AJ Muste once said, ‘there is no way to peace. Peace is the way.’
I have been contemplating the many meanings of this for a few months.
It seems that there are many who are still looking for a route to global peace through carving a way towards it much like a snow plough fending off an avalanche of its own making.
Instead, peace is ‘the way things are’, ‘the way to be’, ‘the best way’, ‘the natural way’, ‘how things are generally ordered’.
Thich Nhat Hanh says (somewhere) that if you want to campaign for peace you need to write love letters. My own interpretation of his words is that getting angry about violence and militarism only serves to add fuel to the fire of insanity burning in the minds of military people. It props up the illusion they have made for themselves; an illusion about the wisdom of military conflict, an illusion about separateness from the ‘enemy’, an illusion of ego and vital prerogative. Instead, love letters are a bell bringing a deluded mind back into the present moment and inviting that mind to wake up.
Love letters, or any form of nonviolent action that is alive to the present and to spirit.
I guess that’s the difference between being a peacemaker living in the way of peace and using that state of being to mediate a ‘middle path’ between that state of being and the dukkha encountered, and being a peacemaker like a snow plough fending off an avalanche up a mountain.
I can see how easy it is to slip between middle path and snow plough. Both require an intention for peace for onesself and one’s world. Perhaps, sometimes, middle path is snow plough – confusing things even further. Greater mindfulness is needed in separating the two.
There is no peace ‘making’. There is not no peace ‘making’.
For me, non-duality means that during peak experiences – those moments of oneness with everything that has being, with the one life force – there is no separation between my self and that everything; the everything that has being.
During those experiences, those moments, it is simply not possible to distinguish between the essence of myself, and the essence of Being itself; the essence of everything manifest. This is awareness of how the idea that my own self-separation from all other beings, from the cosmos, as a distinct entity, is an illusion. There is none.
So I simply don’t know whether I have a soul or not. Whether we have souls. On the one hand, over three years of meditation (almost every day, always for more than 20 minutes) has led me to accept that it is possible to embrace the wonderful tranquillity of my always-pure essential nature; that this is a distinct thing – distinct from other notions of inner self, an original thing, a deep thing. In some way, that feels like having a soul.
But for non-duality! The very moment I start to preceive of my own slice of the one life force being ‘me’ and not life force, things stop making sense. If that inner essence were just ‘me’, then how come during some peak experiences, I have felt what it is to know that I am encountering all Wisdom? Every single bit of wisdom in the cosmos. Life itself. The source. The ground of being. That cannot be ‘me’! I am far from being all Wisdom!
This leads to other questions. Why does the divine life energy manifest as anything other than itself anyway? If my ‘soul’ is not a soul, but simply the component of my self that is divine, then is that component me or God?
And then those questions melt away again in non-duality. They’re irrelevant. The one life force permeates everything manifested, and is itself pure and the same for all beings. Any being knowing itself as much as is possible to know self, eventually finds the one life force lurking in its core, and realizes that self is simply part of One. A church of all souls. A community of InterBeing (cf. Titch Nhat Hanh).