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Universal Peace through Dharma and Yoga

Saumitra Gokhale HSS Intl. Coordinator

Saumitra Gokhale
HSS Intl. Coordinator

There are numerous individuals and organizations sincerely promoting and working for the ideal of world peace. Every year several concerts, walks, and seminars are organized to further the cause of peace. Symbols and monuments for peace are everywhere. But today we see so much strife and turmoil in families, communities, and nations. The question then arises is that in spite of so many earnest efforts, why is peace so elusive? Are these efforts insufficient or incomplete? How can we create the right spirit and order that would lead the world towards a more peaceful existence? The eternal wisdom traditions from India can provide insights and solutions to our modern day predicament. These Dharma traditions are based on principles that are universal and hence can be applied globally.

Peace-breakers

According to Vedanta, this phenomenal world is a result of the loss of the state of equilibrium and hence afflictions are bound to be there. All the afflictions can be categorized into three types.

Ādhidaivik: Disturbance of peace due to natural causes such as earthquakes, hurricanes etc. Human beings have very little or no control over preventing these situations.

Ādhibhautik: Afflictions essentially caused by social surroundings. They could be as a result of political disturbances, economic situations, extremism, environmental degradation etc.

Ādhyatmika: Afflictions due to internal causes. This could be due to an unstable mind, depression, passion etc.

Hindu prayers end with Om Śāntih Śāntih Śāntih so as to ask for peace in all the three categories. Broadly speaking, there are external and internal reasons for the breach of peace. If human beings are peaceful within and in harmony with all the entities they interact with, then peace can be achieved. The principles and practices that will help individuals to attain peace within by realizing their true nature is called Yoga. The values and order that will build and sustain a harmonious and peaceful society is called Dharma.

Dharma for social harmony

Dharma is a comprehensive term meaning the natural order or that which upholds. It carries the meaning according to context. Dharma, in relation with others in the society, is duty or responsibility. An individual may have many responsibilities such as a responsibility towards parents, family, neighbors, a nation etc. Being duty-conscious about others’ rights ensures peace, prosperity, and social justice in the society. A social order based on Dharma essentially means that it is based on the idea of duty. This can develop through laws, customs and traditions conducive to Dharma. In this regard it is important to see what Swami Vivekananda says, “Duty is seldom sweet. It is only when love greases its wheels that it runs smoothly…” So a Dharma based social order is not only based on the idea of duty but enshrines the spirit of family in all relationships. For example a school is seen as a family consisting of the teachers, students, parents and other staff. A shop-owner sees his customers, suppliers, and employees all as part of a family and he feels duty-bound towards them. With a sense of responsibility towards them, he seeks the welfare of all. The same family spirit can be applied in different scenarios and ultimately expanded to seeing the whole world as one family (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam).

Dharma also means righteousness and is considered the source of all prosperity. The ten characteristics of Dharma according to the scriptures are virtues such as forbearance, forgiveness, self-control, non-stealing, purity, non-sensuality, wisdom, knowledge, truth, and non-anger. Educating every upcoming generation in virtuous behavior should happen in every family, school, and community. Not only laws and customs, but individuals instilled by Dharma in life are absolutely necessary for creating a vibrant and peaceful society. As a natural progression, a person on the path of Dharma also learns to go beyond the call of duty. He offers himself in the service of those who may be in distress. Being environmentally conscious and proactive also becomes his expression of Dharma. He is motivated to do selfless actions for the welfare of all. A Dharmic person is thus self-actualized not only for material progress but for spiritual upliftment as well.

Yoga for inner peace

Yoga means uniting ourselves with our true nature. It is being centered in the innermost core of our being. In Swami Vivekananda’s words, “Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this Divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work (Karma-Yoga) or worship (Bhakti-yoga) or psychic control (Raja-Yoga) or philosophy (Jnana-Yoga), by one or more or all of these, and be free.” This freedom and the spiritual happiness is the source of peace within. Swami Vivekananda says, “The ideal man is he who, in the midst of the greatest silence and solitude, finds the intensest activity, and in the midst of the intensest activity finds silence and solitude.” Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita that by seeking the knowledge of the Self, practicing meditation, and by giving up the fruit of all actions, we can attain inner peace. Once we have attained this tranquility through Yoga all suffering ceases.

Universal Peace

Understanding the Divinity of man and the Spiritual oneness of existence is an assurance for peace. Peace can be achieved through Dharma and not dogma. Peace can be attained through spirituality and not fanaticism. At the final session of the World Parliament of Religions in 1893 Swami Vivekananda stated with confidence, “If the Parliament of Religions has shown anything to the world it is this: It has proved to the world that holiness, purity and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character. In the face of this evidence, if anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of the others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart, and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance: “Help and not Fight,” “Assimilation and not Destruction,” “Harmony and Peace and not Dissension.” May we all be inspired to pray and work towards universal peace through Dharma and Yoga. Om Śāntih Śāntih Śāntih.

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