issue is blown out of proportion just because of a nervous person’s tantrums whereas the same can easily be resolved with prudence and clear thinking. Again, the principal cause is dearth of a peaceful mind. Granted that not all are blessed with happiness considering poverty, disease, broken relations, disappointments, misfortune but the real test of a person lies in adversity and not prosperity. Having said this, even many a blessed keep complaining and become jittery at the slightest moment of difficulty, all on account of false pride and sensitive egos which combined together, disrupt peace of mind leaving no space for enlightenment.
The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)