If you mentioned “body, speech, and mind or spirit” to some African villagers, who might be “whole,” they could just laugh at you for splitting it all up! Yet, “Peace of Body, Speech and Mind” is common parlance in Hindu and Buddhist teachings of “Ahimsa,” or “No Harm.”
I so appreciate the humor of proverbs from a country where I lived for about eight years altogether, Cameroon, in West Africa. One proverb says: “Tok fo mof no bi kago fo hed.” (“The talk coming out of your mouth is not something you can carry on your head,” or, “Actions speak louder than words!”)
I suppose all spiritual teachings are probably aiming at peace, a state of fullness and wholeness, even if contorted with overbearing and sometimes — provocative power trips. How much do the words match the actions? It’s so complex with seemingly endless choices … and echoes … essentially, it is all truth!?
Thich Nhat Hanh, renowned Buddhist monk, forced to leave his country of origin, Vietnam, due to actions for “peace,” has said, and written a book titled “Peace is Every Step.” His teaching encourages taming the mind and one’s energy with simple practices to bring about clear choices for being with one’s self and others … peacefully. For me, he is like a clear drop of pure fresh water in a great ocean of unknowables.
We all have different backgrounds, karma, traits, tools, and ways to live by, and continual conditions to meet with, which force us, drive us, beckon and allow us, even to head toward the great river of living and flowing through peace with understanding. Relative rest (no pun intended!) is a “gift” and in an old African adage, “no one owns the river.” For all traditions, however, wisdom is key. (Even “Ki!”)
I turned 75 years recently, at least in bio-age, and have had a good long look at what contributes to, and encourages peace, in myself and others in community, in the environment, and in the “world,” short term, mid-term, long-term.
As a Peace Corps volunteer living in Africa for five years while teaching TEFL, as well as working on self-help projects to build latrines and water systems with villagers, I was gifted to experience mindsets and actions seemingly different from ones I grew up with in the 1940s to 1960s, in Philadelphia.
Yet, stretching into different ways became accessible to me, due to conditioning and exposure to great teachers and models along the way. “Gurudeva,” Satguru of Kauai’s Hindu Monastery, often said, “some people teach you what to do, others teach you what not to do.”
“Peace” is a varying state of being for every living (also, non-living, some believe!) creature, yet it appears so easy, also very difficult, depending on views, conditioning, energies, karmas. The Hawaiians chant to invite peaceful energy of all creatures.
I honor state of Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who has actually served in the military and seen and experienced the cost of war on all levels. While recognizing the needs for military protection, economic thriving and respectful boundaries and parameters, she calls for peace. To me, she is wise.
I also honor Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono of this noble state of Hawaii, which has known war and the “price” of it, also striving to protect nature, the beauty, the land, the people’s traditions through resources, including military ones, also to preserve and call for peace. They are modeling wise habits and conditioning to allow peaceful circumstances to flow for all.
We are living through very energized, quixotic times in which, literally, “a slip of the tongue can sink a ship,” and one man can move a few others to swipe us all of our hard-earned lives to encourage peace, only to serve himself and friends, not all of us.
My mother was a great humanitarian, championing the UN, diplomacy and all nations, with people of diverse backgrounds and histories, continually pointing out to me the greatest blessing of being born in the western world with good fortune.
My mother always naturally believed, like the Dalai Lama, that if you were kind to people, you would also invite and meet kindness, that it simply made common sense to be friendly and help people. So, I embraced that attitude early on, on a daily basis.
I have often been “accused” of being naive, being too friendly, being too kind and generous, being judgmental, yet I have found and received infinite rewards on all levels of being for remaining open through the spilling-out of generosity taught to me by my loving parents who worked tirelessly to support four children while also never forgetting the importance of all in society … that without open, generous and even unknown ways overall, and forgiving the accusers, peace, kindness, joy would not come to just one family, community or one nation.
My parents were devout Christians, yet tolerant of all beliefs, and lived their beliefs overall. I simply gravitate to what seems to me to be wise teachings which support and sustain me through varied environments and circumstances, from Christian to Islamic to Hindu to Buddhist to beyond concepts.
I don’t call or label myself as any “religion,” as I saw early on that all the world’s wars have been in the name of religion, and often, to label and fixate is to define and separate. I’ve learned to try to skillfully avoid “buzz words” which might provoke trouble or agitated energy, in order to bring about peaceful circumstances. And I call myself an artist, mostly because it allows me to remain open with freedom of expression, also endeavoring to create as nature, not to imitate.
“Aloha,” the space and sharing of breath on precious land in clear elements definitely encourages growth.
The teachers I’ve been graced to have exposure to, near/far, living/deceased, have focused primarily on the teachings, the humility, the wisdom, not the “proselytizing, which really brings me to what I might call the “grounding” for peace underlined recently by wise words from Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami at an IROK (Interfaith Roundtable of Kauai) meeting: “Bring peace to the room, be the peace in the room.”
The openness, spacious atmosphere in which all energies are at liberty to arise, be heard, emerge and to flow for all … and … the Beatles were right … “Love is all you need.” (Thanks, Ric!)
Leonora Orr is a resident of Kapaa.