Buddha, Gandhi, and Camus talk about a pacifist state of nonviolence.
The Dalai Lama states that peace is the absence of suffering and problems, which can only be maintained through spiritual practice. Drengson, in his article about Aikido, the Martial Art of Reconciliation, says that peace is both the absence of violence and the reconciliation of parties in conflict, involving expression and careful listening by both sides.
Fuller takes a similar approach, stating that peace can only be created out of mutual and universal understanding for all of mankind, stating that it’s “Everybody’s Work.” And Hanh recognizes peace as both a quality and a process—the absence of violence, the cultivation of understanding, insight, and compassion, combined with action (such as mindfulness and the actual practice of peace).
All of these definitions of peace are valid, all of them supported by strong examples. The philosophy that I align myself most closely with is that of the Dalai Lama. (We will get into our similarities towards the end, but for now I will explain the background of my idea and a few examples) Firstly, I believe that peace is a state of harmony and balance. However, this balance cannot be operationalized, exactly. But I like to think of it as a balance reached between inner and outer forces. Whether this is achieved in an atmosphere of calmness and with a an attitude of calmness, or an atmosphere of pure chaos and an inner state of turmoil, or in an atmosphere of chaos with an inner state of calmness…We are all different, and we will feel balance and completeness (could we call this fulfillment?) when this balance has been reached. For example, I am the kind of person that is at “peace” when I have a lot of things to do. Or at least I consider it to be that way. When I am busy, and my external situation is filled with tasks, and problems I have to solve, and my mind is busy, constantly working, I am in my state of peace. Other people might say that when there are stressful external forces, and their minds are calm and collected, they are content, they are at peace. This, for me, would not be a good balance. When I am in a peaceful state, all the forces at work outside of my head match the forces within my head, and that is my balance. The point that I would like to make here is that there is no universal peace, for all humankind. As there are many ideas listed above by the many different philosophers, people can experience their “peace” in different ways. To each his own. There can, therefore, be no exact definition of the state of peace, other than the fact that it is a state, and that it is the personal balance of one’s external forces and internal workings of the mind.
Secondly, as the Dalai Lama states, to achieve peace, we must practice. We must be diligent, and we must take the time to create this state of peace in our lives. This can only come from experience. Whether it is spiritual practice, practice of another sort, we must consciously make an effort to achieve this balance.
Achieving our own personal state of peace involves three things: effort, mindfulness, and responsibility. Effort is key. We must have the motivation and the willpower to experience conflict, work through our problems, and achieve a state of peace. Without effort, nothing would be set into action. We have to WANT to achieve this state of peace, and then we have to try.
Mindfulness is awareness. Being aware of yourself and your surroundings will allow you to move through life more easily and find that state of peace more quickly. While effort motivates us into action, mindfulness keeps us from running around aimlessly in search of peace. You would be surprised how much you can learn by opening your mind, you can be aware of the entire universe. This mindfulness or awareness is a key component to pursuing your personal peace.
Finally, there is responsibility. There is that phrase, “With great power comes great responsibility” (Hey, isn’t that from Spiderman? Yes. Yes it is). But its true. Peace is power, and it must be searched for and “used,” so to speak, with responsibility. When engaging in this search for peace, one must learn to think and act responsibly, to respect others (which I believe is an act of responsibility), and to respect and be responsible for yourself. One must control and be responsible for the things they do. One must own their actions, and realize that they are the force that works toward achieving their personal peace. As Buddha said, “Be a lamp unto yourself” (from Hanh, Creating True Peace).
With effort, we are motivated and we try relentlessly to search for peace. With mindfulness, we understand what it takes to reach peace, and we are considerate of the world around us in our search. With responsibility, we own our actions and accept that we are the driving force in our search for peace. We cannot reach the state of peace without these key components, effort, mindfulness, and responsibility. Three things which must be put into practice every day, in every aspect of life. Only then can we experience the balance of inner and outer forces. Only then can we achieve peace.