Peace Talk: The Power of Supplication

In the last few years in the Middle East, hundreds of thousands of people have died, been injured, lost loved ones, lost homes and livelihoods. Even if all American objectives were attained at a minimal cost, America will still have to suffer the repercussions of having increased the number of its enemies. And there is talk of future invasions, which will have their own consequences. War feeds our tendencies toward aggression, and therefore causes future wars, future terrorism; it does not seem the best way to go about ensuring peace in the world.

The irony is: we are all peace-seekers. At the deepest level, all human beings, without exception, desire peace and happiness and want to avoid pain and suffering, not only for themselves, but for others. Just as no one enjoys staring into the barrel of a gun, no one is at ease pointing a gun at someone else.

So why all the aggression in this world? We habitually forget that our own peace and happiness are best served by promoting the peace and happiness of others, and thus become consumed in our own primitive wants and desires. Then we become fearful of not getting what we want and of losing what we have, which leads to strong attachments to our own views, to being "right." When our views are challenged by those who are "wrong," our inevitable response is aggression, which in turn leads inevitably to violence. From tiny seeds of self-interest, fear, and confusion, and even global wars blossom.

If we could recognize the results of clinging to our own primitive wants and desires, if we could see that they and they alone are the cause of such large-scale violence as the recent wars in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, and all wars to come, then, as innate peace-seekers, we would undoubtedly do everything we could to put out the fire while it was still small. The problem is that, despite our best intentions, we often do not recognize what is happening. Until it is too late. We are shrouded in thick confusion, unaware from moment to moment of what is going on in our own minds. We might make more of an effort to be aware of our thoughts and emotions, but they pour down like a waterfall.

To give ourselves a real chance of tapping into the deeper wisdom that lies beneath the confusion, we need to humbly acknowledge our limitations and seek help from powers beyond our ordinary mind. Throughout history, people of all cultures have prayed to enlightened powers in times of distress. They have called them by many names: gods, goddesses, the divine, the Buddha. These enlightened ones can see through the confusions of the human mind and supply remedies unfathomable to our ordinary way of thinking. In this sophisticated, scientifically minded age, most people regard prayer as superstition, but if we look through recorded history with an unbiased mind, we’ll find countless instances in which famines, plagues, natural disasters, wars, and other tragedies were averted through supplication. It is foolhardy to dismiss the experience of generation after generation of our ancestors; everything we know and do comes from them. To say enlightened powers do not exist because we cannot physically see them is no different from believing we have no heart in our chest because we have never seen it.

Like the sun and its rays, enlightened powers pervade all space with their compassion. But if we do not humbly ask for their help, then we are like caves facing north; no sunshine will reach us. A group of people quietly praying together would seem to be capable of no tangible effect on such a vividly violent scene as a war with modern weapons. Those who choose prayer over more visible action may be regarded as passive. Yet, on the contrary, prayer is the greatest antidote to fearful, helpless attitudes.

Those with faith in the infinite power of enlightened mind have a responsibility to supplicate higher powers, thus acting as a medium for the benefit of all. For enlightened mind is compassionate without any bias, recognizing all as confused and deluded, yet possessed of innate indestructible goodness. Through supplication, our minds can connect with this infinitely vast mind, infusing us with wisdom and compassion.

Only through compassion can we pacify our own aggression and understand the aggression of others. We can regard others as the same as ourselves because we know how painful it is to be angry, how painful it is to be human. We can feel compassion without expecting others to change overnight, because we know we have not changed overnight. If others sense our compassion, and see that it is not self-righteous or judgmental, then they will be touched; their anger will be pacified and their wisdom will blossom. Even the most inflamed egos will be moved through compassion. And in this way, raging turmoil such as the hostilities in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq can be subdued.

The only enemy in this conflict is aggression itself. The victorious will have to suffer the same consequences of aggression as the defeated; everyone involved in aggressive activity, from soldiers to leaders to participants in aggressive “peace rallies,” will reap the fruits of their actions.

We should compassionately recognize that those involved in the current conflicts, both aggressors and victims are suffering the consequences of past actions as well, based on confusion. By praying without bias, outside narrow-minded party politics, for the welfare of all, we make no distinctions between “us” and “them,” hawks and doves, believers and non-believers.

If we are united against anger and aggression, then our efforts, combined with the support of higher powers, will produce the result that all truly want: a stable, wholesome peace.

SOURCE: First published in the Crucial Point, Winter 2003